MRE’s vs. Freeze Dried Pouches or #10 Cans

Can’t decide between buying MRE’s, freeze dried pouches, or #10 cans? What works best really depends on your situation (like, duh obviously).

MRE vs Freeze Dried Can

I use all of these for my combination of emergency survival food storage, backpacking and camping needs. I’ve prepared, tasted, and carried these different products for many miles on my back, or in the case of #10 cans – have used serveral cases of Mountain House and AlpineAire off-the-grid.

What is right for you will depend on the combination of these 5 factors:

  • Weight

    An MRE weighs the most per serving compared to the other options, but they do not need water added to eat (only for heating). Twelve MRE’s with heaters weigh about 22 lbs on average.

  • Shelf-Life

    #10 freeze dried food cans last 25-30 years so you can store and forget about them.

  • Taste

    Most people agree MRE’s taste the best and eat them on hikes and camping trips. Some people do not like water reconstituted freeze dried food unless it is a real emergency.

  • Cost

    MRE’s actually cost about the same as Mountain House and AlpineAire freeze dried food options. They appear to cost more per serving because they come prepackaged with a side dish, dessert, drink mix and condiments. The real issue in deciding costs is cost-per-serving vs. packaging your own long-term freeze dried food such as rice, beans, grains, etc.

  • Preparation
    MRE’s, especially ones with heaters, are very simple to prepare and you can even use dirty water. In an emergency, you can eat an MRE straight out of the package (kind of like a Pop Tart). Mountain House and AlpineAire food require hot water, but nothing else. Do-it-yourself ingredients will require the most time to prepare.

Why I Love MRE’s

For my personally, I love MRE’s because they are, simply speaking, a “meal ready to eat”! They taste great compared to freeze dried food if you do not like the “watery taste”. Most importantly, I never have to worry about preparation, such as needing clean water and a fuel source when preparing Mountain House or AlpineAire freeze dried food. While the freeze dried food pouches are quite convenient, and in a survival situation you can get by with mixing cold water, I prefer MRE’s because I enjoy the taste. I can rotate MRE’s in and out of my normal eating routine — for example, twice a month we’ll take the family on a picnic to the local state park (5 miles from our house), enjoy MRE’s, and teach them some new outdoor survival skill.

I also love the portability of MRE’s. In a scenario such as a major earthquake, tsunami, or civil unrest where you have to bug out, I want something I can throw in the back of the car quickly. The food won’t last as long per weight, but it’s a lot easier to throw a case of MRE’s (12 meals) in the back of the truck and get out. My goal during a bug out scenario is to just make it to my next destination, not try and survival in the woods for a month.

(Update: Some have suggested you could prepare for a rapid bug out scenario with freeze dried food pouches or #10 cans too by having everything ready to go in bug out containers. This is all true. My general preference is to “not have to worry about food” during a crisis scenario, which includes preparation. I also think water will be scarce so I’d rather use whatever water I pack or obtain for drinking rather than cooking. Another thought: if I had to barter for transportation or shelter, MRE’s are a easier as a unit of trade than freeze dried food pouches or #10 cans.)

Why I Love Mountain House #10 Cans

Quite simply, security and peace of mind. I know I can buy a few cases of Mountain House #10 cans and leave them in my cool basement and I have food storage for many months. The cost per 1000 calorie serving will be more than if you packaged your own long-term freeze dried bags using mylar bags and 5-lb buckets, but the peace of mind and ease of preparation (just add hot water) is more important to me.

I do maintain my own bulk storage of freeze dried food (rice, beans, wheat, flour, sugar) but that is only for a SHTF or TEOTWAWI scenaro where I need to stretch my food supplies for 6+ months (okay, TEOTWAW will require more than 6+ months of food to survive, but the theory is 6-months of food helps you ride out the initial chaos and arrive at a plan).


Why I Love Mountain House Food Pouches

These combine the best of portability and small serving with the benefits of longer shelf-life (7-years). I like them for backpacking trips where MRE’s are too heavy to pack more than 1-2 days worth of meals, and #10 cans are too bulky and don’t give you enough variety for a few days meals. For example, a #10 can usually has 10 servings so if you want to go backpacking for 7-days and want to have menu variety, you have to pack a lot of different cans. This may work for large groups, though the cans don’t fit very well in a backpack either.

The other great benefit of freeze dried food pouches is that you can test different ways of preparing your food and whether you enjoy the taste. Every now and then, there are some flavors that you just do not enjoy or your stomach may have an adverse reaction or even potential allergies, so with small pouches you can test first. This way, when a SHTF or longer term survival scenario does occur, you know exactly what you will be eating.

Mountain House vs. AlpineAire

I like AlpineAire too but I love the taste of Mountain House better. For variety, I have both in my long-term food storage including some Provident Pantry as well. For short backpacking trips I pack Mountain House unless I am rotating out out food then I will pack one of the other brands.

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