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Recently I came across pour and store bags. They seem a bit similar to the bags for trekking freeze-dried meals like Travel lunch. That gave me the idea of preparing the meals myself beforehand and packing them into such bags. It sounds easy & clean on the hike: just take out the bag for one meal, pour hot water into it and wait a while. The bags could be reused, which is a plus.

Is something like this a common practice? Which kind of bags would be good for it? (I mean, it has to be 101% food safe and withstand the hot water.) I do realize there’s only so much variety of such meals that I can prepare at home without freeze drying, but I don’t mind. I’m mainly curious if the system works and what bags to use.

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Seems the waste of plastic, potential for chemical leaching (heat and plastics), potential for catastrophic failure leaves me wondering the advantage? I've never had a pot that couldn't be cleaned with a little water and elbow grease. –  LBell Mar 21 '12 at 11:09
    
I wouldn’t think about it if I could not reuse the bags. I figured that with a decent thickness they should be quite durable. Washing the pot takes time and water, and sometimes both are precious (like when sleeping in a bivy sack in the winter or rain). –  zoul Mar 21 '12 at 17:15
    
This isn't really any different to how army rations and MRE (meals ready to eat) are packaged and eaten from - if you can find out what material they use, then I'd suggest sourcing bags made from the same stuff. –  HorusKol Mar 29 '12 at 6:16
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2 Answers 2

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I use this system exclusively, and there's an entire site dedicated to the variety of ways you can do it. I think it is generally called "freezer bag cooking", and the main site I'm aware of is called TrailCooking.

I've always used ziplocks marked as "freezer bags" from the grocery store, but those ones you found seem like they would be perfect.

There's some more information in a different question too.

At it's most basic, I've taken a ramen noodle pack, emptied it into a ziplock, then emptied the flavour pack in there too. On the trail, boil 2 cups of water, throw it in the ziplock, zip it closed, and then wait 5-10 minutes. If it's cold out, you might put the ziplock in your hat to keep it better insulated, or put it between layers of your clothes (bonus of keeping you warm while you wait!).

There's a couple downsides to freezer bag cooking:

  • You essentially waste the bags, they aren't very reusable after you fill them with hot water
  • Sometimes the bags get little pinprick holes in them if you aren't careful (i.e. ramen can be sharp if it's crushed in your backpack). So when you pour in the hot water, you get hot water everywhere!

Good upsides though!

  • Very little mess on the trail, just seal up the bag when you're done!
  • no cleaning dishes
  • fast and simple on trail
  • lightweight because all you need to do is boil water, you can use the lightest stoves - alcohol, esbit, or tiny canister stoves
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Are there any concerns about the safety of this practice? At a glance I saw these two references that concern me: ziploc.com/Pages/Safety.aspx , which says that ziplocks are not designed to withstand the heat of boiling, and camping.about.com/od/campingrecipes/a/ziplocbaggies.htm I wasn't sure if those were worth worrying about, but... –  Greg.Ley Mar 21 '12 at 6:10
    
I dunno, you can microwave ziplock bags (according to them), so how dangerous can it be to add hot water to them? I suppose if you were concerned though, there are other brand bags that expressly support boiling water, i.e. "FoodSaver" bags. –  Ryley Mar 21 '12 at 15:40
    
The manufacturer says you can microwave the bags, but the bags are only known to withstand “defrosting and reheating” temperatures, not boiling. Pouring hot water into the bag ought to be fine by this logic, but I guess that’s subjective. –  zoul Mar 21 '12 at 17:35
    
I think the answer to "how dangerous could it be?" is "it depends." Long term misuse could result in ingesting a lot of excess chemicals, and in the short term if you don't let the water cool enough you might melt the plastic and hurt yourself or lose your meal. Being careful to not add boiling water directly to a bag is probably the most important safety factor. –  Greg.Ley Mar 21 '12 at 19:17
    
...Except that I've done it literally hundreds of times (added boiling water to a ziplock) and never had it melt :) –  Ryley Mar 21 '12 at 20:44
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I use Nalgene bottles (much more heat resistant) for rehydrating dried meat or beans. I pour in boiling water, leave the lid loose until it cools a little (otherwise it shrinks in the bottle walls and cracks them) and then tighten the lid and carry the bottle with me through the day. At dinner time it goes into a pot to be the start of a meal. The bottles are tougher than bags, and reusable any number of times.

I am not sure I see the advantage of the bags. Surely you still need some sort of pot to actually boil the water in? So you can't just travel without pots, it's just about saving on dishes? Ramen noodles don't exactly get a pot filthy. Because I'm canoeing, there's always lake water to wash dishes in. Maybe things are different when you're hiking.

The concept is a good one though - once you introduce dried food to boiling water, you don't necessarily have to keep it on the stove. Since I take only one stove, often I'll cook one part of the meal, take that pot aside and wrap it in a towel to keep warm, and cook the other part. (Eg spaghetti sauce keeps warm while I cook pasta, or stew keeps warm while I cook rice.)

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Just a small note - according to Leave No Trace, you should not be washing your dishes in the lake, but you can definitely take lake water away from the lake and pour your "grey" dishwater on the ground a short distance away from the lake. –  Michael Kopinsky Jul 30 '12 at 4:09
    
Indeed, we get water from the lake, warm it in a pot, and then after using it toss it in the bushes a decent way back from the water. So we wash in lake water, but not in the lake. –  Kate Gregory Jul 30 '12 at 11:37
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