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Repackaging Food

Have a favorite trail recipe or technique you'd like to share? Please do! We also like reviews of various trail food products out there. The Backcountry Food Topix forum is the place to discuss all things related to food and nourishment while in the Sierra wilderness (as well as favorite trail head eateries).
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Repackaging Food

Postby freestone » Sat Mar 29, 2014 9:30 am

I currently buy most of my food off the grocery shelf, or dehydrate myself, then repackage it in a single serving size plastic "snack size" baggie. I am curious how others re-package, if at all. To maximize food storage in a bear can, I am now thinking of storing, for example, the entire trip's supply of oatmeal in one large bag rather than single serving sizes. Is anyone doing this and getting more in the can? I have experimented with wax paper baggies with some success, because they can be incinerated after use to reduce trash weight, but food comes in such odd sizes and weight that can create lots of wasted space in a round can, so for me, that's the real problem.



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Re: Repackaging Food

Postby dave54 » Sat Mar 29, 2014 10:01 am

I have done it both ways, went back to prepacked individual meals.

No matter how carefully I measured and doled out the daily meal amount I ran short by the end of the trip, and at the end of a long hard day I just wanted a quick and easy hot meal and go to bed. The extra time to open, measure, and repack the large bag was a hassle I did not want to endure.

Storing in bulk does seem to occupy less space.

Wax paper seems to tear easier, and I ended up with small holes in the bag. So I started double wrapping with brown paper and paper tape. But then I had more waste to dispose. You can burn plastic bags, and fish the remaining blob of unburnt melted slag out of the ashes -- messy. So if there is a win-win I have not found it.
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Re: Repackaging Food

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:06 am

Individual meal packages are not bulky if you pack them loosely and suck out the air. I roller pin them bottom to zip-lock before zipping. I think individual is easier with a bear can because you can stack meals bottom to top and not have to rummage through the can. I do put all my instant coffee in a screw-cap used spice bottle. Olive oil goes into a 4- or 8 oz bottle. Cocoa and other drinks I pack about 4 per bag.

I have done a LOT of bulk meal packaging for large groups. If for example you are packing up food for 10 boy scouts for a week trip, bulk packing saves a lot of time. When I used this method we were not required to use bear cans, and it worked well when all food was just put in a large zip duffel. You do have to be careful not to spill or otherwise ruin the food that remains in the bag. If you open bags in the rain and the contents get wet, it can spoil. Bulk packing is also commonly used for international expeditions. I rarely bulk pack anymore for my private trips. I never had trouble or worried about running out of food. You survey the remaining food now and then and readjust volume of meals. With a group this is not a big issue because within the group there usually are light eaters who have plenty of remaining food. I really think bulk method is more appropriate for groups than individuals.

I carry out all old bags. I actually use nearly all for waste bags for used TP. In my opinion, if you had room to bring in bags packed with food, there is room to pack them out. They weigh nothing.
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Re: Repackaging Food

Postby longri » Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:27 am

I usually repackage into ziplocks for each meal. But when I'm really trying to minimize I'll do things like put a week's worth of cereal into one doubled produce bag with a tie. It does add up. Ten sandwich sized ziplocks weighs about an ounce. I've measured this a few times and something like 2% of the food weight was packaging, e.g. 4 ounces of plastic out of 12 lbs of food. That's when I was really trying to minimize. When being more casual about it I've had close to a pound of plastic bags and assorted packaging trash.

It's too bad you can't purchase edible ziplocks.
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Re: Repackaging Food

Postby rlown » Sat Mar 29, 2014 11:35 am

Someday soon: http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Pack ... -packaging

Now we need a recipe for the packaging :)
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Re: Repackaging Food

Postby freestone » Sun Mar 30, 2014 6:34 am

I use a straw to suck out the remaining air inside the baggie, then make the final seal. Kinda looks like a vacuumed packaged meal, but still the sum of all the baggies in a can makes for lots of wasted space.

I have had leak problems with wax bags as well. They can't stand up to constant friction or getting wet, but I do like the idea of putting TP in a used wax baggie, then burning.

I don't think burning plastic baggies is a good idea. The smoke is toxic and the residue is messy.
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Repackaging Food

Postby Jimr » Sun Mar 30, 2014 8:33 am

I repackage most everything. Snack foods in one or two bulk bag and the rest individual meals. I use plastic baggies of 3 different sizes. Once I've sucked out the air, I put a pin through the Baggie in a couple of places to allow expanding air to escape as I go up in elevation. I've never thought twice about the weight of baggies. They're lighter than the original packaging. I rarely have fires so nothing gets burned. I also throw in a few extra baggies in case.


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Re: Repackaging Food

Postby maverick » Sun Mar 30, 2014 11:11 am

Individual freezer ziplock bags for me, so when ready to eat I just boil my water,
pour it straight into the bag, it keeps hot and no pot to wash. ;)
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Re: Repackaging Food

Postby oldranger » Sun Mar 30, 2014 11:27 am

I bulk pack Oatmeal mixed with hemp seeds and freeze-dried raspberries or blueberries (fruit smashed to reduce volume), mocha mix, and trail mix for snacking (keeping small bag filled for on the trail) Dinners are individually packed.

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Re: Repackaging Food

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Mar 30, 2014 1:25 pm

If you bulk pack your food you need a pretty sturdy bag, like a freezer bag. If only opening the packet once, you can get by with cheaper and lighter individual bags. Freezer bags weigh considerably more than light snack bags. I have used the straw method to suck out air, but with some food I end up with powder in my lungs - ugh!

Two ways to save on bulk are to choose food shapes that are flat or that pack well. Almonds pack tighter than walnuts for the same weight. Couscous better than noodles. The other is to use less instant grains. I take old fashioned oatmeal and found that it cooks fine simply be bringing to a boil and then setting in a cozy. I then have to carry a bit more fuel, but I do not have to get the fuel inside my bear can. The only reason for going to extremes in reducing volume is because of the stupid bear can! The main reason I put together my own "meals" is that I hate the sugar and salt that is in most commercially produced backpack meals.

But if I am really tight on space, I do all malt-o-meal vs oatmeal - it packs down to less volume for the same calories. Whatever meal I bring, I mix in all the extras (dry milk, sugar, spices, nuts, raisins, etc in the cereal) so that I just dump one bag into the pot.

By the way they now have cooked lasagna that you only need to rehydrate in hot water. They called "non-cook" lasagna and sold in the same area as regular lasagna noodles.

Eat your packaging! I like that idea!
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Re: Repackaging Food

Postby freestone » Sun Mar 30, 2014 8:13 pm

WD, +1 on food shapes. Another example would be tortilla chips verses flat tortillas. The chips have a much higher caloric content, but you have to like them looking like saw dust.
Last year my trash bag weighed in at 13oz after a 6 day trip. It felt light, but the scales said otherwise.
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Re: Repackaging Food

Postby LMBSGV » Sun Mar 30, 2014 9:35 pm

I also individually repackage dinners (either home-dried or Annie Chung 1 minute noodle meals from the store which I supplement with snow peas, dried tomatoes and whatever else seems to fit). I've found that if I put the meal in the bag and roll the bag before sealing it, it gets the air out. I do the 4 to a bag instant oatmeal for breakfast and have a separate bag of raisins from which I add a handful to the cup along with a package of oatmeal. For coffee I've either used an old small plastic peanut butter jar or the individual coffee servings. For trail mix, I take 3 or 4 separate kinds in individual bags, which after a few days transform into one to two bags of amalgamated nuts and melted chocolate.
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