Wednesday, May 9, 2012

"Made in the USA" Gear Review: Mountain House Freeze-Dried Backpacking Food

The Mountain House line of freeze-dried backpacking food began in Albany, Oregon in the early 1970s. Mountain House's parent company, Oregon Freeze Dry, spent most of the 1960s assisting the Department of Defense in helping to create freeze-dried rations which tasted better, weighed less and were easier to prepare than canned rations.

It was this unique experience that led to the development of the tasty Mountain House brand, which has graced the insides of thousands of backpacks for decades now.

The plant that manufactures Mountain House still operates in the same location today, employing over 300 American workers.


Mountain House offers a variety of different meals, including everything from dinners to breakfast, and even freeze-dried ice cream. Mountain House was kind enough to send us their Best Sellers Kit for review which consists of the following:

  • 1 - Beef Stew
  • 1 - Beef Stroganoff
  • 1 - Chicken Teriyaki
  • 1 - Lasagna w/Meat
  • 1 - Scrambled Eggs w/Ham
  • 1 - Raspberry Crumble

  • The Mountain House bags are constructed out of heat-resistant plastic and lined on the inside with a metallic surface, similar to the way space survival blankets are constructed.

    Here's the view of the inside of an opened bag of Beef Stroganoff, showing the metallic surface and freeze-dried pieces of food.

     (click to enlarge)

    The back of the bag contains easy to read directions on how to prepare the food. For most entrees, make sure to remove the freshness packet, then boil 16 ounces of water (half of a standard Nalgene water bottle), pour it into the opened bag, seal it, and wait 8-9 minutes for the meal to be done.

     (click to enlarge)

    The prepared Beef Stroganoff, ready to eat:

      (click to enlarge)

    The Raspberry Crumble dessert came with two separate container bags inside. The main bag contains the Raspberry freeze-dried meal, which is opened and poured back into the main bag for preparation with boiling water. The second bag has chocolate crumbles which are poured on top of the Raspberry meal after preparation. 

    The prepared Raspberry Crumble has the consistency of porridge with chocolate crumbs on it. Dave and I were rather dubious about how it would taste, but surprisingly, we both loved it.


    Prior to this review, I had never tried Mountain House. I had always carried my own trail food, which usually consisted of Ramen noodles, Trail Mix, energy bars, and cheese and crackers. I definitely came away impressed with the taste and ease of preparation.

    None of the meals were what I would consider poor-tasting, and most were quite good. Of the samples we tried, Dave and I both agreed that the Beef Stroganoff and Raspberry Crumble were the standouts, rivaling the taste of anything we had eaten at home or at a restaurant.

    My other concern before trying these was whether they'd be enough to fill me up after a strenuous day in the wilderness. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the portions are actually quite generous, and one entree was enough to make me feel as if I had eaten a fairly substantial meal.

    The greatest advantage that Mountain House offers is convenience. Just boil the amount of water needed, pour it into the opened container bag, and 9 minutes later you have a hot, tasty meal ready to eat. They're definitely more expensive, but if you can afford to lay out the extra cash, the added convenience sure makes life easier in the backcountry.

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    About the author
    Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)

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