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Boil-in-the-bag Backpacking Food

Backpack Food

One of the things that Sarah Kirkconnell, author of Freezer Bag Cooking, has taught me, is not to deprive yourself on the trail. In your quest to lighten your food bag, don't make the mistake I made, which is to package up meals that are nutritional, but so boring that you can't finish them. I swear, I'm ruined on couscous for life!

On my last backpacking trip, I indulged and tried out something new – boil in a bag meals. Last winter, I bought a larger 1.3 liter titanium pot for melting snow. I brought it along on my last trip because it is nearly big enough to submerge the two boil in the bag meals from Trader Joes' shown above. The Lentil Rice Biryani dish on the left weighs 9.2 oz and has 420 calories and the Punjab eggplant weighs 10.5 oz and has 300 calories.

I will be the first to admit that this is not a lightweight food selection, but damn was it good. And even though they weighed over 1 lb, my food bag weight for 3 days was still under 5 lbs.

In cooking these up, I found that complete submersion is not necessary. instead, I fired up my Isobutane stove and brought two-thirds of a pot of water to boil and dropped in the foil bag containing the Pugjab eggplant sauce. Once the water started to boil again, I turned down the simmer control on my Snow Peak so that the water was at less than a full, raging boil to conserve fuel. After about 5 minutes, I flipped the bag around in the pot and let the top part of the meal heat for a few minutes. I did the same thing for the rice dish, and then I emptied the two into a zip-loc quart bag I brought along and mixed them together. Yum.

This food was so good, I've been thinking about trying to dehydrate it to get the weight down, but my wife doesn't think that they'll be the same. Regardless, eating this meal on my first night out meant not having to carry it for more than one day, and it was worth it.


  1. Uncle Bens Minute Rice has a actual boil in a bag which takes just a few minutes to cook also. The nice thing about boil in a bag is that you still have hot water to use: Coffee, tea, etc.

    Small pizza sauces also come in a air tight bag that you can throw in hot water and heat. Pizza Tortilla anyone?

  2. One reason I spend so much time in grocery stores is I love the hunt for new products…anything that looks great and will make awesome trail food!

    Those Indian meals are beyond good – I have carried them before and will do it again. Heck, I will admit to eating them cold ;-)

  3. Yes & yes. Trader Joe's indian is a must on my trips.

    They also have boil in a "tub" brown rice to accompany. Again it adds weight, but it really calorie dense, filling & tasty.

  4. I eat this all the time at home- it's a second meal off the rotisserie chicken and any vegetable that is in the kitchen. I bet freeze dried for the trail. So is there a good dried meat around? Add rice to the menu and I dare you to be still hungry.

    Those new microwave bags are really tough- I bet they are fine for your own "boiling bag" creations.

  5. For weekend trips these type of dinners are excellent. But factoring the calorie to weight ratio of only 40cal/oz. you're carrying them for the flavor knowing you only have a couple meals in your pack.

  6. I've started always using TJ's Indian food bags on 2-3 day trips. My favorite: throw some chai tea mix into the water for boiling the bag. Instant full-on Indian awesome, all ready at once!

  7. This is a great idea. I've been trying to plan out meals for a long hike, and anything to break up the monotony is perfect.

    I wonder if there is a way to save more fuel. Maybe submerge them in boiled water and then cover without the stove on? Maybe that wouldn't get them hot enough. I'll have to experiment.

  8. I was surprised to find out that so many other people already do it. I'm sure that submerging in boiled water would work to. If I have a canister stove, I usually turn it to a low simmer to save fuel. You are not actually cooking them, after all; just heating.

  9. As a former Royal Marine, dehy packs are our norm but the new boil in the bags from wayfarers are great. Costco in the UK used to sell AUZ lamb shanks etc 6 for £18.99 can't seem to find them now. As ever can only use the best burner and thats JETBOIL.

    Covering will help as it stops steam escape and water loss for the miser in you why not just have it luke warm.

  10. I've used these (and other) boil bag meals many times. Some good, others not so good. I did have a bad experience with the mice getting into them at a shelter, even though I had my bag hung. I started using a mouse proof food container when I do the Appalachian Trail. The one I bought online is called Grubpack. I put everything in a zip lock bag and then into the Grubpack rodent proof food bag. It's light and it works well.

  11. I’m picky. Worse, I’m a nutritionist, lol, and the ingredients on most packaged backpacker meals make my skin crawl. I ordered 20 lbs of curry lentil soup mix from taste adventure and got organic wholewheat couscous and tofu from the store.
    I mix the couscous and soup in a freezer bag and take the couscous along. At camp, I cut up the tofu and put it in the bag, add boiling water, rezip, put the bag in my hat for heat retention and squick it to mix everything. In 5 minutes, dinner is ready. Not really creative, but tasty and nutritious. Afterwards I have mixed nuts and dried fruit for dessert.

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