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  1. #1
    Registered User dangerdave's Avatar
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    Thumbs up First Trail Meal

    Being pretty much clueless about how to cook on a long hike---and do I want hot evening meals---I have read and reviewed many recipes and techniques. This past week, I was off on my annual hiatus to avoid the feverish gloom of the sado-masochistic "celebration" of the disaster of 9/11/01. You see, September 11th is my birthday. So, for the past 13 years, it has been my habit to retreat to the mountains of West Virginia, away from any and all media hype, depressing memorial services, and---hopefully---cell towers.

    This year, as in recent years, I had the privilege to hang with a great group of guys, ATVing amongst the fine managed trails of the famed Hatfield & McCoy System in southern West Virginia. I packed my UL hiking kitchen in one of my boxes, and planned to cook a hot meal in the middle of our ride on my birthday, somewhere on the trail. As this would be my very first time trying freezer bag cooking, I was anxious to see how it would turn out.

    Note: I am not interested in discussing the pros and cons, opinions, frustrations, or attitudes anyone has regarding the sport All Terrain Vehicle riding.

    This is my camp kitchen, weighing in at a moderate 1.2 lbs...



    After some internal debate, I had decided to cook a basic Mac & Cheese with chicken breast and bacon. At home, I unpackaged the Mac & Cheese, pouring the macaroni into a quart-size Zip-Lock double zip freezer bag, along with about a tablespoon of bacon bits. For packing purposes, I stuffed the unopened packet of cheese powder and the unopened foil pouch of Tyson Chicken Breast into the baggy with the macaroni. It all fit perfectly. On the side, I carried a tiny squeeze bottle of olive oil.

    In the middle of my birthday ride, I pulled out my stuff and plopped down---literally---in the middle of the trail to start cooking. I wish I had more pics, but my photographer was so amazed at the tiny camp stove that he apparently couldn't function.

    Here's where I cooked (me seated in the background)...



    Here's how I prepared my hot trail meal: First off, I assembled my little canister stove, quick and easy. Then, discovered that my 450ml titanium cup holds almost exactly 2 cups of water. Perfect for my recipe! I fired the stove and placed the cup on top to heat up. While it was heating, I placed the now-opened bag of macaroni and bacon bits into my 750ml titanium pot. Once again, it looked to be just the right size for this kind of meal. Someone was thinking!

    The water took about four minutes to boil. It would have been faster, I'm sure, but I started with the flame turned down a bit too low. Once I fired it up higher, the water was soon bubbling. I carefully poured the hot water into the freezer bag and quickly zipped it closed. I placed the lid on the pot, nestled it into it's cozy, and nibbled on some trail mix while fielding the usual barrage of questions from the guys.

    I wanted to see how the cooking of the pasta progressed, so I check it at ten minutes. The noodles were still chewy, so I waited a few more minutes. At twelve minutes, the mac was just about done. There seemed to be a little bit too much liquid for my taste, so I poured a little out (maybe 1/8 cup). On the AT, of course, one would drink this. I added the powdered cheese, a healthy squirt of olive oil (about 1 tbsp), most of the Tyson chunked chicken breast meat, and stirred. I would soon learn that stirring inside a thin plastic bag with a titanium spork in problematic. The goal was to keep the pot clean, but resulted in a perforated bag that leaked a little juice into my pot. Lesson learned: "Shaken, not stirred." Thank you, James.

    By the time I finished the last of the meal's preparation, the noodles (actually turned out to be shells) were perfect! Even though I was not very hungry at the time, I nearly ate the whole thing! The guys all tried some, and were universally impressed, as was I. A resounding success!



    After I finished my meal, I stuffed all my trash (LNT, ATV style) into the empty freezer bag and hiked...I mean, rode...it out.

    My conclusion: Better outcome than I had expected. I am a step closer to complete confidence in this endeavor. Now I know that I can keep myself fed, with a variety of meals, throughout my thru-hike.
    AKA "DANGER" AT Thru-Hiker Class of 2015

  2. #2
    Clueless Weekender Another Kevin's Avatar
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    Great first attempt, and it's great to share your learnings!

    Before you go on a thru, you might also want to experiment with a freezer bag cozy. That leaves no dishes to wash - you don't even boil the pasta in the pot. The basic idea is that you use a plastic freezer bag (NOT a storage bag, and it must be a name-brand one, the store brand ones are thinner and burst) and put your food in it. You boil water, pour it over, seal the bag, and put the bag into an insulated cozy to simmer. I make the cozy by making an envelope out of Reflectix pipe insulation and foil flue tape. (Not duct tape - duct tape doesn't take the heat in repeated use.)

    Small pasta shapes that cook in 7 minutes or less work well. So do Knorr or Marie Callender side dishes (same thing, look for ones that cook in at most 8 minutes), or instant rice with dehyrdated veggies, or dehydrated lentis, or Zatarain's beans and rice, or .... the possibilities are endless. The cooking times are longer - if the box says 7 minutes, give it 12-15. It also takes less liquid (but soupy is better than crunchy). It's easy to experiment at home, where all you need is boiling water from the kitchen stove.

    Sarbar (she's on this site) has a lot of recipes over at http://www.trailcooking.com/ .

    If you decide that just boiling water in your pot is good enough for you, you might be able to take another step toward ultralight-ness by switching to a beverage-can alcohol stove. If you boil only for your morning coffee and your evening meal, the alcohol setup beats even the canister for lightness on a typical thru-hiker's resupply schedule.

    PS: I have no complaints about riding where it's lawful. I do complain when ATV'ers or equestrians turn a foot-only trail into an ocean of mud and horse byproducts. There's a place for all of us. It just isn't always the same place. I don't go on ski trails in the winter with snowshoes or bare boots, either.
    Last edited by Another Kevin; 09-16-2014 at 15:46.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

  3. #3
    Registered User 2015 Lady Thru-Hiker's Avatar
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    Another Kevin - thank you pointing out the difference in the two types of tape. I'm getting ready to make some cozies in the few days. Now I know what NOT to buy.

    dd - thank you for sharing your experience. I had not thought to use chicken in an envelope!! Got to give that a try. If you the Knorr sides I fix those right in their envelope. Seems to work pretty good and no pot to clean.
    ““Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees....” ― John Muir

  4. #4
    Registered User dangerdave's Avatar
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    Dear Kevin...you should really read the entire post, my good man. <I know. I do it too, sometimes.>

    Ah, Lady, good idea. I'll have to try that. I found the chicken and tuna both in several tasty varieties at my local Walmart. I'm not very picky about my food, so I foresee a nice list of possible meals to enjoy. My motivation will be fed by looking forward to a good feeding eat evening.
    AKA "DANGER" AT Thru-Hiker Class of 2015

  5. #5
    Clueless Weekender Another Kevin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dangerdave View Post
    Dear Kevin...you should really read the entire post, my good man. <I know. I do it too, sometimes.>
    My only excuse is reading it too quickly on the phone -- where the pictures didn't come through!

    In any case, the only way that what I said would change is that you already know some of what I said.

    Eat well, my friend. Life is too short to eat bad food.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

  6. #6
    Registered User dangerdave's Avatar
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    Thank you for your time, Kevin. I appreciate your experienced input.
    AKA "DANGER" AT Thru-Hiker Class of 2015

  7. #7
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    Two great long distance hikers helped me learn about no-cook mode. There is so much great no-cook food, that is how I have been and continue to "roll". Eat great cooked food in town.

    This and other things helped me get total pack weight (with 4-5 days of food and water) to below 30lbs

    ..........I also tent in great spots because if I have enough water to drink I am good to go. Do not need to be around a water supply to cook & clean.

  8. #8
    Registered User 2015 Lady Thru-Hiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Del Q View Post
    Two great long distance hikers helped me learn about no-cook mode. There is so much great no-cook food, that is how I have been and continue to "roll".
    Beyond clif bars, tuna/chicken packs, little Debbie cakes, fruits, veggies, cheese and lunch meats what else is there Del Q?

    Quote Originally Posted by Del Q View Post
    I also tent in great spots because if I have enough water to drink I am good to go. Do not need to be around a water supply to cook & clean.
    Was thinking about carrying a 6L platypus for the evening water draw. Would that be overkill?
    ““Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees....” ― John Muir

  9. #9
    Registered User dangerdave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Del Q View Post
    Two great long distance hikers helped me learn about no-cook mode. There is so much great no-cook food, that is how I have been and continue to "roll". Eat great cooked food in town.
    Please share this great info on great no-cook food from great long distance hikers. I want to eat good cooked food on the trail, at camp. I'm not sure how many towns I'll want to visit on my thru-hike, so I figured best be prepared for the trail.

    This and other things helped me get total pack weight (with 4-5 days of food and water) to below 30lbs
    How much water do you have to carry to last you 5 days? I haven't even started yet, and my goal is to be under 30 lbs from the beginning.

    ..........I also tent in great spots because if I have enough water to drink I am good to go. Do not need to be around a water supply to cook & clean.
    I plan to find great spots to tent by planning ahead, because if I have enough water, I'm good to go. There's nothing to clean with FBC.
    AKA "DANGER" AT Thru-Hiker Class of 2015

  10. #10
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    Lady Thru I decided on a 10 L bucket sil nylon 1 oz heavier wt 3 0z. good for carrying water and sponge baths. etc.

    cozy thread -- I made mine out of a piece of aluminumized bubble wrap, the sunshade stuff for your windshield.
    My pots have fold in handles. Put the lid on the bottom. cover the pot with the taller part of the cozy. No slots etc. to lose heat.
    Later carefully pull the top of the cozy off, There's your pot of food.

  11. #11

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    Wait...did you take two pots or one? It looks and sounds like you took one to boil water in, and another to rest your bag in. If that's the case, you might consider leaving one of those at home, and swapping the pot that holds the bag for a cozy of some sort. It's incredible how much heat one of those holds, which really helps when rehydrating meals.

    Also, I'm pretty sure that DelQ doesn't carry 5 days worth of water. At a measly 3 liters a day (which isn't enough for summer hiking) you'd be at 33 pounds of just water.

    And an idea, cause regular mac and cheese gets old eventually: wing sauce, or even just hot sauce. Wing sauce is half butter, which is why I recommend it over just hot sauce, but either will do nicely.

  12. #12
    Registered User dangerdave's Avatar
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    Thank you, Overthinker. I was pretty sure, myself, that Q wasn't lugging that much water around. I just had to ask.

    I have the TOAKS titanium cup and pot. When I get all my gear together (final shipment arriving tomorrow), I'll add everything up and pack it into my backpack. If I need to shave space or grams, the pot will be the first to go. However, it does hold my fuel canister quite nicely, protecting the threads from damage, and if for some reason I need to boil more than 2 cups of water...if... I know, I know. I don't want to carry too many ifs along with me.
    AKA "DANGER" AT Thru-Hiker Class of 2015

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