Freezer Bag Cooking is a great way to reduce your pack weight and helps eliminates the need to wash your cooking pots after a hot meal like breakfast or dinner. The principle behind Freezer Bag cooking is simple. You prepackage all of your hot meals for a backpacking trip in advance in quarter lb. size ziploc baggies. At meal time, you simply boil water, pour it into the ziploc, seal it up, and wait about 10 minutes. When your food has finished rehydrating and is “cooked” you open the bag and eat right out of it. No dirty dishes. And because you’re just boiling water, you can get by with an alcohol stove, saving you some weight.
I like hot meals at breakfast and dinner regardless of the temperature outside. For breakfasts, I usually bag up some sort of instant hot cereal (instant oatmeal, flax, or even instant rice) and throw in a bit of brown sugar, dehydrated strawberries or blueberries, raisins, and a little salt. I normally fill my bag with the equivalent of two servings because I’ll burn it off in an hour or two of backpacking. Add coffee and you have a very nice meal. For coffee, I use coffee bags, which I drop into the unused boiled water and I drink this while my breakfast is cooking.
For dinner, I base most of my meals around couscous, no-msg vegetarian boullion cubes, and dehydrated vegetables which rehydrate almost instantly. Again portion size is 2 servings and I add a can of tuna or chicken, which I open at meal time, and empty into the bag before I add my boiling water. Seal it, shake it up, let it sit for a while, and you have an easy meal. I also base meals on ramen and udon noodles, and you can even buy prepackaged noodle packs and dump them into a ziploc to avoid having dishes to clean.
When I am packaging my meals at home, I find it useful to write some notes on the outside of the ziploc using a sharpie pen. I write the name of the dish, the number of calories it has, how much water it requires to rehydrate, and the number of grams of protein, fat, and fiber in each bag. This helps avoid those embarrassing days when you accidentally eat 60 grams of fiber!
When it’s colder out, it helps to put the ziploc into a pot cozy when it is cooking to prevent the loss of too much heat. It’s easy to make your own cozy out of a postal envelop that is lined with bubble wrap and it’s very light weight.
Eating out of a ziploc can be a little challenging because you need a long spoon to reach into the bag. To do this, I use a extra long titanium spoon I bought at the Backpackinglight store that weighs a mere 0.40 oz, but any long handled spoon will do.
One problem with freezer bag cooking is that it can get very boring. So you need to be creative and try adding of lot of different spices to your meals. However, be careful what you add, because prepackaged spices and flavorings can contain a lot of salt or MSG. There are also a lot of free recipes on the web that you can try out. I also recommend that you purchase Sarah Svien’s book Freezer Bag Cooking: Trail Food Made Simple which contains an excellent set Freezer Bag Cooking recipes. It’s already a backpacking classic!