Refining my backpacking cooking process.

Whew, almost one full year since I last posted a blog update. I have my reasons and we’ll see how much I decide to keep this updated moving forward. 
Rehydrating hiker meals in an insulated thermos in the back country.
I spent this past weekend messing around and experimenting in order to refine my cooking process on overnight hikes. Specifically with the intention of finding out if cooking in a food thermos was worth the efficiency to weight ratio. At one pound for the 500ml Esbit food thermos I wanted to be sure. 
Esbit 500ml Food Jug

I’ve been tossing around the idea of bringing a thermos to rehydrate my meals for some time. Currently I’ll put my dehydrated meals either in the wee plastic bowls that come with my cook set and then place them in a cozy to rest. Or I’ll cook directly in the pot over the flame.
Cooking in the pot over the flame results in the best texture/consistency … but it also results in the most cleanup in the form of cooked-on-mess. Also, now I have a dirty pot and if I want hot cleanup water I have to work through cleaning the pot before I boil fresh water or I have to bring a second pot.
The bowl and cozy method works too … but the bowl isn’t the best insulator and more than once I’ve spilled.
My first test was to see if the Esbit was any good at retaining its internal temperature over time out in cooler weather. 
So I filled the room temperature food jug with boiling water, closed the lid and put it outside in the shade where the ambient temperature was 3°c. 
I checked the water temp every hour for four hours. The Esbit performed beautifully with a water temperature of 135° after four hours outside.
After four hours in the shade in 3°c temps.
With the knowledge that the Esbit could retain temperatures like that my next step was to actually rehydrate a meal and see if it performed as well with consistency and edibility etc. 
I decided to start with a Knorr Rice Sidekicks meal. I know I like them, they rehydrate relatively easily and are usually a staple meal on my trips. 
First I weighed the contents of the package and split in half … I’ve learned I prefer to eat half a package at a time with some other food item as a meal. 
I added boiled water to the unprimed, room temperature thermos. Put the lid on, gave it a shake and put it outside in -7°c and set the timer to 15 minutes.
I could not be more pleased with the results! 
The food steamed up my lens when I got too close for a photo. There was very little water left. It was hot enough to nearly burn my tongue when I wasn’t smart and took a bite right away. The food was completely rehydrated, ready to eat. 
I’m counting this as a solid win, well worth the weight, and will be adjusting my hiking dinner plans accordingly.
I foresee a bunch of uses for the food thermos on upcoming hikes.
I can put soup in it at breakfast time so I have hot soup for lunch without having to pull out the stove on the trail.
I can do the same at dinner time so I have soup for just before bed to get the internal furnace going.
I can add dried fruit and cold water before going to bed so that I have fruit salad for breakfast before my coffee water is even heated up. 

3 thoughts on “Refining my backpacking cooking process.

  1. Great experiment!! Have you found that the thermos is easier to clean than a pot usedover a flame? I’ve only ever freezer bag cooked and am looking for more environmentally friendly options. Thanks!

    1. Yes, totally … don’t knock it until you try it but I can usually get the thermos quite clean by scraping it down with my spoon, then I swish it with water and drink it back. Hydration on the trail is always important … initially I thought I was going to have a problem with my “food soup” but honestly it doesn’t bug me at all. After that I can wipe it clean with a cloth. I’m generally only out a few days at a time so I worry about a good soap washing when I get home.

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