Camping & Survival

Mountain House: Comfort Food You Can Count On

The key to Mountain House foods’ high quality longevity is the specialized packaging.

As Mountain House/Oregon Freeze-Dry, Inc. celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year, it is safe to say the company has the longest proven shelf life of any modern-day preserved food in the industry. In fact, the company recently pulled out 30-year-old pouches archived in its warehouse for a taste test.

Since Mountain House packaging contains such low levels of moisture, oxygen and a foil barrier, the food tasted almost as good as the day it was packaged.

Mountain House cooks its foods together—always using 100 percent real meat—just as you would make a meal at home and then freeze dries it. Mountain House is the only brand that cooks its food in this manner. This means its food rehydrates faster and tastes better.


This graph explains the freeze drying process.
Freeze-drying is the only way to preserve food that protects its nutritional value, flavor, color, and texture.


To bring more business into the Albany Valley region of Oregon, a group of local businessmen interested in freeze-dried technology started Oregon Freeze Dry, Inc. At the same time, General Foods was looking to expand its cereals by adding freeze-dried strawberries. An engineer from General Foods changed positions and began working with Oregon Freeze Dry. Soon, the company began making freeze-dried strawberries for General Foods.

The company knew it could not sustain its business by freeze-drying strawberries alone, so the research and development team decided they could create a better-tasting C-ration for U.S. soldiers. In 1968, the company received its first contract with the U.S. military to provide food for soldiers stationed in Vietnam. The troops loved the new food produced by Oregon Freeze Dry, Inc. After the war ended, the company received calls from veterans looking to purchase the same food they had overseas. Imagine an MRE you actually chose to eat! Oregon Freeze Dry, Inc. sold the remaining rations to Army/Navy surplus stores, where the freeze-dried food flew off the shelves. After the initial success from sales of the surplus food, REI contacted Oregon Freeze Dry requesting its products to sell on its shelves and Mountain House was born.

Since then, Mountain House freeze-dried food has been everywhere from the bottom of the ocean in submarines, to the highest peaks of the Alps—even on board Apollo missions to the moon.

One thing Mountain House prides itself on is creating top quality, tasty products its consumers demand with the experience of a company that has met U.S. military and NASA specifications for decades.

Freeze Drying—The Process

Freeze-drying is the only way to preserve food that protects its nutritional value, flavor, color, and texture. Mountain House begins by cooking the meals first. Then meals are placed on trays in a large freezer and carefully frozen. Afterward, Mountain House places it inside a vacuum chamber that draws out approximately 98 percent of the food’s moisture by sublimating the ice to a gas at very low pressure. It simulates atmospheric conditions 46 miles above the earth. Adding water to the food returns it to its original state, making it look and taste just like it did when made fresh.

Packaging and Shelf Life

What does shelf life mean exactly? Shelf life, as defined by Mountain House, is not when the food goes bad, but when the quality of the food still tastes the same as newly produced food. Mountain House provides two different types of packaging in its freeze-dried products: cans and pouches and is the only brand to actually test its food after 10, 25 and even 40 years. The #10 cans have a shelf life of 25 years, while the pouches have 10. This means that after storing Mountain House products, the food inside will taste the same after 10 or 25 years as it does when it is first cooked. This is what Mountain House means by shelf life. Just because a product advertises a 20-year shelf life—meaning it will not make you sick if you eat it—does not guarantee it will still taste good.

The key to Mountain House foods’ high quality and longevity is the specialized packaging. The pouches have a continuous foil barrier and include an oxygen absorber. Light and moisture—two of the biggest reasons why food spoils—cannot penetrate the pouch. The #10 cans are also impermeable to light and moisture.

Calories and Servings

Serving sizes are relative. An active 16-year-old boy needs much more food than an elderly woman does. Foods measured in servings are not as important as how many calories are contained in a meal, so it is important to purchase by calorie count and not by serving count. When weighing your options in long-term food storage, figure out the cost per calorie not the cost per serving. Some companies may try to tell you their two or three servings of food a day in an emergency food kit will suffice. However, if there are only 200 calories per serving, you most likely are not going to be able to sustain a family of four—especially if you are being active.

In an emergency or disaster situation, you need to remember that being on the move and doing hard labor means you need more calories and more sodium than you do on a regular basis. Sodium is critical to staying hydrated.

Not Just for Emergencies

One-in-seven Mountain House customers eat its freeze-dried foods regularly, much as we all use boxed dinners when we are in a rush or on extremely busy nights. The three-minute active preparation time means busy families can get a yummy and nutritious meal and not lose time getting to games, practices and other afterschool activities.

For hiking, backpacking, camping, long-term food storage, during a disaster, when you fall on hard times or for a quick and tasty meal, Mountain House foods “feed and comfort in times of need.”

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (3)

  1. Can I buy a sample package of all the meals U make ? Can I order boxes / case lots of a select meal ? My son gave me one of his MRE’s that he didn’t eat while at Camp Perry . The hash browns were great ,BUT the eggs — the dog wouldn’t eat ! KIT

  2. When I was 20 years old I camped quite a bit and one day when I was in an army surplus store buying a mummy bag a clerk asked me about my adventures and as we were talking he said I should try this new item and that it was made for nasa and the US military. I asked him what it was when he handed me the package and he told me it was freeze dried food . I tried it and liked it then but when I was 22 my first child was born and after that when I camped it was hotdogs and somores,LOL,and this Son has told me ,later in life, that he really doesn’t like camping at all. I don’t remember if the freeze dried food was your food I am now 65 and take your food camping and hiking and riding with me always,cause I love it !!. It was so long ago when I first tried freeze dried food and sad to say I can’t remember the name. I lived in California then so I took it to the sierra mountains and thought it to be a really special treat back then and when I told friends about it they thought I was talking about TV Dinners,LOL. Thanks Mountain House,you have helped give me really wonderful memories!!! I am still eating your food today !!! /*

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