For health reasons, I usually try to keep my sodium intake fairly low. However, most freeze dried dinners offered in camping stores contain an more sodium than I'm looking for. I consider 800mg a serving to be fairly high, especially considering I most likely will eat two servings to refuel after a long day of hiking. Are there any products that don't have as much sodium? Ideally, I want lightweight, reasonably priced ($10ish for an entree) food with a low sodium content (200mg/serving) that I can take backpacking with me.
I see that a good option on the sodium is to buy the components (vegetable medley, cooked beef, green peas, etc.) which are all lower sodium than the premixed meals. Instead of buying dehydrated/ freeze-dried meals, start looking into dehydrated/freeze-dried ingredients. This page has a good list of source for ingredients.
Make it yourself:
- Pemmican — 1/2 beef fat and 1/2 ground dehydrated beef (like jerky). Done right, no salt
- Spaghetti, Herbs, Olive Oil, and any dried meat (a friend takes this a lot and it's good). Cook it all yourself in camp. Also no salt.
- Hard tack, you can choose the amount of salt to use
- Boiled eggs will keep several days even in warm climates (I do this every hike)
- Shrimp and Grits The entire backpacking chef site is pretty good.
Mountain House has the following in that sodium and price range (I'll keep adding other brands and meals as I find them). I'm including some that are over your limit because you can mix and match to get the proper average.
- Lasagna with Meat Sauce — 300mg/serving
- Corn — 0mg/serving
- Green Beans — 0mg/serving
- Green Peas — 125mg/serving
Backpackers Pantry has the following options from here.
- Organic Scrambled Eggs — 360mg/per
- Spicy Cheese Omelet — 160mg/per
- Cinnamon Muesli & Milk — 70mg/per
- Granola w/ Bananas & Milk — 105mg/per (one of my favorites)
- Granola w/ Blueberries & Milk — 105mg/per
- Egg Mix — 150mg/per
- Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce — 230mg/per
- Pesto Salmon w/ Pasta — 140mg/per
- Vegetable Medley — 55mg/per
- All of the desserts
- Cooked Beef — 55mg/per
- Cooked Chicken — 65mg/per
I would recommend making your own.
I've used a bunch of the recipes from FreezerBagCooking and found them generally easy to make and incredibly tasty. You can adjust them to fit your budget or sodium needs.
The general idea is that you use a "freezer" ziplock bag (basically, the thicker kind) and put all your dehydrated ingredients from the recipe into it. On the trail you can pour boiling water directly into the bag (same as the store bought ones) and seal them, wait for however long, and then eat directly from the bag.
Here's an example recipe (I've made this one, but substituted a tuna packet for the chicken):
Chicken Diablo Rice
- 1 c instant rice
- 1⁄4 c freezedried corn
- 3 T dry tomato soup mix
- 2 t chili powder
- 1 cn 3 to 5 ounces chicken
- 1 c water
Instructions: At home in a quart freezer bag pack the dry ingredients. Pack the chicken with the bag.
On the trail: Add chicken with broth and 1 cup near boiling water. Stir well, seal tightly and put in cozy for 15 minutes.
Source: Trail Cooking.
The site also has lots of tips on how to make/procure lots of the ingredients, including low sodium options.
Mountain House has a low sodium line of freeze dried for long term storage and/or hiking/camping. They are about 250-350 mg/sodium per meal and even Wal Mart carries them individually at about $8/packet. Great for emergencies, hiking/camping and survival. Stay safe.
Probably not as tasty as the answers above, but simple: I purchase the standard freeze-dried meals, shake, open the package and empty half into a container for later use. To the package I add 1/2 cup of 5-minute rice or instant mashed potatoes. On the trail I add boiling water (1/2 of what the package calls for, plus 1/2 cup for the rice or potatoes).
I bring home (and wash) the freeze-dried meal package for a later trip (the metallic package reflects heat well and causes faster hydration, especially useful at 10,000 ft. altitude).
We had the same concerns - the sodium levels on most freeze dried foods are appalling. We bought from Pack Lite Foods and were not disappointed. We only tried the dinners, so can't comment on their other meals. The dinners were tasty and the double servings were the right amount of food for two.