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freezer bag cooking
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Mike bievenour
(mrbieven) - F
freezer bag cooking on 07/16/2012 16:47:40 MDT Print View

About how many freezer bags should my crew of 12 take if we are going to rehydrate half the food in the orignal bag. I know some meals you cant do that.
Was wondering if anyone who went this year can answer this one.

Mark Rash
(markrvp) - M

Locale: North Texas
Freezer Bags on 07/16/2012 22:08:57 MDT Print View

The minimum your crew will need if you use the original packages is 66 freezer bags.

10 days of dinners = 6 bags of food x 10 days = 60 freezer bags

1 Breakfast Skillet = 6 bags of food = 6 freezer bags

My recommendation is to have each crew member carry 12 freezer bags and everyone cook in their own freezer bag. It's easier to make sure you have halved the meal into two clear freezer bags than if you use the opaque package the meal comes in.

Sarah Kuhn
(SCKuhn) - MLife

Locale: Mountainous Ohio
freezer bag cooking on 07/17/2012 08:27:29 MDT Print View

We actually cooked as many meals as possible in the provided packaging - no need to repackage for cooking purposes, but we did place the 'Mountain House' packages inside a gallon ziplock while they 'cooked' - MH packaging at Philmont usually does NOT have the zip top like the version you buy in the store - so we used the 'holder' ziplock as leak insurance and a seal to keep the dust out. (reused the 'holder' ziplock for as many meals as possible) When done the meal was divided after 'cooking' and one person ate out of the original bag and the other out of their own bowl.... less dishes to wash!!

If you are taking enough bags for each meal, don't forget the chicken salad lunch #3 that needs rehydrated (very good I might add!!), the apple dessert in dinner #5, and dinner #4 has 2 items to rehydrate - Mexican Beef and the refried beans (we dumped it all together in 1 ziplock to rehydrate)... so based on Mark's method above you are up to 15 bags PER PERSON (30 per FOOD PAIR or 180 bags for the crew).....that's alot of unecessary trash in my opinion.

You can get by with only 5 ziplocks PER FOOD PAIR (3 PER PERSON or 36 PER CREW) if you used the original packaging to rehydrate the entire meal... Trying to remember the packaging...All MH meals (Dinners #1, 5, 6, & 8, Breakfast #5 & Lunch #3) on the menu could be cooked in the original packaging and the #2 Wise dinner can be cooked in its original bag - you will definately need a bag for #3 Backpackers Kitchen Santa Fe Chicken and #10 Turkey & Stove Top (we mixed the turkey in with the boiling water for the stuffing and cooked it all together) - that only leaves the 3 Richmoor meals - #4, #7 & #9 and the dessert from #5 that may need a bag for cooking (we put all the dessert in a single gallon ziplock instead of each pair cooking... also, DON'T put in as much water as the package says... actually you need VERY little for this dessert otherwise you have apple soup!)

Seems like 1 or 2 of the Richmoor meals were packaged in bags that could be cooked in, but can't remember for sure or find pics to support that thought.

We preferred to cook the entire meal in the original container if possible for several reasons - to reduce waste/trash, reduce dishes to wash, reduce chance of spilling either while 'cooking' or while transferring to other container, reduce unnecessary items carried (8-12 extra ziplock bags per person) and meals tended to get better mixed/flavor and ingredients mixed in better if 'cooked' as a whole meal (one person didn't get all the pasta on top or the meat on the bottom) We did use a long handled spoon to mix all the bags.

To answer your question though, "how many freezer bags should my crew of 12 take if we are going to rehydrate half the food in the orignal bag"....21 bags PER FOOD PAIR (11 bags PER PERSON or 132 per crew).

Edited by SCKuhn on 07/17/2012 08:33:45 MDT.

Sarah Kuhn
(SCKuhn) - MLife

Locale: Mountainous Ohio
freezer bag cooking on 07/17/2012 08:52:59 MDT Print View

I'd suggest taking 'containers' which you can rehydrate in and reuse instead of ziplock bags if you plan to divide the meals before rehydrating... look at the ziplock bowls with lids in the grocery store (butter tubs, coolwhip bowls, or whatever)
Only 7 items on the entire menu need containers to be rehydrated in - 6 if you mix the refried beans in with the mexican beef.

Jay Lash
(jjlash) - F
Chuckwagon meals on 07/17/2012 13:49:48 MDT Print View

And you can reduce the count appropriately if you have Chuckwagon dinner or breakfast.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Freezer Bag Cooking (= re-hydrating) on 07/18/2012 02:06:22 MDT Print View

We sent two crews last summer to Philmont. Both crews utilized freezer bag re-hydrating

Since each dehydrated meal (dinners) was designed to feed two scouts, we organized our scouts into "food buddies"

The method we used = 1/2 of the meal would be in the original packaging for one Scout and the other 1/2 of the meal in a quart sized freezer bag for the other Scout.

Mathematically, 10 dinner meals per Scout that equates to 5 freezer bags per Scout, because 1/2 the time each Scout would be utilizing the original packaging.

For chuck-wagon meals we substituted 1 gallon sized freezer bag per scout per Chuck-wagon meal (bigger bag helped the servers do their job and there no pre-existing packaging that could be utilized)

IIRC, there were two breakfasts (oatmeal) that required re-hydrating

In the end, we decided not to "cut it close" so, EACH scout carried 10 bags TOTAL.
That worked out fine, with each scout having extra bags by the time we got back to base camp.

Here is an additional thread on this topic

Edited by tr-browsing on 08/01/2012 11:50:09 MDT.

Mark Rash
(markrvp) - M

Locale: North Texas
Refried Beans on 07/18/2012 15:28:04 MDT Print View

We went ahead and mixed the dehydrated refried beans into the entree before adding the water so it didn't need its own freezer bag. I had forgotten about the apple dessert.


We found that if you add half a packet of refried beans to the breakfast skillet it was delicious.

Also, add a whole packet of refried beans to a packet of Santa Fe Chicken and Rice, and then dump in some tabasco sauce for a delicious treat.

ed dzierzak
(dzierzak) - F

Locale: SE
MH meals on 07/24/2012 09:20:19 MDT Print View

Like some above, we rehydrated the MH meals in their packaging. It was then up to each pair as to whether to split the meal using bowls or not. We had about half of the crew just share out of the bag. (Advisors did this first. Lead by example ;)

Most of the rest of the crew caught on that the only thing needing cleaning was their spoon. Everyone loved the days with MH meals. While our Ranger was with us, we did the usual Philmont one-pot method.

Peter Griffith
(petergriffith) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Re: freezer bag cooking on 07/24/2012 11:33:11 MDT Print View

We took 18 quart sized freezer bags per person this year. I calculated a few extras to cover blowouts and spare uses for the bags. I used my bags soley for rehydrating, used no extras, and came home with 5 bags, so I used 13 bags for rehydrating at Philmont.

The refried beans were mixed in with the Mexican beef. We had no Chuckwagon dinner or breakfast.

Edited by petergriffith on 07/24/2012 11:36:18 MDT.

Kirk Almquist
(kirkalm) - MLife

Locale: Cascade Foothills
Freezer Bags on 07/24/2012 17:52:54 MDT Print View

Just got back the 22nd, during the Advisors meeting on day one it was briefed that no freezer/turkey bags be used due to the additional waste generated. We did use the bags that the meals came in to rehydrate, the boys decide how to split up portions on their own. Did four boxes of Stove Top/Turkey in a 4qt pot, added turkey at the same time as water.

Reducing by 25% the water used on all the meals except the Dinner #7 Rice and Chicken and Dinner #10 Stove-Top worked real well.


Crew 710V1

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Freezer Bag Use on 07/31/2012 14:46:58 MDT Print View

Are you saying that in the middle of the season Philmont decided to not allow freezer bag cooking?

I sure would like to know what they policies are so we can plan for next years trip. Is that too much to ask for?

Edited by DonH on 07/31/2012 14:49:02 MDT.

Peter Griffith
(petergriffith) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Re: Freezer Bag Use on 07/31/2012 16:37:34 MDT Print View

Our first day in basecamp was 7-6-12 and there was no mention of cooking methods in the advisors meeting. We used freezer bag cooking successfully. When we returned to basecamp after our trek on 7-18-12 we ran into our ranger and he told our boys that Philmont was no longer allowing freezer bag or turkey bag cooking. In addition, they were no longer allowing crews to use their own rope for bear bag hanging (we used Amsteel Blue). Kirk's comments above confirm the ban on freezer bag cooking. The change happened somewhere between 7-6-12 and 7-10-12.

It's hard to tell what they will allow from year to year. Most of the posts I read on BPL prior to leaving said it is highly dependent on the ranger assigned to you. This proved to be true as another crew in our council contingent had a ranger that was more by the book. This ruling, however, sounds like an across the board ban. If you plan on trying freezer bag cooking, my suggestion would be to come prepared with the gear to cook the Phlmont way as a backup in case they don't allow it. We were using two Jetboil Sol stoves/pots but our ranger made us take two extra cooking pots because he had to show us the Philmont way the first night. We had to sign off that he trained us on this and many other skills. We carried the extra pots the entire trek and only used them that first night.

Stephen Everson
(mrevets) - F
Re: Re: Freezer Bag Use on 07/31/2012 18:08:43 MDT Print View

OK. Just has I was getting my boys use to frezer bag cooking ( and they liked cooking this way), what is now the philmont cooking method? Having to take two bigs pots for a crew of 7 scouts and 2 adults. We have the 2.5L pots for our reactor stoves. Could we just get away using those and not have to carry any additional pots? Can't really take any additional pots with reactor stoves since other pots are not made for the stove.

The boys liked the idea of no clean up. I can see just using the Mountain House bags for rehydrating those meals..then put them into the personnal bowls...but I guess the stove top stuffing meal would require us to dump the stuff in the pot...thus dirtying the pot...

I have the photos of me going to philmont with the two big pots strapped to my backpack from 30 years ago. I had to fit my sleeping bag in between them. So you can bet I made sure they were clean everyday since I had to carry them.

Interested in hearing what others on this forum think... Thanks for everyone that posts on this forum

Mike Kirkpatrick
(mwkirk) - F
We were told not allowed on 7-17 Trek on 07/31/2012 22:53:52 MDT Print View

Our trek left out on 7-17 and I had all the bags divided up and handed out to everyone. We were told in the advisor's meeting no turkey/freezer bags and then I asked the ranger before our hitting the trail and was told no as well. I suppose we could have used freezer bags after our ranger left us but just stuck with the "Philmont Way". Another advisor and myself had brought JetBoil stoves which were never used. The stove we always used was a pocket rocket which was a balancing act with the big pot. Also the night we had the vegetable lasagna I remember that being an especially big mess because of the cheese and such that is in the meal. I think I did use one bag to rehydrate some kind of Apple and cinnamon dessert thing that was an extra on one of the meals.

Jon Fong
(jonfong) - F

Freezer bag cooking and Philmont on 08/02/2012 12:08:12 MDT Print View

First, I don't know what or where Philmont is but when I first read this thread my thought was " what's wrong with this picture?". Is it me are does this thread sound like people are proponents of an excessive consumption of freezer bags? I think that I must be ill informed but some enlightenment might help me understand some of the comments here. Just my opinion - Jon

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Freezer Bags on 08/02/2012 19:14:17 MDT Print View

I wouldn't care if we had to carry all the used bags the entire trip.
FBC is far more sanitary than any other method of cooking on the trail. Take it from someone who ate out of freezer bags for almost six months straight on my Appalachian trail thru-hike last year. Never washed a pot and never got sick.

Re: Freezer Bags on 08/02/2012 20:43:31 MDT Print View

"Just got back the 22nd, during the Advisors meeting on day one it was briefed that no freezer/turkey bags be used due to the additional waste generated"

Should have volunteered to haul it all home with you and then see what they said.
I suspect there is more to it than waste.

Sarah Kuhn
(SCKuhn) - MLife

Locale: Mountainous Ohio
RE: Freezer bags on 08/03/2012 10:16:49 MDT Print View

From "Over 22,000 Scouts and Leaders are expected to go on 12-day treks this summer. Every day, 350 arrive, 350 leave, and 3,500 are hiking in the backcountry"

At only 8 bags per person (rounded down from my figures above) even if only half the crews did the freezer bag method, you are at 88,000 freezer bags per summer!!! That's A LOT of unnecessary trash and a waste of resources. (1375 pounds of quart size freezer bag trash which doesn't decompose)

While I agree the 'Philmont method' is old-school, utilization of the provided packaging (as the manufacturer intends it - cooking in the bag) is the best compromise for trash and resources.

Regarding health issues and cooking - the less you handle any item the better, the less likely you are to introduce contaminates; another reason to support cooking in the provided packaging.

Just remember that at the end of the day its all about the boys!!! What they want, what they can do, what they do with the future...

Edited by SCKuhn on 08/03/2012 10:17:52 MDT.

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Freezer Bag Cooking on 08/05/2012 20:30:02 MDT Print View

There was another thread here on cooking that described the 5 common ways of cooking at Philmont. I copied that and brought it to the crew's first meeting. At their second meeting each member brought the supplies needed to demonstrate one of the methods. Afterwards they decided that they would use the Freezer Bag method. This was their decision. Next week I will inform them that they can no long use their preferred method.

Stephen Everson
(mrevets) - F
Re: Re: Freezer Bags on 08/06/2012 14:50:04 MDT Print View

That is an interesting question to poise to Philmont staff. Suppose I am going to carry out what I pack in (i.e. freezer bags that I bring, not the packaging that Philmont provides the food in), what would they say... you are practicing Leave No Trace by taking out what you take in...freezer bags compact pretty well...would need to put the "used" ones in the bear bag at night. I am sure there is someone at Philmont that trolls this forum...

Our trek is not until 2013, so I have time to figure out what/how we are going to do...but I'll need to figure out some method for this weekend for our 2nd shakedown trip.

Thanks for posting your response.

Steven McDowell
(smcdindelmar) - MLife

Locale: San Diego
Re: freezer bag cooking on 08/06/2012 16:12:45 MDT Print View

Looked at using bags and decide too much trash.

For Philmont we are going with the 4 cup ziploc bowls that way we can split or mix a meal into one depending on the specific meal and a bowl (Voskos 16 ounce Yogurt container) that fits into the Reactors. If you trim one of them you can get two containers in and the bigger can of fuel.

Other containers I like to use are; the jar from JetPuff Marshmallow, the jar you get when you buy powered gatorade and the Voskos Greek Yogurt 16 ounce.

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Freezer Bag Cooking on 08/06/2012 19:29:07 MDT Print View

Yes, you need to know these things during the planning stage which begins a year or more in advance.

We are about to buy new stoves and a Jetboil or a Pocket Rocket is no good for putting a big pot of food on.

I'd rinse the bags and carry them out. 11 meals for 7 members and consider we will use the original bag for half the meals and a ziplock for the other half you're carrying 33 bags. No big deal. But if the ranger is going to make us carry the big pot and cleaning supplies we might as well just use their method and be done with it.

Hard to sell the boys on the boy led thing when they don't get to make decisions.

Edited by DonH on 08/06/2012 19:37:11 MDT.

bill berklich

Locale: Northern Mid-West
No Turkey Bags on 08/08/2012 12:07:18 MDT Print View

7/16: At the Advisors Meeting we were asked to not use Turkey Bags and we were asked to compress our trash. We had no plan on using the bags ourselves for 2 reasons. First, we liked the one pot method because the community pot brought the Crew together. Second was the trash. That was not a big issue until we actually got to the staffed camps and saw how much trash was being made by the T-Bag method. You could always tell who was using it because we could compress ours down to about a coke can and the T-baggers were about double that. And it really showed. Clean-up was a pain until the boys started working as a team. Then it was a breeze.

Hobbes W
(Hobbesatronic) - F

Locale: SoCal
Turkey Bags on 08/08/2012 15:14:02 MDT Print View

"First, we liked the one pot method because the community pot brought the Crew together. Second was the trash."

Any water boil method will bring a crew together via the use of a single community pot, whether using turkey bags or bowls/cups.

As to the second point, the 'footprint' a turkey bag leaves isn't that obvious. Sure, the trash is visible, but how does this compare to the impact of cleaning (presumably with soap) all those bowls & cups? Secondly, who wants to hoof water back & forth for clean-up? Those kinds of chores make backpacking less enjoyable.

Thirdly, if you use bowls, then you are sort of stuck using conventional dehydrated food (like Mountain House), unless you bring a lid & cozy. One of the key advantages to using turkey bags transcends the clean up vs trash debate.

With a bag inside a bubble envelope (for insulation), you can cook all kinds of standard home meals (ie non-dehydrated food), such as oatmeal, pasta, mac-n-cheese, etc, and let it sit for 10-15 minutes without getting cold. From a dietary stand-point, I think that factor alone makes turkey bags a lot more appealing.

Dan Lee
(scoutbuff) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
FREEZER BAGS, TURKEY BAGS AND THE YUM-YUM BAG... on 08/08/2012 15:39:46 MDT Print View

We used 10 turkey bags to rehydrate/cook our meals during our trek this summer. We used maybe two or three of the "yum yum" bags (day two and three with our ranger). The extras were used by the crew for clothes washing, food storage or anything else that needed a large ziploc.

I agree that if multiple freezer bags are being used at every hot meal by a crew, it adds up. I don't agree, however, that using turkey bags to cook in and then using them as the "yum yum" bag adds any additional trash. We could have left the "sump strainer" behind... That was a mess to deal with any way you do it...

On the trash compaction... We encouraged our crew to compact as much as possible but were also told by a couple of staffers that they can no longer require it as it might be considered "hazing"... good grief... Just good backcountry sense to me...

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Freezer Bag Cooking on 08/10/2012 08:46:17 MDT Print View

My Philmont crew met last night to discuss preparations, first on the agenda was changing their cooking method. They decided to stay with freezer bags and carry out all bags. As a back up plan they will have bowls so they can go with reconstituting in the bag and then dish out into bowls if needed. If they can do freezer bag cooking they'll take the ziplock bags, if not they'll take the bowls and leave the bags at base camp. The same pots and stoves can be used in either. The crew (6 scouts, 2 adults) will purchase 2 MSR Pocket Rocket stoves and we'll use two pots from troop cook kits.

Hobbes W
(Hobbesatronic) - F

Locale: SoCal
Re: Freezer Bag Cooking on 08/10/2012 12:00:23 MDT Print View

Do yourself a favor and get some bubble envelopes - one for each person - that are large enough to place freezer bags inside. This obviates the need for a separate cozy/lid for each bowl.

Once someone uses a bowl, and then has to deal with properly washing & disposing of the soapy water, I'd be surprised anyone deviates from eating out of freezer bags again.

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Freezer Bag Cooking on 08/17/2012 11:33:36 MDT Print View

I guess the reason why people don't use the freezer bag method is because Philmont is now discouraging it. I understand they make you carry the gear for cooking (large pots, cleaning stuff etc). End result, not much weight savings.

Has anyone out there reconstituted the Philmont dinners in the original bag? These bags are different than the Mountain House meals you buy.

Stephen Everson
(mrevets) - F
Re: Freezer Bag Cooking on 08/17/2012 13:50:58 MDT Print View

Question to those on the forum.. my Reactor stoves are not going work with Philmont pots....the only pots usable with a reactor stove are the 1L and 2.5L MSR Reactor pots...

Is Philmont going to force me to purchase new stoves once I get there?

From your comment Donald, I did not realize the mountain house meals at philmont are different than the one you purchase in the store... I take it that you can't just reheat in the bag... so then you are forced to dump the contents into a pot for rehydration...

Anyone who went to Philmont this year care to comment?

The staff at Philmont should attend the backpacking light school in Montana next month... :)

Mark Rash
(markrvp) - M

Locale: North Texas
Reactor Stoves on 08/18/2012 00:13:57 MDT Print View

I also use Reactor stoves and my crew used two of them at Philmont this summer. What I would do is rehydrate in ziplock bowls (if they absolutely will not let you use freezer bags). That way you use the Reactor stoves and pots. You have to clean the bowls, but you won't have to clean any pots.

Stephen Everson
(mrevets) - F
Re: Reactor Stoves on 08/18/2012 04:54:43 MDT Print View

Thanks for the reply. I can try that method on our next shakedown with the scouts. Our goal with the reactor pots is to just boil water in them and not use them for cooking.

Thanks again

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Mountain House Meals on 08/19/2012 12:40:11 MDT Print View

I have heard that Philmont rangers have told some crews that they should not try to reconstitute the meals in the bag because the bag will release toxins when the hot water is added. I contacted Mountain House directly and they said that the reason why they do not recommend that meals be reconstituted is because the bags will not withstand the heat. They state that the bags will not release toxins.

I've heard that some do use the bags to reconstitute the meals. Has anyone done this?

Jay Lash
(jjlash) - F
Re: Mountain House Meals on 08/19/2012 16:34:42 MDT Print View

Our ranger told us that the Philmont MH meals use less expensive bags and contain a few ounces more than off-the-shelf meals.

Stephen Everson
(mrevets) - F
Re: Re: Mountain House Meals on 08/19/2012 16:56:19 MDT Print View

Thanks for the insight. Must have been worth it to Mountain House to make a production run of product using different materials versus just selling the everyday consumer product to Philmont. All about price points and production costs.

Gordon Forrest
Reyurned last week on 08/20/2012 12:07:39 MDT Print View

A couple observations having just returned from Philmont last week (Crew 731-E, Trek 22)...

Freezer bag cooking is not being permitted at all at Philmont. Additionally, not all of the dinner meals are from Mountain House so there is little uniformity in the meal bags so that wouldn't be practical for cooking.

Our crew of 12 had prepared to use the "fair share" mug method of rehydration and we were forced to take 2 pots with us on the trail. One large pot to rehydrate the food in and a smaller pot to sterilize our mugs in.

Once our ranger left, we did revert back to our "fair share" mugs for cooking except for the stuffing and canned turkey meal - we made that up in the big pot.

In the end, having the large pot was useful for laundry and other tasks but we had planned on bringing a collapsible bucket for that purpose. Other than the inconvenience of strapping the large pot on the outside of a pack it really wasn't too much of a burden, however.

We used 2 JetBoil Sumo stoves for our crew of 12 and those worked great. Despite the weight penalty of carrying the Sumo pots in addition to our ranger mandated pots, it was pretty quick work to boil water in the Sumos and pour the water in to the large pot for rehydration, when required. Otherwise, we just measure water directly from the Sumos in to out fair share mugs for cooking.

Sarah Kuhn
(SCKuhn) - MLife

Locale: Mountainous Ohio
Re: Mountain House Meals on 08/20/2012 13:41:37 MDT Print View

On my previous 2 treks we have reconstituted almost exclusively in the provided packaging - Richmor meals and Santa Fe Chicken this year were the only meals which we didn't reconstitute in the provided packaging and that was simply because there was not enough space to add the necessary water.
Then we had one person eat out of the package while the other person ate out of their bowl - half as many dishes!!! (Or my daughter and I just ate out of the same bag, but I wouldn't ask the rest of the crew to do this.)

Arnold OSullivan
Philmont: turkey bag on 08/21/2012 09:24:06 MDT Print View

Been back two weeks, (802 I 2). The program director very politely asked all to conform to the no turkey bag rule. I do not buy his reasoning (solid waste reduction) as all of the staff camps which served coffee had ample supplies of styrofoam cups and the Trading Post gave out plastic bags with every sale. We only used the bags for the last three meals (a gift from another crew) and honestly I thought the meals were better hydrated in the pot. We carried two whisper-light stoves and burned through three large bottles of fuel (11 man crew). We carried our own aluminum pots and made lots of coffee/coco/tea.
We used the amsteel ropes with a five to one pulley and it was more trouble than it was worth.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Hycrating Meals in their Packaging Bag on 08/26/2012 16:31:31 MDT Print View

To answer an earlier question: Last summer we had two crews go to Philmont. Both crews re-hydrated in the packaging bag both at Philmont and during training hikes utilizing left over Philmont meals.
Before doing so, I called both Mountain House and Richmoor about use of their packaging bags for dehydration. Was informed by both that the bag itself had the same rated liner as their commercial product bags, but that the bags did not have the folded base which could splay out to facilitate the bag standing up on its own ... a feature their commercial bags have. As a consequence they warned us to use caution & not to spill the hot contents by expecting the bags to stand up on its own.
We used the recommended caution and found out that in practice that it was not a big problem.

Wade Ford
(cwford) - MLife

Locale: NTX
RE: Freezer Bags on 08/26/2012 22:29:45 MDT Print View

We got back just over 2 weeks ago (728-I) and were prepared to do freezer bag cooking for our 11 person crew. During the advisors meeting we were told the same thing concerning the freezer bags -- not allowed. The boys decided to cook the Philmont way and not worry about it when they figured out that each boy would only have KP once for the trip. We took two 3-liter pots and 2 MSR wind pros stoves with a reflectix cozy for each pot. The cozy's worked great and were able to keep the food very hot even when the advisors were late getting back from advisors coffee.

We used just under three 8oz canisters of gas for our meals plus some extra cooking for birthday cupcakes. Using the ranger's tip of reducing the water by 25% we were able to cook most meals in a single pot. Cleanup was fairly easy. It was the human sumping of the pots that most boys didn't like. They treated sumping like a badge of honor and everyone eventually got their turn. The only thing in our yum yum bag at the end of the trip was a square of scrubby for each day and our pine needle sump bag.

We used some 8oz disposable cups as our dinner ware and these worked well while eating trail meals. Everyone just had 2nds and 3rds. They were horrible for the 2 chuck wagon meals that we had. If using bowls I would recommend a min of 16 oz bowls if you've got chuckwagon meals to deal with.

One other thing that they don't tell you is that tortillas are available at each commissary for the asking. One crew we talked with got a pack of tortillas for each trail meal and used those for bowls - so no washing of bowls.

Edited by cwford on 08/26/2012 22:30:32 MDT.

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Mountain House Meals on 09/04/2012 18:57:40 MDT Print View

That's interesting that MH said the bags are the same except for the pleat at the bottom which allows the bag to stand up. I email MH a few weeks ago about reports that Philmont was saying that toxins could be released if meals were reheated in the bags. MH told me that the bags were not designed for the heat, but would not release toxins. Guess it just depends on who you talk to there.

I have 20 Philmont dinners and my crew will be practicing with them.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Re: Mountain House Meals on 09/05/2012 18:33:42 MDT Print View

Re: Depends on who you talk to - how true.
Just for clarification: I was told that bag itself had the same rated LINER as their commercial product bags, (But on the outside portion, no glossy treatment or fancy graphics.) The concern expressed on use that was the lack of the folded base to able to stand up properly. With a little care, we found it to be a non-issue ... everything worked out fine during our training treks and the Philmont trek itself.

I haven't heard of the toxin angle before (lol) ... Good idea to fact check.

Edited by tr-browsing on 09/16/2012 02:51:39 MDT.

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Freezer Bag Cooking on 09/07/2012 17:37:29 MDT Print View

I just received a box of 20 Philmont dinners (2 each meal) and the Mountain House dinner I checked had the pleated bottom but the packaging is not as heavy.

It was said that during ranger training they were told toxins would be released if you rehydrated in the food bags.
The comment was made here in the 4th post:

Edited by DonH on 09/07/2012 18:21:04 MDT.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Rehydrating in a MH or RM Bag & Toxicity on 09/10/2012 10:55:19 MDT Print View

Re: Use of packaging bags to re-hydrate

Called both Mountain House & Richmoor just now. I was curious if the pleat was an indication the Philmont pouches were designed to be utilized for re-hydrating.

MH customer service department at 1-800-547-0244 (M-F, 8 am - 5 pm PST).
RM customer service department at 1-800-322-6325 (M-F, 8 am - 5 pm PST).

Call Results - I was informed by both companies that the Philmont bags have NOT been tested for being utilized as rehydrating bags and are specifically made thinner (less layers) than the normal commercial offerings in order to reduce the purchase cost, and because the intended meal preparation method by the customer (= the traditional Philmont method of re-hydrating in a pot). That's the companies' official recommendation of use: re-hydrate in a pot. They do not recommend using the thinner bag to rehydrate because they have not been tested for that kind of use. There was concern about potential liability as well.

Re: Toxicity (thanks for the link)

For MH & RM, both customer reps did not know exactly what material was being utilized for the liner, but did know that the liner is rated the same the commercial offerings -in terms of preservation of the contents and chemical safety - i.e. NOT having PBAs.

Toxicity and Zip-Locs
Here is a "copy & paste" of the website's answers to the questions related to toxicity:

PBAs -
[start copy & paste]
"A recent study conducted and published by the University of Cincinnati found that the estrogen-like chemical BPA (bisphenol A) has been shown to encourage the growth of a specific category of prostate cancer cells. BPA is commonly used in the manufacture of certain plastic products, such as food-can coatings, milk-container liners, food containers, and water-supply pipes. As a result, media have been reporting on this study and the fact that this chemical is commonly found in plastic food storage containers.

SC Johnson [Zip-Loc Bags manufacturer] does not use BPA in its plastic products, Ziploc® Brand Bags and Containers.

SC Johnson is a leader in providing high-quality products. All of its products are extensively evaluated for toxicity and safety and comply with—and often even exceed—applicable quality and safety regulations.

For more information, please visit

In 2002, we became aware of an email that was being widely circulated, which warned consumers about the alleged dangers of using plastics in the microwave. This email claimed that the combination of fat, high heat, and plastics releases dioxin into the food and ultimately into the cells of the body, thereby increasing the risk of producing cancerous cells. We researched these claims and it is clear that the information is misleading, and unnecessarily alarms consumers.

Ziploc® Brand products are 100% dioxin free. You also should be aware that dioxins can be formed only when chlorine is combined with extremely high temperatures, such as 1,500°F, which even the most powerful consumer microwave ovens are unable to produce.

Our Ziploc® Brand products can be used with confidence when label directions are followed. All Ziploc® Brand Containers and microwaveable Ziploc® Brand Bags meet the safety requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for temperatures associated with defrosting and reheating food in microwave ovens, as well as room, refrigerator, and freezer temperatures.

Like all Ziploc® Brand products, Zip’n Steam® Bags are dioxin free. Additionally, they are specially designed for microwave use and meet the safety requirements of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for temperatures associated with cooking food in the microwave when label directions are followed.

Please help us alleviate consumers' concerns and share these facts with those who forwarded this misleading e-mail to you, and to whom you may have sent it. Thank you for giving us a chance to set the record straight."

[end copy & paste]

FWIW, a quick internet search reveals a long list of hits about the concerns about PBAs and Dioxins.

Ok - two years ago at this time, the story was rather different and definitely not as consistent. For rehydrating, we utilized BOTH the factory packaging bag & zip-loc bags, on both our training hikes (for testing out & training to the method) and on our 2011 Philmont trek (which worked out fine) ... it sure saved a lot of time & effort ... and we were planning to do the same for our 2013 trek, ... that is,before this thread.
Back to square one for evaluation.

Edited by tr-browsing on 02/27/2015 12:06:43 MST.

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Freezer Bag Cooking on 09/15/2012 10:30:14 MDT Print View

Tony, other than the fact that Philmont now bans Freezer Bag Cooking is there a reason why you wouldn't do it, say on a troop outing?

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Freezer Bag Cooking - Personal Preference on 09/16/2012 02:22:45 MDT Print View

Donald, we do use freezer bag "cooking" all the time on "normal" outings, (I've personally used it for many years). For a more economical approach, a dehydrator will be needed for at home meal prep ... also depending on the weather & the meal itself, a reflectix cozy for the bag. The approach is lightweight, fast & simple, with easy clean up (= a lot to like).

Edited by tr-browsing on 09/16/2012 02:29:45 MDT.

Jacob Phelps
(RangerJake) - F
Re: Re: Re: Freezer Bags on 10/15/2012 21:16:18 MDT Print View

Hey all! You guys were right, us Philmont Staff do "troll" these forums occasionally. I have attended Philmont twice on trek and most recently spent the summers of 2011 and 2012 on staff as a Ranger. As of July 2012 the use of turkey bags/freezer bags or any other cooking bag is prohibited.

I've had the pleasure of working with about 2 dozen crews. Most of them discussed cooking in bags with me. Here's what I have to say to them, and yourselves:

Going to Philmont is an experience. I appreciate you planning ahead and preparing for you Philmont trek. The truth is that last summer (2012) there were 28,000 people who went to Philmont. Philmont is serving 3 meal for every 2 people. Philmont is a Wilderness area. It is already expensive enough to transport trash from back country camps. If we can prevent any trash, we want to.

Part of the ethics of leave no trace is to minimize your impact. When you choose to generate more trash than you need to, you may not be polluting Philmont, but you will be sending that trash to be stored elsewhere. Plastics take a long time to decompose.

When I was a "young" ranger I gave in to a few crews wanting to use turkey bags. both times the crews broke the bag and still had to clean their pots. Not only that, they could not get all of the food out of their turkey bag.

Every bag that has an ounce left in it is not only extra weight that you will have to carry, but an extra chance of something exploding inside your pack. Now outside of bear country, this is a minor inconvenience. Inside bear country it means everything goes up in the bear bag at night, even if it is your sleeping bag.

For those who don't know One pot cooking is where you place all your freeze dried food into the pot and re-hydrate it all at once. Philmont chooses meals based on a theme, like Mexican Rice and beans... They taste delicious mixed together.

I've spent 2 summers dining with the "horrible" 1 pot cooking method. Here's what I have to say about it:

Get a bowl you can easily lick out. Washing dishes should be more of a formality than a reality. On trek and as a Ranger I used something similar to the REI Campware Serving Bowl. Deep enough to work as a bowl, wide enough to lick clean like a plate.

1) CHOLULA! This complements EVERY meal. Basecamp or freeze dried. When I share with my crews I would run out of a bottle in 2 days on the trail... so Plan accordingly.

2) IGNORE THE HYDRATING DIRECTIONS!!! If you follow them it will be a soupy mess. I usually found 1/2 to 3/4ths the recommended water worked. I would eyeball it, pour a little in until it was slightly soupy and keep adding more. You can always add water on the trail. You can't remove it.

3) Cook all of the food, divide it up evenly. There will always be a hungry teenager in the crew to eat the rest of it. After the quality of food in 2012, the best meals were dinner. Everything else was like eating out of a vending machine, very sugary so it tasted good, but it lacked any sustenance to keep you going on the trail.

4) Invest the best $4 of your life. BUY a GSI Outdoors Compact Scraper and scrape the pot and all the dishes clean.

As for a stove, in 2011 the best stoves I saw had wide bases. I've seen too many pocket rockets fail at Philmont (their prongs bend from too much weight while being heated). Truly the best stove to take to Philmont is a white gas stoves. They are very efficient and VERY sturdy. The most common stove I've seen has been the Whisperlite International. A plus is that the fuel is cheaper, more compact, and available throughout the Philmont back country.

If anyone else has any questions, I am more than happy to help!

Stephen Everson
(mrevets) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Freezer Bags on 10/17/2012 09:08:07 MDT Print View

Ranger Jake - thanks for the posting.

Right now, the plan we are looking to go foward with is Ziploc bowls (everyone has the same bowl) and rehydrating and eating out of the same bowl. No freezer bags. The bowl fits into the 2.5L pots for our MSR Reactor stoves. Boils water really fast. We can use the 2.5L pot for cleanup. No need to haul 8 qt pots around. We made cozies for the ziploc bowls. Seems to work well.

How would this be perceived by the rangers at Philmont?

Landing at Philmont on July 1 2013

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Re: Rehydrating Alternatives, that don't Require Freezer Bags. on 10/17/2012 12:18:48 MDT Print View

+1 on what Stephen's lads are doing.

In an effort to reduce weight, size and time, We're going down a similar path in prepping for our 2013 trek. Our guys are currently mostly utilizing Ziploc rectangular containers (the type lunch meats come in), to rehydrate in the container. The ziploc containers are very light and can be gotten for free (by saving them from their use as lunch meat containers) As Stephen already mentioned, ziplocs beautifully nest, and can be stored in a more reasonable (and much lighter) sized pot. There is no additional trash generation associated with utilizing freezer bags.

Since the lads have a baseline reference of the clean up convenience of the freezer bag method ... they are always looking for similar speed & minimized clean up effort. Since the manufacturer's meal bag has 2 meals in it, there has been movement among the meal buddies, that one of them gets to rehydrate in the manufacturer's bag making sure that bag resting in the Scout's ziploc container (so the manufacturer's bag acts as kind of a liner for the container, and the container is there in case of bag leaks). This reduces impact by reducing the number of bowls to be cleaned. A few meal buddies don't bother to split up the meal & just share out of the bag provided (which is still resting in the container). This further minimizes impact by eliminating the need for the bowls to be cleaned (provided of course no leaks, which hasn't happened yet)

Benefit Summary - This approach is a further impact reduction: minimizes cleaning of the wash pot (= boiling pot), and halves the cleaning requirement of the bowls which further reduces grey water generation and campsoap use - all without increasing trash generation. In addition to saving fuel & the stove's fossil fuel emissions from unnecessary boiling.
(For those that shared out of the provided bag, that has the greatest reduction of impact of all - minimal clean up required - No generation of grey water, no use of campsoap, and of course, NO increase in trash generation, ... in addition to the benefit of being a big time saver for clean up)

I'm looking forward to see how things progress in our crew as time goes on, and of course, reading about the efforts of other crews posted to this forum.

Edited by tr-browsing on 02/27/2015 12:10:13 MST.

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Cooking on 10/17/2012 16:00:49 MDT Print View

Jacob, thank you for your insight. You mentioned "Part of the ethics of leave no trace is to minimize your impact.".

I understand advisors were served coffee in styrofoam cups that were provided by Philmont while in the back country.
Where does that fall in the efforts to reduce trash and minimize impact?

Also I have been advised that rehyrdating in individual bowels is also prohibited too.

I would not allow boys sharing food from the same bag. Most illness in the back country is spread by sharing food.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
+1 on questions, & stats on illness in the back country on 10/18/2012 11:03:47 MDT Print View

RE: Philmont LNT-
From what I've seen, Philmont practice of LNT is certainly not as strong or as consistent as it could be. For example, I use pictures (taken during our 2011 trek) of tree damage (phloem damage) from the bear bagging rope practice as examples of what NOT to do (and the LNT need for stand off sticks to protect the bark from rope wrap)... there are many other examples of non-LNT practices that occur at Philmont. I think it is a good thing that they are making efforts to improve. I just hope they realize there are lots of "low hanging fruit" and that strong preachers need to first be strong practitioners. Lead by example.

RE: Bowl re-hydrating -
So, the reasoning behind the move against re-hydrating in a freezer bag, was because of the waste generation and the desire to reduce impact.
Is it true that re-hydrating in a bowl is prohibited too? (... as Donald related in his post) If true, then a natural question arises: how does that contribute to increased waste generation and increased impact? (Because in practice, it actually reduces waste generation and reduces impact.) Jacob, help me understand that.

RE: "Most illness in the back country is spread by sharing food."
Yeah, given the safety first mindset, I also had that concern about permitting the lads (who were meal buddies) to do that. From researching it, I've read that the majority of back country illnesses (which are diarrhea related)are from either drinking untreated water, or from lack of "good hygiene" (defined as routine cleaning of cooking utensils & pots (i.e. disinfecting) and the cleaning hands after bowel movements). As a supplement to the research, I also talked to a parent who is a family physician, who agreed with the above, & thought we should also be aware that there are additional transmission risks to consider ... first, from the close quarters of a shared sleeping shelter (for flus, etc. transmission) and that there were also potential risks of "double dipping" (as she phrased it) during food preparation & serving (for flu & hygiene related illnesses). Ok, so that's my answer I thought - not to allow sharing. But then, when I specifically asked about meal buddies (who are shelter buddies)sharing of food, she thought it was ok, PROVIDED that the lads are responsible enough to CONSISTENTLY maintain good hygiene and avoid going on trips when they were feeling or starting to feel sick.

... so, for the boys who wanted to do it, I've allowed it to continue for a few.

In the past, this has already been happening "de-facto" for those "always hungry" Scouts that eat up the left overs.

FYI, from my research I discovered that NCBI has some great research & stats on wilderness illness hazards. Here's two links to abstracts of research studies geared towards backpackers:

Right now, we're still going down the re-hydrate in a bowl path. We'll have a final determination on those that share out of a bag.
I enjoy watching the boy-led creativity on their time & effort improvements, (Hmm, that's worthy of a separate thread being created.)

Edited by tr-browsing on 10/18/2012 11:14:27 MDT.

cooking on 10/18/2012 16:57:24 MDT Print View

Found it interesting that a crew was there this past summer, water was in short supply in places. But yet, they wanted them to use that precious water to wash pots, instead of allowing turkey bags. They used the turkey bags anyway btw,as did a lot of crews that came prepared to. Once the ranger is gone, you do what you want.

You have to carry un-eaten food scraped from a pot anyway to the place you can dispose it, only say hello to the gallon ziplock yum-yum bags instead of the turkey bags. And yes that goes in someones pack too, and in the bear bags.

I can believe that it is an attempt to cut down on garbage wt that has to be carried out. I dont buy the "green" angle at all, other Philmont actions dont support that at all. Look at the amount of plastic and paper waste in the food packaging.

I sent an email to Philmont asking about some of these issues. Recieved no response.
In it I asked if we were to be required to carry an 8l pot for a ranger to demonstrate the one pot method? I basically said it would be fine with us if the ranger carried that pot.

George Geist
(geist) - M

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Re: Philmont is not "Leave no Trace" on 10/18/2012 19:00:57 MDT Print View

> From what I've seen, Philmont practice of LNT is certainly not as strong or as consistent as it could be.

When our crew went to Philmont in 2009, we went prepared to do LNT cooking, using only their own packages - zero extra waste - zero clean up, LNT bear bagging that didn't damage the trees, etc...
At base camp when I pushed to allow our crew to use these LNT techniques, the head ranger pushed back and said, "We don't really do Leave No Trace at Philmont. What we actually do is called "Concentrated Impact."

And if you step back and think about Philmont policies and techniques they do fit the model of concentrating the damage to nearby tie-off trees, sump areas, fire rings, and tent areas at each camp.

It is another, and probably easier, way of trying to minimize damage to the ranch given 20,000 campers pouring through each year, many untrained in LNT.

I sure would have liked to have my scouts be given the opportunity to do LNT at Philmont, but it is their ranch and their rules.

fbc on 10/18/2012 19:22:55 MDT Print View

"I sure would have liked to have my scouts be given the opportunity to do LNT at Philmont, but it is their ranch and their rules."

Yes, their rules, but as a BSA members I would sure like to think its our ranch too.

However, the BSA doesnt exactly have a track record of being the go-to experts for many things. Certainly not backpacking, low impact camping, or even youth protection.
They have always been a reactionary organization, and slow. or late, to change with times.

I looked a picture the other day where boy scouts were handing out pouches of tobacco to flood victims in the 1920s. Tobacco. Times change, the scouts change too. What was OK yesterday or today , wont be tomorrow.

Just as certain as 60 lb backpacks are out of vogue, and so is "real" cooking in the backcountry, so will become other things they staunchly try to adhere to today.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
RE: Concentrated Impact clarification on 10/19/2012 00:32:25 MDT Print View

As a LNT trainer, let me clarify the concept of "Concentrated Impact" - it is a "containment" approach for high traffic areas to be limited to already impacted sites ... the idea is to limit tents, kitchen areas, etc. to already existing impacted areas and NOT CREATE NEW impacted sites and also NOT TO EXPAND out those already existing impacted sites.

In using this approach, the impacted sites should be on durable surfaces ... which unfortunately, is not always the case in Philmont ... and that consequently offers opportunities to do LNT remedial practices.

... and ... of course, even if using that approach, all 7 of the LNT principles are still to be followed & practiced.

As George suggests with a difference in approach, I think that it is very possible for Philmont to improve its practice of LNT to eliminate or at least minimize "concentrated impact" compromises. It would be great if a trek to Philmont could role model the best in LNT practices for the lads ...

Edited by tr-browsing on 10/22/2012 10:04:57 MDT.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Bump for visibility on 10/23/2012 17:32:10 MDT Print View


Jacob Phelps
(RangerJake) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Freezer Bags on 12/23/2012 16:19:31 MST Print View

I found this thread and made my first post before I became consumed with school and work. I tried to come back about a month ago and I'm not sure if it was my mistake, but it seemed like I had to be a paying subscriber to post.

I read through the posts after mine and made my remarks in order of their appearance. I did go back and change a couple of things as your guys’ conversation evolved.

I just want to say that I have been trying to get into website design for a while, so I built a website that I hope will become a great resource to help people going to Philmont. I know in my summers working on staff and in my experience going to Philmont as a scout on trek that it is difficult to find reliable information online. I want to say that this site is and always will be a free resource. I even included a forum section. The web site is and if you guys have any suggestions for topics/articles you can make a post in the forums or send me an email at Or if you want to ask me a direct question you can send me an email too.

Food Bags
I caution you that the manufacturer bags are NOT designed to be cooked in. Even though it is Mountain House food, it is not the same packaging (foil lined) that you would purchase at a sporting goods store. Philmont is the number 2 user of freeze dried food in the world (behind the US military) and to save money they special order meals from Mountain House to not be foil lined. It is just a thin plastic. There is one exception, the Chicken Salad for lunch is a cold hydrate.
Philmont Leave No Trace
I cannot speak for other departments at Philmont (Back Country Camps), but the Ranger Department strives to instill the ethics of Leave No Trace in every person we meet. As for the Styrofoam cups, it is done as a courtesy to advisers. It is 100% up to the staff at a camp weather to use Styrofoam or to allow advisers to use their dishware (that they have to wash). I have seen about a 50/50 use of both. Philmont is a unique place for several reasons. Philmont has always regarded their property to be a concentrated camping environment. Recently we began incorporating Leave No Trace principals on property with good results. As of 2012 we are requiring sticks to protect the bark on trees. This will help protect what is left, but with 25,000 people hiking through the property, each one required to hang bear bags or be cited for Bear Baiting (which is a felony in New Mexico) there will be damage. Just as we build trails, latrines, and campsites, we sacrifice a small amount of land to area the greater beauty. Further with any organization that has over 1200 employees, there will be some degree of inconsistency (not an excuse, just a fact).
Bowl Rehydrating
I won’t lie, when I went on trek to Philmont that is the method my crew used on both of our treks. There were two drawbacks we saw. First, we sometimes did not have big enough bowls to mix all the food in our bowl without overflowing. Second, we usually ate cold food every night. Philmont makes no exceptions, you are required to take at least one 8 quart cooking pot. Your ranger is required to teach you the “One Pot” cooking method. I have been advised in the past by my managers not to allow it while I am with the crew.
While at Philmont, the goal is to get crews away from acting as individuals and to encourage team building. Making dinner together i
Back Country Illness
MAKE SURE TO BRING HAND SANITIZER! Philmont changes their stance every year. Philmont has had a battle the past few years with the Norwalk Virus. Each summer it plagues staff and campers alike. Make sure you teach your crew to use hand sanitizer before every meal and to wash up frequently. I have never fell ill to it despite having several participants who catch it. I attribute this to my religiously using hand sanitizer and always sanitizing my dishes.
Proper “Trail Etiquette” when sharing snack food is to pour trail mix (or anything else) onto the hand of the person you are sharing with. That way they you don’t get their germs in your food. I make it a point if I put my fingers inside a trail mix bag, I do not share with other people.
If you drink untreated water at Philmont, your largest concern will be for Giardia. It will take you about 2 weeks before you get diarrhea resembling sea foam.
Cleaning Pots
It uses about 2-3 cups of water. If you use the scraper I mentioned in my previous post, you can get away with just a few ounces of water. Most rangers have a rule with scouts: Eat all the food. With teenagers, that is usually easy to accomplish. You will be eating 2-3,000 calories a day and still be burning body fat. Leftover food should NOT be an issue. If it is, fatigue will become an issue with your crew.
In Regards to the other waste in the meals, in 2011 Philmont began a recycling initiative to recycle meal bags. In 2012 that expanded to all cardboard in the meals. From what I understand we are going to be expanding the recycling program as well.
Philmont Concentrated Camping
Tony Ronco hit it right on the head. Your ranger will even discuss the differences between Pure LNT camping and Concentrated Camping. There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY for 25,000 campers to go through Philmont without causing a problem. A funny story that the Program Director Mark Anderson tells now and again is how he went to a conference on pooping outdoors. If you do the math, 25,000 campers and 1,000 staffers pooping for about 75 days (about how long the summer season is) makes about 1.9 million cat holes. I admit a Latrine isn’t too Leave No Trace, but since you won’t get scouts to pack out their own poo we have to make leave a trace with a building and a concentrated impact on the camp.
I will be the first to admit that Philmont is by NO means the leader the best Leave No Trace practices. They are making HUGE movement and leading the way within the BSA to push LNT camping. The Boy Scouts of America are notorious for being the Number 1 offenders of the forest service. Philmont influences almost every district in the Boy Scouts of America every summer. If we can change the minds and convert just a few people each year in each district we can start making a change that will impact all of the Boy Scouts.

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Rehydrate in bowls on 12/26/2012 12:25:07 MST Print View

"While at Philmont, the goal is to get crews away from acting as individuals and to encourage team building."

OK I'm trying to understand the reasoning behind this. So let's compare the two methods and see how or if we are encouraging the crew to act as individual and where the team building factors in.

Philmont method:
Two cooks assemble needed items
Dump contents of several meal pouches into large pot
Heat water and add, wait for rehydration
Serve to crew.
Clean up crew cleans large pot, serving spoon, individual bowls and spoons

Bowl method:
Two cooks assemble needed items
Dump contents of several meal pouches into individual bowls
Heat water and add to individual bowl, wait for rehydration
Serve to crew.
Clean up crew cleans individual bowls and spoons.

Both crews have a cooking and cleaning team that prepares and serves the meal, and everyone eats together, then cleans up.
Seems to me the bowl method crew has more time to bond (team building) since they're not wasting time doing dishes. Unless you consider KP a team building exercise.

fbc on 12/26/2012 13:48:18 MST Print View

There is a huge number of inexperienced backpackers coming to Philmont, and the BSA has some responsibility for their safety and well being while there.

This is what is at the root of many Philmont rules. This is why they want to get everyone to do everything the same way. Only thru attempting to control everything you do, and exactly how you do it, do they feel comfortable with that responsibility.

When food was actually cooked, it made sense to only cook one pot. That was obviously lighter, and easier.

When rehydrating, it isnt necessarilly. It does result in hotter food however, than when done individually in smaller containers. But it requires bringing a large pot that just isnt needed any more.

The argument that the Philmont way promotes unity is a farce. How does having two boys do all the cooking do that? What about un-equal shares of food eaten, does that promote unity ? Not for the kid that feels he didnt get his fair share.

BSA is just slow to change, and Philmont is another example of that.

Only in BSA can a boy spend 11 days backpacking, and when done, still not know how to go real backpacking. Of course, they are being taught that even carrying 3-4 days food is a lot.

Hand sanitizer is actually less effective than soap. I would rather have clean hands, than dirty , "sanitized" hands.

Edited by livingontheroad on 12/26/2012 14:02:00 MST.

Jacob Phelps
(RangerJake) - F
Re: Rehydrate in bowls on 12/27/2012 18:18:25 MST Print View

On both of my treks as a scout, we re-hydrated our food in individual bowls. Only as a ranger did I start using the "one pot method". You could say that everyone getting the exact same food is a bonding experience.

As a scout on trek, I remember that every dinner we ate as a crew started as the same. There is no precise way on the trail to perfectly split in 1/2 a freeze dried meal. Some nights I would get a little more than my tent partner. That isn't a big deal though. When you rehydrate the food, you can measure the precise amount of water needed to rehydrate. If you put too much powder in one bowl and too little in the other, well the bowl that you put too little in is going to be soup while the one with too much freeze dried powder is going to be dry. That scout with the dry bowl adds warm water and has a perfect meal while the other is stuck with a soup for dinner. The idea is that the crew enjoys together or the crew suffers together.

If your crew gets a one of the GSI Outdoors Compact Scraper, cleanup in the pot is easy and scouts will sometimes argue over who wants to do it because they get more food. If scouts lick clean their bowl there is no cleanup.

Sorry to be blunt: I would love to say that you don't have to take a 8qt cooking pot, but there is no way that you can get around it. Philmont rangers are required to require you to take it. Since you will have to carry it, you might as well get used to it and find the best, most efficient way to do use it... trust me the GSI Outdoors Compact Scraper is the way to go. They're dirt cheap and worth every penny.

There are TONS of inexperienced backpackers who make it to Philmont and YES, Philmont is liable for any problems. They do have a "cookie-cutter" formula they use, but trust me IT WORKS if you follow it. There are some places that you can be tweaked and improved, but it works. It is the same method that has been used for the past 30+ years on the trails.

The idea of unity and teamwork comes from every scout having a responsibility to help the team. There is no way that everybody can cook their own food at the same time. Philmont's philosophy is that the entire crew needs responsibilities to contribute to the benefit of the crew. These duties rotate daily so everyone gets a chance at them.

I sense a lot of hostility towards Philmont. As having experience on both sides of Philmont, trying to get around the system as a camper and teaching and following the system as a Ranger I know that the Philmont system works in group backpacking trips. I know that when I backpack with groups of friends we don't follow Philmont policy (except bear procedure when necessary).

As for trail hygiene and hand sanitizer most advisers I have encountered prefer to wash their hands at the sump which is better than using hand sanitizer. However scouts who generally practice poor hygiene compared to their advisers don’t want to wash their hands. Eating clean dirt is better than eating dirty dirt. You will also run into situations at dry camps where you do not want to use water to wash your hands because you would rather drink it. From my experience using hand sanitizer and wiping your hands (while still wet with hand sanitizer) will usually get most if not all of the dirt off your hands.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
RE: "The crew enjoys together or the crew suffers together." on 12/29/2012 10:21:42 MST Print View

Oy, I've seen the team approach defined by "the idea is that the crew enjoys together or the crew suffers together" method being promoted by a percentage of Scouters ... so, in this one case - and applying that method - if one has a soupy meal then they ALL should have a soupy meal?
May I suggest that a better promoter of team spirit & a more constructive measure of team cohesiveness: the willingness of team members help one another.
All Scouts within a crew have strengths & weaknesses. Seeing Scouts self initiate the leadership and team building skills within their crew to achieve cohesion using those strengths & weaknesses is both a growing & character building experience for all ... and wonderful reward for the adult leaders.

Example of that kind of team spirit (concerning soupy meals and individually re-hydrating) - During training hikes we've had few Scouts that have had unwanted soupy meals, did they suffer alone? no, other Scouts stepped up and with much drier meals and offered to mix their meal with the soupy meals to reduce the amount of water present (mix together, then split again). I've seen this process repeat a few times too, until an acceptable consistency was achieved. This was a lesson-rich situation for building the qualities that Scouting is about.

Point: Re-hydrating in a bowl happens to be an approach that allowed the flexibility and the opportunity for individual Scouts to take self-initiative, work on problem solving skills, and to practice team building at the same time.
It is a very different approach (and outcome) than "the crew enjoys together or the crew suffers together" method.

Main (Team Spirit) Point: This is not about re-hydrating - It is about boy-led team building & cohesiveness; and the character building that is foundational to achieving that. Our job as adults is to promote that as often and as best we can in a safe manner.

BTW (this off the main point of team building): Eliminating meals that are too watery:

There are easy measuring techniques that can be applied here. I won't go into them here to keep this long post from getting longer. But the techniques should be learned & practiced on the training hikes. Remember living the Scout Motto: Be Prepared

We can disagree without being disagreeable. Better to achieve clarity first, before attempting agreement. I hope that as Scouters we can all live up to the Scout Oath & Law

Edited by tr-browsing on 12/29/2012 21:10:25 MST.

Thomas Glennon
(Eagletrek007) - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Freezer Bags on 03/19/2013 08:14:32 MDT Print View

Hey Ranger Jake,

Got it, no freezer bags. No debate needed, as you guyts are the "land manager". That said how about using your connections through Ranger channels and ensure that this message gets out loud and clear to all attending in 2013 and beyond. As I review the latest Philmont Council and Unit Planning Guide (2013 edition) and Guidebook to Adventure, there is no mention of the prohibition on freezer/turkey bags for cooking.

LNT principle #1 is "plan ahead and prepare". If Philmont will let us know, well in advance, I'm sure folks will come prepared not to go the "bag route".

Thanks for your service to our youth and the great scouting program.



Sarah Kuhn
(SCKuhn) - MLife

Locale: Mountainous Ohio
'Turkey bags' on 03/19/2013 09:02:33 MDT Print View

Thomas -
Unit planning Guide comes out for 2013 in the fall of 2012, so probably missed the printing deadline. I agree though, should have been in the Guidebook to Adventure since they JUST came out, but it is referenced in the Itinerary Guide.


From the 2013 Itinerary Guide - page 15
"Turkey Bags
A common food preparation inquiry amongst crews travelling to Philmont relates to the use of oven cooking bags, or as they are sometimes called, “turkey bags”. Though their use may be a common practice on camping or backpacking trips on the local level, Philmont asks that units DO NOT use this cooking method while on an expedition at Philmont. Rangers will teach the proper cooking and cleaning procedures to the crew at the beginning of the trek using pots, camp suds, hot water, and Philmont sumps. This is an important skill for crew members to learn, and helps reinforce the Patrol Method on the trail by rotating this valuable position on the crew duty roster to all members of the crew. Other concerns with the “turkey bags” are the environmental impact and the impact to bear and wildlife procedures. 22,000 participants in a summer would create over 50,000 bags that take up scarce refuse space in the backcountry and then have to be hauled to a landfill. Also, with 50,000 bags worth of food residue, the potential for increased odors that are carried in backpacks, hung in bear bags, or left in refuse containers, will certainly create an impact to Philmont bear and wildlife procedures. Your cooperation in this effort will help support Philmont’s multiple sustainability initiatives and will make a positive and lasting impact on the environment."

Edited by SCKuhn on 03/19/2013 09:03:58 MDT.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
'Turkey bags' Redux - reframe it into embracing tradition. on 03/19/2013 14:18:27 MDT Print View

Re: "Rangers will teach the proper cooking and cleaning procedures ..."

Hmm, this is just one illustrative sentence that reflects a value-belief which is at the heart of the issue here ... it is simply unaware of (or doesn't accept)that there are differences between "proper" and "Philmont"

Also there is no recognition that the Philmont version of the patrol method of cooking and cleaning does not fully embrace Philmont's own Wilderness Pledge commitment to converse water. There recognition that it wastes stove fuel and increases fossil fuel emissions from unnecessary boiling of water for clean up. So, there is no recognition that it is less sustainable.

The Reframing to Tradition:

I get that there is a element of tradition in play here ... and that tradition is important to the culture of Scouting. That can certainly be acknowledged and act as a basis for going forward.

But please, let's drop creating specious rationalizations that the cooking alternatives represented in this thread aren't as effective in promoting the Patrol Method. (As Don outlines in his 12/26/2012 post on this thread)

Permit me to add one more example from the previous post's Itinerary Guide quote:
"the potential [turkey bag method] for increased odors that are carried in backpacks, hung in bear bags, or left in refuse containers, will certainly create an impact to Philmont bear and wildlife procedures."

Oy what a rationalization. In reality, the traditional Philmont methods do not minimize that - as food solids left over from the dinner cleaning procedure (from the frisbee strainer and a bit from the sump strainer) get packed out in plastic waste bags (our ranger encouraged the use of zip-locs for moisture control ... just like waste containment for the alternative methods in this thread). And of course, besides dinner's rehydration, there are plenty of other food residue trash from lunch spreads, meat containers, etc (that have nothing to do with a rehydrating method) that also go into waste bags. BTW, Campsuds is aromatic as well, and that makes the things it washes aromatic too. (Which would one think is more of a bear attractor; a pot that's had food cooked in it and washed with aromatic soap? or a pot that has only been used for boiled water?)
Anyway ... in short - the food residue & trash from the traditional Philmont method are NOT the most minimized and are also naturally carried in backpacks, hung in bear bags, or left in refuse containers at staff camps ...

Rather than relying on such specious rationalizations, maybe focusing on it as a tradition approach is easier way to advocate the Philmont Method.

LNT Approach -
I can also embrace the LNT angle which is thankfully (ironically?) counter to the older traditions of back country woodcraft (among other things). And while the Philmont Method ignores the issue of water conservation, fuel & emissions waste. I'm just hoping to see at PSR this summer,t LNT practices that are better & wider spread than what I saw in 2011 ... because there are lots of low hanging fruit that haven't been picked yet. Philmont certainly has the potential to be a shining example of the LNT approach. I'm accepting as a matter of faith that these steps are a part of an effort to pursue that goal.

Edited by tr-browsing on 02/27/2015 12:20:57 MST.

bs on 03/19/2013 15:51:11 MDT Print View

Call it what it is. Total BS.

How many crews use turkey bags? 1/2? 1/3? 1/4, or less?

Probably less.

But lets be kind and say 1/3

Might be 7000 turkey bags per summer

Assuming a 8 weeks of treks = 875 per week.

want to know how much volume the bags actually takes up?

A couple cubic feet, tops. Less than 1/2 of a trash can, per week.

The food residue in the bags would be way more of a problem, than the bags themselves.

And that food comes out anyway in the yum yum ziplocks.

People have used turkey bags and other preferred ways of doing things for years at Philmont without issues.

But apparently someone new got a hard-on to try to make everyone do things their way.

When we have asked, we have not been told that we couldnt do anything that we wanted. We were told they would "prefer" if we did it X way.
That is also the language used here.

actual turkey bag weighs .5 oz
10 bags weigh 6 oz,= 0.375 lb

How much trash if 1/3 used them? 272lbs
How much trash if everyone used them 816 lbs

816 lbs is all the recyclable trash they are actually saving. Period.

22000 participants cant generate 50000 bags unless they use two for each meal, or if they have 5 man crews. Neither happens.

22000 * 11/7 =34571 = the max # of bags that could be possibly generated.
=1080 lb All recyclable too.
Seems they cant even do math, or possibly just like throwing out ridiculous exxagerations. More that likely the average crew size is 10, and you end up with 800 lbs of trash, max based on 24000 turkey bags, not 50,000

In actuality, you will use one yum-yum bag every 2 days since you will dispose of at staffed camps, so thats 0.6 oz (double bagged) vs. 1.0 oz for one turkey bag each day.
so in reality, the trash savings is even less, probably half. 400lbs total if everyone used turkey bags, or more likely, 150 lbs.

The rest of the trash in their food packaging for a crew, eclipses that easily by probably a factor of 50. They are working on the wrong target, as usual.

Edited by livingontheroad on 03/20/2013 20:21:36 MDT.

Thomas Glennon
(Eagletrek007) - MLife
Re: 'Turkey bags' on 03/20/2013 13:08:00 MDT Print View


Thanks for pointing out Philmont's new policy. It was just my luck that the 2013 Itinerary Guide was posted on-line just after I made my post. Glad to see that they included it however it would have been nice if it had been done earlier. Seems to be a little late in the process especially for those of us who start training early.

Thomas Glennon
(Eagletrek007) - MLife
Re: 'Turkey bags' Redux - reframe it into embracing tradition. on 03/20/2013 13:13:07 MDT Print View

In keeping with Philmont's return to "tradition" I'm contemplating toting my Plumb three quarter axe with me during our 2014 trek. Just for looks you know!!!

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Return to Tradition :-) on 03/23/2013 09:53:07 MDT Print View

@ Thomas: LOL - going retro! Let us know how that goes.
I'm old enough to remember when I was a Scout, Woodcraft was a natural part of "Scout Craft" ... not exactly a LNT approach.

Scout Hatches

Yeah, point made. Some traditions are best left in the past *smile*

Edited by tr-browsing on 03/23/2013 09:55:37 MDT.