I have never been one to care about hot food. I’m strange that way I guess. In preparing for hiking, weight savings are critical. My first thought was: “Do I need a stove, and what’s the best way to eat well without one?” After all, I don’t drink hot beverages, and I’m often too lazy to cook at home. Hot just isn’t that important to me. I don’t toast my pop tarts, and to me, hot dogs are great out of the fridge. But for freeze-dried and waterless foods, you have to cook, right? I thought I would have to sacrifice many of the foods I planned on bringing along because they require cooking. Mountain House freeze dried foods, ramen noodles, instant potatoes… All would have to stay home, and I’d live on granola bars, trail mix, and cold pop tarts.
I would miss the instant mashed potatoes. I love those things. Idahoan potatoes come in 4oz. packages, ready to eat after a minute of thickening in 2 cups of boiling water. The pouches are cheap, tasty, and loaded with calories. I thought I’d try it with cold water and see how different it was. Guess what! Other than the temperature, I couldn’t tell the difference. Maybe not quite as creamy, but darn close. Holy crap! I can keep my potatoes.
I knew that a couple of Mountain House brand food mixes specified cold water. So I searched the web for cold water freeze-dried meals. Not much of a selection. Granola and berries, and a chicken salad fajita filling. Then I stumbled across a general information page hidden within the Mountain House web site. Apparently, in “extreme conditions” all Mountain House meals can be re-hydrated with cold or room temperature water. Simply double the hydration time. WHAT. THE. HECK. I tried it. Sure enough, wet food, no crunchies. The consistency and taste were all but unchanged. I can bring Mountain House meals without a stove! This should be a feature plastered across the label of these pouches! They taste great, are light weight, and no cooking required.
Now all I’m missing is ramen noodles. After extensive searching, I found a site that explained that ramen noodles can be “re-hydrated” in cold water by soaking for 30 minutes. After, the noodles are as soft as the required 3-minute boil. Add the seasoning pack, and bam! Texture and taste are close. Only the temperature is different. I haven’t tried this yet, but I promise you, I’m doing this tonight for dinner. I’ll throw in some of my freeze-dried veggies, too. I already know they work well in the cold potatoes.
People are using Dremmel tools to cut the center of their disposable plastic spoon handles out to save a gram of weight, but I have yet to stumble across the site that says we should leave the stove and the associated heavy fuel at home. For a Jet-Boil type guy, that’s a pound of weight savings easily.
Now I know I’m not a picky eater. But I am actually a little shocked that people consider eating cold (not cold, just not-hot) food “extreme”. I’m perfectly satisfied with room-temperature food. I understand the value of a hot meal on a cold and wet day, but it’s simply not worth a pound on the trail for me. I see it as a luxury, and one that I can very easily do without.
I “cooked” up 2 bags of ramen with freeze dried veggies. About 40 minutes for completely soft noodles in tap water. The noodles were great… The bowl of cold salt water to chase them down with was not so great. So… I’ll be draining the extra water. I used to make them dry when I was younger as a personal preference. I’d drain all the water, and mix in only one or two packs of seasoning for 3 packs of noodles. (I was a hungry skinny kid.)
No noodle on the trip, I think. I have plenty of Mountain House for dinners, and I’m not waiting 45 minutes to make lunch. If I didn’t have the Mountain House meals, I could save a fortune by getting ramen instead.