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Gluten Free
Backpacking Meals Review
Featuring Backpacker's Pantry

By Diane Spicer

Backpacking food that is gluten free can be tasty and nutritious, as this Hiking For Her review discovers. #backpackingfood #glutenfreefood #glutenfreehikers #hikingforherreviews #hikingforher

This gluten free backpacking meals review highlights new Backpacker's Pantry entrees.

That should get your attention if you're a gluten free hiker, or a backpacker looking for variety in your backpacking menus.

The meals were prepared and tested with tired, hungry backpackers in mind. Let's add a few more details: Visualize your sore feet, swarms of mosquitoes and only a moss covered boulder as your kitchen table.

You want need a hot, satisfying, fast and filling meal before you crawl into your shelter. And no burger shack in sight.

Never fear!

This thorough review was written to share all the facts about these meals so you don't have to guess whether or not they will work for you.

How to navigate this Hiking For Her
gluten free backpacking meals review

You can skip around to any part of this review:

What is being reviewed

This gluten free backpacking meals review includes these Backpacker's Pantry entrees, new in 2024:

  • White Bean, Chicken, and Green Chile Stew
  • Drunken Noodles with Chicken
  • Fiesta Beef and Vegetable Bowl

Disclosures before you read this
gluten free backpacking meals review

Hiking For Her received these meals in exchange for a free, fair review.

They were prepared in my kitchen and taste tested at 200 feet above sea level, not on the trail.

  • I recommend that you always try new backpacking meals from the comfort of home, to avoid disappointment or digestive upset.
  • Having all your kitchen tools ready to hand means you focus your attention on the food.
  • Take notes and have family and friends taste test along with you. If you hike with others, they need to be there for the taste testing.

As an Amazon affiliate, Hiking For Her receives a small commission if you purchase these meals through this website. You are charged nothing extra for your support.

Hiking For Her has been using this company's freeze dried food for over three decades. A potential bias toward liking the meals based on previous good experiences may be present.

I also have a gluten free bias. I have been eating gluten free for nearly 3 decades. Yes, an early adopter, but through no choice of my own.

I've tried every brand of gluten free freeze dried and dehydrated food out there, for day hiking, car camping, and backcountry adventures.

Trust me to be an honest, fair and knowledgeable taste tester who knows what quality gluten free dining in the wilderness tastes like.

Disclaimers in this gluten free
backpacking meals review

I am one woman with a set of taste buds developed over the decades to prefer certain types of food: not too spicy, not too salty, not too sweet. Just call me Baby Bear, the "just right" hiker.

Your taste buds may not agree with my assessment, so my comments on these meals are quantitative but also, alas, qualitative.

Take everything I say and pass it through your own flavor and texture filters: level of heat, amount of saltiness, how aggressive you want your spices, etc.

I am also a minimalist hiker. I don't fuss over gear, clothing, or food. I use what works, and I stick to it. I know through long experience that freeze dried backpacking food saves me time, energy and money, so I use it for all my backcountry adventures.

Important general information about these
Backpacker's Pantry gluten free meals

There are several important things to know about these meals if you've never seen this brand before.

  • Each meal is designed to be prepared in the pouch, meaning all you need is hot water and a long handled spoon to eat the meal. In other words, easy clean up without bowls and dish washing.
  • All packets contain two servings, which may or may not be enough food for you. Be sure to note the calories and nutrients in each package (covered in this review) and bring an additional meal packet for your hiking partner if needed.
  • These meals are produced in a facility that also handles egg, milk, soy, nuts, seeds and other allergens. Read the gluten free certification information carefully, available on the Backpacker's Pantry website.
  • All ingredients are clearly labeled in all caps, and each meal highlights any potential allergen(s) in the list. For example: "soy".
  • They offer freeze dried food for any type of dietary preference, as well as high calorie selections that backpackers need. The website does a good job of providing detailed information about each meal.

Please don't kill the messenger

Before you pack these meals for a backpacking trip, you will need to do some math.

  • Estimate the amount of water you will need each day for food preparation. In this case, it's a minimum of 1.5 cups of boiling water per packet (2 servings).
  • Calculate the amount of fuel you will need to boil your water each day, given the expected temperatures and known elevations.
  • Calculate how each meal adds to your daily tally of calories and nutrients. If you're not sure about how to do that, here are my tips.

Avoid operator error by heeding these notes

There is a small oxygen absorption packet in each pouch, which may or may not be on top when you open the pouch. Be sure you retrieve it before you add hot water.

The packets stand on their own. Best to keep one hand on it as you fill it with water to avoid watching precious food hit the dirt.

Re-hydration times are given for an altitude of 5,000 feet.

  • Subtract or add minutes based on where you are consuming the food.
  • My opinion: it's always good to give the plumping up process plenty of time, even at sea level.

Portion size states the packet feed two people. Please don't believe it. I'm a small, older woman and I can easily wolf down the contents of the packet after a hard day of soaking up trail time.

Comparison of meals in this
gluten free backpacking meals review:
nutritional values

There are lots of ways to begin this gluten free backpacking meals review.

Let's start with a quick nutritional overview, rather than taste.

Food is fuel, and while it needs to be palatable and some would say "delicious over nutritious", it's the nutrients that keep you going day after day.

Don't deprive yourself of fuel!

Total calories

Protein, g

Calcium, % daily

Sodium, % daily

Drunken Noodles
with Chicken





Fiesta Beef Vegetable Bowl





Bean Chicken
 Chile Stew





Backpacking is not the time to skimp on calories. Total calories mean you must consume the entire packet, labeled as "two servings".

Backpackers know that being hungry is a constant problem, so don't be shy about visualizing yourself eating the whole packet of food.

But why focus on the protein numbers?

  • Read why here, with tips on how to pack more protein when you're hiking.
  • If you're into the carbohydrate and calorie numbers, start with this explanation.

It's no surprise that the meal containing both animal protein and plant protein (chicken and white beans) came out on top for both calories and protein.

Calcium and sodium for hikers

Why check how much calcium and sodium these meals contain?

Calcium is hard to come by on a backpacking trip (unless you carry supplements or hike with a milk goat). It's an important element for muscle contraction, so an adequate daily intake is important for a successful hike.

  • Read more about calcium for hikers here.

Sodium is lost as you sweat during a day of hard hiking, even more so in hot environments.

NOTE: If sodium restriction is part of your normal diet, be sure to check with your care provider about eating more sodium on your backpacking trip.

Both calcium and sodium need to be replenished to avoid cramping. Check that your daily intakes will be adequate, using the nutritional panels on food packaging before you repackage your food.

If you use Backpacker's Pantry meals, that information is right there waiting to be added to your daily totals.

Trail tip for backpacking meal planning

When you lay out your daily evening meals, take into consideration the terrain and length of trail you will be tackling each day before you stop for dinner.

Topographical maps will show you the elevation gains and losses.

You can estimate the seasonal temperatures to expect, using weather apps such as noaa.gov.

Here's an example of how to customize your menu based on your expected itinerary:

  • Keep high sodium, high protein meals for the toughest or hottest days.
  • Give your gut a break with lighter meals on days you're not working as hard.

Now let's focus on preparation and flavor in this gluten free backpacking meals review!

Meal preparation steps in this
gluten free backpacking meals review

My preparation deviated slightly from the package directions:

  • I added 1.75 cups of water, not the recommended 1.5 cups.
  • I waited 9 minutes after the addition of the water (8 was recommended), then stirred and resealed the packet.
  • I waited 8 minutes after the second stir before consuming the meal (7 was recommended).

These modifications are based on my long experience with rehydrating freeze dried meals on the trail.

I know my gut will appreciate the longer soak times and the additional water to plump up the ingredients.

This is especially true with beans, even more so if beans are not a regular part of your diet.

I followed this step wise modified procedure for all three meals.

Backpacker's Pantry White Bean, Chicken,
and Green Chile Stew

front of Backpacker's Pantry Green Chile Stew package

Here's what the front of the package looks like. It gives you the important information right up front (groan):

  • calories in 2 servings
  • amount of protein in 2 servings
  • weight of the packet
  • gluten free designation
  • an overview of ingredients

You can see that the packet containing this meal is compact and blessedly lightweight, given the nutrition inside.

Trail tip:

Note that you can fold over the top of the packet and tape it down. Put a pin sized hole in it to remove all air, and tape over the hole. That decreases the bulk even further, making a smaller footprint in your backpack.

Stew ingredients

There's a lot going on in the flavor profile of this stew.

ingredient list for Backpacker's Pantry freeze dried Green Chile StewIngredient list for Green Chile Stew

And there's a lot going on in your mouth when you take your first spoonful!

The chicken had a surprisingly tender texture, the best I've ever eaten in freeze dried food. You'll notice it immediately.

Then it's the chiles that dominate.

  • I've eaten Hatch chiles fresh out of the field, roasted and packing some heat, so I know Hatch chiles when they hit my taste buds!

The cumin and onion came through loud and clear, right behind the green chiles.

The potato flakes created a mildly creamy texture, along with the powdered cheese.

The beans soaked up the water for the most part, with a very few still a bit crunchy. Nothing a little more time and water couldn't handle nicely.

You wouldn't even notice it after a long day on the trail.

bowl of Backpacker's Pantry Green Chile Stew prepared foodGreen Chile Stew with chicken and beans

The odor wafting from the bowl was heavenly, given the easy prep of this meal.

I give this backpacking dinner an enthusiastic 2 thumbs up.

Backpacker's Pantry
Drunken Noodles with Chicken

bowl of Backpacker's Pantry Drunken Noodles prepared freezedried foodDrunken Noodles with chicken

I love making this dish at home, but I don't love all the prep work it involves.

What a surprise to enjoy tender chicken chunks and noodles coated with a flavorful sauce, right out of the packet. All I had to do was wait a few minutes!

Backpacker's Pantry freezeddried backpacking meal Drunken Noodles ingredients

This was not a spicy meal, in contrast to the green chile stew above.

If you're looking for a mild flavor profile, add this dinner into your backpacking menus. If you like things a bit more spicy, add some heat with a small packet of hot sauce.

I must say that this meal was my favorite out of the three entrees because I prefer noodles over rice.

Sweet (brown sugar), spicy (jalapeno) and savory (soy) notes without overwhelming your palate - what's not to love after a long day of hiking?

Backpacker's Pantry
Fiesta Beef and Vegetable Bowl

bowl of Backpacker's Pantry Fiesta Beef and Vegetable Bowl prepared foodBeef and vegetable bowl

Beef, corn, beans, rice all combine to make this a hearty dinner.

The inclusion of the word "Fiesta" implies a Mexican spice combination, so no surprise to see chiles, onions, tomato, cilantro and cumin.

Backpacker's Pantry Fiesta Beef Bowl ingredients

Note that Hatch green chiles show up again in this entree, combined with chipotle chiles for a richer flavor.

This meal smelled delicious. It definitely hit the taste buds and made them dance, without being too spicy.

The beef was tender, not at all chewy. It soaked up the spices and made me feel full through the night.

Satisfying beefiness paired with the deep flavor of both red and green chiles? Sign me up!

What you need for freeze dried
backpacking meal preparation

An efficient, lightweight and easy to use system will get these meals heated up and into your belly fast:

You'll also need a plastic bag to hold the empty food packets until they can be disposed of properly off the trail.

Trail tips

In cold and/or windy weather, protect your hot meal packet with extra clothing or a windbreak of some sort.

A few general backpacking hygiene tips:

Don't bring your food into a tent, don't spill it on your clothing, and if any food hits the ground, bend over immediately and lick it up.

Just kidding on that last one!! Backpackers would never do anything like that, especially on Day 8 of the trip ;)

About this company

Backpacker's Pantry has been around a long time, and in my experience starting 20 years ago using this brand, have been consistent in their offerings and quality.

They donate 1% of every sale to nonprofits around the world via 1% For The Planet.

They partner with some solid hiking organizations, including the American Hiking Society.

And they provide a way to make these meals even more affordable:

  • Set up an account and begin to accrue reward points.
  • On your birthday, receive 500 points just for getting older!
  • Redeem points for money off vouchers and gift products.

Take advantage of free shipping on orders over $99 US when you purchase through their website.

  • Plan out all your backpacking menus for the year.
  • Ask your trail buddies what they need, too.
  • Submit one big order, and boom! You're done.

Backpackers Pantry gluten free meals
review conclusions

Each hiker has a finite amount of time, energy and money. And the proportions vary, depending on your age and life situation.

When you need solid nutrition that delivers good taste and quick, easy preparation for each meal, and don't mind paying for convenience, these freeze dried entrees will perform well in your backpacking menus.

These meals are tasty enough to fool any hiker, and a lifesaver for those of us who must be gluten free hikers. Seriously!

I'd eat any of them again, and plan to add them into my upcoming backcountry hiking plans. That's not said lightly. Gluten free food has to earn my trust.

Backpacker's Pantry meals can also work well for a car camping trip. Easy prep, no clean up and a full belly at the end of a long, fun day, such a deal!

  • Why waste time cooking and cleaning, when you can put your feet up and enjoy the sunset?

You may be thinking that these prepared meals are too pricey for your budget. Hmmm... let's look at cost beyond dollars.

You can source all the ingredients, or dehydrate them yourself. (money, equipment, labor)

Note that there is a difference between dehydrated backpacking food and freeze dried backpacking food.

  • Read about that here

After you prepare the ingredients, you must figure out the correct ratios of water and cook times, then package and label each meal. (time, labor)

How much do you really save with a DIY approach?

Of course, some hikers love to spend time on the food aspect of backpacking, and to them I say, carry on!

But for those who value convenience and a trusted outcome for each meal, these freeze dried meals are the way to go.

Also note that Backpacker's Pantry meals are cheaper than most other brands. You get a lot of tasty food for your money in each packet.

Don't overlook the value of food that lasts a long time in your emergency prep kit. Along with that JetBoil and long handled spoon (see above) you're a long way toward self reliance in extreme weather or natural disasters.

This gluten free backpacking meals review only covers three of many gluten free Backpacker's Pantry entrees that can deliver satisfying backpacking food for your next adventure.

Breakfast, snacks, dinner, fruit, desserts for any food preference, they're all available to make planning your backpacking menus fast and easy.

Now it's time for you to take a look at all of your choices for Backpackers Pantry meals.

A feast for your eyes, followed by a feast on the trail. Enjoy!

Thanks for reading this gluten free backpacking meals review.

  • More gluten free hiking tips here.

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Backpackers Pantry Gluten Free Meals Review