Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Thankfully, the companies that produce freeze-dried food for the backcountry have all made their own forms of breakfast food. If you read Part I of the Backcountry Meal Shootout then you are already familiar with how this works. If you didn’t read Part I, here is a quick rundown:
Here’s How it Works
There will be four categories: Cost per serving, Weight per serving, Nutrition per serving, and Taste. Since a serving size is intended to function as a meal for the average person, all metrics will be based on serving size. In each category, each respective meal will be awarded points (4 points for first place, 3 points for second, 2 points for third, and 1 point for 4th). Since nutrition is the most important factor in backcountry eating, points awarded for nutrition will be doubled as a bonus (except for 4th place – 4th place will still only be worth 1 point). The meal with the most points at the end will be the winner.
Just as in Part I, this test is 100% unbiased. I have not in any way been compensated by any of these companies. I purchased these meals with my money just as any other consumer would. I have zero ulterior motives and only want to provide you with the most information possible so that you can make an informed decision for your backcountry nutrition needs.
AlpineAire is a very affordable option for backcountry meals. They have a variety of meals options, as well as quite a few vegetarian options for those who prefer this.
Backpacker’s Pantry is a pretty well known company in the backpacking industry. They have a variety of meals and are also very affordable.
Mountain House is a giant in the backpacking meals world. They have the widest variety of meals and are very visible in the backpacking industry.
Heather’s Choice is a small company from all the way up in Alaska. Heather’s meals contain only the highest quality ingredients including Texas quail, elk, and antelope.
Cost per serving (3rd Place – 2 points)
Each meals costs $4.99 and contains 2 servings = $2.49/serving
Nutrition per serving (3rd place – 4 points)
Calories: 270, Fat: 2g, Carbs: 47g (13g fiber, 9g sugar), Protein: 21g
Lowest fat, high carbs with high fiber, second highest sugar content, decent protein. Not the best, but not the worst. Such low fat content will lead to increase carb consumption, negating the benefit of the high carb count.
Weight per serving (2nd place – 3 points)
85g which is a good middle ground based on serving size
Taste (2nd place – 3 points)
Good mixture of flavors, however slivers of potatoes did not rehydrate well and made for a disappointing taste and texture.
Pro: Not too salty while still having decent taste.
Con: Cooking required. Did not stand out in any category.
Cost per serving (1st place – 4 points)
Each meals costs $3.99 and contains 2 servings = $1.99/serving
Nutrition per serving (4th place – 1 points)
Calories: 360, Fat: 8g, Carbs: 55g (28g fiber, 16g sugar), Protein: 23g
Highest fat content, highest saturated fat content, tons of sugar, and only moderate protein. This meal will do the job, but it won’t do it well.
Weight per serving (3rd place – 2 points)
96g, but still not heavy by any means
Taste (3rd place – 2 point)
Very salty and overpowering spice flavor. Also, texture is very gritty.
Pro: Low cost
Con: Cooking required. Bottom half in most categories.
Cost per serving (2nd place – 3 points)
Each meals costs $5.29 and contains 2.5 servings = $2.12/serving
Nutrition per serving (2nd place – 6 points)
Calories: 230, Fat: 5g, Carbs: 25g (9g fiber, 5g sugar), Protein: 20g
Low caloric value, decent fiber content, low protein (though not by much). This is a relatively balanced meal with a pretty low caloric value. It isn’t the best by any means, but low sugar and comparatively low fat makes this a better choice than others for nutrition.
Weight per serving (1st place – 4 points)
58g per serving
Taste (1st place – 4 points)
Not too salty. Good mixture of flavors. Somewhat bland, but if you carry a tic-tac container with some spices then you can season to your liking as opposed to dealing with way too much seasoning as is the case with others.
Pro: Light, good taste, healthy, low cost. An all-around good option.
Con: Nutrition does leave something to be desired.
Cost per serving (4th place – 1 point)
Each meals costs $8 and contains 1 servings = $8/serving
Nutrition per serving (1st Place – 8 points)
Calories: 570, Fat: 14g, Carbs: 57g (11g fiber, 0g sugar), Protein: 35g
High caloric value, high protein content, lots of fiber with zero sugar. Once again, Heather’s Choice delivers with a very well-balanced meal.
Weight per serving (4th place – 1 point)
115g due to high nutritional value and only one serving per pack. If you tend to eat a little less, then the weight isn’t as big of a deal because these meals will stretch farther.
Taste (4th Place – 1 point)
Due to the ingredients used (specifically buckwheat and coconut sugar and milk), the taste of this breakfast is different enough that some might not like it. I tasted it first in order to not be thinking “eggs” while tasting it and it still caught me off-guard. If you like grains for breakfast, you may enjoy this meal. However, the coconut sugar and coconut milk were overpowering. Don’t get me wrong… It doesn’t taste bad; it is just not the kind of breakfast taste that is likely to get wide acceptance as compared to traditional breakfast foods.
Pro: Highest quality, natural ingredients.
Con: High price and high weight per serving. However, if the quality of the ingredients is what is most important to you then the high cost likely won’t keep you from purchasing Heather’s Choice products.
Here is how they stacked up:
First Place – Mountain House – 17 points
Second Place – AlpineAire – 12 points
Third Place – Heather’s Choice – 11 points
Fourth Place – Backpacker’s Pantry – 9 points
Mountain House was far and away this winner for the breakfast shootout. The combination of taste, well-rounded nutrition, and weight per serving was taught to beat. It is worth noting that had cost and weight not been an issue, Heather’s Choice would have been right there with Mountain House. Heather’s Choice did shine once again in nutritional value – no other meal even came close to the well-rounded, nutritious qualities of her meals. As was the case last time, if quality ingredients and nutritional value are most important to you, Heather’s Choice is a good option. However, if you are mindful of weight per serving and cost, then Mountain House is a great option for you.
This shootout is not meant to platform one company above another. It is instead meant to show you the different metrics you should consider when choosing the meals you will take into the backcountry. Determine what is most important to you and then choose your meals accordingly.