One trend growing in popularity in the hiking community is the freezer bag meal for backpacking. This involves buying dehydrated ingredients or dehydrating all of your own and repackaging them into individual freezer bags. You want to make sure you get the freezer bags because the regular baggies are made of thinner plastic and its possible that your hot water will burn a hole right through them. Most people use the gallon size for dinners. I used the quart size for my oatmeal breakfasts. You will want to use a Sharpie to write how much water is needed to reconstitute that meal on the outside of the bag. I also like to write on the bag what the meal is and which day I plan to eat it. At mealtime, simply bring the necessary amount of water to a near boil, add it to the bag, seal it up, and wait about 10 minutes. Many people use a pot cozy which helps cook the food by keeping the heat in but most foods work just fine without one. You can also just wrap the bag in a jacket or warm hat to get the same effect. When your food is finished re hydrating, stir with a long handled spoon and eat directly out of the bag. While eating out of a bag may not seem glamorous, I’m more than happy to do it if it means an easier clean up for me after I’m done eating. Be sure to pack out your trash.
If you want to ensure you are getting the highest quality ingredients, I suggest dehydrating your own trail food. My favorite meal to dehydrate for backpacking is black bean chili.
Pros of the Freezer Bag Method:
- Choosing your own ingredients – you will know exactly what is in your food and can choose quality, organic fuel
- Lightweight – dehydrated foods with minimal packaging save on weight
- Easy cleanup – no dishes or pots to clean, just rinse your spoon and remember to pack out your bag
- Cheaper – this method is much cheaper than buying commercial freeze dried backpacking food
- No need for dishes – all you will need for cookware with this method is a cup or pot to boil water and a spoon which will save you weight
- Organization and convenience- its nice to have all your meals laid out in a way that will be easy to follow and find when living out of a backpack
Cons of the Freezer Bag Method:
- Not great for the environment – in a time where we really need to be conscious of the trash we create, using plastic bags one time is not a great choice for the environment
- Possible health risks – Heating plastic has the potential to leach toxins into your food
- Not a great dining experience – eating from a plastic bag can feel substandard
- Potential for the bag to rip – a plastic bag would not be as reliable as a pot or bowl to hold liquid
Freezer Bag Meal Recipes
Calories Fat (g) Carbs (g) Protein (g)
942 23 136 38
- 1 – 5.8 oz box Near East Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil Couscous and flavor pack
- 1/4 cup freeze dried mushrooms
- 1/2 cup freeze dried peas
- 1 tsp chia seeds
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- salt to taste
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 cup soy curls (will need to be reconstituted in separate bag)
Warm some water to add to your soy curls bag. These will take approximately 10 minutes to reconstitute. Then bring 1 1/2 cups water to a near boil and add it to your freezer bag with all the other ingredients. Let sit for 5 minutes, turn bag upside down a few times to mix ingredients, and let sit for 5-10 more minutes or until all ingredients are rehydrated. Stir in the soy curls and enjoy.
Tomato Herb Couscous
|Calories||Fat (g)||Carbs (g)||Protein (g)|
- 1 – 5.8 oz box Near East Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil Couscous and flavor packet
- 1/2 cup chopped sun dried tomatoes
- 1 oz hemp hearts
- 1 T dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 T nutritional yeast
First warm some water to add to your soy curls bag. These will take approximately 10 minutes to reconstitute. Then, bring 1 1/4 cup water to a near boil and add it to your freezer bag. Let sit for 5 minutes, then turn bag upside down a few times to mix ingredients. Let sit for another 5-10 minutes or until ingredients are rehydrated. Stir in the soy curls and enjoy.
|Calories||Fat (g)||Carbs (g)||Protein (g)|
*Nutrition info above is is for TVP mix only, does NOT include tortillas, beans, or rice
- 3/4 cup Textured Vegetable Protein
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp dried cilantro
- 1/4 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp dried onion
- 1/2 T chili powder
- 3/4 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- Refried or black bean flakes (optional)
- Freeze dried bell peppers (optional)
- Instant rice (optional)
Bring 3/4 cup water to a near boil and add to freezer bag containing TVP and spices. Let sit for 10 minutes to reconstitute. If you are using any of the optional ingredients, you will need to rehydrate those separately. Spread your ingredients onto tortillas and enjoy.
Raspberry Coconut Macadamia Oatmeal
|Calories||Fat (g)||Protein (g)||Fat (g)|
*Nutrition info above does include the optional 3 tsp coconut sugar
- 2/3 cup instant oats
- 2 tsp chia seeds
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp powdered coconut milk
- 3-4 tsp coconut sugar (optional)
- 0.5 oz freeze dried raspberries
- 1 Tbsp shredded coconut/coconut flakes
- 1 oz chopped macadamia nuts
- pinch of salt
Bring about 1 cup of water to a near boil. Then add just enough water to cover the oatmeal mixture. Let sit for a few minutes. Mix and enjoy!
Ready-Made Freeze Dried Meals
If you like the convenience of freezer bag meals but do not wish to put your own recipes together, consider the ready-made option. There are companies making some really great organic meals. While these are more expensive, they are certainly more convenient. I will occasionally pick some up for a quick weekend trip.
Wrapping It Up
Freezer bag cooking is my preferred method for backcountry cooking. I do not enjoy cleaning out pots and dishes after a long day of hiking and I find this to just be the most convenient, simplest way to eat out on the trail. This method also really helps me organize and pack my food (especially if a bear canister is required) before I leave. I write on the front of each bag how much water I will need, what the food is, and which day I plan to eat it. I like that I can get away with just taking a titanium mug for boiling water.
I would love to hear what your preferred cooking method is while backpacking. Let me know if you’ve tried freezer bag meals for backpacking.