Review: Mountain House
There are a lot of backpacking meals on the market and choosing can be downright confusing at times. Not only are there a lot of new brands but also a lot of new and unusual flavors. A quick trip to your local shop will show you that there are a near innumerable choices. Mountain House has been around for over 50 years and they offer a massive selection of meals, desserts and breakfast.
We spent 800km trekking the Rockies this past summer and took detailed notes on the meals that we enjoyed the most. Read on for your review.
Who is Mountain House?
Mountain House is a major player in the freeze-dried meal business. They have been making meals for the US Special Forces for nearly 50 years. MREs, or Meals Ready to Eat, were not all that delicious in the 60’s so the military asked Oregon Freeze Dried (now OFD), MH’s parent company, to make lighter more delicious food than what was already on offer. So they did. They also brought their meals into surplus and camping stores, where they quickly sold out. In 1969, the idea for Mountain House was born.
What is Freeze Drying?
Mountain House prepares their food using freeze drying. What is freeze drying you ask? In a nutshell it means that Mountain House, after cooking their meals, places them into a freezer. Once Frozen the food is then placed into a vacuum and heat is added to cause the solid ice to become a gas, leaving the food both dried and intact.
If you would like a slightly more in depth explanation about freeze drying head on over to the mountain house blog here: https://blog.mountainhouse.com/what-is-freeze-drying/
If you REALLY want to know about freeze drying then Wikipedia is your go: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeze-drying
The Spork Test
This is a close call. You can get away with a spork if that’s your thing but a long spoon will keep your knuckles free of spaghetti.
Our 5 Fav Mountain House Meals
This was my wife’s favorite, and my second favorite, of the Mountain House meals that we ate. There was a rich coconut flavour with mild curry undertones. The creamy curry sauce was mixed with small chicken pieces that rehydrated quite well. The Peas and red peppers were the main stand out vegetables. I like my curry spicy so would have appreciated a little more punch. As an added bonus, the meal is gluten free.
Pad Thai with Chicken
The chicken and flat rice noodles kept a great consistency with the Pad Thai. Some freeze dried meals can end up a little mushy and this was not one of them. Red Bell Peppers, carrot and a green beans held down the vegetable side of things with the Oyster and Tamari sauces with brown sugar lending a lot to the flavour. The mild spice level is sure to match those new to Pad Thai though I would have preferred a stronger punch to the sour. Additions I would have liked to the Pad Thai would be some dehydrated egg and crushed peanuts, two things that are easily added by yourself. The Pad Thai is also gluten free.
Fusilli with Italian Sausage
The fusilli struck a nice balance between tomato sauce, garlic and sausage. To be honest, I think this is the only backpacking fusilli I could find and it was amazing how nice a simple change in noodle shape really was. Light herbs kept it tasty but mild. Much like with the Spaghetti, if you had a small amount of dry cheese, this would be a home run.
Chicken Fajita Bowl
The chicken fajita bowl packs in lots of veggies with bell peppers being most noticeable. There was a little bit of spice and smoke flavour but they weren’t overpowering. Though it was a little mushy I enjoyed the black beans a lot. Kidney beans feature in a lot of backpacking meals so having a change on the trail is always welcome. The chicken fajita bowl is also Gluten Free.
Chili Mac with Beef
Speaking of kidney beans. Hello Chili Mac with Beef. Lots of beef, actually, and a good amount of kidney beans. The macaroni was a nice change from typical straight spaghetti noodles. There was a little bit of spice here but it was not overpowering.
Bonus: The Breakfast Skillet
So, I know I said our top five meals, but that was for dinner! The breakfast skillet comes packed with giant chunks of scrambled egg, shedded potato and small pieces of sausage. It was actually quite good and by no means has to be eaten for breakfast. In fact, we ate it for lunch.
As much as we enjoyed the skillet, the egg texture is a little dry. Allow an extra minute for rehydration, or perhaps break the pieces into smaller chunks before rehydrating.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of Mountain House meals. For that you’ll have to head over to Mountain House’s website. We, by and large really enjoyed their meals and none of them were “bad.” There were no flavors that we disliked, just some that we preferred (listed above). The Mountain House meals all take between 8 and ten minutes to rehydrate, and they all take the same amount of water, 1.5 cups or 355ml. At the end of a long day that simplicity is great. Head on over to Mountain House if you want to know more or order some of their meals.
Pros: Large selection of flavours, simple to prepare, short package makes eating easier
Cons: Holy Sodium Batman (ie. lots of salt)! Some meals have chemical additives in the ingredient list, though not all. Not as much food as some people may want.
Overall: A long-time player in the camping food game, Mountain House has a great selection of mild but tasty meals that rehydrate well and we wouldn’t hesitate to take them on future trips. That being said, you will want to check the ingredients to be sure that you’re happy with what’s in the specific flavour your’re considering and while you’re at it double check that there’s enough calories so you’re not left hungry. Oh, and when the package says 2 or 2.5 servings it’s lying! Max of 1 person per bag.
Side Note: The Underside!
A bonus feature of the MH meals was the underside. Each and every pack has a small message with a cool graphic. Here’s a gallery of the images we had.
Black Sheep Adventure Sports was supplied with samples of Mountain House for review but this didn’t influence our review in any way.