There is no denying the convenience of dinner in a bag. The makers of pre-packaged “backpacker” meals know this, and make ease-of-use a primary selling point. But Snickers or meal-replacement bars are convenient as well, yet we don’t see those being labeled as “diner for two” despite often having nearly as many calories. An accepted rule of thumb for maximizing backcountry food efficiency is to stick with products that contain at least 100 calories per ounce, yet many of the expensive freeze-dried meals don’t come close. Rather than spend extra money on a fancy entree that barely qualifies as an appetizer, here are a few do-it-yourself instant meals, with vital stats listed against their prepackaged “equivalents”. All of the following dinners can be done by simply adding boiling water to your ingredients, making each of these Jetboil or Reactor-friendly, and preventing the next morning’s coffee from tasting like Thai curry.
Angel Hair Alfredo & Tuna VS Backpacker’s Pantry Fettucini Alfredo w/ Chicken
- 1 package Pasta Roni Angel Hair Pasta With Herbs (leave packaging at home)
- 3oz pouch Starkist Tuna in Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Add olive oil or milk powder to taste (additional weight and nutrition not listed below)
Spicy Beans & Rice W/Cheese VS Backpacker’s Pantry Black Bean Tamale Pie
- 5oz dehydrated refried black beans (in bulk)
- 4oz chunk of your favorite cheese
- 1.5oz of instant long-grain or brown rice
- Pre-mix beans and rice with taco seasoning powder, cayenne, garlic, to taste
Chicken Peanut Pad Thai VS Backpacker’s Pantry Pad See You w/Chicken
- 4oz dried Thai rice noodles (pre-soak in cold water at camp for 10 mins)
- 3oz pouch Sweet Sue premium white chicken breast
- 1 single-serve package of Justin’s Natural Peanut Butter
- 1.75oz Grace powdered coconut milk (sprinkle in curry powder and favorite spices)
It’s clear that your wallet and stomach will be feeling a little empty if you opt for the freeze dried options, but one or two of these packages can be worthwhile. You’ll need an eating bowl in which to cook the do-it-yourself meals, so one great compromise is to take a high-calorie prepackaged meal (or two) for the first night on a multi-night trip. This makes the first night’s dinner less filling, but very convenient, a decent trade for when you aren’t yet running on consecutive days of calorie deficits. Consider upgrading the basic recipe with some additional olive oil, powdered coconut milk, or parmesan. After that first night, save the waterproof pouch and use it for eating everything from morning oatmeal to angel hair pasta (cooked in-pouch by adding boiling water, insulated from cold by stuffing down your coat or sleeping bag). With this plan, the dishes, stove system, and utensils for a team of 2 can easily be refined down to one Jetboil or Reactor, one spork, and a single prepackaged meal.