Shortage of Freeze Dried Camp Food This Summer?

Do you eat freeze dried food when backpacking? If so you may have a hard time finding your favorite backcountry meal this summer. It seems hard economic times combined with natural disaster have sent many people scrambling to buy freeze dried food. This has put increased demand on Mountain House, Backpacker’s Pantry, and similar companies’ freeze dried products.

Mountain House Sold Out

In fact Oregon Freeze Dry (makers of Mountain House products, the largest supplier of freeze dried food) is seeing a demand they are having trouble supplying. Earlier this year Oregon Freeze Dry sent out a letter to its retailers that said they would “not accept any additional orders for the 2011 season.” They later retracted that and said they would accept additional 2011 orders from existing customers based on past sales, plus some growth.

What this means for you and me, and countless other backpackers and thru-hikers is a shortage on the shelves this summer. Retailers typically buy what they typically sell each year, and they mostly sell to backpackers and hikers. Companies like Oregon Freeze Dry only produce what the retailers typically buy from them. As more and more Emergency Preppers (“Preppers” for short) start buying supplies normally consumed by backpackers and hikers, companies like Oregon Freeze Dry will need to increase supply to avoid a shortage. This is the problem…. Oregon Freeze Dry has said they won’t (or can’t) increase supply much if any.

So as preppers buy all the freeze dried food to store away in their basements, backpackers won’t see any new stock coming in. And retailers won’t be able to order additional product to restock their shelves.

A friend and I share a pot of Freeze Dried Chicken and Dumplings

Many stores have already sold more freeze-dried food packages in the last three months than they did all of last year. It is safe to assume all of those sales have gone to preppers because the camping, backpacking season has yet to really begin. Oregon Freeze Dry is working to increase capacity to try and keep up with demand, but won’t be ready until fall.

Most of what has been affected is the supply of #10 canned food, but pouches are being affected too. The Mountain House Website has withdrawn stock from their online store. The website states ”Our inventory for both cans and pouches is all being shipped to our retailers. Once all of our retailers are back in stock 100%, we will put items back in stock on our own website.”

I was curious so I ran over to my local Mountain House retailer here in Midland (There should be relatively low demand for these types of products here in Midland, Backpacker types are an anomaly out here.). I was slightly stunned to see the stores entire stock of Mountain House products sold out. All that was left was a few Mountain House desert pouches. This drove it home to me that it is likely I won’t see anymore Mountain House meals till 2012.

Mountain House Sold out in Midland

As Oregon Freeze Dry/Mountain House struggles to meet demand, more and more retailers are turning to other companies like Backpackers pantry, who has also seen a spike in demand. Some retailers fear this hoarding could be worse than Y2K, when similar demand was seen for freeze dried food and then dropped leaving companies and retailers in surplus. Understandably many manufactures don’t want to increase supply too much or they will be left with the bill if demand fails to stay high.

All of this is coming together as the perfect storm in the freeze dried market. So if you typically eat freeze dried food on your backcountry excursions, you might need to switch to more conventional foods this summer. This will no doubt increase pack weight. You might also need to learn more about backcountry cooking, at least know more than how to boil water. You may even have to purchase a different cook set to allow for more elaborate meals.

The only other solution will be to stock up now…which will no doubt increase the problem…but at least you will be set. What do you think? Is this something hikers and backpackers should worry about?

Freaking out for freeze-dried food
Disasters jump demand for freeze-dried foods as retailers prepare for summer rush

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2 thoughts on “Shortage of Freeze Dried Camp Food This Summer?”

  1. ZSandmann,

    I was surprised to see them sold out at Academy. I noticed they were not sold out of Backpacker's Pantry (but they keep those on a different isle for some reason.) After I posted this I also went to check Ski Skeller. They had several Backpacker's Pantry…but no Mountain House. I haven't looked at Walmart, but it seems until next year…Backpackers Pantry is the way to go. Its strange to me…because I would have never pegged Midland for having a ton of Backpackers nor Prepper types.

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