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Philmont cooking
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Ernie Delcher
(EFD57) - F

Locale: Northern New Jersey
Philmont cooking on 02/09/2012 09:10:16 MST Print View

Below is a summary of the 6 methods I’ve seen used to “cook” Philmont meals.

1 - Philmont method (old) - Place all dry ingredients & water in a large pot, stir, bring to a boil, simmer and serve into bowls.

Pro - Very simple, Everyone eats the same meal (could also be a con)

Con - Large crew needs large pot (heavy), Need to stir large pot while it is on a small stove (safety?), All ingredients combined into one meal (unappealing to many), 2 pots needed, 2nd used to heat water for cleaning, Crew bowls need to be cleaned, Pot needs to be cleaned, Obsolete - current meals do not need to be cooked (just rehydrated)

2 - Philmont method (current) - Boil water in large pot, remove pot from stove, add dry ingredients, stir, cover, wait, and serve into bowls.

Pro - Very simple, Measure cold water (safe), Everyone eats the same meal (could also be a con),

Con - Large crew needs large pot (heavy), Large pot on small stove, 2 pots needed, 2nd used to heat water for cleaning, Crew bowls need to be cleaned, Pot needs to be cleaned

3 - Turkey bag method - Measure cold water and boil in pot 1, put turkey bag into pot 2 with dry ingredients, add boiled water, stir, cover, wait, and serve into bowls.

Pro - Simple, Measure cold water (safe), Everyone eats the same meal (could also be a con), Large pot w/cozy (for rehydrating) is on ground (not on small stove), Water pot used to heat cleanup water while eating, No pot to clean

Con - Large crew needs large pot (heavy), Careful stirring required (don’t break turkey bag), 2 pots needed, Extra trash (turkey bag), Crew bowls need to be cleaned

4 - Rehydrate in bag method - Boil water, add boiled water to food bag, stir, seal, place in cozy, wait, and serve into bowls.

Pro - Buddy pairs can eat different meals (could also be a con), Cleanup water ready (or heat more while eating), Large pot not needed, Only 1 pot needed to heat water (depending on crew size), No pot to clean, One from each pair can eat out of the bag (less bowls to clean)

Con - Must measure hot water (safety), Careful stirring of bag required (bag will be hot, avoid spills, don’t break bag), Careful placement of hot bags needed while food is rehydrating, Crew bowls need to be cleaned

5 - Rehydrate in bowl method - Boil water, split dry ingredients in 1/2 and put in bowls, add boiled water, stir, cover, wait, and eat.

Pro - Buddy pairs can eat different meals (could also be a con), Cleanup water ready (or heat more while eating), Large pot not needed, Only 1 pot needed to heat water (depending on crew size), No pot to clean

Con - Must accurately divide dry ingredients, Must measure hot water (safety), Careful stirring required (avoid spills), Need cover for bowls, Meal sometimes not properly rehydrated (crunchy), Crew bowls need to be cleaned

6 - Rehydrate in bag & eat out of bag method - Boil water, add boiled water to food bag, stir, seal, place in cozy, wait, move 1/2 of meal to another bag.

Pro - Buddy pairs can eat different meals (could also be a con), Cleanup water ready (or heat more while eating), Large pot not needed, Only 1 pot needed to heat water (depending on crew size), No pot to clean, Eat out of bag (No crew bowls to clean)

Con - Must measure hot water (safety), Careful stirring of bag required (bag will be hot, avoid spills, don’t break bag), Careful placement of hot bags needed while food is rehydrating, Move 1/2 of the meal to another bag, Extra bag needed for 2nd person (more trash) or careful planning needed to use available bags, Need to carry bowl for chuck wagon meals (depending on itinerary)

There are variations for each method (like use 2 smaller pots instead of 1 large) but I think I have listed the basic concept of each.

The following applies to all methods...
1. If you are not a cook, stay out of the kitchen
2. Cooks, be careful around stoves and hot water
3. Prepare only what you will consume
4. Be careful with open dry ingredients (no spills)
5. Measure water accurately
6. Measure boiling water carefully
7. Stir completely and carefully to properly rehydrate
8. Be careful with rehydrated food (bags will be hot, no spills)
9. Consume everything you prepare (minimize what goes into the yum-yum bag).

Let me know if I have missed anything major and what you use.

Leaning towards using method 4 (or maybe #3).


Edited by EFD57 on 02/17/2012 12:34:43 MST.

Mark Rash
(markrvp) - M

Locale: North Texas
Freezer Bag Cooking on 02/09/2012 18:55:55 MST Print View


I currently have in my possession NINETY (90) bags of Philmont Food that my two crews will be using on shakedown campouts in March and April. There are 10 different meal packs and I have examined all of them to determine exactly what we will need to successfully prepare these meals. Based on what I have experimented with, you can NOT depend on method 4 for all of the meals. Here's why:

1. The Mountain House rehydrateable meals are NOT in resealable retail packages... they are in cheaper plastic bags. I have doubts as to whether the bag will hold enough water for both portions. Even if it will, you will have to be very careful not to tip the bag over.

2. Some of the meals have multiple components. For example, one dinner has a package of Kraft Easy Mac MICROWAVEABLE macaroni & cheese. Did you catch that it's MICROWAVEABLE macaroni & cheese? That meal also has freeze dried peas that are vacuum sealed in a small pouch. Neither pouch is suitable for rehydrating.

I would suggest you use method 6 with the following change - divide the food into two separate freezer bags BEFORE you add the hot water. Rehydrate right in the freezer bag and then eat out of the bag.

It's my opinion that using the freezer bag accomplishes 3 things:
1. No cleaning of pots or bowls
2. Reduces amount of water needed as you don't need hot water for cleaning
3. Reduces weight and bulk of pots needed

BTW, here is how I prepared the EZ Mac:

1.) Boil water and combine macaroni and 2/3 cup boiling water in a freezer bag.
2.) Place that freezer bag in boiling water for 4 minutes to actually cook the macaroni.
3.) Pour cheese powder into freezer bag and mix together with spoon
4.) Eat

If you want the peas, combine everybody's peas into a gallon size freezer bag and add the appropriate amount of boiling water. One it rehydrates have the scouts scoop peas into their macaroni.

Jay Klustner
(jklustner) - F
Re: Freezer Bag Cooking on 02/09/2012 19:46:03 MST Print View

Hey Ernie,

Our crew went last summer. We didn't have an ultralight mindset, but we were cutting wight here and there. We used the freezer bag method, though while your ranger is with you, they "advise" that they teach you the Philmont method. The Philmont method works well, but after a long day of hiking, the last thing on your mind is cleaning your dishes. When we did use the freezer bag method, we used rocks as a pot. This way you don't need a second large pot. It worked surprisingly well.

Hope this helps,
J. Klustner

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Philmont cooking on 02/10/2012 07:27:48 MST Print View

My vote is #5 - Rehydrate in bowl method.

On our Philmont treks we fiddled with the turkey bag method. It's OK but complicated. Our rangers never had an issue with our cooking style. Our crews only used multiple 2L pots to heat water.

On multiple trips since Philmont we've moved to rehydrating food in a bowl. It's much easier. We've had no spilled food. And since we have to wash bowls in any case it involves a minimal amount of washing.

A refinement we've added on several trips is to have everyone use a disposable plastic bowl. My preference is a 24 ounce Glad bowl with a lid. We've made a cozy for the bowls from Reflectix material.

Using a plastic bowl still allows you to dunk in hot water to sterilize per Philmont policy. That also is a great opportunity for everyone to get their hands washed.

Ernie Delcher
(EFD57) - F

Locale: Northern New Jersey
Re: Freezer Bag Cooking on 02/10/2012 10:57:13 MST Print View


WOW! 90 is alot but it is great that you will have solid experience when you hit the trail (no surprises). I plan on ordering some but probably not that much.

Not sure what they are thinking giving microwavable food out (What's up with that?).

The peas are not a problem for me as that is what the swap-box is for. ;-) Forcing scouts to gut-sump peas that no one wants is not a place I want to visit. Aren't the leaders on vacation???

Splitting dry ingredients could be tricky (into a bowl or freezer bag). A good/bad split will effect the rehydrating (one too wet, the other too dry). Also one may get too much spices and the other not enough.

How will you accurately split the dry ingredients so both freezer bags get 1/2?

Do any meals require an odd measure of hot water that you have to split in half (like 2 & 1/4 cups)?

Most freezer bag manufacturers don't recommend putting boiling water into their bags (liability?). What type of bag are you using?

Do you use a cozy while rehydrating?

Do you need a spoon with a long handle to eat out of the bag?


Mark Rash
(markrvp) - M

Locale: North Texas
re: Freezer Bag Cooking on 02/10/2012 15:15:50 MST Print View

Hi Ernie:

I had all the same concerns you do about freezer bag cooking. Our practice has shown it works just fine. Rehydrating in a freezer bag is just like rehydrating in a 3 cup bowl, only you don't have to wash the bag afterwards. Here are answers to your questions:

1. It's not too hard to evenly divide the dry ingredients. First, shake up the original bag to get the spices off the bottom of the bag. Have one scout hold two quart-size freezer bags while his buddy pours dry food into each bag. Since the bags are clear and side by side, it's easy to tell when they have an equal amount of dry food.

2. Some meals like the breakfast skillet call for 1-1/2 cups, so each freezer bag would get 3/4 cup of water. It's a good idea to have an advisor handy just to make sure everybody's math is the same.

3. The freezer bag companies are just covering their bases. We always use Zip Lock brand Heavy Duty Freezer Bags and have never had an issue. We use these bags to pour boiling water into for rehydrating, and also to put in boiling water (as when doing omelettes in a bag)

4. Yes, each freezer bag goes in a cozy (but will still work without one). I bought a cozy bag from Anti Gravity Gear that is 1.8oz. My mom made some others that are just 1.2oz. Those have a nylon material shell with Insulbright insulation on the inside. I actually like the ones my mom made better.

5. Yes, a long-handle spoon works better. The cheapest ones are the GSI Rehydrate Spoon at $1.95/spoon I've been thinking about getting a Vargo Titanium Long Handle Spoon as I broke one of the GSI spoons during my second weekend of Woodbadge (trying to stir 4 cans of chili in a 4qt pot with it). I have 3 other GSI spoons that have lasted over a year, though, so under normal care they're fine.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Rehydrate in a Bag then Eat Out of the Bag Method (Simplest & Lightest approach) on 02/13/2012 00:10:48 MST Print View

Our Philmont crews used method #6 (= generally the lightest & easiest logistically), with a few differences that mitigate the previously perceived "cons":

1.) Measurement of the water - We used a lighten up plastic ladle (1.2 oz). Figured out the number of ladle pours per cup before our training hikes (so we could practice during the training hikes). A ladle is much safer than lifting a pot of boiling water.
One important safety tip: we also practiced holding bag from the upper corner - ALWAYS above where the hot water being poured from the ladle (NEVER below, such as pouring the water in the bag while it is being cupped in a hand) - to avoid the possibility of a spilled scalding water accident,

2.) For almost all cases, we used the bag the dehydrated meal came in. Since the bags contained 2 meals, 1/2 was poured (dry) into a zip-lock bag (a quart size) and the other 1/2 stayed in the bag it came in. No bowls needed & no bowls to clean.

3.) For chuck wagon dinners (Beaubien) - no bowl needed - use take a gallon sized bag. Why not a standard quart size? Because the servers are nervous about pouring hot food into a smaller quart sized bag.

4.) Trash bags - One or two of the used zip-lock meal bags became the trash holders for the rest of used & dirty bags. Very simple clean up: Have I already mentioned NO bowls to clean?

5.) Eating Utensil - A long handled spoon. A spoon will minimize puncture potential. The one from a McDonald’s Flurry is particularly durable and an inexpensive way to go (="free").
Clean-up Process: Lick clean. Sanitize before use by dipping it in boiling water (= the same boiling water for the next day's meal).

6.) Buddy System for Meals - The Scouts were paired up to be eating buddies for the trek, since Philmont's food packages are designed to feed two.

Edited by tr-browsing on 02/27/2015 11:44:44 MST.

eating freezer bag food. on 02/13/2012 16:36:43 MST Print View

easiest way to eat rehydrated meal out of ziplock:

Pour off any extra liquid if its too soupy, or add potatoe flakes to thicken.

Seal up hot ziplock, hold in bandana if necessary,( usually knead like this to mix well anyway). Bite, tear, or cut open a bottom corner, and simply squeeze the food out into your mouth rolling/folding up the bag as you go. You get every bit of food, with no mess on hands, clothing, spills, etc. No spoon needed. Even large chunks go thru a pretty small hole.

Glenn Smith

Locale: Southern Arizona
Philmont Cooking on 02/14/2012 11:44:00 MST Print View


Our Crews have never used Philmont's method. Just way too much weight but the purists may disagree. I will be making my fourth trek this year. The whole process hinges on what works best for your Crew. We essentially use method #4 but we have practiced others. There is a risk - reward involved. Our concern has always been about working within Philmont's parameters in terms of safety and bear procedures. With that being said, the boys felt that there was just too much risk involved in the individual food bags and cozies. I had even made individual cozies for everyone last year but we went back to one or two turkey bags in their own individual large cozies for each dinner meal. The boys felt that the risk of spilling boiling water and the risk of spilling food on the ground was increased with the individual bags. We also felt that carrying the extra bag weight really didn't make much sense. Since Philmont was stressing Leave Know Trace with the Wilderness Guia program, the boys agreed that a little cleaning of bowls was not a huge deal.

Our Crew size has allowed us to only take one 2L Jetboil Helios but it should work regardless of Crew size. In almost all cases, one pot of water will rehydrate the dinner meals for our Crew size. But since the Jetboil heats water so quickly, additional water is easily boiled and added if more is required. We take a MSR Spoon/Ladle but find that rough water measurement using the pot works just fine. The cooks use the ladle to distribute food.

We place the food in the turkey bag which we place inside of one of the Philmont meal bags in case of a leak. That gets placed in a cozy. While the food is rehydrating, the guys heat another pot of water to sterilize our GSI plastic bowls and the plastic sporks. Holes are drilled in the bowls and in the sporks. A golf towel clip is tied to a piece of Kelty Triptease cord which is then used to dunk the bowls and sporks in the water for sterilizing. By the time that is done, the meal is normally ready. The water that remains in used to clean the dishes and then is sumped. If the cooks have done a good job with the rehydrating water there is normally no food sumping needed.

My son is on the winter staff at Philmont packaging meals so I have a little inside knowledge of what to expect this summer. Remember, the KISS system works best for the dinner meals. We never used the breakfast skillet meal. The boys decided to trade the bags for other stuff in the swap boxes thus eliminating cooking at breakfast. They did the same thing with the cold prep lunch. Their call ~ not mine. It certainly made things a lot easier and quicker.

Whatever your Crew decides, keep it is as simple as possible. I endorse Mark's method of practicing. Get some Philmont trail meals or make your own using their menu then let your guys practice.

PM me if you would like pictures of our set-up.


Ernie Delcher
(EFD57) - F

Locale: Northern New Jersey
Re: Freezer Bag Cooking on 02/17/2012 12:21:43 MST Print View


Still trying to wrap my head around the bulk of 3 or 4 days food for a trek of 9 to 12 people.

Several members have posted pics of a food resuply. It looks like each meal is in a separate plastic bag but I can't be sure. A close up pic of a single, typical meal may be helpful.

Questions about the PSR meals you have...

Did you buy breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Does each meal serve 2?

Are the meals packed just like you would get them while on a trek?

Could you describe a typical meal (what is included, how many packages make up a meal, how is it packed)?

Can you describe what is done to break down a meal into a smaller and lighter package?


Edited by EFD57 on 02/17/2012 12:35:54 MST.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Re: Re: Freezer Bag Cooking on 02/17/2012 12:34:18 MST Print View

We bought several of each, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Yes, each meal serves 2 people.
Each 2 person meal comes in a single plastic bag.

I have a trail meal spreadsheet that shows every 2011 meal (10 different breakfasts, lunches and dinners) that I would be glad to e-mail to you if you wish. They are numbered from 1 - 10 and you generally have a different meal every day on the trail, but they are all pretty similar.

In general:

Breakfast is some kind of bar, dried fruit, maybe jerkey and a powdered drink mix
Lunch is crackers/biscuit, canned meat, corn nuts, trail mix, cookie, etc
Dinner is a dehydrated main meal, side dish, nuts, cookies or dessert

We never broke down meals, but I have heard that others have. I think most crews just pack them as they come.

Mark Rash
(markrvp) - M

Locale: North Texas
Breakfast Menu - Philmont on 02/17/2012 12:50:26 MST Print View

Hi Ernie:

Here are a few examples of what is included in a meal pack. As John said, each pack feeds two people. I'll post a few pictures in just a bit.

Breakfast #1
Cinn. Toast Crunch Cereal Bar
Olympic Granola – Honey Almond
Pineapple Chunks
Kashi Bar TLC
Apple Chips
Alpine Brand Apple Cider by Krusteaz

Breakfast #2
Jack Links Beef Jerky - Original
Oatmeal To Go – Oatmeal Raisin
Clif – Honey Oat Crunch Bar
Newton’s Fruit Crisp - Apple
Hot Cocoa

Lunch #7
Saltine Crackers
Canned Smoked Ham
Cajun Trail Mix
Honey Stinger Chews - Pomegranite
Clif Bar – Crunchy Peanut Butter
Gatorade – Fruit Punch

Lunch #8
Ritz Crackers
Squeeze Cheese - Cheddar
Nut & Chocolate Trail Mix
Nutter Butters
Halo Bar – Honey Graham
Gatorade – Lemon Lime

Dinner #2
Kraft Mac & Cheese Singles
Freeze Dried Peas
Fruit & Nut Trail Mix
Soft Batch Cookies

Dinner #3
Mountain House - Potatoes w/Beef & Onions
Salted Peanuts
Honey Mustard Bread Pieces
Teddy Grahams

Mark Rash
(markrvp) - M

Locale: North Texas
PhilFood Pictures on 02/17/2012 13:40:30 MST Print View

Here are some pictures of Philmont Food Packs. The first package is an unopened dinner pack that is a great example of the food bulk. This pack has a whole regular size box of Stove Top Stuffing. You could save a lot of bulk by taking the stuffing bag out of the box.

Philmont Dinner Pack

Here is a lunch pack. I've taken everything out so you can see just how much is included. It has dehydrated chicken salad that requires cold water to rehydrate. Also a whole box of crackers, Nutter Butters, Trail Mix, Honey Stinger Bars, and packs to make 2L of Gatorade

Philmont Lunch Pack

Here are the contents of a breakfast pack. The silver packets are powdered milk for the cereal.

Philmont Breakfast Pack

This picture shows how much room you can save by opening the bag and packing the items more tightly. Put everything flat stacked on top of each other and save a good 1/3 of space.

Philmont Food Compacted

Ernie Delcher
(EFD57) - F

Locale: Northern New Jersey
Re: Breakfast Menu - Philmont on 02/17/2012 20:13:53 MST Print View

Thank you John and Mark!

This is exactly what I was looking for. It's one thing to talk about it but much better to see it.


Wesley Witt

Locale: Northwest
Philmont cooking on 02/25/2012 21:03:27 MST Print View

I totally recommend the turkey bag method, and it does not require 2 pots. While at home do two things: 1) sew up or buy a couple of large cozies big enough for a full turkey bag, 2) buy a lightweight 4 quart aluminum pot. DO NOT use the Philmont cooking gear. It is too big and heavy and just unnecessary. A crew pot does not cost very much money and you'll be glad to have it. By using the turkey bag method you will NEVER wash a pot your entire trek. All you do is simply heat water, mix in the turkey bag and eat. When we went we also brought our own remote canister stoves -- no messing with smelly, white gas and have your food prepared faster and easier. We brought the stoves from home and then bought the gas canisters at the Albuquerque REI. When the trek was finished we returned the unused canisters for a full refund. I recommend practicing this on your crew's training hikes before getting to Philmont.

Ernie Delcher
(EFD57) - F

Locale: Northern New Jersey
Re: PhilFood Pictures on 02/29/2012 12:11:54 MST Print View

Mark (and others),

The more I think of it the more I am amazed at the PSR meals. Not at all what I thought they would be. I am surprised that these meals contain so much comercial, over the counter, product and trash!


While on trek (at base camp or during resupply) do you pick which meals you get or do they just give you the appropiate number of B-L-D's based on crew size and number of days you need to carry?

For any given meal, does every pair (in a crew) get the same meal or is it mixed?

Let's say a crew of 10 is carrying 3 days of food, that is 45 meal packs (15 B's, 15 L's, 15 D's). From an organizationl point of view, how do you distribute all of the meals amongst the crew? Does everyone take 4 or 5 random packs or do you try to organize it so the meals are together (i.e. one person carries the 1st dinner, another the 1st breakfast, etc.)?

Do you redistribute the load every morning to make it as even as possible or does the person that carries the first nights dinner get a lighter load on day two while everyone else stays the same?

So many questions...


Sarah Kuhn
(SCKuhn) - MLife

Locale: Mountainous Ohio
Philmont meal on 02/29/2012 14:27:27 MST Print View

Ernie -

The meals have become more 'commercialized' recently due to complaints from scouts that they wouldn't eat the off-brand or no name products (I'll save that rant for another time!)

Note in the pictures that the meals are numbered... Breakfast 1, lunch 1, dinner 1.... this continues through to day 10.
Meals are handed out based on what day you are on and how many people you have - typical crew, 12 people, you get 6 of B1, 6 of L1, 6 of D1, etc..... (one bag is food for 2 people).
Weight is an issue (lunch is usually the heaviest), so we have each tent pair (also food pair) carry their own meals - all of their breakfast, lunch & dinners. Then there is no need for redistribution each day and everyone has their own food. They get to figure out how to best distribute the items. (We usually remind the guys to pack todays lunch somewhere handy so they don't have to tear their pack apart when we stop for lunch) We have everyone eat the same meal - Lunch 1 on day 1. Philmont does put some thought behind what is packed in each days meal.
And NO you don't get to pick your meals..... you do get to pickup some fresh fruit, extra gatorage, or whatever you want out of the swap boxes when you do a food pickup.

Larry M
(Maethros) - MLife

Locale: Mid South
Re: Philmont meal on 02/29/2012 20:09:29 MST Print View

I believe my crew is using method 6 modified by dividing the meal into two freezer bags. We also have one of every meal from 2011 to study and use for shakedowns next month. Method 6M is exactly how we've rolled for the last several years on our troop backpacking trips, so eating at Philmont will be old hat for us.

The real benefit of getting the Philmont meals ahead of time is being able to demonstrate the weight and bulk and being able to check that packs have enough room to carry them.

Also, like Sarah, I hope to pair up the boys into tent/meal buddies and have them carry their own food and tent.

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Philmont Food on 04/08/2012 15:03:39 MDT Print View

Can you buy the same meals from Philmont that your crew will use there? We're going in 2013 and I'd like to do shakedowns with the same food so the guys can be familiar with the same food they'll be using.
I thru-hiked the AT last year and did freezer bag cooking all the way. I didn't wash a dish the entire five months.
For those who have done FBC at PSR can you buy freezer bags at the resupply points?
I assume they will take the packaging when you repackage your food into the ziplock bags.

Carl Zimmerman
(CarlZ993) - MLife
Freezer Bag Resupply @ PSR on 04/09/2012 06:10:23 MDT Print View

In the backcountry resupply stations, you can't buy replacement freezer bags (at least the last time I was there - 2010). Fuel, a few snacks (maybe), replacement spoon/spork, etc. If you decide to freezer bag cook for the entire trek, you'd need to have your supply w/ you at the start.