Backpacking food

Keep it simple: freezer bag cooking, everything dehydrated, super cat stove…

Super cat stove and windscreen at left; meal at right

Freezer bag cooking means that you carry most dehydrated food in single portions, each one in a quart freezer-bag (regular baggies are too flimsy). It’s just a matter of boiling water, pouring it carefully into the bag, adding a little olive oil (from your little plastic bottle), and then putting the carefully sealed bag into a “cozy” (I use an insulated bag from a dollar store) for 5-10 minutes. It’s all pre-measured, there are no bowls or pans to clean, and it’s all very light. The freezer bag cooking site is at and includes good info on dehydration. I use a Nesco 5-7 tray dehydrator ( Dehydrating at home means overall better healthier food, and over time saves money.

The super cat stove is a cat food can with specific-size holes punched at measured intervals. Denatured alcohol from the hardware store is the fuel (I carry mine in two small Gator-Ade bottles). My windscreen is strips from a aluminum turkey pan from the dollar store. It takes about 30 ml alcohol to boil 2 cups of water. Instructions are at (have a look around Zen Stoves site – lots of good info). It is important to not use the super cat on top of duff or other flammable material, AND general burn bans apply to the super cat.

Breakfast staples include freeze-dried scrambled eggs (the only such pre-packaged trail food I carry) with pita bread and cheese. I put the eggs into freezer bags at home and divide 2 packages into 3 freezer bags (with some of my dehy jalapenos or salsa). I also carry oatmeal in freezer bags tarted up with milk, sugar, cinnamon, dried fruit, etc. Some days I just have an energy bar + hot chocolate. I’ve begun having some protein drink (see below) with breakfast. 

In the Wind Rivers – can you feel it. Stove with pan left front

Lunch and snacks are quick and include trail mix, energy bars, almonds, and half a Snickers candy bar. There are many excellent dried fruits and berries available in bulk at several stores, and these are good along the way, as is jerky.

Dinner includes (everything dehydrated) marinara with hamburger and angel hair pasta (all pasta is angel hair b/c easiest to dehydrate), chili with burger and pasta, mashed potatoes (Idahoan brand – so good!) with cheese, various dried sauces such as Alfredo and chipotle cream (when pre-measuring, add dry milk if milk needed) with pasta, tom kha with chicken (get soup mix + dry coconut milk and serve with instant rice or pasta) (dehy chicken [use canned to dehy] takes >10 minutes to rehy in a cozy). I bring cheese for half my dinners and have found that pepper jack lasts at least 2 weeks in the mountains. I add EV olive oil to almost everything for taste and >calories (carried in a small plastic bottle from REI). A wide variety of freeze-dried vegetables are now available in bulk from various stores – I don’t eat much of these as I like to take in lots of calories, protein, and carbs when backpacking.

Bread: I used to bring soft tortillas, but now I use bags of pita bread chips or something similar (such as flat bread) as they are lighter and more varied – I expel the air in the bag via a pin hole, bash them up some to make a smaller package, and put scotch tape over the pin hole. I also take smaller (not the smallest though) bags of Doritos, Fritos, etc. and treat them the same as the pita chips.

Pasta with onions, peppers, olives, chicken, etc. All dehydrated at home

Prepared trail meals: REI, Campmor, and retail stores sell prepared meals from brands like Backpacker’s Pantry, Mountain House, and Richmoor. Few people rave about these, though generally, they’re okay. Two-person meals are the best deal. It’s a good idea to re-package them in freezer bags to save space and decrease trash to carry out. An internet source (real people, in Austin) that gets good reviews is Packit Gourmet:  Packit Gourmet has some good pointers on their website.

Protein drink: I use Walmart brand whey-based protein drink as part of my work-out regimen at home and have begun taking some, mixed with dry milk, when I’m backpacking. I mix up ~500ml (with cold lake/river water) every day, have a little with breakfast, and the rest mid to late morning. This seems very helpful to maintaining my strength and energy along the way.

Coffee: Starbucks instant coffee packets are the best, though there are now some pretty good packets from other makers. Hot chocolate is always good.

Other: A package of cooked bacon pieces goes well with several things. Spam comes in single-serve packs and ain’t bad (nor very good). Olives and similar foods can be well-rinsed and dehydrated, as can fresh basil, jalapenos, salsa, etc. I chew several sticks of Doublemint gum along the trail every day. Gum is essential in the desert. 

Sources of information:
Freezer Bag Cooking
And Google, of course.