From our experiences, this is the BEST way to dine on the trail. No mess, No cleanup, and above all, it's easy. Actually, easy is an understatement. While hiking, freezer bag cooking is practically effortless. All meal preparation is done off of the trail (prior to the hike) so all you need to do is just add water.
Freezer bag cooking, essentially, is the storing of dehydrated food in a freezer ziploc-style bag and adding water to it to rehydrate. Your bag is your bowl, and your trash bag. When you're finished zip it up and add it to your trash. No mess, no cleanup (really helpful when hiking in bear country).
How to do FBC:
Most people who do the FBC method will package their meals at home before the trip. You will want to note on each bag what the meal is and how much water is required. Some will tuck a tiny note inside, others use a permanent marker on the outside. Also, if your bagging your own meals, it is very important that you use FREEZER BAGS. These are a little thicker and therefore more puncture resistant.
When getting ready to “cook” your meal, bring your water to a near boil. Pour the water into your cup to measure, then add it to your freezer bag. This way you avoid the chance of burns, adding too much water, or touching your freezer bag with a burning hot piece of metal - and having the small potential of melting the bag. You DO NOT need boiling water to rehydrate meals! Boiling is at 212°, 180° water will work just fine. If you need to boil your water to remove any chance of water born pathogens let it cool for a couple minutes and then proceed.
Stir with your spork. After you have mixed it well, zip up the bag tightly and wrap in a fleece hat, jacket or cozy made for the purpose. Then let sit for 5 to 15 minutes (the recipe and altitude will determine how long), make yourself a drink and wait for your meal. Once ready, stir well and eat. We usually put our freezer bag into our cozies before we add the water (since we use a dedicated cozy), this works well as we don't have to hold the bag upright while the water is added.
A Note On Squeezing/Kneading Bags:
If you squeeze or knead your bags to mix up the food, be very careful- be sure you have pushed out all the air before you do this. The steam from the hot liquid can cause a build up and your kneading could cause the bag to pop open. For items like mashed potatoes and stuffing kneading if done carefully works well.
The "How Do I Eat Out Of The Bag?" question:
This can take a little practice, but after your food is ready, roll the top 1/3 of the bag down around your cozy (imagine you are cuffing socks or draping a trash bag over a trash can). This will make your bag into its own bowl. If eating soup or chowders, be careful. You can also witha sharp camp knife cut off the top half to make a "bowl".
The "Do I need a cozy?" question:
In short, No. Actually, this is my prefered way of doing it. Each dehydrated meal has a recommended amount of water that you add to it. About 20-30 minutes before you're ready to eat, add about half of the amount of water to the bag. Really, the longer it sits, the better. Shut and knead the bag to work the water around the food, moistening all of the meal's parcels. Now, just let it sit and get to your camp setup, dayhike, or whatever it is you have to do to pass the time. After it has sat for at least 20-30 minutes and you'r ready to eat. Boil the remaining amount of water required for the meal and pour into the bag. This just makes the meal hot when you're ready to endulge.
There are tons meal options with this method. There are several great pre-packaged meals that you can buy. We recommend Enertia Trail foods or Mountain House meals; you can even use Hamburger Helper, Chicken Helper, or Zatarains meals with this method. OR take the time to make something on your own. Check out our Trail Food section for recipes! Get creative with it.