Do you often end up rushing around at the last minute to find some quick and easy food for your camping or hiking trip. There is nothing worse than finding out when its too late that you forgot the bread to make your sandwiches, there wasn’t enough gas left in your bottle to cook your barbeque meat, or you didn’t bring a big enough pot to fit your lamb shanks into. For some simple camp food options, don’t discount the idea of freeze dried or dehydrated food too quickly, despite what you may have heard, the ingredients are real food, they usually taste pretty good, and they are easy to prepare.
In this blog I have covered some of the quick, simple and lightweight options on the market today, they are worth considering if you are heading off on a last minute trip, and don’t have sufficient supplies in your pantry to feed your party. These options also have long shelf lives,require no refrigeration and are compact, so you could stock up ahead of time in preparation for that last minute adventure.
Freeze dried foods – i.e. Backcountry cuisine
- How is it made
- Food is rapidly frozen, then crystals of frozen ice in the food are evaporated to water vapour in a vacuum chamber in a process called sublimation.
- This removes more moisture than dehydrating.
- The food is heat sealed into foil packages, the air is removed and replaced with nitrogen gas.
- Products have up to a 3 year shelf life.
- Water is quickly absorbed back into the food through pores left by the escaping ice crystals.
- Food is prepared with hot water, and is quick (approx. 5 mins).
- Food does not shrink and retains much of its original shape, taste, texture and smell.
- Vitamins are retained in the food due to the low temperatures used when processing the food.
- Could be eaten raw, will be like crisps in texture.
- The freeze dry process removes up to 98% of moisture from the product. On average fruit contains up to 90% water, freeze dried foods are therefore extremely light weight.
- The freeze dry process requires expensive professional equipment and is hard to do at home.
- Even though the food has a title that makes it sound like a gourmet home cooked meal, and the taste is pretty good, it still has a consistency that is best eaten with a spoon.
- Extra water needs to be considered for food preparation, this is especially important when lightweight hiking.
- How is it made
- Dehydrated food is produced by passing warm air over the food for a period of time, evaporating the moisture from the product.
- This is a similar process to sun-dried foods.
- Products usually carry a 12 month shelf life.
- Can be done at home with relatively affordable equipment.
- Because the food shrivels, it is a better space saving method for storing or transporting food than freeze dried which retains much of its original shape.
- Generally less expensive than freeze dried foods.
- Dehydrating food does not remove quite as much water as the freeze dry method, but it is still a very lightweight option.
- Requires cooking/simmering to prepare, 10-20 mins in hot water.
- Because more heat is used in the drying process when compared to freeze drying, it is believed that dehydrated food has a slightly lower nutritional value than freeze dried foods.
- Can have a chewy texture when rehydrated.
- Extra water needs to be considered to prepare food, this is especially important when lightweight hiking.
Wet pack food
- How is it made
- This camp food is not dehydrated or freeze dried, it is fresh, pre-cooked food packed wet into pouches.
- The manufacture process produces a “retort” product, and is packaged the same way canned products are, only in a soft pouch.
- The retort packaging method involves cooking at high temperatures to kill all microorganisms.
- 18 months best before dates, not a use by date. This means that food quality degrades after 18 months, but the food is still safe to eat.
- Pouch is simply heated in a pot of boiling water.
- Requires less water for preparation, boiled water can be used for drinking or washing.
- Can be eaten cold.
- Has taste and consistency of home cooked meals.
- Heavy for hiking, better suited for camping or kayaking.
New for 2014 are Pre-Mix Damper packets from Camp Cooking to the Extreme. All you need is some water and a camp oven for easy and very tasty damper on your next camping trip.
So there you have it, a quick rundown on some quick and easy food options for your last minute camping or hiking trip. At Snowys we stock the full range of Back Country Cuisine and Outdoor Gourmet Company freeze dried foods. We believe that these products offer the best balance of price, weight, taste and ease of preparation for a wide range of outdoor adventures.
If you are an avid producer of home made quick and easy food for camping and hiking, we would love to hear about your favorite meals in the comments section below, or if your preference is to create a gourmet outdoor kitchen and produce some restuarant quality meals, then check out our other blogs Easy Camp Cooking for the Family and 3 Delicious Desserts around the Campfire!