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#107712 - 12/07/08 11:18 PM MREs vs. Dried food?
MikeyMike Offline


Registered: 11/29/08
Posts: 2
Loc: Alabama
So, my brother gave me a case of MREs the other day to start off a weekend trip. I am fairly new to backpacking and was wondering what is going to happen when I don't have the luxury of carrying MREs? Also, it seems like I could shed some weight if I knew how to dry the foods. Does one have to use a "dehydrator"? What do you guys use when going on 3-4 day trips?

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#107713 - 12/07/08 11:30 PM Re: MREs vs. Dried food? [Re: MikeyMike]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Quote:
So, my brother gave me a case of MREs the other day to start off a weekend trip. I am fairly new to backpacking and was wondering what is going to happen when I don't have the luxury of carrying MREs?
Also, it seems like I could shed some weight if I knew how to dry the foods. Does one have to use a "dehydrator"? What do you guys use when going on 3-4 day trips?


most of us buy dehydrated backpacking food, or make our own, or a combination of both - see
http://www.freezerbagcooking.com/

search back through the archives a bit, you'll find much discussion on this topic
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#107714 - 12/08/08 12:00 AM Re: MREs vs. Dried food? [Re: MikeyMike]
JAK Offline
member

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 2569
I have fond memories of cheese omelete MREs. The secret is lots of ketchup.

Dried food is actually pretty easy and you can buy alot of stuff that is already dehydrated. My breakfast is mostly oatmeal, with stuff like almonds, raisins or currants, honey, and even some vegetable oil or butter, all depending on how many calories I need. I can stomach alot of plain old oatmeal, but I always bring along a 500mg or 1kg tub of honey just in case. My supper is mostly vegetable soup with extra lentils added. There is probable a bunch of other stuff you could add to that. Sometimes I bring those chinese noodle bags for variety. Tuna in a pouch is something you can to add to those. My lunch and trail food is mostly tea with skim milk powder and honey. I also like to chew on jerky between meals, but I don't bother with trail mix and stuff. I will grab some granola bars laying around the house for day hikes. On a long winter trip I will bring along a pound of bacon, and make some sort of oatmeal biscuits with the extra bacon grease. Sometimes I gotta wonder if it smells good enough to wake a bear. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />

I buy all my hiking food in regular grocery stores. I buy everything in roughly half pound or 1 pound or even 2 pound quantities, so on a shorter trip I have less variety but that is ok. I am happy to add variety from one trip to the next but I am also very happy with oatmeal as my main staple. My mom was Scottish so I kind of grew up on it. Always made myself a big pot before my morning paper route. I just buy the large flake oatmeal from the baked good section, and not the instant stuff. I just pour boiling water on it and some stuff and pretty much eat it right away, though it is better if you cover it and wait a bit, make some tea while your waiting. In summer it is best to have two mug/pots about the same size, 500ml plus a little room, but in winter it is better to have a regular mug/pot and a larger pot, maybe 1000ml plus some room. Even I can't eat that much oatmeal at once, but that is a better size for lots of hot soup to rehydrate at night, and for melting snow.

Don't be afraid to drink lots of liquid before bed because you will have to get up to go pee. You gotta rehydrate and I think the evening is the best time to really top yourself up. Even in winter half the experience is waking up in the middle of the night, even if its really cold or raining down ice and snow. Sometimes you have to be very quick about it mind you.

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#107715 - 12/08/08 05:17 AM Re: MREs vs. Dried food? [Re: MikeyMike]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3582
Loc: Texas
MRE's... The left over plastic and trash from those things weighs more than other food alternatives.

If you must have 'heat and eat', here's what the Red Cross is passing out these days. They are pretty good and are about the size of a TV dinner.
http://www.heatermeals.com/

Like Phat and Jak, most of us use grocery store dried, fresh, and packaged foods.
In fact, the last "freeze dried Mountain House" style meal I had was about ten years ago. Those are good for a day or two and you don't have time to make a grocery store run. Instead, learn to pack fresh vegetables, dried veg. and fruits, the new packaged meats...tuna-chicken-beef, pasta's, cereals, etc. It's much cheaper, better tasting, and lighter. Plus, you can make your own nutritional choices.

Sarbar, our own trail chef <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />, has an excellent backpacking foods website. Give it a visit.....
http://www.trailcooking.com
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#107716 - 12/08/08 10:37 AM Re: MREs vs. Dried food? [Re: Dryer]
sarbar Offline
member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 1453
Loc: WA
No need to dry stuff if you don't want to these days! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> So many options out there both in stores and online to make your own meals with. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />
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#107717 - 12/08/08 11:59 AM Re: MREs vs. Dried food? [Re: Dryer]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Dryer, those heater meals you linked to, they are repackaged MRE's. They have the same type heater, and the same type of main meal packaging. The difference is that they come in a box instead of a bag, and there probably isn't as much extra stuff.

Now to the MRE's... MRE's are a great choice in the following situations.

-You break them down and take out all the non-needed stuff.
- you are only going for a few days.
- You don't want a hot drink or plan to boil any water, so no stove, pot, fuel.

Most people like hot liquids. If you are one of them, forget the MRE. If you are one of those who wants to do the no-cooking trip, throw a main meal and heater every couple of days to give you a hot meal. It is better than eating cliff bars the whole time, and you still don't need a pot, stove or fuel. Some day I am going to bring a main meal packet and a heater to work and weigh it on the 5 point scale. Then I will do a weight comparison and see how many days the benefit lasts (not many, I am sure). Just wanted to throw this out before the MRE bashing begins. I think they have their place for some. Incidentally, you can make your own MRE type meal and use the heater, if you want a "special" one.

Now for the original question... Follow everyone's advice and go to sarbar's site. It will cover it all. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
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#107718 - 12/08/08 01:49 PM Re: MREs vs. Dried food? [Re: finallyME]
Dryer Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/05/02
Posts: 3582
Loc: Texas
Quote:
Dryer, those heater meals you linked to, they are repackaged MRE's


Ya think? I saw those things (HeaterMeals) when I toured the Dallas Red Cross last year. They come in a little tv dinner tray, much smaller than an MRE pack, with no extras. I wonder if they have the same chemical smell as MREs?
No matter....it's too easy to heat and eat other, fresher stuff. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />

I view MRE's and HeaterMeals to be military or disaster relief meals, as they were intended. In a disaster, grocery shopping can be rather non-existent.
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#107719 - 12/08/08 03:38 PM Re: MREs vs. Dried food? [Re: MikeyMike]
Fiddleback Offline
member

Registered: 06/22/04
Posts: 478
Loc: Northern Rockies
My trail breakfasts, lunches and snacks are usually combinations of mostly ready to eat or 'instant' store bought foods. My dinner meal is virtually always food that I've dehydrated...but I've never used a dehydrator (for that purpose). While I concede that dehydrators may do a better job (lower temps, finer control, better venting), I simply don't feel the need to buy one nor did I relish the clean up during times I did use an old dehydrator that was given to me.

Cookie sheets/jelly roll pans in the oven work quite nicely for me.

Sarbar's site/writings show how to reconstitute dehydrated foods in freezer bags...one of the greatest combinations of concepts in backpacking. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

FB
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#107720 - 12/08/08 04:38 PM Re: MREs vs. Dried food? [Re: MikeyMike]
Folkalist Offline
member

Registered: 03/17/07
Posts: 374
Loc: Fredericksburg, VA
As most here have already said, go to Sarbar's site.

(All hail Sarbar. All hail Sarbar. Freezer bag devotees throw rose petals at Sarah's feet . . .) <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/laugh.gif" alt="" />

Seriously, the freezer bag cooking concept, whether you actually use bags or just use her recipes in a pot, is fantastic.

I can't tolerate the sodium in so many of the freeze dried meals. And they never seem to completely reconstitute. I hate stone hard peas. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" />

Things you can get from the grocery that I love on the trail: Clif bars (already mentioned), chocolate, dried fruit, chocolate, Special K meal bars, chocolate, almonds, chocolate, pouch tuna and salmon (not too many bears round here), lots and lots of pasta, chocolate, instant oatmeal, chocolate . . .
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#107721 - 12/08/08 07:08 PM Re: MREs vs. Dried food? [Re: MikeyMike]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Yep. we are all fans of the FBC style of backcountry cooking here no doubt about it. Sarbar is a genius!

But now let me play devil's advocate for a moment. There are times when an MRE (or at least a non-dehydrated meal) might be superior. That struck me the other day when I was out hiking and it was cold enough that there was no liquid water to be found. So I carried both my dehydrated food and the water to re-hydrate it on my back. So where's the advantage? Now if there were snow to melt it would be a different story. But there's no snow here yet.

Well of course one advantage is that by doing FBC using Sarbar's recipes you can have a dinner that is tastier than an MRE. But the point remains that the dehydration per se didn't save you any weight. So carrying a fully hydrated meal like an MRE isn't that crazy sometimes.

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#107722 - 12/08/08 08:35 PM Re: MREs vs. Dried food? [Re: Heber]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Quote:

Well of course one advantage is that by doing FBC using Sarbar's recipes you can have a dinner that is tastier than an MRE. But the point remains that the dehydration per se didn't save you any weight. So carrying a fully hydrated meal like an MRE isn't that crazy sometimes.


Heber, you can make your own fully hydrated meal, put it in the same size bag as the MRE, and use the heater. You can buy the heaters separate as well. You would need a heat sealer and heat seal bags to do this. A vacuum sealer can do this, just don't vacuum seal it.

And, if you have a bunch of heaters, and an empty water bottle, and want to play a fun joke.....never mind. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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#107723 - 12/08/08 08:48 PM Re: MREs vs. Dried food? [Re: Heber]
sarbar Offline
member

Registered: 07/15/05
Posts: 1453
Loc: WA
I would hedge that where a MRE can be better is in low water situations (for example in the desert where you must carry uh...a gallon or more a day?). Then you can drink the water you carry and not use it in cooking.
Though with MRE's you will want to drink a lot - they can er...bind you up!

MRE's are also excellent for long term storage in emergency kits in cars/homes.
_________________________
Freezer Bag Cooking, Trail Cooking, Recipes, Gear and Beyond:
www.trailcooking.com

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