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)