purchasing food

12:04 p.m. on June 19, 2008 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
3 forum posts

I just found this forum and i'm sorry if this topic has been talked about before hand but i couldn't find anything on it in my quick search. So anyways, I'm going to be taking about a two week backpacking trip on Isle Royal in about a month. I have just about all the supplies i need minus a few small items, but my question is this...where can i buy good trail food? the last time i took a backpacking trip was when i was still in the scouts and I went to Philmont for 10 days or so. Obviously, the food situation was pretty much taken care of. I'm planning on gettting non-perishables (sp?) but I'm also planning on getting the meals that you just add to boiling water. I just don't know where to get them. REI sells some of the stuff but I can't imagine that they are the best choice to get what i need.

any ideas?



12:44 p.m. on June 19, 2008 (EDT)
2,093 reviewer rep
295 forum posts

Depends on where you live, but Walmart, GI Joes, or places like that have the just-add-hot-water packaged food. Army surplus places will often carry that kind of food as well as a good variety of MRE's if you like that kind of stuff.

And if you are just getting back into backpacking, spend some time looking on this forum as well as into good backpacking sites for tasty, inexpensive, satisfying meals that are nearly as simple to fix on the trail with a little prep work on the front end.

Good Luck!

1:08 p.m. on June 19, 2008 (EDT)
9 reviewer rep
47 forum posts

I live in Thunder Bay, not far from Isle Royale, and there are several outdoor stores that carry dehydrated meals, as well as
WalMart and the Superstore. I'm sure the situation is similar in Minnesota, if you're coming in via the States.

Don't forget your bug spray/netting - the blackflies came out 10 days ago, and calm days are brutal for bugs on Superior! Oh, and be prepared for wildlife pics - I almost literally ran into a moose cow and calf in the bush a few days ago while camping in Squaw Bay, and there are bald eagles nesting in several spots along this stretch of the north shore.

Have a great trip!

2:10 p.m. on June 19, 2008 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
3 forum posts

Before you spend a ton of money on freeze-dried stuff, check out various Lipton pasta and rice dishes at your local supermarket. They usually require only hot water (butter can be optional, if you carry it), weigh just about the same as a freeze-dried meal (about 5-6 oz), are often less bulky, and typically cost about 25%-30% of what freeze dried foods cost. Granted, it is not exactly gourmet fare, and you can't add water to the pouch, like you can with some freeze dried meals (which I don't do anyway, since I don't want to carry around smelly, wet garbage). But they aren't a bad option if you're looking to save a few bucks. Do be advised that a single package may not be enough for two people...but then again, when was the last time you bought a freeze-dried meal for two that actually filled you up?

4:11 p.m. on June 19, 2008 (EDT)
110 reviewer rep
762 forum posts

Quite a few of "Just add water" type foods require just 2 cups (8 oz.) of water to prepare. Just the right amount to fit onto a JetBoil. One of my favorite things to pack is/are instant mashed potatoes. They pack flat and some of the flavors are awesome. I like the lipton rice and noodle dishes too.

As far as the bug spray that NLees mentioned, please consider a more earth friendly and safer product than DEET. I suggest Liquid Net. http://www.liquidfence.com/liquid-net-insect-repellent.html
I use it all the time and it works great. They even make a product that is safe for pets.

Have a good trip!

5:44 p.m. on June 19, 2008 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
265 forum posts

My experience with the "add water" dishes, is mixed. Some are quite ok, others are a disaster. There is a joke about a new produkt that beat all the others ready-foods. This food was so ready that it was just to be flushed in the toilet! But seriously, do not depend on just one supplier. Each producer has their own taste. It is often just minor differences between the dishes, and it is better to have at least two brands.

To f-klock about the insect repellent. I've just bought two bottles of 100% DEET from England, because I'm off to Finland on my summer holidays in a month. The mosquitos there are brutal, and in horrendous amounts some times. If you think that liquid-net will do, I might try it if they send to Norway. I'm sceptical that the finnish mosquitos will understand that it is a repellent! LOL

7:33 p.m. on June 19, 2008 (EDT)
1,663 reviewer rep
3,956 forum posts

OTTO STOVER, I think I've had some of that food before! Also I enjoyed your recent "winter tour" trip report. Cool pictures.

MYO1XL, You may find that two weeks of nothing but commercially prepared freeze dried food is intolerable. They have many different flavors, but I have found they all have a very similar texture which annoys me after a couple days.
With a little practice AT HOME you can build a good meal plan with a lot of stuff purchased from your local grocer.
Dry goods, dried fruit, nuts, honey, peanut butter & just add water stuff ect.
One thing to keep in mind is nutrition, most people need around 4000 cals a day while backpacking, in cold weather it is good to have a meal high in fat before bedtime. These and many other nutritional needs have already been factored into freeze dried meals.
You need to make sure your nutritional needs will be met with the food you select. Do your homework, lots of good info on this website and others.

8:04 p.m. on June 19, 2008 (EDT)
3 reviewer rep
170 forum posts


If you have spent any time up on Lake Superior in the summer you understand the bug situation. If you haven't I recommend a head net and at least two types of repellant. You might want to try one of those jacket and pant sets made of the same material as the head net but I can't vouch for how effective they are.

I carry a spray bottle with about 30% deet and a bottle of lotion that is 80% deet. I live in Sault Ste Marie, MI and can vouch for the fact that the black flies and mosquitos are brutal this year. Dress warmly too! We have not been having much of a summer this year.

11:51 p.m. on June 19, 2008 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
3 forum posts

yeah i spent time in the keweenaw when i was younger so i remember those damn flies. thanks for all the replies, i'll keep everything you've mentioned in mind!

6:35 p.m. on June 20, 2008 (EDT)
170 reviewer rep
99 forum posts

Hey guys. A couple of you have said that Walmart has freeze dried meals, or just add water to the pouch meals. Did I read that correctly? 'Cuz I surely can't find any at Wally World. Any tips would be appreciated. Thanx!

6:52 p.m. on June 20, 2008 (EDT)
3 reviewer rep
170 forum posts

I've seen them at the local Wal Mart in Sault Ste Marie, but they have a large sporting goods section here.

7:18 p.m. on June 20, 2008 (EDT)
1,663 reviewer rep
3,956 forum posts

The wal-mart I go to has freeze dried meals, don't remember the brand. I usually just order mine from campmor.com, they have an excellent selection and several different brands to choose from.
I realize that doesn't work to well on a last minute trip. But for me it takes less time than running to the store, and the shipping probably doesn't cost more than the gas I would burn. I guess the biggest thing is that I have never been impressed with the selection at my local wal-mart. We don't have any army surplus stores here either.

There aren't many people here into backpacking ( I live in Charleston SC now) so it is really cool to have you guys to talk to.

8:18 p.m. on June 21, 2008 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
2 forum posts
Purchasing food.


I don't know how much time you have to prepare, or how much effort you want to put into it, but I had a great time experimenting with what I could (or more often COULDN'T) dehydrate myself. Yes, a decent dehydrator will run you around $50 or so, but it soon pays for itself. And the more you shop at REI, the sooner that 'break even point' will be. : )

Besides the fact that you're not ingesting all those chemicals that come with any processed food, you're able to tailor things to your liking as far as spices, ingredients, quantities, etc.

Just a warning...it can easily become as addictive as making your own alcohol stove. Anyways, here are some things I had great luck with: Beef and turkey jerky, chili, potato soup, pasta w/meat sauce, all dried fruits (kiwi and pineapple were great), au-gratin potatoes, cous-cous w/hamburger+veggies, rice w/chicken+veggies.

Just my two cents.

10:05 p.m. on June 21, 2008 (EDT)
1,663 reviewer rep
3,956 forum posts

hey Travelducky, We think a lot alike. I like to put my own meals together too. Eating good, tasty food is an enjoyable part of my trips. I take some freeze dried food along, but I prefer dry goods, dehydrated foods from home, and natural snacks. To me it just tastes better.
Also primitive cooking is fun to me, I don't do a lot of long treks anymore, I mostly camp in pristine areas for a few days at a time, maybe catch a couple fish for dinner!

3:49 p.m. on June 22, 2008 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
20 forum posts

Three's a crowd!

I'm just getting into the hiking game this year but the allure of real food on the trail converted me into a dehydrating man as well. Its so easy to make an extra couple portions of chili one night, buy an extra bag of carrots at the store, or even open up that can of salmon and leave the heavy can at home. All of them can be dried (liquids too) and be ready to spring back to life on the trail. I ended up building a dehydrator out of plywood and some 100W light bulbs but, as Travelducky said, buying one is easily affordable. Heck your oven at home, while a little hot for some more fragile vegetables and fruits will dry home prepared meals and jerkies exceptionally well.

I found a great book on the subject: "Trail Food: Drying and Cooking Food for Backpackers and Paddlers" By Alan Kesselheim....its got everything from drying times, camp kitchen setup, recipes and the plans for the home built dehydrator that even I managed to bang together. hahah So ya, if you've got the extra time needed for prepping and planning I'd highly recommend drying some of your own stuff...there's nothing like Grandma's famous spaghetti sauce on the trail :D

5:43 p.m. on June 22, 2008 (EDT)
7 reviewer rep
103 forum posts

There are lots of simple recipes for trail food you can put together yourself at freezerbagcooking.com. (Note that you do not cook in freezer bags, you rehydrate in them. They're strong enough to handle hot water.) She also has videos and pictures of ways to cook eggs or bake biscuits using just your stove, pot and some water, and a little silicon muffin pan.

Minimus.biz has tons of packets of things you can add to instant potatoes, instant rice, or instant grits. REI sells a big box of dehydrated veggies from Harmony House Foods, or you can order directly from Harmony House (http://www.harmonyhousefoods.com/) and also, Harmony House has soup mixes.

11:52 a.m. on June 23, 2008 (EDT)
28 reviewer rep
1,261 forum posts

I find the best deals and selection by purchasing directly from Mountain House.

I have yet to find an on-line retailer that sells the seafood chowder, and boy, that sure is darn good!

4:54 p.m. on June 23, 2008 (EDT)
1,663 reviewer rep
3,956 forum posts

Ed G, thanks for the heads up. I love seafood chowder.

12:57 p.m. on June 24, 2008 (EDT)
28 reviewer rep
1,261 forum posts

Trouthunter, being in Charleston, your a stones throw from Cumberland Island.

Awesome place to backpack. You can get off the ferry, slip into the woods and not see another person for as long as you want. It's my favorite place in the whole world for backpacking.

You definetly need to check it out.

I live in the Orlando, Fl area. My sister has a condo on Isle of Palms and I get up your way couple times a year.
Charleston is a beautiful place.

Oh, don't confuse the seafood chowder with She Crab Soup!
Man, that stuff is terrible.

6:01 p.m. on June 24, 2008 (EDT)
1,663 reviewer rep
3,956 forum posts

Thanks again I will check it out, sounds neat.

6:29 p.m. on June 29, 2008 (EDT)
131 reviewer rep
37 forum posts

As no one has mentioned it yet: don't forget the local health food store, if it is a decent size. You would be amazed at what can be sold and used dehydrated.
I recall using not just the half-cooked rice (soak it overnight) or minute rice but things that were pre-seasoned like cous-cous, tabouli, hummus, soya mince, instant miso, etc. There was an instant burger mix and sausage mix that vegetarians used to almost live off, called Sosmix usually; but you need a good non-stick pan and oil or it will go nuts on your pan's surface.
Most of the above just needed a small amount of time in boiling water, if that.
You will also find nuts and raisins etc without preservatives and oil coatings.

My current favourite is cous-cous, which is increasingly popular in the UK and comes in lots of good pre-seasoned mixes, and a foil-wrapped packet of tuna (no tin!).
I also want to try something outdoors that I often eat at home, and that is oats or muesli soaked overnight in fruitjuice (rolled oats are softer than jumbo oats and the juice would be a flavour packet).

I recall reading a book years ago about a woman called Peace Pilgrim from the States and in it she tells of how she walked the length of the AT eating mostly oats soaked in water, I think, wearing a pair of tennis shoes.

Everything (except for tabouli!) tastes better outdoors.

11:51 a.m. on June 30, 2008 (EDT)
4,419 reviewer rep
6,010 forum posts

A number of the items you mention are readily available in the regular grocery stores here in the US, partly because we have such a large population of recent immigrants from all countries, but partly because Americans have such eclectic tastes. Couscous, tabouli, hummus, miso, a huge variety of dehydrated soy products, etc. are prominent on the shelves. along with fast-cooking pastas like angel hair "spaghetti". You mention the foil packs of tuna. Chicken, turkey, crab, salmon, and various flavored versions of these are readily available as well. Not only are the foil packs lighter than the cans, but since they are more compressed and can be packed with less water, a 3 ounce pack of tuna is much lighter than a 3 ounce aluminum pop-top can of tuna from the same company. Interestingly, the foil packs of chicken appeared in WalMart several years before they appeared in the supermarkets (Sweet Sue brand, pointed out by Ed several years ago, if I recall correctly).

And the regular grocery stores are much cheaper for the same products than the health food stores (even when the same brand name appears on the package).

This has been a good thread, pointing out that you can construct the same (or better, especially better-tasting) meals for backpacking from the grocery stores than buying the pre-packaged freeze-dry meals - much much cheaper, too.

6:11 p.m. on July 16, 2008 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
6 forum posts

Please check out "Freezer Bag Cooking" both the web site and the book. The recipes are darn good and if you are going for an extended period of time, it may be less expensive.

1:16 p.m. on July 17, 2008 (EDT)
4,419 reviewer rep
6,010 forum posts

Haydon -
Be aware that the Ziploc and other plastic bag manufacturers have pointed out that heating the plastic bags (particularly the freezer bags) leaches some dangerous chemicals into the food, several being much more risky than BPA.

8:53 a.m. on October 15, 2008 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
3 forum posts

I’ve also made the switch over to making/dehydrating my own meals. I’ll never go back to the freeze-dried stuff – there’s nothing worse than ending a great day in the outdoors with a tasteless meal.

I did recently find a great site for finding camp-friendly ingredients:


So far, I’ve been really happy with the quality of their products, the selection and they ship really quickly. They have some of the harder to find stuff like freeze-dried meat, cheese and veggies (they’re great when you use them to make your own meals, just not in the commercial stuff), full-cream powdered milk, little packets of things like salsa and tartar sauce, etc.

I’ve also tried a couple of their meals and I’ve been really happy. You have to cook them (they’re not just add water) but they’re well worth the effort. You end up with a really tasty meal and the portion sizes are large. They’re my new go-to place for when I’m too lazy to put together my own meals!

10:02 a.m. on October 16, 2008 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
3 forum posts

I meant to say that they also have bags that are safe for use with boiling water:


Kind of pricy but I’ve found that I can rinse them out after using them for another go-around. When I do freezer bag cooking, I usually go with these bags now.

June 24, 2018
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

More Topics
This forum: Older: Bill S. or anyone else, Tasty Bite choices Newer: Camping without cooking equipment
All forums: Older: Outdoor Retailer: New Kids Outdoor Gear Newer: Insoles