About Rachael

My friend, Peggy lays claim to being the “Laziest Backpacker Ever.”  Pretty bold claim.  “Stubbornest Backpacker,” maybe, but that is another post. In any case, Peggy has logged so many miles, that it would be stupid to not pay attention to some of what she does on the trail.

My favorite lazy trick of Peggy’s is to reuse backpacker meal bags to cook no-dishes dinner.

A Rant

The Good:

Most backpacker meals come in lightweight “2-serving” bag. Aside from being “just add water” (and a lot of patience for it to re-hydrate), these meals have the HUGE benefit of being to eat them straight from the bag.  When your done just  roll up the bag and stick it at the bottom of you trash baggie.

So, why not just use backpacker meals?

The 2 servings are either too little if the meal is reasonably good or way too much if the food sucks. In addition, at retail prices of between $5 and $10 per bag (or more) they’re not financially friendly for more than a few days.

The other thing I hate about most of these meals is that bags are inflated (no doubt for some good freshness-preserving reason) so they take up a huge amount of space in a pack, or worse, a bear can. I’ve been getting Mountain House ProPaks which are vacuum-packed and relatively compact.  They claim to be 2-serving bags, but if I were trying to share one of these with out some serious appetizers, I’d be pretty unhappy.  I can put one away all by myself, but do feel like a rolly-polly marmot afterward.

Is there a way to get the best of the pre-made meals, eat the amount you want, and leave pot-washing behind?

The Technique

The key here is reuse the pre-made meal bags with either a home-made concoction or the right amount of the pre-made stuff.  When a bag gets used, it gets salvaged at the trailhead vs. getting dumped with the rest of the trip trash.  At home give them a good soak & scrub, then a soak with a ten percent bleach solution.  Follow up with a rinse and drying in the sun.  When dry, store in a another baggie (to keep them clean) for your next trip.

When you are ready to eat, fill with the amount of dried food you’ll eat in one sitting, add hot water, etc… Note that you’ll want to use a bag size appropriate to the re-hydrated food volume!

I tried this once on my last trip.  The technique worked well, but I needed noodles that were going to cook faster (or more patience).  Despite my so-so noodle surprise,  I’m a believer now, I just need to improve this lazy backpacker strategy with some better recipes.   I’d ask Peggy, but she’s kinda’ known for not spending a lot of time in the kitchen.


  • No pot or bowl to wash!
  • Not dumping food residue in the wilderness
  • Save money by not buying the expensive backpacker meals for every meal (if you do that)


  • A little more weight to carry for multiple dinner bags
  • A little more money to invest in the backpacker meals initially (if you never use them)

Rebecca on packing with sweet little Maggie:

No. 1 Tip

Have an awesome strong backpacking buddy to help schlep gear.

Baby Schlepping

Rebecca carrying sleeping Maggie on her front. 2012, Kern Headwaters. 3 Chicks, 4 Guys, 1 Baby, 3 Kayaks, 1 Helicopter.

Rebecca carrying awake Maggie on her back. 2012, Kern Headwaters.

As for carrying the baby, the Ergo carrier worn on the front is key, it distributes the baby’s weight well on you and you can easily go for miles w/out much back pain. Until Maggie was about 7 months old I’d carry her in the Ergo on my front and wore a normal backpack on my back (w/a light load). Once over 7 months, I bought the Osprey backpack baby carrier (which has tons of compartments for storage) and still carried my Ergo which I wore on my front. I’d switch Maggie on and off front to back; when she was awake I’d carry her on my back and asleep, I carried her on my front.  I had a stuff sack that I’d put where ever Maggie was not. Switching up the baby from front to back made it tolerable to carry her for long strenuous days.

Snuggy Sleeping

For sleeping, I’m not a huge fan of the co sleeping thing so I bring an extra large down jacket and a ½ a piece of a foam pad which I put inside the down jacket so the pad doesn’t move around.  When cold I put Maggie in a down snow suite, otherwise known as her Adventure Suite, and then zip her in the jacket – works great.  Before bedtime, I use the same jacket as my personal jacket to keep warm so I’m carrying a jacket I’d be carrying anyway, just a few sizes larger.  Another cool thing is if it’s super cold outside, I can zip the jacket over both of us while carrying her in the front Ergo carrier.

Diaper Dilemma

Diapers are a big one, sucks.  On short trips, I just carry the disposable diaper out.  Long trips, I bring biodegradable diapers and wipes and then each night, toss them on the campfire (some areas you can’t have camp fires, If I’m in these areas, I don’t spend anymore then 3 nights) – yeah pooh fire!  Not a fan of the cloth diapers because it’s super gross washing them (definitely can’t be washing diapers in a stream, not cool) and, if the weather is bad, they won’t dry.

Mother’s Milk

Under 6 months is the best time to go backpacking, all you need is plenty of water for yourself and a boob for the baby!

6 month to a year; the boob and things like pea soup, hummus, dehydrated egg (anything mushy). If it’s a short trip they make these squeeze tubes of baby food that are perfect!

One year was a little trickier for us because Maggie was done w/breastfeeding. In this case (like on our 12-day Kern River Headwaters trip) I brought toddler formula (nice and light and very nutritious) and then fed her everything we ate; I just made sure all of our meals were 1-year old friendly and added things like dried coconut, dried bananas and flaxseed to our oatmeal every morning. One extra thing I did bring for her was peanut butter (she couldn’t eat the whole nuts that we were eating in our trail mix).

If you’re going to try out new foods on your baby while backpacking, I highly recommend doing so in stages before you set out for your adventure – this way you’re sure your kid will actually eat the new food and that she has no allergies to the new food.

Child’s Play

I bring a few small toys but best to teach your kid to play with “icks,” “ocks,” and “ones” (sticks, rocks and cones) – start teaching them to use their imagination.

Stick to It

Even if you don’t usually use them, use walking poles when carrying your baby, it’ll save you more then once from tripping.

[Editor's note: Maggie has been on more backpacking trips than I have!.  Also, Rebecca what are you going to do with baby no. 2?]

Peggy on luring newbies to the trail:

The indulgences afforded by mules.  2003, Duck Lake, 8 Women, 3 Dogs, 1 Almost-Wedding.

… I thought about Beman’s ‘newbie’ introduction ideas a bit more…decided I disagree ENTIRELY with the ‘ruff start’ intro….impossible to ‘hook’ some folks if you actually make them CARRY the pack the first time!  The pain will overwhelm the gain unless they are a little weird.

*cocktails/appetizers RULE!

YOU must also take them to an eye-popping high basin FIRST time; make sure the F-in bugs have gone to bed for the year (or aren’t awake yet)..mule-carry ENTRY, then help them load up & walk downhill (3-4 miles?) to EXIT.

Bonus: one way WHINE as well..due to lovely (clueless) day hike IN.

LOVE Ann’s idea about the ‘mentoring’ though, that is huge. *an experienced buddy who brings the 2man tent, the stove/fuel. This ‘mentor’ can help newbie pack/weigh ALL of it @ home ahead…let them try it on & walk around the living room…then DON’T let them see the SOB until they are ready to exit paradise!

Couldn’t resist sharing those ‘TRICKS’ (literally).

[Editor's note: I have been a "victim" these tricks.]