For most of us, the key to freeing up space in our packs comes down to simply bringing less stuff. In previous posts we've mentioned how the 10 essentials are really all you need. However, there comes a point when you're bringing exactly what you need, and you still don't seem to have enough space. This reality can definitely be true on trips longer than a week. I've been on several thru hikes where bear canisters are required and I needed to pack over a week's worth of food into my bear canister. It wasn't easy, but luckily I figured out a few tips that help out tremendously. Even though these tips helped me pack for a long trip, they are helpful for shorter trips as well.
#1) Combine Meals & Reduce Packaging
The packaging that dehydrated meals come in traps excess air, which takes up additional space. I personally combine three meals that are the same flavor in one resealable bag. I throw two of the original bags away and keep one to do all my cooking in. By combining meals into one resealable bag you eliminate extra packaging, eliminate trapped air, save a lot of space, and reduce the overall weight. The weight savings isn't substantial, but every little bit helps. Some backpackers carry toothpaste dots to save weight and the dots really only save you about .2 oz...That's not much at all. If you get rid of 2 dehydrated meal bags after combining the contents in one resealable bag, you typically will save .4 oz or more. The point is, you save a lot of space, and get a secondary benefit in the process. Win. Win.
#2) Use Original Packaging To Cook In On The Trail
When you're ready to eat your meal on the trail, simple pour the dehydrated food out of the resealable bag and into the original package that you saved. Boil up some water, pour the water in your meal, and wait. This process will be exactly the same as your typical process. Once you're done with your meal, rinse out the bag with boiling water and pack it away. By cooking in the bag, you avoid cooking in your pot. That's a good thing, because the bags are much easier to rinse out, your food doesn't burn and stick to anything, and the bag can go in your bear canister at the end of the day. Most pots won't fit in a bear canister. This means that unless you're hanging your food very carefully you may be exposing yourself to a higher degree of risk for a wildlife encounter...After all, just because you couldn't eat the food left clinging to your pot, that doesn't mean an animal won't want to try.
It doesn't matter if you make your own dehydrated meals or pre-made meals, you'll save a substantial amount of space by combining all the food into one resealable bag. The resealable bag will trap less air, weigh less than the original packaging, and do a better job of conforming to the space it's placed in. This method makes cleanup a snap and can even reduce your risk of having a wildlife encounter.
How To Free Up Space In Your Backpack
By Chris Martin
August 25, 2015
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