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Back packing

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
There's pulling up to a campsite with your car and having any and all resources an automobile can hold......water, stoves, fuel, ice chests, shtuff....and then there is back packing, where anything you want to eat/use is hauled off to a site usually away from cars. Many of those last a few days or in some extreme cases longer.

Freeze dried food was being designed for astronauts in the 60's.....most was pretty rough. By the mid 1970's I was taking back packing courses at a Mid west university (three semesters).....rappelling, spelunking, and of course 3-4 day trips into the wilderness of KY lake. By that time back packing meals were better, not great...but if you had walked all day with a packpack on then the lasagna was edible. There were some lipton noodle dishes at the store but the majority of "meals" came from the outdoor shop.

Jump ahead 10 years and cubscout meals were generally at a campsite, by the time my sons hit boyscouts mom's were verboten. It's a guy bonding.....

It's been many years since I've back packed over night....a campsite with cabin is about the speed I'm at now. But food has changed, grocery stores have dehydrated and freeze dried foods galore on the shelves. Milk & dairy products are in aseptic containers thus don't need refrigeration. Environmentally insensitively, small packages of many many condiments and foods are prevalent.

So, I'm curious, for those of you that have back packed through the years what did you used to make "in the day" vs what you are eating in the woods now? How are you cooking it?


I can remember one 3 day trip....dinner the first night was fresh....loads of vegetables/meat....
seems like I'd bought a very small burner that attached to fuel....thinking about it now :eek: cooked in the standard mess kit and hauled large water containers along. Cans of tuna, dried fruit, wedges of cheese, crackers were lunches....dinners were the freeze dried lasagna, stroganoff.....etc....gag.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #2 of 14
Freeze dried has improved a lot. But the shelf stable food market has improved a lot as well including MREs. While it's heavier and a bit bullkier, it's cooking time is minimal or even skippable wtih some other techniques. The hydrogen heating packs are quite compact, but the packages themselves are often quite dark so setting them out in the sun on a warm day can heat them right up in 30 minutes or so.

The trade off point in weight happens at about the 2.5 day mark. Until then shelf stable food can be lighter and often of equal or better quality. After that point you should look at dried/freezedried foods.

Fuel is often the primary contention in what types of meals you'll pack and eat. If you can work with fires, there are stick burning stoves that are quite efficient and save all the fuel weight and bulk. This opens up more options in quality crafted lightweight meals.

Living in Utah, there is a lot of self sufficiency attitude from the prevailing religion. This trickles out into the economy in useful ways for backpacking with dehydrators, information, recipes and ready dried separate ingredients so you can craft your own sauces and meals.

I'll usually use a mix of commercial and home crafted meals but I don't usually do long trips so my options are more wide open. Cous cous is a good option for example. It's inexpensive, requires only boiling water and standing time to cook. Forms a good basis for a meal. Maybe a little harissa, some foil pack tuna or chicken and freeze dried vegies and you've got a light weight minimals home crafted meal.
post #3 of 14
I should add that the Asian grocer is a good place to hang out too for dried goods.

Rice noodles that don't need a long simmer, just a hot water soak. Even their quick noodle packs make a much better starting point than the fried ramen packs, with better flavor options. You have Japanese, korean, Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai to work from as a base.

If you're a forager, you could do some rice paper wraps with some fresh caught and cooked fish as the protein. With minimal clean up.

Similarly, the convenience/instant soup/snack aisle of Whole foods offers lots of quick hydrating options for you to expand on.

Repackaging them is usually a good idea to help manage waste and bulk better.

Phil
post #4 of 14
A lot depended on how far we were going, for how long, and how many people were in the group. The more hikers there were, the greater amount of community stuff you could bring.

For an overnight hike, it didn't much matter. In fact, given the equipment we had, bulk was a bigger consideration than weight per se. The longer the hike, obviously, the greater attention had to be paid to weight and bulk---although sometimes we could plan things so that resupply was possible.

Back in the day we'd usually carry canned/frozen/fresh foods for the first night out. Sure, they were heavy and bulky. But that was a self-correcting problem, as is true with all backpacking foods.

Dried foods were the mainstays. And there was quite a selection. Don't forget that "evaporated" foods date to the 19th century, and reached their nadir with the Yukon gold rush.

Whole grains were an oft-used foodstuff. What we'd do is put it up to soak on the lunch break, and by suppertime it only took a short while to cook. TVP was readily available, too, because it was used to stock bomb shelters.

There were some interesting foodstuffs developed for backpackers. Many of them were based on the idea of pemmican, only updated and modernized. IIRC, Wilson was the big name in such products.

Even supermarket shelves were a source of lightweight foods. Remember, the late '50s and early '60s marked the introduction of the convenience food revolution. So there was plenty to choose from, although the quality sometimes left something to be desired.

Even with the convenience products we would repackage to reduce bulk and weight. No, a cardboard box didn't weigh much. And on an overnight it wouldn't have mattered. But when you're out for ten or 15 days, carrying everything on your back, even fractions of ounces counted. Some people even trimmed the margins off their topo maps to save weight.

Many of us made our own snack foods. It's been said, with some justification, that backpackers don't eat meals. Instead they just munch their way down the trail. I still make many of my own trail foods, and you can find directions for making some of them at Backpacking Food - Friendly Carbohydrates And, of course, GORP remains a mainstay today.

The big problem for long distance packers, particularly up high, is that you loose your taste for fats. So it was important to find a way to make fats and oils palatable---one reason GORP was important. Everybody, in those days, carried tropical chocolate bars. And nobody that I know ever ate one.

In the mid-sixties things took a turn for the better. MRE and spacefood technology was quickly transferred to the retail market, as did freeze drying. So there was, on one hand, a burgeoning selection of food in the specialty shops (at least three major companies offered freeze-dried selections), and, on the other, the same influences in the supermarket. Nowadays I would probably stock up for a long hike completely in the supermarket. Or 90% at any rate.

For instance, a can of tuna in oil or water is not something you'd carry past the first day or two. But those modern foil pouches weigh barely more than a similar sized package of freeze-dried whatever. And the sharp flavor of the tuna often provides a lift when you're getting pretty tired of freeze dried and carbs.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #5 of 14
Cooking has changed somewhat as well.

Domestic pack stoves were unheard of. The few that were available came from Europe, and were sometimes dangerous to use and difficult to start. My first Whisper Lite weighed about 1/3 of the stove I had been using, and had the advantage of a detachable fuel bottle---a great help when balancing a pack.

Many of us skipped stoves altogether and just cooked on open fires. But that's become a no-no.

With the advent of freeze dried and space-age foods, cooking became primarily a rehydrating game. You didn't so much cook on a pack stove as boil water on it---one reason that stove ratings often were expressed in how much time it took to boil a quart of water.

Walk into a backcountry store nowadays and its incredible the food-prep appliances that are available. In addition to a multitude of stove designs, thee are espresso makers, and ovens, and who knows, maybe even a butane-driven microwave.

To me, that stuff belongs in a stationary camp, not in a backpack. But they sure sell enough of it, so somebody must think they're important.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #6 of 14
Once I went on a day hike and my buddy brought the lunch. It turned out to be canned peas and only that :eek: I didn't count on him again.
post #7 of 14
I reckon we've all had experiences like that, Yeti.

It's one thing on a day hike. Let's face it, with a pocket full of snacks, nobody's going to starve in that short time. Indeed, I know many day-hikers who don't even bother with lunch, per se.

When I wrote my day-hiking book, I didn't bother with lunch. When you're doing two or three trails per day, some of them as long as 7 miles, there's just no time for a sit-down meal. But I never felt particularly hungry. The munchies saw me through just fine. To be fair, they weren't just the usual carb type snacks, though. Jerky made up for the lack of a lunch break, for instance.

But on a long hike, when you're really dependent on what's in your pack or your buddy's pack, double checking is essential. That's one of the reasons serious backpackers live and die by checklists. Forgetting a piece of crucial equipment or short changing the food isn't just an inconvenience. It can be life-threatening.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #8 of 14
I had most of my high school in the Indian Himalayas. I did a lot of overnight backpacking, with some trips up to 5 days. Most of the time we were pretty well prepared with food, but we were pretty reckless in other ways. How about no first aid kit, for example :eek: We almost prided ourselves on carrying heavy packs, being teenagers. I don't know how I survived. I remember a lot of peanut butter, rice, noodles, and cereals to be cooked. We stopped at village tea shops a lot, and they had really good snacks. Their spiced "potato salad" was one of my favorites, along with pakoras, and some tea shops served meals of rice, dal and veges. We could go farther into the boonies away from villages, but I usually didn't. I would love to go back for a visit.
post #9 of 14
Thread Starter 
Much like offsite catering.....forget one key item and your SOL

favorite gorp was blister peanuts, coconut flakes, either chocolate chips/M&M's or carob...
Dried apricots and almonds were a good mix too.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #10 of 14

Chinese Dried Mushrooms

I have carried around the dried Shitake mushrooms for years, they just imbue the dish with a delicious flavor and weigh nothing. Perfect for the backpack.
post #11 of 14
I’ve climbed and hikes for 40+ years and food really depends upon you backcountry philosophy. I am an ultra-light backpacker, some call us minimalists but to give you an idea my wife and I will leave on a 5 night trip (summer) and her pack is 25lbs and mine is 32 lbs and that includes food, fuel and water.

Breakfasts: My wife likes oatmeal so I fire up the stove to give her the treat, I usually just have a liquid breakfast of carnation instant breakfast mixed with powdered milk.

Lunch: Bagels hold up very well and we bring small packets of ketchup and mustard. For meats we use shelf stable items, and packaged tuna and chicken (not canned). If we have time I will make a spicy bean dip out of dehydrated black beans or hummus out dehydrated garbanzo beans and serve it with pita.

Snacks: All the traditional items plus GU, skittles, apples (day 1 and 2 only), cheese, etc.

Dinner: We always start of with a soup, that introduces liquid back into your system, plus if you are at altitude it will increase you appetite. Then a variety of pasta dishes - dried tortellini, corn pasta - very high in complex carbs, sometimes we used packaged mixes but not that often. Sauces are usually packaged knorr swiss style with the addition of our favorite items (sun –dried tomatoes, dried mushrooms, dried vege,s, etc)

Dessert: I always have special desserts for my wife, they are usually dehydrated and one night I surprise her with jiffy-pop popcorn.

If we ever go with another couple, they are always shocked at how light our packs are and how well we eat.
post #12 of 14
It's sort of amusing how definitions of weight change.

When I started hiking and backpacking, using mostly WWII surplus gear, 25 lbs was considered a heavy load for a woman, 40 for a man. And let me tell you, 40 pounds in a yucca pack did not make for happy walking!

As equipment improved, particularly in the matter of pack designs (how did we ever make do without hip belts and compression straps?:eek:), the concept of a "comfortable" load changed dramatically. Nowadays, 40-50 lbs for a woman and 60+ for a man are not unusual.

Then the minimalist movement started about 20 years ago, and the game become not so much "how much can we carry comfortably?" but, rather, "what's the smallest (i.e., lightest) load we can carry?"

Interestingly, as pack technology enabled us to carry heavier loads, concurrent technology in other gear and foodstuffs made the things that go in the pack lighter in weight. My first sleeping bag and tent, alone, probably weighed more than I carry nowadays for long-distance hike.

As you say, however, it's a matter of personal philosophy. On one hand we have folks like you, and, on the other hand, folks who must have all the new-fangled toys like bake ovens and espresso machines designed for backpacking.

Your point about soup in the evening is well taken. If hydration isn't the most important part of backpacking well being it runs whatever is a very close second.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #13 of 14
I remember one trip, when I was much younger, camping on a local trail for a few days. All we packed in for food was 4 heads of garlic, rock salt, a fillet knife, a cast iron skillet, and a fishing rod.

We lived on wild greens and catfish for a long weekend and it was delicious.

There was also the booze to help with anything that didn't taste so great. :look:
Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
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Dammi un coltello affilato e vi mostrerò l'arte più belle del mondo.
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post #14 of 14
Wow, that is amazing ^_^
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