About | Blog | Forums | People | Free Newsletter
Trailspace is a product review site for outdoor enthusiasts. Use it to find and share great gear.

favorite easy to make dinners - taking a poll

11:24 a.m. on January 30, 2013 (EST)
TOP 25 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,264 reviewer rep
1,245 forum posts

hike i'm doing appears to be expanding - now appears there will be four or five of us. 

i'm partial to some of the mountain house hot water in a bag meals - pad thai, beef stroganoff, chicken + noodles, but wonder if anyone has any other favorites. 

also, i generally figure the portions on these things are about 1/2 to 2/3 what an active male will probably eat, and from 2/3 to actual for what an active woman will probably eat - plus a little buffer because you need more calories in the winter.  any other ways people calculate portions?

 

thanks. 

1:59 p.m. on January 30, 2013 (EST)
TOP 25 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
1,669 reviewer rep
1,274 forum posts

Do you want to know favorite mountain house meals, or favorite backpacking meals in general?

As far as MH goes, i like the beef stroganoff, chili mac, and lasanga with meat sauce. I havn't tried too many of their meals, as i usually make my own.

Do you have a dehydrator? I have some really good meals i have created.

I typically bring dehydrated chicken or turkey noodle soup, shredded beef wraps w/refried beans, chili, dirty rice, mac n cheese w/tuna, pad woon sen, different curries, loaded mashed potatoes, and many more. But those are my staples.

I also often make hoe cakes in the morning, or blueberry muffins.

I usually only have maybe 1 or 2 MH meals tops with me, sometimes none. I agree with the portion sizes though, if i have been hiking all day i can devour a MH meal plus some.

2:15 p.m. on January 30, 2013 (EST)
42 reviewer rep
312 forum posts

Although the Mountain House are different and made in the UK (distributors cannot import meat), I find most of them ok, with Lasagne being a favourite. However, I strongly recommend staying away from anything containing egg, such as their breakfast range. Just thinking about that runny, gloopy 'mess' makes me shudder. The desserts are meh and a waste of money.

I calculate portions at 3 between 2, with my fat arse eating the lion's share.

It would be better to try something like couscous and foiled fish though, wouldn't it? There have been some great ideas on here in the past.

Lastly, I would like to thank you guys for inventing macaroni and cheese, which seems to be ideal outdoors, and inexpensive, though constipating in the long run.

2:19 p.m. on January 30, 2013 (EST)
REVIEW CORPS
405 reviewer rep
812 forum posts

I take MH as well and supplement. I'm not a fan of their Pad Thai, just too far from the real thing. Chili Mac is good. Depending on the length of time, counting calories is a good thing. On my long canoe expeditions, I still have trouble getting enough calories. A dessert every three days is a treat. Hummus is available dry in some stores and makes a good high protein dip. Instant mashed potatoes are also good. A good hard cheese will keep a long time. Some stores, like Cost Plus, sell small samplers of sausages, cheeses, jams and jellies. Miso soup packets are great. As far as portions from MH and others, they vary in terms of finished serving size. Some have gotten bigger. I generally figure that a four person will feed four if it is supplemented with other things. But alone, a four person will feed three adults at the most. For breakfast, I usually have instant oatmeal, two packs, and sometimes supplement with precooked or triple smoked bacon.

Long trips of more than a few days will require some planning so everyone doesn't get bored with the choices. Food planning is something that should be handled carefully. Assess allergies, likes and dislikes. However, don't cater to individual wants too much. On one trip I put together, for breakfast one day, I had oatmeal packets. Almost everyone had chosen and eaten their oatmeal when a late riser came over and said he didn't like the last packets of oatmeal left. I told that was what was left and if he didn't like it, I could skip breakfast.

2:27 p.m. on January 30, 2013 (EST)
42 reviewer rep
312 forum posts

Yes, instant oatmeal rules for breakfast, though french toast is a treat. To save money, you can use jumbo oats pre-mixed with 'porridge oats', which are just finer cut, to get a good fibre and texture. Add molasses sugar. Jumbo oats take longer to cook but you can soak overnight in water maybe?

2:44 p.m. on January 30, 2013 (EST)
TOP 25 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,264 reviewer rep
1,245 forum posts

powdered humus and vacuum-packaged salmon (maybe added to a quick-cooking pasta like orzo with homemade seasoning) are great ideas, thanks.  

3:38 p.m. on January 30, 2013 (EST)
200 reviewer rep
3,916 forum posts

I have gotten pretty good at having the correct amount of water in my pot to make pasta and not too much so I have to pour some out! I eat pasta and ramen more than almost anything on the trail and camp.

For breakfast I eat my instant oatmeal dry.

For lunch I like bagels with jalapeno cheese and some sort of salami.

5:46 p.m. on January 30, 2013 (EST)
59 reviewer rep
270 forum posts

Nobody's mentioned instant mashed potatoes yet! Ultralight, inexpensive, easy to pack in a ziploc. Add butter, cheese, olive oil, herbs, homemade bacon bits, dried mushrooms, nuts, smoked fish, etc etc. Or put stew or chili on top. Endless possibilities. Best of all, no real 'cooking' so no dirty pot! Just put potato flakes in a bowl or mug, pour in boiling water, and stir. Measurements can be guessed, adjust with more water or potato.

Not much beats hot, buttery mashed potatoes for solid and satisfying comfort food on the trail. Is my Irish showing? :)

7:06 p.m. on January 30, 2013 (EST)
87 reviewer rep
2,221 forum posts

Soups are great additions, especially in the snow.  We tend to prefer meals that are simple to prepare when it gets real cold, and simple dishes often seem bland, and all taste the same after several days out.  Soups can break help break that monotony.  The par cooked bacon that doesn’t require refrigeration is excellent by itself, added to eggs, or used to enhance dinner entrees.  Dried mangoes and boutique quality jerky are great treats a la carte.  Freeze dried strawberries and blue berries are yummy sides or deserts.  Dehydrated back packers fare for the most part is only ok to me, but some is awful!  Beware the Richmoore pilot biscuits and zippy cheese spread!  I also find the more exotic the entrée name sounds, the less likely it will impress my taste buds.  Breakfast egg entrees are especially prone in this regard.  I find the Betty Crocker instant pan cakes are high quality, and with syrup are a real treat.  Gallo brand salami with a good provolone cheese on bagels or crackers is special too.


The spice kit you bring can have a huge impact on the appeal of a dish.  It is amazing what some dried chilies, sun dried tomatoes, fresh garlic, olive oil, butter, lemon zest or liquid flavor extracts will do to improve many dishes.  I bring other spices, too, contingent on the trip menu.  Another tip to improve paletteability (my dictionary has also has words like manureabilty and skipermanship) is making sure the dish is fully re-hydrated and hot when consumed.  After adding water to the pouch, I let these bags set in the pot of left over boiled water to simmer over a candle while they re-hydrate; this speeds the process, and keeps them hot.  I bring two double walled coffee mugs for personal meal wares to keep the contents warm; one for liquids, the other to eat my freeze dried glop from. 

Ed

8:13 p.m. on January 30, 2013 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
606 forum posts

Islandess, you are reading my mind! I like idahoan baby reds instant pot in the 4oz package. I take some good hard cheddar and most any meat to add to them. My absolute fav is to add corn, ground beef, and cheese, I can have shepards pie done in a ziplock in about fifteen mins. I buy bacon in a slab, coat it with salt and wrap it in several layers of cheesecloth. In all but the hottest weather it keeps for days. Bacon is so full of fat, gies great in any meal and really fills me. I also make ghoulash or american chop suey, ground beef, elbow macaroni and tomatoes. Make a big pot, weigh the leftovers, then dry them, I weigh them to know how much water is removed. I very rarely do mh, I try to find ways to get home cooked foid in a more backpack friendly condition. My dehydrator is going almost all the time and I vac seal everything to maximize storage time. Try those baby reds, I think they are as good as homemade and you just add water. The small bags are way better than the bulk boxes, idahoan has several kinds, some better than others, buttery golden is my second choice.

11:47 p.m. on January 30, 2013 (EST)
REVIEW CORPS
405 reviewer rep
812 forum posts

I'll also add that a small tin of peaches or mandarins are a great treat. One of my companions on the Finlay laughed when I told him I had brought a couple of cans of peaches. We had one can the first day, and then the rest of that week he kept asking if I had any more. They can be be small cans, but are a treat if you've been eating nothing but dried fruit and freeze dried or dehydrated for three weeks. Cold drink mixes are also a treat. And a mini bottle of cognac makes a cold night nice.

The key on longer trips, is to have some variety. Also plan for some easy meals when you don't have the time and more involved ones a couple of days a week.

Pathloser, you're talking about steel cut oats, correct? I eat them at home but might try soaking them overnight to save cooking time.

I also do spice, salt and pepper, Mrs. Dash, Tabasco, garlic salt, dried butter flakes.

9:19 a.m. on January 31, 2013 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
606 forum posts

The canned fruit is a great idea, but the cans are heavy. I like the little plastic tubs, they come in four packs and are a lot lighter than cans. During the winter I always carry a variety of tea bags, everything from sleepytime to black tea. I dont drink coffee so these are my hot drink, hot choc gets old after a while.

10:22 a.m. on January 31, 2013 (EST)
42 reviewer rep
312 forum posts

Pathloser, you're talking about steel cut oats, correct?

As far as I can recall, steel-cut oats are worse than stone-cut, if that is the health food alternative, because of the high temperature of the metal blades. Jumbo oats probably have more bran and I think they are just 'rolled'. I should check this out but it might be moot when it comes to what our local supermarket sells - though we were delighted to find Scottish and Irish oats on our last few trips. I gather that the climate, read: soaking wet, makes a difference to the flavour of our oats as well. One thing for sure is that porridge is an art: some people make it taste/feel like wallpaper paste. Soaking overnight is something I recall reading about, though it may have been another grain. Try soaking oats in orange juice and adding vanilla essence and honey and tinned fruit; it is great for the bowels and tastes delicious. You can keep it in the fridge for about a week, it just gets more intense; outdoors maybe only overnight once.

I love these food threads but "dried butter flakes", "pre-cooked bacon", and more than one variety of instant mash? I am just jealous! I have only recently found condensed soup and gravy in a tube. Never seen dried hummus or refried beans in the UK, unfortunately.

Gary, "for breakfast I eat my instant oatmeal dry"? That pains me to read. You still have the 'pioneer spirit', I think.

And why do some things seem palatable outdoors but not indoors - halva and dried pineapple from my own experience? Is it the fresh air, the exercise, or just 'when in Rome'? Problem is, 'when in Rome' often means 'only when in Rome', like when trying to eat what you ate on holiday and it just isn't the same, even the "refreshments". Perhaps that's why champagne is only fit for medicinal purposes in the great outdoors?

10:31 a.m. on January 31, 2013 (EST)
21 reviewer rep
1,009 forum posts

Dehyrated food has made some progress but for the most part I think it is still terrible.  There are lots of dehydrated foods available in a good supermarket.  The prepared meals are convenient after a long day, and they can be made more tolerable with the addition of some items from home.

I find the egg dishes to be pretty good, and a few meals like Chili Mac to be okay.  I am willing to add a little weight for decent food, especially since I have saved a lot of weight with more modern equipment.  I like to eat fish when backpacking.

 

10:48 a.m. on January 31, 2013 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
606 forum posts

I think the old saying " appetite makes the best sauce" is what you were talking about patholoser. The fresh air and exercise make everyone more hungry, plus battling the cold burns a lot of calories too. Your body knows it needs to replace them so you are extra hungry. The people who like mh meals have prob never eaten them at home. I used to eat them regularly, then when we had a long power outage, I made several for dinner at home. They didnt go down as well, because we werent as hungry. I like a couple of them but mostly they just upset my gi tract and give me heartburn. Packitgourmet and a couple if others make mh taste like dogfood in comparison. I buy some of their ingredients every spring, my dehydrator cant keep up with the volume of trips or people I hike with during that season. I think the huge prepper movement in this country has lead to lots more choices in packable food. Go on ebay and search prepper or survival and yiu will be amazed at the options.

11:09 a.m. on January 31, 2013 (EST)
42 reviewer rep
312 forum posts

Ha! I only found out what a 'Prepper' was a few months ago, though I was familiar with the term 'Survivalist'. Come Armageddon, there's gonna be some competition for the remaining perishables...and then the tins.

Luckily, we have something better than the Mountain House ones, mostly made on the continent, such as Adventure Food and MX3 Adventure. Though, as I mentioned, our MH is made here in Preston Lancs, so apples to oranges perhaps.

Yeah, I tried to eat some 'ready meals' indoors when the expiration dates became anniversaries. I couldn't finish them.

Anyone ever eat one of those 'moisture absorbing' packets in these meals? Just curious...

11:18 a.m. on January 31, 2013 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
606 forum posts

My dog has eaten a couple, with no side effects. The older ones werent real good for you but now they are edible, just not very good would be my guess.

2:37 p.m. on January 31, 2013 (EST)
REVIEW CORPS
405 reviewer rep
812 forum posts

pathloser, the steel cut oats I usually get are John McCann, from Ireland. They're also called pin oats. Rolled oats are too mushy for my taste, but they cook faster. I cook my pin oats so they still have some crunch. I can't imagine eating pin oats dry, they would break your teeth. The dried butter works well in traveler mix, aka as bannock mix. The precooked bacon is sometimes hard to find. The best is to find the triple smoked, which around Washington is hard to find. The key is that it is well cured and most of the moisture is gone. I have also gotten prosciutto that is sealed well enough to last a long time. On crackers with cheese, it makes a great appetizer. The key that I try to stay  with in meals, is not to make it overly complicated, but also to remember the late Bill Mason's words that it should not be called "camping" as that implies a certain hardship. He said it should be called, "living outdoors".

Hot dog, the cans are a bit heavier than the plastic tubs, but I had one of the tubs break on a trip and have not tried them again.

5:30 p.m. on January 31, 2013 (EST)
42 reviewer rep
312 forum posts

I checked Dianne Onstad's Whole Foods Companion but it doesn't even mention 'jumbo' oats. It does have some interesting info, e.g., steel-cut are also known as Scotch or Irish oats in N. America, topical applications for oatmeal, and that milk and sugar can cause oats to ferment in the stomach - which is probably why I sometimes get indigestion. This (link) sort of helps me understand the terminology I am familiar with.

I don't eat dried meats from the supermarket anymore: two cases of food poisoning, though it might be a low tolerance. I would like to try some kind of dried fish, smoked?, at some point, which I have only read about.

8:23 p.m. on January 31, 2013 (EST)
59 reviewer rep
270 forum posts

topical applications for oatmeal

Pathloser makes a good point, oatmeal is a multipurpose backcountry item! Oatmeal paste is very soothing for the skin, good for burns and sunburns, chafes, scrapes, bugbites, rashes and all sorts of backcountry ouchies. Add some raw honey and garlic (natural antibiotics) and suddenly your kitchen has delicious first-aid supplies.

Also, oatcakes!

Make them at home or at camp, dense calories that keep well. Use nut butter or fruit puree if you want, then add stuff you like. I recommend dried cranberries, orange zest and pistachios. Oh and chocolate. DIY ProBars!

I do recommend smoked salmon as trail food. I know it sounds decadent (I'm lucky, it's locally made), but it stretches a long way, even a tiny bit will really jazz up anything from eggs to noodles. I prefer cold-smoked, which looks raw, rather than hot-smoked, which looks cooked. It'll be quite oily, and it keeps a long time. Any kippered or smoked fish is great trail protein. Mind the bears, though.

11:44 p.m. on January 31, 2013 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
328 forum posts

For simple meals, a few that I always bring for long backpacking trips:

Instant mashed potatoes (the single pack Idahoan) with foil pack Spam.

Two packets of Easy Mac with a foil pack tuna or salmon mixed in.  

Both of those are enough for me for a good dinner.

9:51 a.m. on February 1, 2013 (EST)
1,347 reviewer rep
1,339 forum posts

Geez, Islandess, you're turning backpacking food into a gourmet dining experience! I'm impressed.

I can handle the Mountain House Chili Mac, and some of the chicken dishes are okay, too. I second pathloser on the egg meals - while the 'eggs and peppers' isn't too bad, the 'bacon and eggs' is just a soggy gruel of tiny ground up bacon bits and egg. Quite disgusting.

My typical breakfast for any mountain breakfast, whether on the trail or in a rustic hostel, is 2-3 packets of instant oatmeal with a large handful of trailmix thrown in. The hot water softens the nuts and fruit in the trailmix and makes it more palatable. Fast, simple and lightweight.

But what about Sidekicks? Other than the fact that they have to simmer for 7 minutes, they are very light and a lot more tasty than plain macaroni or rice. 

12:51 p.m. on February 1, 2013 (EST)
REVIEW CORPS
405 reviewer rep
812 forum posts

I'll take smoked salmon as well,  usually preferring sockeye. I don't do it much as the smell attracts everything, including other campers. Dried meats work, pathloser, but make sure they are well cured. You probably want to steer away from your supermarket in terms of dried meats. A specialty store is the way to go here, as you want meats that are cured the old fashioned way with lots of brine and/or smoke to remove the moisture. A Selkirk FN friend showed me how they do salmon. They smoke it, but only for a day, then hang it in a fully fly screened shed for several weeks.

3:03 p.m. on February 1, 2013 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
1,828 reviewer rep
260 forum posts

Leadbelly,

Mountain House Turkey Tetrazinni is awesome! Give that one a try if you haven't tried it yet.

10:38 p.m. on February 1, 2013 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
328 forum posts

Ashleigh said:

Leadbelly,

Mountain House Turkey Tetrazinni is awesome! Give that one a try if you haven't tried it yet.

 I'll second that.  Turkey Tetrazzini is my favorite Mountain House meal.

3:05 p.m. on February 2, 2013 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
606 forum posts

This is my fav meal in the woods. Ive never told anybody how to make it, my buddies love it, but I wouldnt tell them. Its a freezer bag soup, based on those same instant potatoes. At home before you leave, pour your fav of the four ounce idahoan potatoes in a gallon bag, then a quart sized pouch on powdered milk. Then I put some freeze dried brocoli in a sandwich sized ziploc. I like it best with bag chicken, packaged like tuna, but any meat works. Then some type of cheese, I take some hard cheddar, but powdered will work. At lunch add a little water to the brocoli, and the meat if your using dried meat, usually in the same ziploc. When your ready to cook, pour everything into the big ziploc, then boil a quart of water. I know its a lot, but its a meal for two. Pour it in the bag, stir, let it cool a little if you wish, but its ready almost instantly. I cut the corner off the bag to serve it, works really well. You should of course season it to taste, but it needs very little in my opinion. Its really good with the chicken and some bacon. Well, thats my fav winter meal, its good enough to make at home, use real milk.

6:09 p.m. on February 2, 2013 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
606 forum posts

This is my fav meal in the woods. Ive never told anybody how to make it, my buddies love it, but I wouldnt tell them. Its a freezer bag soup, based on those same instant potatoes. At home before you leave, pour your fav of the four ounce idahoan potatoes in a gallon bag, then a quart sized pouch on powdered milk. Then I put some freeze dried brocoli in a sandwich sized ziploc. I like it best with bag chicken, packaged like tuna, but any meat works. Then some type of cheese, I take some hard cheddar, but powdered will work. At lunch add a little water to the brocoli, and the meat if your using dried meat, usually in the same ziploc. When your ready to cook, pour everything into the big ziploc, then boil a quart of water. I know its a lot, but its a meal for two. Pour it in the bag, stir, let it cool a little if you wish, but its ready almost instantly. I cut the corner off the bag to serve it, works really well. You should of course season it to taste, but it needs very little in my opinion. Its really good with the chicken and some bacon. Well, thats my fav winter meal, its good enough to make at home, use real milk.

1:06 a.m. on February 3, 2013 (EST)
210 reviewer rep
173 forum posts

Wow, you folks go all out. My meals are much more Spartan, consisting of oatmeal, powdered milk and butter. I have lived on this for weeks at a time. In the winter, I have everything in a wide-mouth Nalgene container. I pour in two cups of boiling water, put the lid on and place it in my sleeping bag where it can cook. Then I continue melting snow for tea. By the time the tea is ready so is my oatmeal.

I have tried instant potatoes while traveling along the west coast of Hudson Bay, but that was because there was no other food at the Co-op except for Pilot Biscuit.

Walker's Oatcakes are great, too. Especially with some ginger marmalade. But, then I usually leave the good stuff for home.

10:08 a.m. on February 3, 2013 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
606 forum posts

I have found that the better meals I cook, the more my kids wanna camp. I dont usually cook breakfast or lunch, unless im really cold, I just munch all day. My wife says I graze like a cow, I tend to lose my motivation if I eat a meal during my hike. I try to cook better, more satisfying dinners to make up for not eating meals during the day. During short trips in the winter, I often take steaks or chops, if its below freezing, why not, it wont spoil. Gotta fuel the machine.

3:56 p.m. on February 3, 2013 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
26 forum posts

I second the dehydrator suggestion that TheRambler made.  Investing in a quality dehydrator and a vacuum packer will cost you about $200(I have a Nesco and  Foodsaver) but it will pay for itself in no time.  The pre-made stuff gets really expensive, really fast.  You can also eat healthier and have unlimited options if you DIY.  You can prepare them so they are prepped just as fast as the pre-made stuff.  I like that because after a day on the trail I just want to eat, not cook.

12:07 p.m. on February 4, 2013 (EST)
TOP 25 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,264 reviewer rep
1,245 forum posts

thank you for all the comments.  dehydrator will have to wait.  the consensus was mountain house mac/cheese one night, mountain house turkey tet the other. 

 

when i was working food services in college, we used to call it 'tet offensive.'  we'll see. 

April 16, 2014
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: Freeze Dried Chili Cook-off Goes Horrribly Wrong Newer: Backcountry Coffee Comparison Test
All forums: Older: Mount San Jacinto 2013 Newer: New Hiking Group