What Are Your Lightest Meals?

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Home Forums General Forums SuperUltraLight (SUL) Backpacking Discussion What Are Your Lightest Meals?

Viewing 22 posts - 1 through 22 (of 22 total)
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    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Many freezer bag meals are a bit heavy if they include retort foil pouches of meat and other heavier ingredients.

    I end up taking the best freeze-dried foods I can find and some foods to be cooked like spaghetti with rehydrated sauce I’ve dehydrated at home.

    I’ve dehydrated chicken and turkey then rehydrated it and used instant mashed potatoes or Stovetop Stuffing in one pouch with gravy and the turkey or chicken in another pouch. I call it “Thanksgiving Dinner” and have a whole wheat flat bread with it.

    All my FD food and most other food is repackaged for “hearty” single servings. Usually an evenly divided FD pouch gives me a decent meal.

    Breakfast instant cereals are helped with FD or dehydrated fruits and some nuts. Instant Oatmeal is fortified with some granola from a separate give it some body.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    Tabouli, transferred from the box to a zip-lock.  Can be a lightweight ziplock if you have another container to mix it in or if you rest the ziplock in a pot to add water and stir.  Or use a freezer bag.

    Pro-tip #1: mix in the 1/4 cup of olive oil (4 tablespoons) in advance.  Then you save the additional container and avoid any problems with leaking oil.

    Pro-tip #2: add dehydrated tomato chunks to the baggie at home.

    One brand, Sadaf, $2.67 at Walmart is 5 x 150 calories = 750 calories
    plus 4 tablespoons olive oil x 119 calories/TBS = 476 calories

    total = 1226 calories in 11 ounces.

    It makes for a nice variety from many of the things we eat on the trail.  Also, you save fuel, since you just add cold water and let it sit for 15-30-45 minutes (varies a little by brand).  It’s fine a day later as leftovers.

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there

    The ones I mooch from others.


    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member


    I use a home dehydrator and commonly prepare all manner of foods, especially canned products like great northern beans/pinto beans; Amy’s vegetarian chili, soups, etc.

    Hold four cans in your hand and then hold all four can contents in a ziploc after being dried—amazing how much lighter it is.  This would be four cooked meals, btw.

    If you like beans, you can pour 2 or 3 cans worth of beans in your blender, add sufficient water to blend thoroughly, and pour this mix on your dryer trays atop silicone sheets.  Once dried this stuff is very light.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    You can skip the home-dehydrator step by buying dehydrated beans (and lentils, and a variety of dehydrated vegetables) off of Amazon in 16-ounce packages and then mixing them together with some coconut milk powder, curry paste, etc.  I’ve used these a lot:

    Being mostly complex carbs with some protein and very little fat, it is only light in that it doesn’t have water weight, but it not very little per calories.  Add some oil (in the field or when you prepare meal-sized portions at home) to greatly increase the calories/weight.

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there

    So the most calorie dense is the lightest. EVOO.


    Dan Y
    BPL Member


    #10 cans of Mountain House meals of my choice repackaged into freezer bags. Easy Peasy

    Gary Dunckel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Boulder

    I also use dehydrated and FD ingredients for my meals. My favorite are these:

    1. 10.2 oz. of dehydrated Bush’s beans + 4.9 Vienna sausages sliced thin and dehydrated (these must be pre-soaked for an hour to soften them up; the beans don’t take but a few minutes of simmering). Packaged weight is 4.2 oz. for 560 calories (135 cal/oz).
    2. Dehydrated full can of Stagg Silverado chili: 3.4 oz packaged weight, 463 calories (136 cal/oz).
    3. A full 2-serving pouch of Tasty Bites Jaipur vegetables, dehydrated + 0.7 oz. of Mountain House FD diced chicken: 2.8 oz, 453 cal (162 cal/oz).
    4. 2.4 oz of MH mac & cheese, 1/4 C FD peas, 0.7 oz. of FD diced chicken: 4.0 oz, 469 cal (117 cal/oz). The calories can be bumped up by replacing the chicken with dehydrated Spam (529 cal) or Mountain house FD burger (495 cal). The weight remains roughly the same.

    The bummer with these meals is they average 1270 mg of salt each, which is OK if I am sweating in the heat all day long. But not so good if I am doing a zero day while reading, carving something out of wood, or just taking it easy while my buddy is pretending to catch fish. The calories largely come from higher than usual fat content. The Bush’s/Viennas isn’t too bad, with fat calories being ~ 31% of the total. But the others have a fat percentage of between 40-55% – quite high. The problem with the Bush’s beans is that it has 30 gm of sugar. But man, is it ever tasty!

    Another disadvantage of the above meals is that I usually need to pre-soak some, or all, of the ingredients, as well as simmer things for maybe 5 minutes. Critters will take notice of the smells. I don’t have a problem doing this in Colorado, or even in Glacier where the campsites usually have several parties that share a common food prep area. But in Yellowstone, where I am totally alone at my campsite (therefore pretty vulnerable), I tend to simplify everything and just go with Mountain House Pro-Packs.

    For breakfast, I’m into simplicity. I am a fan of Ensure powdered nutrition shakes, to which I might add some FD fruit. It is probably the most balanced of any I’ve found (expensive though). I don’t see how the Packit Gourmet Jump Start smoothies get so much love. They are even more expensive, and they are loaded with saturated fat and sugar. The main attribute is that they provide lots of protein. But if that’s what you’re after consider going with NutriBiotic’s ProZone (29% fat, 41% carbs, and 30% protein).

    Lunches have always posed a problem for me. I usually am not terribly hungry during the day, but a guy’s gotta eat. So I tend to go with things that I like to eat, most of which isn’t very light (but high in calories) – sausage, cheese, a buttered tortilla, peanut butter on pilot crackers, nuts. Sometimes I will soak some dried fruit when hiking, so that it’s ready for lunch time. That’s pretty light, until I add the water to it.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    David and Gary, thanks for these ideas. I’ve printed this thread, cut out your ideas and put them in my Freezer Bag cookbook. I’m trying the Tabouli tomorrow after I buy some. The dehydrated black beans sound good and I’ll ask my Filipina wife for some ideas for them.

    And I love Busch’s beans. I’ll dehydrate them and mix them with pieces microwaved COSTCO turkey bacon (there best there is) after I reconstitute them and before i heat them. Maybe I’ll try the thin-sliced, dehydrated franks too. I’ve got an idea they may be good rehydrated, heated in my little one egg skillet and put on flat bread rounds or pita bread with BBQ sauce.



    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    I’ve been focusing on easy, quick, and cheap lately.

    has an interesting idea: the ones you mooch from others. Don’t ignore this if you’re on a group trip, it’s a good strategy ;) because there will always be a few folks that overpack food.

    My favorite base is freeze dried beans. Add spices. Then, mix with whatever: freeze-dried pastas (Mountain House Mexirice/chicken is my favorite), freeze dried sour cream, or dried potatoes.

    I also *love* anything with peanut butter. very high calorie/oz ratio.

    oils. nut butters. huge calorie boost. and they go with almost everything – breakfasts, dinners. I even add nut butters to freeze dried spaghetti or stroganoff…

    matthew k


    I may have shared this here before but I’ve heard of a scout that used to be in our troop that once showed up to a backpacking trip with nothing but boxes of Cracker Jacks in his enormous pack. He then proceeded to trade those to other scouts at every meal for the remainder of the trip.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Matt, that is hilarious and, having been a Scout in the Dark Ages, I totally believe it.

    Joe j
    BPL Member


    Superbeets, dehydrated tuna and mashed potatoes (with cheese). :)


    S. Steele


    Locale: North Central New Jersey

    David and Ken have offered the basic element to achieving lightweight meals – high calorie per weight.

    EVOO, extra virgin olive oil is one of the highest caloric dense foods although not singularly palatable.

    You may consider reviewing caloric density foods on the internet. You don’t want to forget to include the “stuff” you personally prefer as a balance to your meals.

    Raf S
    BPL Member


    Hokkaido style ramen wins easily: Noodles, miso soup (with dried seaweed/tofu etc mixed in), and LARD.

    The lard is key. Slightly more calories than olive oil, with a less intense flavor so you can put more in. It also insulates the soup so it stays warm for ages. Its a really common counter meal in hokkaido and tastes pretty good as a camp meal, especially if you have some cured pork or something to throw in the mix…

    I cant imagine a meal with better calorie to weight ratio, unless you ditched the noodles! You just can’t compete with lard. The only other weight saving  question is how much flavor do you really need in a soup?

    steven koester
    BPL Member


    The food ideas sound good but to be truly lightweight I like most of my food to be at least 100 calories per ounce. That way I can carry less than 2# per day. Andrew Skurka’s website is a good source.


    Mark Fowler
    BPL Member


    Locale: Namadgi

    I feel it is more useful to examine food weight in terms of your overall diet rather than just individual meals. You can make any meal light by taking less of it but you end up eating more in your other meals/snacks. I carry 650g of food per day with breakfast, lunch and dinner all coming in around 150g wjth 200g of snacks. This keeps me going for a week or more.  You can get away with almost anything over two or three days.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Steven, thanks for reminding me about Skurka’s website. Good info there.

    BPL Member


    100 calories per ounce is about 3.5 calories/gram.

    Carbs and protein are 4 cal/g and fat is 9 cal/g. So if you’re carrying food that is 3.5 cal/g you must be carrying a bunch of water and fiber weight, and probably more carbs than fat.

    Looking at processed foods the most dense I’ve found is 5 calories/gram. Some potato chips and trail mixes get that high.

    Dark chocolate can get over 6 cal/g with decent fiber content, yet assuredly has ‘extra’ water added to it during processing. 50% cal from fat, 40%cal from carb, 10% cal from protein ain’t a horrible macro distribution either, just a little low on protein. But 600+ cal of dark chocolate and jerky after a long hike sounds intolerable to me…
    <p style=”text-align: center;”>Focusing on caloric density seemed like a simple way to cut down on food weight, but it’s kinda confusing how some foods contain so many calories and nutrients but are hard to eat while other foods are so filling but contain so little energy.</p>

    P.S. If you like lard, try to find suet (you’ll ask for suet and get lard at alot of places). There used to be all different kinds of fats and lards in the marketplace. ‘Lard’ as we know it today is actually relatively low quality compared to the other fats that are available in our livestock, but are more expensive to harvest and thus have no economic value today because Cisco.

    John S.
    BPL Member


    There was once a meal plan on this site or another that had twizzlers several times a day. I giggled but am liking them things now.

    Jason McSpadden
    BPL Member


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    I love Laurie Ann March’s books and many of her trail recipes.  I think I discovered her on this site.  Because of the encouragement in her books I cook my favorite meals at home and dehydrate them.  Low sodium, grass fed, etc. The sky is the limit!

    Ken Larson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Michigan


    Servings 7 – ½ c /650 cal/serving


    3 ¾ c Old Fashioned Oats or Red Mill Muesli

    ½ c Raw Cashews

    ½ c Walnuts

    ½ c Pecans

    ¼ c Slivered Almonds

    ½ c Shredded Coconut

    ½ c Dried Cranberries Sweetened

    2 – 3 Tbsp Maple Syrup

    1 Tbsp Brown Sugar

    2 Tbsp Coconut Oil (melt first)

    ¼ c Canola Oil

    ¼ tsp Nutmeg & Cinnamon


    In a small bowl HEAT Coconut oil, Maple Syrup, Brown Sugar, Canola Oil, Nutmeg & Cinnamon and then stir into Old Fashioned Oats or Red Mill Muesli

    Mix ingredients and spread on parchment covered baking sheet

    Bake at 300 degrees for 10 – 15 min

    Let cool on the parchment paper till dry AND completely cooled

    Package in ½ cup servings in ZipLoc Bags

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