by Diane Spicer
This Mountain House review gives you plenty of details on what Mountain House freeze dried food can add (or not) to the enjoyment of your next backpacking or car camping trip.
First, let's establish the fact that I've been eating Mountain House freeze dried food since the 1970's, when the company first got started.
Unbelievable, you may be murmuring.
And in fact, it's unbelievable to me as well! For two reasons:
Another thing you need to know is that if you read this Mountain House review and decide to purchase some for your next hiking trip, you can use this link to explore your options.
Does this affiliate relationship mean that I'll say only nice things about Mountain House?
Hiking For Her has one purpose for doing unpaid reviews: to get the best outdoor products into your hands.
That includes providing my opinion of drawbacks, right along with the benefits, of bringing Mountain House on your next outdoor adventure.
The freeze dried hiking food which was tested for this review includes:
Notice a theme here?
Clearly, Hiking For Her has a distinct bias toward chicken and vegetables.
More disclosure about food preferences:
I like spicy food, I crave salt like a crazed porcupine after a long hike, and I love to crawl into my sleeping bag with a full stomach at the end of the day.
Because of some disappointments in the past, I never take a new freeze dried meal into the backcountry without trying it at home first.
Now that I've set your expectations, let's get to the good stuff in this Mountain House review!
First things first, right?
Mud encrusted boots and socks are off, tent is set up, and the camp stove is fired up to boil water for the evening meal.
You're anticipating a hot meal before turning in for the night.
You want your food to be satisfying, flavorful and filling.
You don't want your food to take a long time to prepare, or to cause digestive upsets.
So are these entrées going to deliver?
But let's be clear about a few things in this Mountain House review.
Uh, what's the difference?
Here's how I use those terms.
Taste refers to which taste buds on my tongue perk up when I bring the food into my mouth.
Flavor, on the other hand, is where things get more subjective.
To name a few issues which can "flavor" your perception of flavor:
The taste of this Mountain House food was surprising light on the salty end of things.
I say "surprising" because my memories of Mountain House from decades gone by definitely included "salty" as a dominant characteristic.
We'll talk about the sodium content of this food later, but keep in mind that sodium can be a hiker's friend after a sweaty hike.
It would be surprising to experience strongly sweet, bitter and sour tastes in a backpacking dinner meal, and I'm happy to report there were no surprises in these food pouches.
Umami, defined sometimes as the savory-ness of food, is a tougher nut to crack.
This flavor experience has a lot of interesting chemistry behind it (glutamates, for instance).
So it's not surprising to find that flavorings and enhancements are added to the ingredient list of freeze dried meals to up the umami quotient.
Another way to approach the umami side of things:
Read the ingredient list and choose meals with whatever says savory to you.
Now that you've hauled your Mountain House foil packets up to your "mountain house" (or lake side, or wherever you're camped for the night), you want your taste buds to be impressed.
But your perception of flavor also relies upon the aroma (odor) of the food.
After a long, dusty sweat-fest on the trail, it's likely that your nasal passages are dried out.
Now a word of caution as you read this Mountain House review.
Each of us has personal definitions of "tasty" and "flavorful".
And we all have our own tolerance levels and cravings for saltiness, herbs, and spiciness.
So when I rate these meals as on the milder side, recall that I love to kick up the heat in my hiking food.
However, I would rate these chicken entrées as flavorful, in the sense that I could smell the chili and garlic powders when I opened the pouch as well as when the food was on my spork.
And I could see that the food was coated with these seasonings, making my anticipation and salivation levels quite high.
See what I mean?
And from the Mountain House perspective, it makes sense to make milder food and allow folks to doctor it up according to personal preference, right?
The process of freeze drying food (dessication) takes away the flavor.
Nothing to be done about it, except to add back some of the flavor at the end of the process.
That's why you'll see "natural flavors" listed as an ingredient.
Natural flavors by law can include chemicals and source materials that might raise your eyebrows.
Two things to note:
On a backpacking trip, I turn into a food monster.
All I can think about is eating the next snack or meal.
So I caution you to build in some wiggle room around the recommended portion size of any freeze dried food (which are based on the caloric requirements of a sedentary person, not you on a backpacking trip).
Mountain House agrees!
Nice to know that if you warm up the small packet of oxygen absorbing material along with your meal, you can still eat it!
If you're concerned about feeling hungry after your evening meal, here's what I do.
I rehydrate some veggies and add them to my main entrée.
Why not eat them side by side?
You'd have to carry an extra bowl or cup, because fishing those slippery veggies out of the pouch isn't easy when you're hungry.
Note: The fire roasted flavor in my Mountain House review veggie choice is quite noticeable (in a good way), so be sure you want to experience it in your meal.
There are more tips below about how to create the sensation of satiety ("a full stomach") after you eat, so keep going.
Let's take a hard look at sodium in the two chicken meals I ate for this Mountain House review.
I was surprised to note they provided only 23 - 29% of the recommended daily value for sodium (for sedentary people, not hikers).
Here's my take on this.
At home, it's important to avoid overly salted food because of the long term health implications.
On the hiking trail, you need that salt for normal electrical activity in your cells.
So you might find that you want to add salt to these meals if you've got a big salt craving.
Tip: Put together a small, lightweight seasoning kit which includes your favorite spices and salts, and play chef right there in your meal pouch.
On the other hand, if you're not sweating hard, having less salty food is a good thing, right?
At first glance, the calories per serving look really low for a hard working hiking body:
Here's the kicker: It's really easy to eat the entire package of a Mountain House dinner, which is labelled as 2 servings.
So double that calorie amount, and you're in a range that makes more sense for backpackers.
During a hike, carbohydrates are my best friend to keep my body fueled up and humming along.
At an evening meal, they become less important so I turn my attention to the amount of protein and fat my dinner is providing.
The amount of those nutrients in this selection of Mountain House review meals was on the low side, in my opinion.
To be sure I'm getting all that I need, I could add two things to these entrees:
If you'd like to estimate your caloric and nutrient needs with precision, my Fast Facts booklets can help with that.
While I don't fret too much about vitamin intake during a short backpacking trip, there is one that I pay attention to when I'm gone for more than a few days: anti-oxidant, water soluble Vitamin C.
The percentage of daily values of vitamin C in the food discussed in this Mountain House review was highly variable:
As a precaution if you're a believer in regular vitamin usage, bring some powdered vitamin C to add to your meals so your daily intake evens out.
One of my favorite things to do when I plot my next backpacking adventure is to stand in front of the rows of freeze dried food at my favorite outdoor gear store.
Mountain House is front and center, tempting my imagination with creative descriptions and tasty ingredients.
While freeze dried backpacking and camping food isn't necessarily the cheapest way to go, it's definitely a time saver.
I probably shouldn't confess the shocking extent of my laziness, but I've been known to rehydrate a Mountain House entrée at home after a long day of gardening or house chores.
Another nice thing to note in this Mountain House review: When you return home with a few extra pouches, the long shelf life means you'll be able to use it next time.
If you live in an area where natural disasters occur, knowing you have some packets of Mountain House stashed away is a reassuring thought, too.
This Mountain House review would be incomplete without a few tips on how to use this food as a vital component of your outdoors adventures.
Water in, water out on a hiking trail.
If you've had a fairly easy day in mild conditions, you didn't lose a lot of electrolytes and water via sweat or open mouth breathing.
On the other hand, a brutal day of elevation gain under the broiling sun translates into the need to replenish your water balance.
Here's the tip: Add at least 1/4 cup of extra water to the package.
It's hard to wait for water to boil when your stomach is cramping from hunger, but discipline yourself to do it.
Also use a little tough love on yourself as you count down the minutes until you can eat.
Hard, crunchy black beans in your Chicken Fajita dinner are not your digestive friends four hours later when you're inside your warm, cozy sleeping bag.
Tip: Rig your campsite so you leave a few minor chores that you can do while your food is getting plump and juicy.
Anything to engage your brain and distract your stomach for 8 or 9 minutes works!
True story: Time slows down to a crawl when you're watching a Mountain House pouch.
So don't look!
You will skip the whole irritating "Is it time yet???" scenario and come back to a warm pouch filled with goodness.
Waiting for a bit before digging into your backpacking dinner also makes good biological sense.
Another tip: The foil package makes a handy hand warmer as you're waiting, if you can't tear yourself away from your food.
Carry a dedicated heavy duty, re-sealable plastic bag of whatever dimensions make sense for the length of your backpacking trip.
That's where your used foil pouches and other dinner prep trash should be stored.
In bear country, this plastic bag should remain in one place: inside a bear resistant container.
If you accidentally slop food on the ground, after you mourn the loss you need to scoop it up to avoid critters.
In country which hasn't seen a bear in decades, it's the rodent population you need to worry about.
Leaving trash and odiferous items in your backpack is just an open invitation to the neighbors to join you for a snack.
Think food is safe from rodents in your tent?
I once had a persistent mouse chew through the mesh tent door and then chew through my thick backpack pocket to reach a few forgotten peanuts, while I slept peacefully.
This company has been providing food for all types of outdoor enthusiasts for a long time.
Mountain House knows how to turn heavy, water laden food into lightweight, easy to prepare, tasty options for backpackers and campers.
Because of my long history with their products, I must add that I've noted a steady improvement in the Mountain House experience, especially within the past 5 years or so.
Their selection of hiking menu options is impressive, and it won't take you long to find some entrées to enjoy on your next adventure.
The ingredient list clearly informs you of any food groups that you might need to avoid for medical reasons.
Their tough but lightweight foil packaging stands up to being thrown into a pack, and stands on its own on uneven surfaces at a rugged camping spot.
Would I eat this entrée, even if I didn’t have to?
For instance, on car camping trips when I have access to a cooler?
That says it all, don't you think?
Thanks for reading this Mountain House review.
It was a lot of fun to revisit a brand that has shared many trail miles with Hiking For Her!
Contact me with your questions about anything I've mentioned in this Mountain House review, and I'll get right back to you (unless I'm hiking, but I know you'll understand the delay).
Now it's time to build your own camping or backpacking menu!
Mountain House Review