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Individual servings or pack in bulk?
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Eileen Duncan
(eileensd) - MLife

Locale: The Sierra or the SF Bay Area
Individual servings or pack in bulk? on 07/10/2012 19:47:56 MDT Print View

I'm repackaging my food for the JMT and am wondering whether it's best to package for individual servings or in bulk. Space is a primary consideration (as is weight), as I need to get 10 days of food into a BearVault 500!! For instance, let's suppose I'm going to have 2 packages of oatmeal/day on 5 days. What are the pros/cons to 1) preparing 5 separate baggies holding 2 oatmeals each, and 2) putting all 10 original oatmeal packages into one big ziplock? This might sound a bit elementary, but if I go for the big bag, what's the best method you've used for measuring (don't want to go hungry on day 5!)?

I have a similar question about minute rice meals, Starbuck Vias, potatoes, trail mix, bulk purchased dehydrated soups, etc.


Edited by eileensd on 07/10/2012 19:51:03 MDT.

Kat ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Bulk on 07/10/2012 20:08:17 MDT Print View

I like to pack in bulk. Less bags, less trash etc. I have never done 10 days so maybe having separate servings may help ensure that you don't over or under eat...

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Individual servings or pack in bulk? on 07/10/2012 20:15:48 MDT Print View

Your method 2) will probably get better packing results. For measuring, use a spoon or a little plastic scoop like inside a Gatorade powder can. The scoop doesn't have to be stored inside the bear canister. Or, if you want to go crazy, pack an empty paper oatmeal packet to use for measuring.

Also, once you get more practice, you can choose food items that are denser.


j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Re: Individual servings or pack in bulk? on 07/11/2012 06:51:57 MDT Print View

I also like packing in bulk because I hate carrying around 50 empty plastic bags. One thing I would not pack in bulk would be the starbucks VIA. I think measurements that small would be very hard without your coffee. ;)

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Individual servings or pack in bulk? on 07/11/2012 08:46:49 MDT Print View

It goes both ways - with everything ready to go in single servings you know exactly what you have in front of you for meals. Yes, you do have more trash. But you don't have to worry about measuring out dry mixes accurately in camp at mealtime and your meals stay nice and fresh. I truly like small packets of condiments over containers - such as olive oil, hot sauce, etc - less mess.
Freezer and sandwich bags can be filled, rolled tight like a burrito and sealed to make easy packing of a canister.

Also one issue: if you are using things like instant oatmeal you bought versus making it yourself, if you dump 10 packets in a bag you are going to get an uneven mix of flavor powder to oats. If you are carrying Quaker packets for example? Just carry them! Unless you are adding in diced nuts, milk powder, etc - then bag up by breakfast.

Yes, you produce garbage...but frankly it is only a few days. In the grand scheme of things it isn't a lot or huge - most people produce way more garbage at home than when hiking!

Eileen Duncan
(eileensd) - MLife

Locale: The Sierra or the SF Bay Area
Re: Re: Individual servings or pack in bulk? on 07/11/2012 09:38:31 MDT Print View

Sarah: Interesting point about packing separately to maintain the flavor:oats ratio. And yes, I am adding some nuts and soy milk powder... My anal tendencies *so* like the idea of individually prepared packets, all exactly the same ;) This is probably the way I'll go, but we'll see.

James: excellent point about the coffee! I was thinking of seeing how many spork-fulls are in a via, so I can "measure" accurately even when cranky and blurry-eyed, and then tossing them all in one bag with an extra 1 or 2 for good measure. Who knows, maybe I'll get two cups on the last day!!

Bob: What do you do for (calorie) dense breakfasts? I don't think I can do powdered drinks... but wonder if I may have to to fit 10 days in the BearVault. I thought oatmeal + powdered soy milk + a couple slivered almonds was a pretty good start, no? And I thought the same about dehydrated soups (can crush pretty well), minute rice, and just-add-water mashed potatoes...

Wow. I'm really appreciating the ease of being able to just grab stuff I like and toss it in the bear can for a few days... This UL/thru hike stuff certainly requires a bit more planning :)

Edited by eileensd on 07/11/2012 09:48:44 MDT.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"Individual servings or pack in bulk?" on 07/11/2012 09:50:41 MDT Print View

I find that those individual oatmeal packets fill in the empty spaces of a round bear canister quite nicely. I usually snug them up against the sides with more bulky food to the center.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Individual servings or pack in bulk? on 07/11/2012 10:09:42 MDT Print View

"Bob: What do you do for (calorie) dense breakfasts?"

Well, everybody is different, and everybody wants different food. While backpacking, my breakfast priority is more for warm liquids that will warm me up and fill me up temporarily rather than calories to last me for a whole day. I'll carry a couple of bags of f.d. fruit, so I splash some hot or warm water over a bowl of fruit pieces, then squeeze a packet of GU over that. Then I have a small energy bar baked from one of Sarah's recipes. Then I have a bowl/mug of coffee or coffee/cocoa mix. By the time I have all of that down the hatch, I have already packed up the rest of my gear, and I am almost ready to hit the trail.

If I have been out long enough that I feel like I might be running low on calories, then I add in one more breakfast item. It is some powdered milk-based diet drink. It is not super heavy in calories, but it has some calories, protein, and a bit of fat, and that keeps me going.

So, my priority for breakfast is more liquid. My priority for mid-day snacks is fruit leather and whatever comes in a Clif bar wrapper. My priority for dinner is calories.


Eileen Duncan
(eileensd) - MLife

Locale: The Sierra or the SF Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: Re: Individual servings or pack in bulk? on 07/11/2012 10:57:57 MDT Print View

Thanks, Bob. I never would have thought to add GU to "real" food. I guess you could also pack in a bit of extra caffeine that way!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Individual servings or pack in bulk? on 07/11/2012 11:18:00 MDT Print View

Yes, you can get GU with or without caffeine. GU can't be classified as real food, but it works in its own small way.

You could probably make something up yourself that would accomplish the same thing, but it would be lighter. But then you will have another baggy of stuff to carry.