When COVID-19 first hit the US, families everywhere stocked up on the essentials – toilet paper and hand sanitizer. As time went on, and we saw exactly how fragile the supply chain to the consumer was, folks started buying more and more survival-based products. Guns and ammunition have been in a shortage from the start, as have tents, sleeping bags…and emergency foods were all but wiped off the shelves.
If you aren’t familiar with emergency rations, they are simply your favorite meals that are either rapidly dried out to extend shelf life, or preserved through other means. Preparation of many of these can be as simple as just adding boiling water, while others can be prepared through conventional methods in relatively short order. As an active outdoorsman I always have a crate of these around. They just make it that much faster to get into the woods, on the trail or even off to work. Here are my favorite brands, arranged alphabetically:
1. Alpine Aire
Alpine Aire products are typically easy to find online and in most Cabela’s brick-and-mortar stores. My favorite features of Alpine Aire meals include the thin profile of their packaging and the handy EZ fill line that gets them right each time. In this guy’s opinion, the Forever Young Mac and Cheese is their best product, but these folks really do a great job nailing other specialties like the Pasta Roma and the Cheese Enchilada Ranchero. https://alpineaire.com/us/us
2. Backpacker’s Pantry
There’s a saying among hikers that goes something like “Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain.” If you’ve ever walked 40 miles with an overloaded pack, you should be able to identify with that statement quite well. Backpacker’s Pantry makes some of the lightest weight food on the market, and it is among the thinnest and smallest-packed. Although they have a wide variety of dishes, I have grown to associate them with my favorite comfort foods like Beef Stroganoff with Egg Noodles and Shepherd’s Pie. Long story short, don’t plan on doing much after dinner time. https://backpackerspantry.com/
3. Mountain House
If you round up a handful of strangers and ask them what freeze-dried food brands they have heard of most are going to respond with “Mountain House.” This offering is likely the easiest to find, as even Wal-Mart has the top-sellers hanging in their camping section. Of all the offerings available, I have always gone to Mountain House for their breakfast entrees. Eggs seem to be the hardest item to freeze-dry and most other brands require actual cooking in a pan after rehydration. That might be fine in a deer camp, but why wants to carry a frying pan on the trail, let alone clean one? They make several egg-based dishes, but none stick out like the Breakfast Skillet. I like to call it the “Diner in a Bag” in honor of the all-night breakfast diners we remember from college. https://www.mountainhouse.com/
4. Ready Hour
Ready Hour food deviates from the list a bit, as this brand doesn’t rely on freeze drying to achieve a long shelf life. Through smart ingredient selection and outstanding packaging, Ready Hour stuffs your favorite continental meals into a tight little package that can survive on the shelf for around 25 years. The Black Bean Soup and the Traveler’s Stew are at the top of my list as they cook up fast on a campfire and warm you to the bone during mid-winter hunts. Best of all, when you are finished, you have an indestructible MTM Ammo Can left over! https://readyhour.com/collections/emergency-food-items/products/1-week-food-supply-ammo-can
Trailtopia is one of the best-kept secrets in hiking circles. You’ll find tons of good options with these folks, but if you are looking for real-tasting Cajun food give the Jambalaya or the Cajun Smack a go. Both of these are made with the correct blend of spices and—I don’t know how they did it—even a hint of crawdad. The only thing second to the flavor is the packaging. Trailtopia puts a heavy emphasis on ease of access and built their bags to be short and wide, making the meal easy to get to with just an everyday spoon. https://trailtopia.com/
With things slowly getting back to normal, you can expect to start seeing these back in stock both at retail locations as well as on each brands’ respective website. If emergency preparedness is a realistic goal for your family, don’t wait any longer to fill out your prep area with some of these offerings. Most emergency food has a double-digit shelf life so there isn’t a real worry of losing your investment to expiration.