After a hard day on the trail you want a rich, hearty meal that will warm you to the core. To date, that’s meant freeze-dried food reconstituted with boiling water in a pouch. There are a number of good freeze-dried products out there and they perform as advertised. But is there a better way?

I think so.

I’ve switched to the military’s historically maligned Meal – Ready to Eat (MRE) for several reasons, including taste. That’s right, the old Meal – Rejected by Everyone is finally ready for prime time. There is a wide selection of entrees. They’re tasty. They fill you up without giving you an upset stomach. But here’s the surprise: in the long run these fully-hydrated meals are much lighter than the freeze dried stuff you’ve been carrying.

With a freeze-dried meal, you must use boiling water to rehydrate the product. That means you need:

  • Stove
  • Fuel
  • Vessel for heating water
  • Extra water dedicated to cooking, not drinking.

Although in a side-by-side comparison the MRE seems much heavier than its freeze-dried counterpart, when you add up the accessories the MRE concept is much lighter.

MRE Entrees

MREs can be heated with a special MRE heater that is about the size of a #10 envelope. But they can also be eaten cold and are still pretty darned tasty. You can’t eat a freeze-dried meal cold, and you can’t even rehydrate one with cold water. It takes hot water to do the job correctly.

Pro Tip: Don’t buy the full MREs. Just buy the individual components- entries, sides and deserts. They’re much cheaper and there’s less waste. You don’t need chewing gum and TP with every meal.  

Emergency Tip: If someone is hypothermic, don’t worry about heating the meal. While warm food or liquids provide an emotional benefit the majority of the body heating results from the calories consumed, not the food’s physical temperature. You’re much better off getting some calories, any calories, into the person quickly rather than setting up a stove, boiling water, and then waiting ten minutes to create an unnecessary “hot meal.”

In my rescue pack I now carry just MREs and the heater sleeves, along with a couple of sporks- one for me and one for whomever I rescue.

Stay Found.

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