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Backpacking Food

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Camping Foods

Most commercially available backpacking meals are freeze dried. If your budget allows the purchase of freeze dried meals, this is by far the easiest way to eat on the trail.

Freeze dried meals are prepared by boiling water and then pouring the water into the meal container. Most meal containers are designed with a wide base so they can stand upright on their own. Most meals are fully hydrated (ready to eat) in approximately five minutes.

There is basically no clean up. Just role up the empty food container and place it in your 'trash bag'. Due to the way the food is designed, generally only a spoon is needed. It is handy to bring a small collection of baby wipes to wipe off your spoon.
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Reducing Cost
To save money look for 'seconds'. The food quality of the 'seconds' is the same. 'Seconds' containers are defective so that the container will not stand on their own, so instead simply balance the container against a rock. 'Seconds' cost about 25% less than the full cost.

Purchase packages of instant rice that are designed to be cooked in a bag (available at every grocery store). While heating the water place the rice bag into the pot. After the water begins boiling remove the rice bag. Cut the bag open and dump the rice into the meal container. Finally, place the boiling water into the meal container and cook for the specified time. Adding rice does not add any time or mess and adds hundreds of calories to your meal.

Buy multiple person packages when you are traveling with others. Single person packages are considerably more expensive than multiple person packages. If you are not scared of germs have everyone eat out of the packages (as opposed to bringing bowls). This reduces weight and clean up.

Only use freeze dried food for your main meal of the day. Do not buy the 'specialty backpacking' oatmeal or grits because it is expensive and regular instant oatmeal works great. Serve the 'regular' oatmeal directly out of the paper containers and lean them against a rock when filling with boiling water.

Reducing Weight
Freeze dried foods help reduce weight by minimizing the equipment you need. A small pot is needed (just enough to boil water) and many different sizes of titanium pots that weigh only a matter of ounces are available for this purpose. Boiling a small amount of water is extremely fuel efficient, which helps to minimize the amount of fuel you are bringing.

Freeze dried foods obviously are lighter because they are dehydrated and this is a great advantage if there are plenty of reliable water sources available. Make sure you bring a filter or chemicals to neutralize the water.

Definitely be a picky buyer when it comes to backpacking food. There is nothing worse than starving and the only thing you have to eat is an awful meal. I highly recommend Mountain House foods. Their quality is excellent and meal portions (if divided by 2) are reasonable (especially if you add rice).

For some reason no matter what brand you buy, you need to buy at least two times as many servings as they say (a four person package feeds two).

Only use freeze dried foods for dinner. Instant oatmeal or grits make a great breakfast and the packages they come in are water resistant. Simply cut the tops off these packages, pour boiling water directly into them and then balance the packages against a rock. Hot chocolate or instant coffee are instant moral booster, especially on cold mornings.

Most backpackers find it easiest to have many snacks throughout the day as opposed to having an 'official lunch'. Trail mix, chocolate, energy bars, homemade bars, high energy cornbread and gel packets work great. If you are backpacking in warm conditions beware of items that melt (i.e. chocolate), and if you are in cold conditions, especially below freezing, many energy bars can become difficult to chew.

Nuts are a great staple for trail mix because they provide plenty of energy. Other excellent additions to your trail mix are M&Ms, dried fruit and cereal.

Salt, carbs and sugar
Having salt in your meals is very important if you are sweating a lot (and keep in mind that you sweat in cold weather). Sugar (i.e. hot chocolate, instant oatmeal etc.) is an excellent way to wake up and provides a quick boost to get you going. To supply lasting energy for the next day, add rice to your meals as it adds lots of carbohydrates.

Emergency Meals
If you are concerned about not having enough food, pack a few ramen noodles. Ramen noodles are lightweight, extremely filling and cost about ten cents a package. Though they are better if you cook them, they are edible raw (which is beneficial if your stove stops working).
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