Freeze-dried meals. Dehydrated foods. Packaged meals. MREs. Many people mistakenly believe that all of these terms are interchangeable and mean the same thing. However, they are not. Understanding the differences can also help you make the best choice for your needs. Here’s a look at what they are in the discussion of freeze dried vs. fresh and why you shouldn’t settle for freeze-dried.
An MRE, officially called a Meal, Ready-to-Eat, is a self-contained individual meal delivered in lightweight packaging. The United States Department of Defense uses MREs for its service members when they are out in the field or in combat situations and organized food facilities are not available. These are fully cooked and then sealed, often in a flexible foil pouch. These meals can be eaten hot or cold, and require no equipment to prepare and eat. Many are used to this style of meal and that is where OMEALS got inspiration from – but OMEALS are not considered MREs. In fact, they are homestyle outdoor meals that can use any liquid to heat up, and contain no harmful chemicals or toxins.
Freeze-dried foods on the other hand require hot water to prepare them. Freeze-dried foods have the moisture removed from them and then they are flash frozen. Then, the food goes through a process where a vacuum is used to remove all air and additional moisture before final packaging. In order to eat them, hot water needs to be added to reconstitute them.
Since OMEALS retain their full moisture, they are simply fully prepared and sealed, they do not need water to reconstitute them. This allows them to retain much of their original freshness, instead of dehydrated and freeze-dried food, which can lose its freshness. The difference in freshness is one reason you should opt for a fully cooked and sealed meal instead of a freeze-dried meal.
Another reason to opt for a fully cooked and sealed meal versus a dehydrated and freeze-dried meal is the ease of preparing the meals. OMEALS can simply be eaten straight from the pouch, either hot or cold. No equipment is required beyond the pouch – you can literally add any non-flammable liquid inside. Freeze-dried meals on the other hand require hot water to prepare which means either having access to instant hot water or having the equipment needed to heat water. Either way, it will take longer and require more advanced planning.
As you research outdoor camping meals to purchase, it is important to note that just because an meal is available for purchase in your favorite hiking shop, doesn’t mean you should purchase that particular product. There are several things you want to look for when purchasing and several things you want to avoid.