November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Turkey Bag Cooking vs. Philmont
Display Avatars Sort By:
Glenn Smith

Locale: Southern Arizona
Turkey Bag Cooking vs. Philmont Cooking Method on 09/02/2013 19:06:21 MDT Print View

Just wondering what everyone experienced this past season in terms of the newly published policy on eliminating turkey bag cooking. This will be my fifth trek and we have used turkey bags for rehydrating food on each trek. Curious to hear what folks experienced and how they dealt with this.

Edited by gosmithpa on 09/02/2013 19:07:01 MDT.

turkey bags on 09/03/2013 18:37:21 MDT Print View

Well basically they say no turkey bags.

You go to the advisor meeting, and they tell you again, no turkey bags, and put the green spin on it.

Then after your ranger leaves, you use your turkey bags if you want.

Its really not a big deal either way, but when you want to eat and then get to an fun evening program, no one wants to have to do dishes. It takes long enough just to eat and get things hung up.

Some things clean up easy, like beans . Things with cheese are where the bags come in handy.

Edited by livingontheroad on 09/03/2013 18:39:00 MDT.

Peter G

Locale: Western Oklahoma
A Scout is Obedient. on 09/10/2013 11:03:21 MDT Print View

If they say no to turkey bags, it seems contrary to the principles of Scouting to switch to them when nobody is looking.

Sean Heenan

Locale: Southeast mountains
Re: A Scout is Obedient. on 09/10/2013 15:43:08 MDT Print View

I agree, also trustworthy.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Re: A Scout is Obedient. on 09/11/2013 09:51:49 MDT Print View

"On one occasion a man ventured to disobey an order that was given to him, and when he was brought before the commander, the General said that if a man could disobey an order at such a critical time he could not be in his right mind, he must be mad. Therefore he ordered that the usual treatment accorded to a lunatic should be applied to the offender. His head was to be shaved, he was to be blistered and bled, and kept in a padded cell on a light diet of bread and water -- and also be prayed for in church."

- one story Lord Baden-Powell tells from his "Young Knights of the Empire"


Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: Turkey Bag Cooking vs. Philmont Cooking Method on 09/11/2013 10:29:54 MDT Print View

Yeah, I'd say switching them when no one is looking is probably a bad example to set. I'm not exactly sure what turkey bag cooking is. Is it just freezer bag cooking in a turkey bag? If so, do they think they would prohibit you from reusing a Mountain House bag to carry/rehydrate your own recipe? If you're going to set a bad example its probably better to just bend the rules rather than break them outright. (I say this as someone who doesn't have kids yet, so take it with a grain of salt)


Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Turkey Bag Cooking vs. Philmont Cooking Method on 09/11/2013 14:53:47 MDT Print View

Rehydrate your meals in a hard plastic container. Much easier to clean that your pot.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Turkey Bag Cooking vs. Philmont on 09/11/2013 15:58:36 MDT Print View

I'd just say no to Philmont if it's that big a deal. If the only way you can do a 10 day wilderness trek is by having Philmont cater it, I think you're doing your boys a huge disservice. It's not like the USA isn't full of amazing areas to go.

Sean Heenan

Locale: Southeast mountains
Re: Turkey Bag Cooking vs. Philmont Cooking Method on 09/11/2013 18:21:00 MDT Print View

If you have been on 5 treks there is no need to tell you about the Philmont experience.
I went this summer and I can tell you the boys didn't care. Yeah, cleaning is a pain in the axx, but it is at home also, and the boys did it and only complained once about it towards the end of the trek, and then it wasn't so much about the actual cleaning chore. As far as having a hard time getting to the evening program, just plan for it and it will work out, we had no issues. Do I agree with the Philmont cooking method, maybe not for the reasons they state, we carried alot of trash but 12 people make alot of trash, a couple of turkey bags each night doesn't seem like much more. Just accept that is the way it is, it shouldn't be a deal breaker.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Re: LNT Bag Cooking vs. Philmont Cooking Method on 09/11/2013 21:38:55 MDT Print View

FWIW: This year, we did an LNT version of the FBC method, by re-purposing the trash generated by each meal's packaging. In order practice water conservation (& per Philmont's Wilderness Pledge commitment for Conservation and proper use of water) and consequently reduce our environmental footprint. It also reduces our environmental footprint by avoiding unnecessary fossil fuel emissions from having to waste gas boiling water for clean-up.

In general this approach aligns very nicely with the patrol method: The crew works together as a team, the duty roster's cook pair does the set-up, boils water, sterilizes the eating utensils, oversees portion control and does clean up. With help from the cook pair, each Scout (each night) learns to cook (control the amount of water for re-hydrating and time required to re-hydrate) ... and with the cook pair as the unifying force, any lessons learned are quickly disseminated among the team.
All that, while aligning nicely into Philmont's Wilderness Pledge commitment for Conservation and proper use of water, it teaches conservation perspectives and offers participating in living lab to minimize their environmental food print both as an individual and as a team. Those conservation perspectives include the mitigating the waste of gas, time, and fossil fuel emissions that comes from the unnecessary boiling of water for clean-up. All and all, it produces a patrol method that is much more sustainable than Philmont's version of the patrol method.

Ok, here's the outline:
First, each meal is designed to feed two Scouts - those two Scouts became "food buddies"

For re-hydrating meals, one of the food buddies, would rehydrate their half of the meal utilizing the bag the meal came in, and the other food buddy would rehydrate their half utilizing large LLDPE bag that organized every thing (entree, snacks, dessert & "electrolyte mix" (i.e. sugar water :-).
IMPORTANT: All of this was done in bowls (re-purposed/recycled bowls, of course - given our reduced environmental impact approach ) in case a leak ever developed in the bags being utilized (none did). The bags only acted as "bowl liners" NOT as cooking vessels. The packaging bags (depending on the size) tended to not reach over the outer edges of the bowl, and thus the bowl was more of a containment/support vessel those bags. But the LLDPE bag in particular nicely lined the bowl and reached over the bowls' outer edges no problem. BTW, the giant graphic transfer on the LLDPE bag IDing the meal, was kept on the non-use side of the bag (obviously, or maybe not so obviously).

So, in summary to reduce our environmental footprint: This method re-purposed the existing packaging trash, conserved fuel, time, and precious water resources (no wasted water from dish washing), avoided smelling up the sump with grey water, and of course, bottom line - did not generate additional trash (... did I already mention that? ;-)


For those couple of Scouts that were ravenous eaters, this approach also allowed them to double up on various dinners (with minimum hassle to the rest of the crew) by utilizing the culinary treasures they found in the swap boxes.
The swap boxes also offered alternative entree selections to be prepared by those more "picky eaters" ... and by utilizing this method, those alternative meals were prepared with minimum hassle & disruption.

Final Notes on environmental footprint: With this method, one would think that because LLDPE bags used to rehydrate would be presumably dirty, there would be 1/3 less LLDPE bags to "feed the snake" collection points(which one would hope, ultimately be recycled as filler into composite lumber - the biggest application user of such bags) ... but that was NOT the case because when the camp's staff saw how "clean" they were (our Scouts were hungry and didn't leave much, if any, food in them), the camp staff strongly encouraged us to to "feed the snake" with them anyway.

(BTW, the giant graphic transfer on all of the LLDPE bags can be considered a form of contamination in terms of recycling, but that's a post for another thread)

It should also be noted that with each meal there would be one or two LLDPE bags that weren't scrapped clean of food generated by less than hungry enough (i.e. the meal didn't appeal to them) Scouts ... those bags were utilized as the collection trash bag for all of the rest of the trash generated by the crew's meals. We considered this aspect an environmental foot print "wash" with the prevailing method because in the staff camps' trash cans we saw that all of the crews utilized the LLDPE bags as collection trash bags ... and in addition, the amount of food residue left over (from what we saw), looked to be approximately the same as the amount of food residue left over from the prevailing Philmont method (i.e. that residue collected from the left overs in the frisbee strainer, that couldn't be washed down the sump (& shouldn't be left on the sump screen) ... since the prevailing method does washing & rinsing (and hence does not conserve precious water resources - unfortunately), this end result on the small amount of residue left over may surprise some: we had conversations with other crews who expressed curiosity about this approach and some were surprised that the rinsing cycle (for the bags, not for the cooking pots and eating bowls) was not needed ... those folks could easily see that it eliminated the washing cycle, but a few did not readily realize it could completely eliminate the rinsing cycling too.


Edit / Editorial Comment: From my perspective, in terms of trash smellables, the residue from the dinners (regardless of cooking method) were not the most significant smellable produced from meals or for that matter the bulkiest - the most significant was the "sickly combination" of smells from the sugary, spicy chip snacks & with the over-the-top fruity smells from candy bars (Honey Stingers, etc), along with the various bag snacks (Corn-nuts, etc) & and the electrolyte mixes (fruit favoring, etc) were more pronounced in trash bag smells & bulk.

Edited by tr-browsing on 02/27/2015 11:58:59 MST.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
RE: LNT Bag Rehydrating Q&A on 09/12/2013 11:48:00 MDT Print View

I got a couple of PMs containing questions on this method & because there was duplication in the questions, and because the replies are rather lengthy (oy!) I decided to answer them here, once, instead of answering them "off forum" twice.
So, this is outlines answers to question about this particular adaptation that our crew utilized.

Q: How did you deal with the ventilation holes in meal bags? Didn't the meal leak through the ventilation holes?
A: There are six holes for ventilation in the bags: 3 going up the right side, 3 going up the left side. Because the bags were big enough and the bowls were small enough, the bags acted as a bowl liner with those ventilation holes just outside the outer edge of the bowl. Because the bag's ventilation holes were outside the outer edge of the bowl, the liner did not leak. BTW, The bowl was big enough to sufficiently hold the meal.

Q: What bowl did you use?
A: Given our reduced environmental impact approach - we re-used Trader Joe's Soup Bowls for their Rice Noodles (The Spring Onion selection was a fav). The bowls are very lightweight polypropylene (PP, dishwasher & microwave save - a consideration to take into account if utilized as a re-hydration bowl ... which was the original intent). From our Philmont practice meals we discovered many different bowls that would work in this way. But these recycled bowls were the lightest, and the cheapest (= essentially free ... but the noodle meal cost $1)

Q: For the re-hydrated meals in a bag, doesn't their packaging need pleats in order to be utilized?
A: No. And you should know that Mountain House and Richmoor do not recommend using the bags to rehydrate on their own, because the packaging does not have as many layers (to reduce cost) as their commercial offerings and consequently those bags have not been tested to hold up to that kind of use. That is why the bowls are VERY IMPORTANT. Both types of bags should thought of as only acting as "bowl liners". It is the bowls themselves that are the cooking vessels that support the weight of the meal & water. It is the bowls themselves that provide containment of the meal in case the bags leak. Remember both types of bags are only acting as "bowl liners" (not as meal cooking vessels)

Q: Which stove did your crew use?
A: Jetboil Sumo (Ti). We took 2, as our crew size was 12.
Boiled water amazingly fast, and the two stoves allowed us additional flexibility to tailor the amount of water we boiled.

Q: How did you pour the water from the large pot?
A: We didn't use a large pot (except for the first demo dinner the Ranger did).
We utilized the Jetboil Sumos, and for general safety we don't lift a pot to pour boiling water directly, but instead use a plastic ladle (1.3 oz - for those ounce counters). We view the Philmont method of lifting a big pot of boiling hot water and pouring into another pot as being far "less than optimal" in terms of safety. The ladle approach is much safer and contained if there is an accident. The ladle approach also allowed the Scouts to control the amount of water to tailor the thickness of their meals (= the glass half full perspective) ... or gave them additional opportunities to learn from their mistakes (of over-watering = the glass half empty perspective) BTW, Remember to keep hands away from any "pour zone".

Q: Did your crew take a large pot?
A: Yes, for the first night's dinner - all rangers are required to do a demo dinner the first night out ... it is one of the requirements signed off by the lead adult advisor. So, we brought one (1) large pot - our own, just in case our Ranger wasn't willing to do the rehydrating the dinner in the pot demo using the Sumo pots. So, the one large pot we brought (for that demo) was a cheap thin wall aluminum pot - we took it with the idea of getting rid of it early (put it in for recycling at a backcountry commissary) ... but one of our adult advisors decided he liked it (go figure), so he volunteered to carry it (to use as a camp stool during dinner, as a part-time elevated foot rest, as a trail camp shower/wash basin, etc.) ... There was also talk of shooting it up at our Black Powder Rifle activity (lol) ... that didn't happen, it is now in one of our car camp patrol boxes.
But in terms of using it for our crew cooking - other than the first night Ranger demo on the trail - we didn't use it for crew cooking - we used the Sumos instead.

Q: I assume another reason you avoided the Philmont pots was to reduce weight?
A: Yes, we have always focus on being comfortable, and when backpacking that usually means a light carry weight (among other things). Our average carry weight going out of basecamp (with crew gear divided up, 3 days worth of food, and 3 litters of water) was 27 lbs, 12 oz. (The boys were in the 25 lb range, but the other three adult advisors base weights pulled the average carry weight over) Even with the Sumo pots we carried, we still netted almost 23 ounce savings over the traditional Philmont pots ... quite a bit for ounce counters.
HOWEVER our initial approach was to rehydrate in the bowls, and then through the efforts to to reduce both water waste & to avoid additional trash generation ... and to increase efficiency (from not wasting gas to unneeded boils) & convenience, this method ended up evolving from that focus.

Q: How did you convince your Ranger?
A: YMMV. First, maybe a better perspective/framing is that our approach wasn't to try & convince our Ranger, we wanted to work with him ... for him to be our partner. A Ranger is just trying to do his or her job. You'll need to make sure you show them the respect and never undercut their authority ... especially in front of the youth. Our Ranger was an exceptional reasonable & deep thinking individual (that helped). Second, we didn't try to change his mind on anything. From our initial orientation, he discovered our Scouts were prepared, and had been to Philmont before (that bought a lot of credibility - that helped). Later that day, I discreetly asked him for some time for a brief private discussion. Away from the boys, I explained that I wanted our conversation to be private and not in front of the boys to ensure that his authority was not undercut in anyway. I also emphasized that we knew he was obligated to show the methods by the book and that we would fully respect him doing his job. I also told him that out of desire to be respectful & honest, I needed to explain how we prepared and what our methods evolved to. From that as a beginning, we had great LNT conversation(s) .. he had some astute LNT observations of adaptations not fully embraced by Philmont yet (or for that matter Philmont's Wilderness Pledge to conserve water), but that together we should do on our trek - take it to the next level (although we were not currently required to do it) ... later he proposed that to our crew leader & crew, and they quickly agreed - so we did. (FWIW, in our conversation I fortunately had a prime example that back in 2011 the use of stand-off sticks to protect trees from rope wrap was certainly not the standard way of doing things(we did that and were "discouraged" by our Ranger at the time from doing so - he didn't think it was necessary) ... but in 2013 that technique finally became the standard that is taught).

Again, YMMV ;-)

Edit / Editorial Comment - IMHO, Philmont has improved on reducing the amount of trash each meal generates (with the one glaring exception of the Turkey Stuffing dinner with all its cans, and unneeded, unnecessary packaging boxes for the bags of stuffing). While they still haven't gotten all the low hanging fruit, (or fully embrace their own Wilderness Pledge to conserve water) it is very encouraging to see the steps of improvement they have made.

Edited by tr-browsing on 02/27/2015 11:52:41 MST.

method on 09/13/2013 21:28:48 MDT Print View

And I expect that Philmonts position on your method would be (pure speculation) :

"By not washing out your bags you rehydrated in, you are carrying more food residue and smellable trash that potentially could attract bears, in addition to creating heavier garbage waste for the backcountry crews to dispose of. The additional food residue in your used bags, regardless of origin, could attract bears to the garbage at staffed camps, endangering campers, staff, and the bears."

Truth is, they arent reasonable, they dont want to be, they just want to have everyone do things their way, so they dont have to worry about it. Its understandable, but not enforceable.

Edited by livingontheroad on 09/13/2013 21:34:03 MDT.

michael mercer

Locale: Northern Virginia
Turkey Bags at Philmont on 01/03/2014 15:46:07 MST Print View

Got an official response from Mark Anderson (Philmont Director) and Mark Stinnett (Chairman, Outdoors Committee). Philmont bans turkey bags because they believe they add smellables when they are thrown out in camp garbage cans and that they add unnecessary additional waste to the Philmont landfill.

Philmont need only apply the pack-it-in, pack-it-out philosophy to solve the first concern. They might also consider that turkey bag garbage is totally eclipsed by the close to 25% (by weight) of smellable trash generated by each Philmont food pack.

Current LNT practice is pushing for the no-pot cleaning method vice the Philmont two-pot method. Turkey bags are an important enabler to cook the Philmont dinners without adding grey water to the sumps - any wonder why the bears are digging up the Philmont sumps?

Hopefully Philmont management will someday be willing to embrace to these lower impact LNT methods.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Re: Turkey Bags at Philmont on 01/03/2014 22:37:23 MST Print View

I agree with you Micheal on the pack it in, pack it out approach LNT style.
(While fully embracing the Philmont Wilderness Pledge to Conserve Water)

For clarification, this past summer our crew did not bring any Turkey Bags (following current Philmont wishes)and still was able to do a patrol method re-hydration approach that didn't require cleaning pots.

For re-hydrating meals, we re-purposed what would have been packaging trash (LNT style) to serve as bowl liners to rehydrate in. One of the food buddies, would rehydrate their half of the meal utilizing the bag the meal came in, and the other food buddy would rehydrate their half utilizing large LLDPE bag that organized every thing (entree, snacks, dessert & "electrolyte mix" (i.e. sugar water :-)

The duty roster designated cook pair oversaw everything, boiled the water, divvied up the food, and ladled the water out.

We did not bring any additional trash from home.

Philmont is improving ... just very slowly.

Edited by tr-browsing on 02/27/2015 11:40:28 MST.

recycle on 01/05/2014 20:31:54 MST Print View

Since those "bags that the meal came in ", are supposed to be put on the snakes and recycled at staffed camps, by using them for rehydrating you made just as much real trash as you would have if you brought turkey bags. Actually probably more, as they are likely heavier than turkey bags.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Re: Likely Heavier? on 01/06/2014 14:55:50 MST Print View

Smile ... off the point, but as it turns out, I have measured the weights of both bags on my postal scale. Reynolds Turkey Bag = 15 to 16 grams (more often towards 16), and the Philmont Meal organizing bag = 13 grams (=average: various bags can bounce at times from 12 all the way up to 14, but most often they weight in at 13. The bags were from 2012 surplus meals used for practice).

FWIW: The Philmont bag does indeed feel thicker & has that giant graphic transfer for meal identification (which must add weight to it ... & it unfortunately can be form of contamination in terms of recycling) but turkey bag is bigger (19' x 23-1/2")and that apparently makes up the difference.

The efforts for reducing land fill material should also (obviously) include recycling cardboard packaging, paper packaging and the cans ... hopefully that will be the next steps taken.
In Philmont, meals present the most waste primarily from all the food packaging trash (breakfast, lunch & dinner), but also in the non-conservation of water during dinner clean up (especially in drought conditions), and resulting grey water waste.
Of course, there are also two other factors in addition to to consider in addressing waste generation: Reduce, and Reuse (in addition to Recycling)... and given the wilderness environment, we have the reduction of smellables angle too.

One of the big "whys" behind LNT is the reduce our environmental footprint in the wilderness, and by a role model extension - in life.

An integrated perspective for conservation should include the life cycle: the material & resource use from manufacturing & distribution of a a product as well as it's end of life disposal.

Without bag liner use, the next best way to reduce grey water generation is to rehydrate in individual bowls, then each individual Scout can "human sump" the rinse water from their bowl. This avoids soiling BOTH a re-hydrating pot and the individual bowls and having to clean BOTH. In general this approach also fits just as nicely into the patrol method: The crew works together as a team, the duty roster's cook pair does the set-up, boils water, sterilizes the eating utensils, oversees portion control and does clean up. With help from the cook pair, each Scout (each night) learns to cook (control the amount of water for re-hydrating and time required to re-hydrate) ... and with the cook pair as the unifying force, any lessons learned are quickly disseminated among the team.

As background information: LNT Practices for grey water are as follows:

3.) If there are a lot of food particles in the grey water, then cathole it 200 ft from camp (this is the LEAST preferred approach) ... better to filter out the solids (The Backpacking Merit Badge book shows one way to do this)

2.) If there are not a lot of food particles grey water, the do a "broadcast distribution" at least 200 ft from camp (this is a Compromise Approach)

1.) DO NOT introduce it into the wilderness (this is the MOST preferred LNT approach). Three ways to do this:
A.) "Human Sump" it
B.) Pack it out.
C.) or simply don't produce it in the first place.
This obviously emphasizes water conservation - nice little tie-in to both
Environmental Science merit badge & the Backpacking merit badge teaching.

NOTE: These methods can be combined.

For Philmont a re-hydrating bag allows for the elimination of LNT "human sumping" in clean up because it eliminates the grey water generated in a Philmont style clean up ... that is, should you wish to pursue teaching the most preferred LNT approach to your Scouts

(... and if you don't wish to take that on, but still want to minimize the generation of grey water, then at the next level down most likely you'll be pursuing re-hydrating in the individual bowls)

One of our goals as leaders is to teach life skills through teaching scout skills ... and facilitating those skills to be transferable. Philmont slowing changing and hopefully will become a center of best practice LNT.
(In addition to finally and fully embrace their Wilderness Pledge commitment to conserve water)

Edited by tr-browsing on 11/27/2014 11:08:49 MST.

Brian Crain
(brcrain) - F

Locale: So Cal
Re: Turkey Bag Cooking vs. Philmont Cooking Method on 01/07/2014 14:12:07 MST Print View

626AA02 - we used the Philmont method for the entire trip, carried both pots and did dishes every night. Not once were we pressed for time re: evening program and the Scouts didn't complain about not using turkey bags ...if they believe that there are no options they generally accept it and move on, it is the adults that you have to worry about ;)

Edited by brcrain on 01/07/2014 14:12:44 MST.

Sean Heenan

Locale: Southeast mountains
Re: Re: Turkey Bag Cooking vs. Philmont Cooking Method on 01/07/2014 18:59:43 MST Print View

Very same experience for our group last summer.