How-To & Advice

Mountain House Pro Pak vs Pouch – How To Choose

For nearly 50 years, Mountain House has pushed the envelope in the freeze-dried food space, honing their recipes and entrees to ensure a satisfying meal at the end of a trailhead or welcome respite during an emergency or disaster.

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With so many varied and unique ways that their freeze-dried meals are used, Mountain House has introduced two lines of their popular freeze-dried food: Pro-Pak’s and Adventure Meal pouches. These two options serve very distinct audiences, and for different reasons.

While the Adventure Meal pouches have generally stayed the same from last year, new for this year is Mountain House revamping their Pro-Pak line. Below are the changes found in this year’s Pro-Pak’s:

      • Align with military specifications for Meals Cold Weather (MCW)
      • Contain one serving, have higher protein and focused calories
      • Can be identified by a red Pro-Pak badge on the packaging

It’s worth mentioning that the new Pro-Pak’s are vacuum packed and sealed just like their older version and enjoy the same 30-year shelf life guarantee.

Let’s go ahead and dive into the Mountain House Pro-Pak vs Pouch discussion, do a bit of comparison and contrasting, and take a look at the Pro-Pak entrees and their regular Adventure Meal pouch equivalents.

Pro-Pak vs Pouch: Making a Decision

Life is about choices, and so is choosing the right Mountain House freeze-dried food for your needs. Unlike a lot of choice you have to make in life though, choosing between the Pro-Pak and Adventure Meal pouch is pretty easy.

Below is the basic breakdown of each, with an in-depth and detailed look at the Pro-Pak vs Pouch debate.

Reasons to Choose the Pro-Pak

You will choose the Mountain House Pro-Pak if you primarily value the following:

      • Compact, packable size
      • Package won’t expand at altitude
      • Know your caloric and nutritional requirements
      • Don’t mind limited entree options

The target audience for Pro-Pak meals are extreme adventurers, mountain climbers, high altitude campers, experienced trekkers and back county backpackers intending to stay afield for a week or more.

Beef Stroganoff with Noodles - Pro-Pak

Mountain House Pro-Pak – Entree Packaging

Reasons to Choose the Adventure Meal Pouch

Opt for the Mountain House regular Pouch if the below are important to you:

      • Larger selection of entree options
      • Generous portion and serving sizes
      • Weight is not necessarily a concern
      • Don’t mind a slightly larger package footprint

Regular Adventure Meal pouches are intended for folks looking to stockpile freeze-dried food for an emergency or disaster, as well as those who take short backpacking trips and excursions lasting no more than a couple of days.

Adventure Meal pouches are also perfect for multi-day hiking and camping outings or as a quick grab-and-go solution if you’re heading outdoors for a day out.

If you’ve already decided that Pouches are right for you, check out our Best Mountain House Meals article for a comprehensive roundup of our favorite Adventure Meal pouch entrees.

Beef Stroganoff with Noodles - Adventure Meal Pouch

Mountain House Adventure Meal Pouch – Entree Packaging

Entree Availability Comparison Chart

Below is a handy table that shows all the entrees available to consumers in both the regular Adventure Meal pouches and Pro-Pak’s. Please note that this chart covers Mountain House entrees only.

Mountain House offers a total of 21 different regular Pouch entrees, while the Pro-Pak entrees are limited to four, with the expectation that additional Pro-Pak entrees be offered in the near future.

Adventure Meal Pouch vs Pro-Pak – Entree Availability

Pro-Pak vs Pouch – Similarities

There are quite a few things that both the Mountain House Pro-Pak’s and Adventure Meal pouches share, including the method of food preservation, shelf life and entree selection. Let’s start with the food manufacturing process you can expect to find in a Pro-Pak and Pouch.

Freeze-Dried Food

First up, the obvious: both of these Mountain House products are freeze-dried foods contained in a durable and resealable Mylar bag. The bags themselves are meant to withstand rough handling (within reason) while in your backpack or bug out bag.

All entrees are pre-cooked and then freeze-dried to lock in their taste and texture. Once the entrees are reconstituted with boiling water, and properly prepared, they have the same taste and texture as they originally did when prepared in the kitchens of Mountain House.

Shelf Life

In addition, both the Pro-Pak and Pouch share the same 30-year shelf life and Taste Guarantee. Essentially, as long as these products are stored and cared for properly, they will still taste just as good when reconstituted with boiling water as when they were first cooked.

mountain house 30 years taste guarantee

It’s important to note that these products can exceed their shelf life dates and still be viable sources of food. According to Mountain House, if a Pro-Pak or Adventure Meal pouch “expires”, the quality of the food may be impacted, but can still be consumed, with only a slight change to the taste and texture of the food.

Entree Options

And finally, all entrees offered in the Pro-Pak’s are also available in Adventure Meal pouches. The food contained in the Pro-Pak entrees will generally have the same taste and texture as their Pouch equivalents.

Pro-Pak vs Pouch – Similarity Summation

Here’s a quick summation of the similarities between Pro-Pak’s and Pouches:

      • Freeze-dried food
      • Shelf life longevity
      • Resealable package
      • Entree options

Pro-Pak vs Pouch – Differences

When it comes to contrasting the Mountain House Pro-Pak and Pouch, the differences primarily lie in six important areas: nutrition, serving size, weight, altitude considerations, water requirements and entree selection.

Let’s tackle nutrition first.

Nutrition

As mentioned earlier, Mountain House Adventure Meal pouches and Pro-Pak entrees differ to some degree when it comes to their nutritional benefits, including their % Daily Value (%DV).

The differences are mainly focused on the amount of ingredients used and their associated macro- and micro-nutrients. For example, Pro-Pak’s will generally contain more protein and calories, per serving, than their regular Pouch counterparts.

Below is the nutritional information for the Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef entree in a Pro-Pak (photo on left), and a Mountain House Chili Mac with Beef entree in a regular Pouch (photo on right).

You can easily see that Pro-Pak entrees can contain up to twice as many calories and protein, per serving, than regular Pouches.

Serving Size

As with all food, serving size is an important consideration when consuming your daily intake of calories. With the Pro-Pak’s, the amount of servings is reduced compared to the Adventure Meal pouches. For example, the Pro-Pak’s (photo on left) contain one serving per package, while the Pouches (photo on right) contain two servings per container, a 50% difference.

Mountain House makes an important distinction when it comes to the serving size of their Pro-Pak entrees. These serving sizes are based on the USDA’s Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed (RACC) values, a baseline in which Mountain House Pro-Pak entrees are offered in whole servings and never half servings, as commonly found in competing products.

This whole serving size allows consumers to directly compare Pro-Pak’s to other manufacturers that produce freeze-dried foods and who also use RACC metrics. This is important as it allows you to create a baseline between Mountain House and competing products when planning your nutritional needs.

Because of this, it’s important to concentrate more on your individual caloric intake needs, and not on serving sizes. This is due to the fact that everyone’s caloric intake and metabolism rates are different, which is driven by the respective activity and effort level you anticipate performing.

Weight

You would think that with the reduction in serving size of the Pro-Pak, its weight would be appreciably reduced versus the Adventure Meal pouches. This is not the case.

Most Pro-Pak’s weigh slightly more than a Pouch, although not by much. We found that a typical Pro-Pak will weigh between 0.3 and 0.8 ounces more than a Pouch.

For example, a Spaghetti with Meat Sauce Pro-Pak weighs 3.8 ounces (left photo) while a Spaghetti with Meat Sauce in a regular Pouch weighs 4.2 ounces (right photo).

This can be an important factor for folks who are counting ounces in their rucksack when planning very long, arduous backpacking or adventure trips. However, keep in mind that the slight weight increase in the Pro-Pak’s could be offset in that their increased caloric and nutritional content is greater than Pouches.

But, what does all this mean for the average consumer? Well, with the increased caloric and nutritional content per Pro-Pak package, less packages of Pro-Pak’s would likely need to be rucked in versus Pouches.

Theoretically, this lends itself well to being more packing friendly as folks can fit more Pro-Pak’s in with their gear and have better control of rationing their food supply due to the single serving size per package that the Pro-Pak’s offer.

Vacuum Sealed

A major distinction between the Pro-Pak’s and the Adventure Meal pouches is that the Pro-Pak’s are vacuum sealed and Pouches are not. But, why is it important that Mountain House manufactures their Pro-Pak’s with a vacuum seal? Essentially, it boils down to physics.

One of the primary reasons Pro-Pak’s were brought to market was to accommodate folks who required sustenance at high altitudes. This could range from anyone climbing K2, to aircraft crews keeping Pro-Pak’s on board in the event they went down while performing rescue operations in high-altitude areas.

This vacuum sealing in Pro-Pak’s prevent the packaging from bulging and expanding in your gear while attaining higher altitudes. This is an important consideration for folks like mountain climbers, who are space and/or weight restricted when packing their backpacks.

Water Requirements

In addition to packing an adequate supply of water for personal hydration, water must also be used when re-hydrating Mountain House Pro-Pak’s and Adventure Meal pouches. Depending on which option you choose, your water requirements are going to be very different.

Generally, all Pro-Pak’s require more water for their re-hydration than regular Pouches. This is due to the fact that Pro-Pak’s contain more food per package and thus require more water versus Pouches.

For example, in the photos below, the Mountain House Beef Stroganoff with Noodles Pro-Pak requires 1 3/4 cups of water (14 fluid ounces), while the Pouch needs 1 2/3 cups of water (13 fluid ounces).

The difference of 1 ounce of water, in this example, may not seem like much, but multiply that ounce by the number of meals you’re carrying and soon those ounces become pounds. Because of this, great care must be taken when choosing between Pro-Pak’s and Adventure Meal pouches.

Entree Options

Unlike the Mountain House Adventure Meal pouches, all entrees offered in Pouches are not necessarily found in the Pro-Pak lineup.

We’ve gone ahead and created a cheat sheet of which entree options are shared between Pro-Pak’s and Pouches, and which entrees are Pouch only (see the Adventure Meal Pouch vs Pro-Pak – Entree Availability table at the beginning of this article).

Pro-Pak vs Pouch – Differences Summation

Below is a summation of the differences between Pro-Pak’s and Pouches:

      • Nutrition
      • Serving size
      • Weight
      • Vacuum sealing
      • Water requirements
      • Entree options

Pouch or Pro-Pak: Which is Better?

This is a tough one, because it essentially comes down to what you are planning to use the Mountain House meals for. The Adventure Meal pouches and the Pro-Pak’s are aimed at distinctly different audiences to fill very specific needs.

At the end of the day, if you don’t care if you end up with a regular Pouch or a Pro-Pak, and your only concern is cost, then Pouches are usually cheaper than buying Pro-Pak’s. Pouches are also generally lighter, and contain multiple servings. We recommend Pouches for folks performing at low to medium-high activity levels.

But, if you’re more concerned about quantity of food per package, then Pro-Pak’s are for you. While you may pay extra for a Pro-Pak, you will get more food per serving than Pouches. We recommend Pro-Pak’s for folks who are into extreme outdoor activities and require those extra calories and nutrients for peak performance.

Interested in learning more about freeze-dried food? We have a great article on the subject, Is Freeze Dried Food Good for You, and a companion buyer’s guide on the Best Mountain House Meals. Be sure to check them out!

FAQs

Do Mountain House products contain MSG?

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is a flavor enhancer that is commonly added to processed foods and vegetables. According to Mountain House, MSG is not added to their products. However, it can form naturally during the manufacturing process when certain ingredients are used like tomatoes and certain cheeses.

What is the best way to pack Mountain House meals?

It’s pretty easy to pack Mountain House meals as they are incredibly lightweight and small in size. A good rule of thumb is to store them in an area in your pack where they are easily accessible, yet will not become damaged by either sharp objects in your pack, or by trips and falls on the trail.

What is the best way to store Mountain House meals?

When it comes to storing your Mountain House meals, avoid prolonged exposure to extreme temperatures. Once a package is opened, un-hydrated, use the contents of the pouch within a week for best taste.

If you need to store re-hydrated meals for later consumption, you can do so in the original packaging by sealing the package shut. Keep in mind that re-hydrated food is real food, so be sure to consume leftovers within a day or two.

Can you repackage Mountain House Pouch meals?

Generally, yes. When a freeze dried meal is exposed to air, it begins to degrade in both taste and texture, and won’t last very long. That said, it’s best to keep the meals in their original packaging until ready for consumption.

In a pinch though, if storing freeze-dried meals in their original packaging is not feasible, freezer bags could also be used instead.

What is the shelf life of freeze dried and dehydrated foods?

When it comes to the shelf life of freeze dried and dehydrated foods, the moisture content is a significant factor. Many freeze dried foods, when stored properly, can last between 25 and 30 years. Dehydrated foods, however, only last between 15 and 20 years.

What is the difference between freeze dried and dehydrated foods?

The biggest difference between freeze dried food and dehydrated food is the percentage of nutrition it contains. Freeze dried food uses a cold vacuum process to remove moisture and this process helps the food retain approximately 97% of its nutrients. Dehydrated food, on the other hand, only retains approximately 60% of its nutrients.

Texture is another difference between these two food preservation methods. Freeze dried foods contain significantly less moisture and are therefore crispier with a much lighter and airy texture. Dehydrated foods contain more moisture and their texture can be more on the chewy side, depending on the food type being dehydrated.

How do you prepare Mountain House meals?

Pre-cooked meals like those purchased from Mountain House are very easy to prepare. It’s as simple as opening the pouch, removing the oxygen absorber pack and adding the specified amount of boiling water.

Seal the pouch back up and allow ten minutes of “cooking time” to pass to allow the food to become hot, re-hydrated and ready to eat.

What are the biggest advantages to the Pro-Pak vs Pouch?

The major advantage of the Pro-Pak’s versus the Adventure Meal pouches comes down to the amount of food that the Pro-Pak’s offer versus the Pouches. The calories and macro-nutrients, per serving, contained in a single Pro-Pak is considerably more than a regular Pouch.

A single serving in a Pro-Pak often contains double the calories and protein found in a Pouch. This alone can make or break an outdoor excursion, driving home the point that it is critical to always match your food and nutrition requirements with that of your projected physical activity.


What do you think of our write-up? Did we get it right? Feel that we got it super wrong? Tell us! Feel free to reach out and let us know what you think of the article; we always appreciate thoughtful, constructive criticism, good or bad!