/ Back packing meals
Does anybody have any experience with the boil in a bag type meal for back packing? I have just come back from a 5 day wild camping trip and I mainly ate dehydrated pasta when making a cooked meal. I always end up getting sick of trying to wash pots and sometimes it proves impossible if the food gets really burnt on. (Yeah, I'm no Jamie Oliver). These boil in a bag meals look ideal although very expensive. What's everyone else's approach to keeping nourished on a multi-day hike?
Presumably you put the bag into boiling water? Just use enough water and don't let it boil dry.
Cooking when camping is just an extension of cooking at home, just a bit more cramped, so you need to be well organised. I agree boil in the bag meals are very expensive. What meals do you cook at home? There are loads of ways you can prepare and make up your own recipes at home ready for camping and still keep the weight down.
Cheese keeps well, as does tinned fish (the extra weight is not a lot), you've already mentioned pasta, also "boil in the bag" rice. Carefully packed eggs, long life milk or powdered milk if weight really is a concern, powdered potato like "Smash", powdered soup sachets, tube of tomato pure, dehydrated vegetables etc etc. There's loads of choices and combinations.
Experiment in your home kitchen so that you can build up a list of favoured menus.
As for washing up and dealing with burnt pans, used tufts of grass. It's a great cleaner.
The advantage of the sealed, bagged meals is ease (zero prep, zero washing up etc).
If they're anything like the military ones (foil bag full of highly calorific but occasionally tasty mush) then they're great except for the weight (and taste, if it bothers you). For 5 days though, I wouldn't use the heavy boil in the sealed bag meals, just too heavy.
Dehydrated meals are far lighter and more reliably good tasting, but you need to carry more water.
Alternatively, you can start properly cooking - fajitas are a personal fave, as are mini burgers (pre-made, in a zip-lock), little mini bread pizzas... lots of ideas in books like The Backpacker's Cook Book, Campfire Cuisine etc.
Am starting to do multi day trips myself. Couscous is very handy I find as its lighter than rice and easier to do. Couple of ready prep stuff or ready made and a tin of fish (you have the tin to get rid of while your away but still worth it) in is very good I find. Any more tips very welcome.
Came here to say couscous. Lidl/Tesco do the ready packs with spices - just pack some sausage and cheese to make it even more varied. High calorific/weight ratio.
There’s a number of soups and noodles available that can be made in minutes, but most of them are quite horrible. Okay-ish for a night or two at most.
I wish I could find “tinned” meals packed in foil instead. Military rations in some countries do that - they’re not the most weight efficient (I think around 300kcal/100g), but rather tasty and easy to make.
The other approach is to carry food that has more calories (450-500kcal/100g) and protein. Keep the hot meals (soups and such) just as hot meals while most energy comes from bars and such. Oat flapjacks with protein powder and peanut butter are cheap and easy to make that tick those boxes without emptying your wallet. Otherwise, shopping around helps a lot. Though buying a box of 24 bars that taste the same requires some patience to go through.
Dried fruit (Bear Yo-yo’s, for example) are great alternative to chocolates, though both are great at boosting the mood.
I've used Expedition Foods dehydrated stuff for trips to colder climes (multi-day, unsupported in arctic winter). Things to consider - MRE's (boil-in-bag) weigh more, aren't as calorie-dense and can freeze-solid in really cold conditions meaning they take more fuel/time to re-heat. Best bit about dehydrated meals is filling the sachet with hot water and tucking it inside your jacket whilst you wait for it to 'cook' - welcome in a bivvy at -20C.
I eat freeze-dried dehydrated meals when backpacking. My preferred makes are Real Turmat and Bla Band - the Bla Band pasta carbonara is excellent. They are on the expensive side, but I sometimes lose my appetite when backpacking and am happy to cough up the pennies to buy quality meals I'm likely to eat.
A little piece of wire scourer, cut from the motherlode, is worth its weight in gold...
> I wish I could find “tinned” meals packed in foil instead.
lidl do some tuna salad with sauce veg pasta or rice in foil, meant to be eaten cold though
The boil in the bags are ok, although do read the pack as the calorific values vary more than you might think.
Personally I always cook proper food, apart from anything else in winter if you camp at 1900ish that's a heck of a lot of dark boring hours when your little bag is boiled! I find cooking is a nice task with (normally) better results than any dried or boiled in bag grub.
Haggis, boiled slowly with pre diced turnips. Use the water to make up smash in mug with butter, drain the haggis and neeps and then eat it all out of the pot you just boiled it in.
Pesto Pasta, self explanatory, fry down peppers, onions and courgettes first (all pre-diced).
Mozzarella and chorizo pasta, again with some fried down veg and add some balsamic vinegar right at the end.
Best desert, ever, custard cream biscuits with instant custard poured over them!
Some will prefer to save weight through dried food, but my approach is save weight through the kit you carry so that you can take nice food!!
Google zip n steam and make your own or use to decant tins into. My favourite use for them is to reheat cooked sausages after a walk, either in the pan while you're getting packed up or left in a flask of water all day so they're waiting for you when you get back.
Thanks very much everyone. Some good info. I'll probably avoid the boil in the bag meals then due to the calories per 100 gram weight and the cost. Plenty of good ideas to try here for my next trip.
For multiday you need to go dehydrated to save on weight and bulk - invariably you'll be able to obtain water each day.
Couscous and some noodles (mugshots, pot noodle) are very useful because you don't have to simmer them, just pour on boiling water and wait. This will save you having to carry fuel to use for simmering which is heavy, and washing up is easy because you're just boiling water instead of cooking the food over the heat.
Also consider packaging - you'll need to carry out what you carry in, wet food packaging risks leakage and empty fish tins will stink!
My standard expedition rations are as follows:-
Readybrek for breakfast - no need to 'cook'. I make up portions at home with the required amount of dried milk powder, sugar, & instant hot chocolate powder or dried fruit to taste; and carry them in freezerbags. Squish air out before sealing so they take up less room and don't burst. Tip into bowl, pour on boiling water to the required consistency. With a bit of practise you can boil the exact right amount of water to avoid boiling more than you need (=reduced fuel use).
Lunch - sandwiches on day 1, then Dr Karg's crispbread thingies or Ryvita on the other days. The tomato mozarella ones are like pizzas. Peanut butter to spread on the Ryvita. Dried fruit/Muesli bar for afters.
Evening meal - flavoured couscous sachets or Mugshots. Peperami-style sausage to chunk in. Instant custard and biscuits / fruitcake for afters.
Early days in the expedition could have alternative heavy foods or extras as they're not being carried for long. It's not a super-exciting menu, but it's light, inexpensive and you can always tart it up with flavourings as others have suggested above.
No-Nos - pot noodle/porridge - the pots/lids are prone to getting burst in your bag. Tinned steamed puddings - 30 minutes simmering uses a LOT of fuel!
About 25 years ago I was joint leader on a Brathay expedition for school kids across Knoydart, carrying all our own kit. Brathay had managed to persuade Raven to make up two-man one-day ration packs, which contained freeze-dried food in sachets and everything two people would need for a day including even bog paper. These were cached at road heads and in sheep folds where we picked them up. It worked quite well, although there was one surprising side effect - on the second day members of the party disappeared with the group entrenching tool to do the morning's business and then reappeared looking puzzled and scratching their heads. Eventually somebody broached the question and we all agreed, with relief, that our poos had changed colour mid-poo from the usual variations of brown to bright flourescent green, which they remained for the rest of the fortnight. Clever of Raven to have thought of camouflage.
> A little piece of wire scourer, cut from the motherlode, is worth its weight in gold...
Unless you have a non-stick pot, in which case a little bit of plastic scourer is worth it's weight in non-trashed nonstick pans
Someone mentioned using grass for cleaning pots - sand and grit makes a good scourer for plain metal pots, use a wodge of grass to move it around the pot.
> A little piece of wire scourer, cut from the motherlode, is worth its weight in gold...
I just use grass and gravel.
5 days assumes you'll have to find water along the way anyway, so dehydrated and dried is the way to go.
Homemade chicken stock is quite calorific and seriously delicious (even more so in a cold tent) and you can reduce it at home to a concentrated jelly and stick portions of it in heavy-duty zip-lock or double-seal freezer bags, with cous cous, sweetcorn and chunks of chorizo. Just add to boiling water until heated through.
For the first night out, I normally take something freshmade at home (frozen at home if it's a long journey before setting out) as a real treat, knowing that that'll be the heaviest meal out of my pack on the first night.
Something like a chilli or curry can be stuck in a low-low oven to dry out ready for rehydration straight from a freezer bag.
McVitie's Jamaica Ginger or Golden Syrup cakes are made from magic as they only deform rather than break in a crammed backpack.
A nice fatty salami or chorizo in an easy-to-reach pocket at all times.
You can remove the air from freezer bags by immersing them in a full sink to displace the air. As someone mentions above it not only reduces bulk, but reduces the chance of the bag splitting. Like so: https://www.seriouseats.com/2016/08/how-to-seal-food-airtight-without-vacuum-sealer-water-displacement-method.html
> Google zip n steam and make your own or use to decant tins into. My favourite use for them is to reheat cooked sausages after a walk, either in the pan while you're getting packed up or left in a flask of water all day so they're waiting for you when you get back.
Do you immerse the zip bag in hot water to reheat the food? I thought those bags were vented for microwave use rather than boiling?
Great idea if they work as boil in a bag though, as was the tip on using water pressure to force air from plastic bags.
One thing I have learned since the Knoydart trip is the value of maltodextrin as a source of energy. My buddy and I did a 5 day walk on Vancouver Island where we had to carry ALL our food and we began to discover that a mug of Cup-a-Soup at lunch time gave us a big boost. The main ingredient in that is maltodextrin powder, which you can buy cheaply from Myprotein.com.
Of course nowadays there are loads of energy gels and powders but they don't fill your stomach so you will end the day feeling strong but hungry.
Can highly recommend pretty much anything in the 'Dinner' range by these folk https://drytech.no/en/ (Real Turmat is the brand)
Also there's a newish small British brand called Firepot, not tried their meals but they read well and have supported Antarctic expeditions among others. More here: https://www.outdoorfood.com/
Some good advice here. Couscous and Smash are about the best value bulk carbs I've found so far, with couscous having the crucial advantage of not having the texture of badly made wallpaper paste. We normally take plain couscous and flavour it with instant soup or powdered sauce then stir in other stuff to add variation / texture / extra calories, but all-in-one couscous dinners are also good.
Tortilla wraps are good for lunches - they're reasonably calorie dense, pack easily and keep well.
For me, breakfast is always a more difficult meal to make on a multi-day trip.
On 2 day Polaris trailquests we started using sachets of Complan drink and Build-Up soup for convalescents, both of which contain maltodextrin and Complan contains whey protein, so one sachet gives a lot of bang for your buck. But as I wrote, they don't stave off hunger.
Porridge oats, dried fruit and instant custard. Breakfast solved.
Tortilla wraps also act as edible dish cloths for wiping your cooking pan clean.
> Tortilla wraps also act as edible dish cloths for wiping your cooking pan clean.
This walks the fine line between genius and Viz "Top Tips".
(I think it's probably genius, though...)
Instant mash potato mixed with dried coconut milk and tomato soup powder. Add cheese for extra flavor. Apart from the luxury cheese every component is freeze dried keeping weight to a minimum.
An important tip learnt from experience - if you take pre-made food from home, make sure it is well sealed in proper liquid-tight containers - oil/liquid escapes as pressure changes as you gain altitude and can squeeze out oil all over your lunch bag/rucksack/gear etc.
I'm bumping this, because we're off to the Highlands this weekend and I've still never found a properly satisfactory winter bothy breakfast that is warm, filling, lightweight and suitable for a partner who a) is veggie and b) can't stomach anything porridge-like.
We normally end up eating veggie sausages wrapped up in tortilla wraps, but it's not particularly inspiring...
As I wrote in my post upthread, I have never resolved the breakfast problem. Of course the best breakfast on an acvtive day would be a bacon and egg sandwich but that's difficult to manage in a tent.
Friends of mine with whom I used to climb in Scotland in the 70s swore by marmalade and Ryvita sandwiches but all that came to a sticky end when one of the small kids overturned the catering tin of marmalade inside the tent one wet day!
You can buy separate boil in the bag bags and, as others have suggested, make what you like at home and freeze it in bags ready to go. You can also take some flavours to improve ready made meals such as herbs, spices, sauce sachets. No washing up and hot water ready for a drink too.
You can dehydrate your own meals for longer trips. When taking supermarket products, such as porridge pots, empty the contents into a secure bag and then make it in your cup. No wasted packaging space or burst pots.
Breakfasts: We quite often take a good muesli (bagged up) and Bird's instant custard. Boil water, make custard, pour on muesli - bingo. Not to porridgey, and calorific ++. Vary the muesli type to what you fancy - Jordan's clusters with dried raspberries work well.
Good points re McVities Golden Syrup and Jamaican Ginger cakes - even better with a small quantity of Drambuie or Stone's green ginger wine Malt loaf is similar indestructible but much less fun.
Cutting the top off a 2l bottle of fizz leaves a crush resistant canister for fresh veg. Avocados are insanely high calorie and travel well like this.
Many years ago in an attempt to seduce a remarkably attractive colleague on a last minute trip to the hills I carried in mange touts, baby corn, mushrooms, green pepper and beansprouts to Barisdale bothy to g in a stir fry. We also had bruschetta with avocado and sun dried tomato as a starter, and ginger cake with ginger wine. And a foil bladder of a rather good Merlot. By the end of dinner the other occupants of the bothy clearly wanted to kill me as they looked on sullenly with a pot noodle and a can of 80/-.
On the dehydration tack, the Americans seem big on this, with bought dehydrators, can cook pasta or rice then desiccate- place in an insulated pouch to reconstitute in camp. Can also dry sauces, fruit, veg and meats!.
Saves on water, and therefore fuel and weight.
> Cutting the top off a 2l bottle of fizz leaves a crush resistant canister for fresh veg.
I don't get this at all. Plastic juice bottles aren't crush resistant, even less so with no top and pressure. And what stops the veg falling out?
Some bottles are better than others - the 'ribbed' water ones are best, the smooth ones worst. Changes in bottle manufacture do mean that they aren't as crush resistant as they were at the end of the last century... Thicker plastic best (but somewhat heavier, and sometimes needs a bit of duct tape around the rim to avoid cuts)
Slid down into the pack in a vertical position they survive remarkably well. They aren't crushproof but in a pack seem to be fine - put squishy stuff lowest down where there is more resistance. Gravity stops them falling out. Also handy for extra water around camp etc when empty and weigh sweet FA to pack out again.
I use one to prevent damage to Neoair Xlite mat when deflated. Coca Cola type bottles seem pretty robust even if collapsed many times and provide almost weightless containers for water both when camping and on hill....also cut down provide emergency eating receptacle for food/drink (not too hot however!).
> Malt loaf is similar indestructible but much less fun.
rubbish! Maltloaf is a top fun cake as you can roll pieces of it into very convincing fake turds.......
> Many years ago in an attempt to seduce a remarkably attractive colleague on a last minute trip to the hills....
Did you succeed?
> They aren't crushproof
The post I replied to seemed to say they were. Why not just use a similar container with a lid, designed for the purpose?
> As I wrote in my post upthread, I have never resolved the breakfast problem. Of course the best breakfast on an acvtive day would be a bacon and egg sandwich but that's difficult to manage in a tent.
For summer trips we've gone with the chocolatey Jordans Country Crisp with powdered milk, which is energy-dense as hell and appeals enough to my sweet tooth that I can be bothered faffing with dried milk in a tent or bothy. Might actually take the same again but slightly warm the water first so it isn't 0.001 degrees C when we have to stick it in our faces.
Crush resistant, not crush proof.
Free, light, recycled - what’s not to like?
> Many years ago in an attempt to seduce a remarkably attractive colleague on a last minute trip to the hills I carried in mange touts, baby corn, mushrooms, green pepper and beansprouts to Barisdale bothy to g in a stir fry. We also had bruschetta with avocado and sun dried tomato as a starter, and ginger cake with ginger wine. And a foil bladder of a rather good Merlot. By the end of dinner the other occupants of the bothy clearly wanted to kill me as they looked on sullenly with a pot noodle and a can of 80/-.
Dread to think what they thought when you started shagging then!
Me? The 13th Duke of Wybourne, in a double sleeping bag on a cold night in the Highlands at 3 in the morning? With my reputation? Has no-one thought of the consequences? Oh well...
Agree - Jordan's Country Crisp is excellent, and a good bowlful will fuel me for 4-6 hours easily. Give it a go with instant custard instead of dried milk...
Beanfeast and smash can't be beaten. It just has one obvious negative side-effect, especially in a cramped tent.
Unless the drinks containers are stolen or donated they aren't free...
Well, considerably cheaper and lighter than the alternative BDH canisters (though these are much better as poo tubes).
Also, never, ever likely to get confusion between lunch and poo tube, as plastic bottle are see through and BDH ones, mercifully, aren't. Absolutely a requirement that poo tubes are crushproof and leakproof...
> I'm bumping this, because we're off to the Highlands this weekend and I've still never found a properly satisfactory winter bothy breakfast that is warm, filling, lightweight and suitable for a partner who a) is veggie and b) can't stomach anything porridge-like.
A bit late for your weekend, but a favourite backpacking breakfast of mine is a big bowl of those cheap noodles you can get in sachets from Chinese supermarkets. Hot and tasty, the spices stimulate and wake you up and it's full of carbs, and you get a lot of liquid in you too if you make it into a soup. Neglible weight and doesn't use much gas either.
For evenings I'm a fan of Polenta. It requires very little cooking.
I can't stomach porage or muesli early in the morning, or indeed anything much. My preferred breakfast option has become dehydrated potato, made quite runny, lots of butter and black pepper.
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