A goal of mine for 2019 is to extend my daily use of reusable food containers into my trail life in order to cut down on the amount of disposable plastic that I take hiking and camping. It is quite sickening to see what our landfills and oceans look like. It also never fails that while I am hiking, I have to pack out garbage that was left behind by others. Leave no trace needs to be shouted from the tree tops but sadly, a chocolate bar wrapper would likely be left up in the trees.
In an attempt to cut down on plastic zip lock bags that will eventually make it into our landfills regardless of how many times I reuse it, I purchased a Stasher Reusable Bag. These bags are made out of silicone and are BPA and BPS free. They have an airtight seal and can be submerged or filled with boiling water, making it an option for rehydrating food on the trail.
The bag I chose to test measures 7.5” x 7.5” x 1” and weighs 2.61 ounces. Their website boasts that the bag will hold one healthy-sized sandwich or about 10 energy bars so I figured this would be a good size to rehydrate a meal in. I immediately noticed the weight in my hands when I removed the cardboard that surrounded it.
I knew up front that the Stasher Bag would be heavier than a zip lock bag and I’ve read that some ultra-lite hikers who count every ounce do not like them for that reason. As someone who has a base weight of around 20 pounds, I have some flexibility to comfortably add a little weight for luxuries.
I feel that using a reusable bag like Stasher is best on shorter hikes that are less than 3 nights. I hiked for 7 days on the Appalachian Trail and the first resupply was on day 5. I could not imagine what it would have been like to clean left over food out of the bags, let them dry, and refill them. The Dollar General that we resupplied in did not have a washroom available to shoppers. Dirty-stinky-hiker trash only pee and poop in the woods. There is no where easily accessible on a longer hike to maintain a reusable bag.
For my first test, I filled the Stasher with baby carrots and cucumbers and brought it to work to show co-workers who have a fair amount of experience in the outdoors. They appreciated my green-friendly goal but were skeptical that the product would hold up in the field. With very little pressure added to the sides of the bag, we found that it would easily pop open. Thankfully, there was not left over food and liquid in the bag.
The temperature last week hovered around -50°C (-58°F) for a couple of days and I craved hot oatmeal for breakfast. I used this as an opportunity to test the Stasher Bag with a common food that I eat on the trail.
I filled the bag with near-boiling water, closed it up, and waited five minutes. The bag was quite hot to the touch. I actually did not feel comfortable keeping my hand on it.
Upon opening the bag and trying to eat the oatmeal, I determined that the bag is awkward to hold in one hand and use a spoon in the other. The bag does not easily stay open and needs to be held near the top.
The top of the bag does not easily roll down like a zip lock bag does. While eating the oatmeal, I thought about what it would be like to eat a saucy food like pasta and I could only imagine it being a lot more messy.
The bag was very hot while the oats were hydrating, however the oatmeal quickly cooled and it wasn’t before long that I was eating room temperature mush. Much like a zip lock bag, in order for the food to stay warm for a longer period of time, an insulated pouch would need to be used.
Conclusion: With how awkward the bag is to hold and how it closes in on itself, I will likely not be using this bag in the field to rehydrate meals. The potential for a mess is just too high. I will continue to use this bag for food items like jerky, trail mix, and certain perishable food on day or one night hikes like raw vegetables.
The obvious answer to less plastic waste is to cook and eat out of my pot. I straight up hate doing dishes in the back country because I would rather do other things (like extra hammock time!) but I have a feeling, dishes is what I will have to do if I want to make my green-goal happen.