Are MREs Good For Backpacking?

Whenever you’re out hiking or backpacking, you’ll need to eat and stay energized on your adventure. For many people, cooking while hiking or backpacking can be a bit of an inconvenience and time-consuming.

However, many ways are quick and easy ways to get a meal while backpacking, and one of those ways is MREs.

Most people, however, do not know if MREs are a good food option for backpacking. This article will show you the benefits of taking MREs whilst backpacking.

Are MREs Good For Backpacking

MREs or “Meals, ready to eat” is a military diet consumed while on a mission and in recent times have been popular among outdoor enthusiasts for their hiking and backpacking adventures. 

Yes, MREs are very good for backpacking, they are lightweight, cheaper, and very tasty. And they are also high in calories to provide you with energy to make your backpacking a breeze.

What Is An MRE?

MRE is simply “Meals, ready-to-eat” and it was created for the military to eat while on covert missions. They are designed to possess all the nutritional values and calories you’d find in a homemade meal.

MREs come in a box durable enough to withstand any rough terrain, it also comes in different food and drink items. It typically contains:

  • Side Dish
  • Crackers
  • Entree
  • Spread (peanut butter, jelly, or cheese spread)
  • Dessert 
  • Candy
  • Beverages 
  • Hot sauce or seasoning
  • Accessories ( Spoon, matches, creamer, sugar, gum e.t.c)

The standard MRE is designed to provide about 1250 calories 

Advantages Of Taking MREs While Backpacking?

Taking or using MRE as a diet while backpacking has its advantages and health benefits.

– Calories 

MREs are very high in calories, consuming just an MRE is guaranteed to give you a calory boost of over 1200.

If you’re burning a lot of calories on your backpacking trip, eating three will be sufficient so you don’t lose any weight. Or even two MREs if you’re looking for just 2000 calories.

On the other hand, you’d have to eat close to four or five meals with other backpacking meals before you gain 2,000 calories.

– Cost-effective

MREs are not cheap, but they are less expensive than the majority of pre-packaged backpacking meal kits.

A 1,200-calorie MRE is usually around $7.00, while a 400-calorie meal from Mountain House is around $10.00. You’ll end up spending $30.00 to get the same number of calories that you can get for $7.00.

This benefit may not be available to people in other countries. They may be costly and difficult to import from the United States.

– Durability 

Originally, MREs were not built for backpacking, they were built for the military to withstand strong combat situations. They are designed to withstand heavy vibration, parachute drops, and even free falls from certain heights. 

And backpacking is like a walk in the park compared to combat situations.

– Tasty 

Of course, this is subjective, but most people enjoy the taste of most MREs. Not only are the entrees delicious, but many of the desserts are outstanding.

There are 24 different meals to choose from, so there are plenty of options if you don’t find one that you like.

– Healthy 

The US government has conducted numerous studies on MREs and their potential effects on those who consume them. 

They’ve investigated the effects of MREs on gut health, how many days a person should eat a diet consisting solely of MREs, the nutritional content of an MRE, and even how long an MRE can be stored before it spoils.

All of this means that you know exactly what you’re getting when you eat an MRE. Other backpacking meals will be regulated by the FDA, but you will have to rely on each company’s research to determine how healthy and effective each meal is for backpacking.

– Longevity

MREs have a minimum shelf life of about three years. Having said that, when you combine the airtight packaging with the fact that they’re full of preservatives, you get a backpacking meal that usually stays fresh long after its expiration date.

The main factor determining how long your MRE will last is how well you store it. MREs stored in high-temperature areas will not last nearly as long as those stored at lower temperatures.

Disadvantages Of Backpacking With MREs

– MREs cost more than Homemade backpacking meals

While MREs are less expensive than other pre-packaged backpacking meals, they are still not the most cost-effective option. A careful planner can prepare their own tasty and nutritious backpacking meal for a fraction of the price of an MRE.

– Contains a lot of calories

As previously stated, this can be both a good and a bad thing. You might need the extra calories on a difficult or long backpacking trip.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to lose weight while eating three square meals a day, 3,600 calories may be far too many.

– MREs are heavy

The disadvantage of having a complete meal kit with every meal is that you will gain a lot of weight. Why, for example, bring a new set of plastic utensils for each meal when you could bring one set that you wash after each meal?

Fortunately, this isn’t as serious as you might think. Because everything is individually wrapped, you can pick and choose what you want to take with you and what you want to leave behind.

– MREs are based on the Standard American Diet

The Standard American Diet, abbreviated as SAD, is unhealthy. You might not get enough protein or fiber, and Americans consume far too much fat and carbohydrates. As a result, the average lifespan in this country ranks 49th in the world.

Nonetheless, according to Army researchers, “the MRE contains comparable amounts of carbohydrates, fat, protein, and fiber as the average American diet.” A backpacker, in my opinion, should strive to eat better than the “average.”

How Many MREs Can You Eat In A Day?

An MRE is intended to be a single meal, such as breakfast, lunch, or dinner. As a result, an individual should budget for three MREs per day, which are rationed to military personnel while deployed.

However, if you’re backpacking, you can have a simpler trail lunch and save the MREs for breakfast and dinner to avoid having to eat three meals a day. Just keep in mind that one MRE is a single meal containing up to 1250 calories, so plan accordingly.

Military MREs are specifically designed to provide troops with a high caloric intake while in combat. They are not intended to be part of a well-balanced healthy diet.

Modern MREs on the other hand, contain a lot of preservatives and far more sodium than you need, making them far from a healthy food option. While they aren’t the worst thing you can eat, they aren’t the best either.

However, if you only intend to eat them for a few days, you should be fine. Even if you burn a lot of calories, they’re not recommended for long-term consumption.

Do MREs Cause Stomach Problems?

Multiple types of research have shown that MREs do not affect stomach bacteria and they also can be eaten for 2 weeks without having to worry about your stomach.

However, it is important to know that this research differs on the body systems. And also, MREs were not designed for a steady and balanced meal.

What Are The Alternatives To MREs?

In as much as taking MREs while backpacking is beneficial, there are other alternatives to MREs.

Here are a few MRE alternatives to take on your next backpacking trip.

  • Mountain House
  • Good To-Go
  • Meal 2 Go
  • Omeals
  • AlpineAire Foods
  • Backpacker’s Pantry
  • Heather’s Choice
  • Peak Refuel
  • Patagonia Provisions
  • Wild Zora


Taking an MRE while backpacking is a good way to gain calories while on the move. And you don’t also have to worry about the time it’ll take you to prepare a meal.

Nonetheless, they are not the type of meal you want to take on a steady diet for a longer period. 

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