Friday, October 15, 2010

Cheap, Lightweight Backpacking Food

As I have mentioned before, the style of camping I like to do involves hiking fairly long distances into the bush. That means that all of my gear has to be contained within my pack, and the pack in turn has to be light enough that I can carry it over that distance.

Consequently, the food I carry has to be light. That most often translates to dehydrated food. The more water you can remove from your food, the lighter it will be.

Here I want to go over what I most often carry into the woods. I avoid any expensive purpose made backpacking food, and instead simply go into my local supermarket and look for appropriate items.

One of them is your standard 8oz box of rice and beans. The one I have in my picture is an Iberia brand, but Goya and any other brand will work just fine. The rice and beans are already dehydrated, and are flavored, so you don’t have to worry about that while cooking.

I divide the contents of the box into two servings. The instructions on the box indicate that you need 2.5 cups of water for the whole package, so for half of it 1.25 cups of water should be fine. I like to use 1.5 cups because I find that otherwise the rice is a bit hard. The instructions indicate to bring the water to a boil an then add the rice, but I like to put it in the water immediately, and then start heating it up. After it starts boiling, the rice will be done in about 10 min.

Another good option is instant mashed potatoes. They are faster to make than rice and beans because all you have to do is bring the water to a boil and add the powdered potatoes. I use half a cup of potato powder to one cup of boiling water. It is better to have less water than more because you can always add some room temperature water to the mix.

I also like to mix into the potato powder some gravy powder or other seasoning. The potatoes by themselves can be very bland. Again, I place everything in individual serving Ziploc bags.

An old classic is Ramen Noodles. When it comes to cooking them, the process is identical to that of the rice, except that one packet of noodles requires 2 cups of water. I wait until they are finished cooking and I remove the excess water before adding the flavor packet.

Just like with the other items, I place the contents of the bag into a Ziploc bag. I crush the noodles before doing that, so they are easier to eat with a spoon and pack to a smaller size.

All of the individual bags are placed into a larger Ziploc bag.

Together with a spoon, some Pop Tarts, a small bottle of oil and seasoning mix, they get placed in a water proof bag. Other good items you can add are granola bars and nuts. Keep in mind however that nuts can be heavy.

This is pretty much all of the food I carry. It does not go bad, it is cheap, light weight, packs tightly, and does not require elaborate cooking.