While there are many different approaches to cooking during a camping trip, such as cooking on a grill or with a Dutch oven, meals in a bag for camping offer the most convenient solution. Freeze-dried and packaged foods are surprisingly flavorful, and they offer quick nurishment even if you don't have a campfire.
What are Meals in a Bag for Camping?
When you are shopping for camping supplies and you ask where the camping meals are, the store staff will likely point you to the section of the store with the freeze-dried meals in a bag. For hikers and campers who don't want to carry along much cooking gear, these commercial bags provide the simplest meal solution in the wild. These meals are usually fairly expensive, and purchasing enough of them for a week or so can get pricey. Other solutions include:
- Mixing together dry ingredients in Zip-Lock bags and pouring them into boiling water at the camp site (only one pan required)
- Dehydrating foods and sealing them in an airtight plastic bag
- Cooking meals, cooling them and placing them in Zip-Lock bags to freeze until the camping trip.
The benefit of the commercial bag meals is that they don't even require a pan to cook with. If you have a kettle or some other way to boil water, then all you have to do is pour the required amount directly into the bag and let it sit for about 15 minutes. On the other hand, with the other solutions above you need at least one pot so that you can mix the food with the water, because Zip-Lock bags are not made to withstand such high temperatures.
The Benefits of Commercial Freeze-Dried Food
If you do choose to purchase the commercial freeze-dried meals, you'll find that you have a lot more time to enjoy camping activities other than cooking. Rather than spending an hour or more stirring a pot over a cooking stove, or trying to hold your breath long enough over the open fire to grill some burgers, you'll have a full meal ready for the whole family in about 15 minutes. You just have to boil water, add it to the bags, and you're done. The meals, depending on which you choose, are very flavorful and quite good. They are filling, nutritious and there is enough variety that everyone in the family can choose their favorite. Some examples include the following.
- Scrambled eggs with ham
- Beef stroganoff with noodles
- Lasagna with meat sauce
- Chicken teriyaki with rice
- Beef stew
- Rasberry crumble
Most pouches have about one to two servings, and others have up to four servings. The downside to using freeze-dried food for camping meals is that they can be somewhat expensive per serving, and of course you do not get to enjoy the part of the camping experience that so many people love - the act of cooking food in the open air, which many people feel adds extra flavor to the food and improves the general atmosphere of the prepared meal.
Creating Your Own Meals in a Bag for Camping
If you would like to go camping on a budget, or you want to conserve space in your pack on a hiking trip but you don't want to use freeze-dried foods, another option is to prepare a variety of foods right at home before the trip and store them in Zip-Lock bags.
Creating Dry Mixes in a Bag
When you want to have some flavorful food during a camping trip, but you don't have a lot of space, the smartest approach is to put together dry mixes in Zip-Lock bags. These bags can even be safely stored between clothes and other supplies, and when you need them all you have to do is add the right amount of water and boil until done. These mixes can be made for breakfast, lunch and supper. The following are a few examples of useful dry mix recipes that you can put together (or purchase) as your own meals in a bag for camping.
- Trail mix or "GORP"
- Pancake mix - purchase powder that requires water only
- Muffin mixes
- Dried beans
- Packaged flavored rice
- Dried soup mixes
- Dried flavored pasta pouches
When you are hiking, dry mixes work best because they're so light to carry, and once you add water they absorb it and create a substantial and nutritious meal.
Frozen Food in a Bag
Another approach, if you want a little more variety, is to cook your food ahead of time and then freeze it. Food that is completely frozen will stay that way for an extended period if it is placed in a small cooler with ice packs. Even if you are ready to eat and the food is still frozen, placing it in boiling water will thaw the meal in just minutes. Just about any meal that you can make at home, you can freeze and bring with you, but some foods tend to thaw better than others. Good ideas for meals you can freeze in a bag include the following.
- Almost any casserole
- Cooked meat - which you can thaw and add to rice or soup mix
- Pasta with sauce, like lasagna or beef stroganoff
- Packages of frozen vegetables serves as good meal sides
Frozen meals will not keep as well as dry mixes or freeze-dried food, but it will taste far better and you can create more elaborate meals ahead of time. One approach many campers use if they are camping for extended periods is to use the frozen food early during the camping trip, and then switch to dry and freeze-dried toward the end.