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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

My food bag problem.

I have a food bag problem, that I am struggling to solve, and I want your help with it. But first some background. I learned how to pack a kayak as a NOLS student in 2000. If you have ever done a NOLS course - and if you haven't I highly recommend it - you know that there is a lot of gear involved. Because of the volume of students NOLS puts into the field, the expense of high end gear, and the relatively low budget of a not for profit school, they have made some decisions on gear.

The first big decision they made was that paddling students don't dress for submersion. Which means no drysuits - actually a couple of drysuits and a couple of wetsuits go on most kayaking courses, at least the ones I worked, for days when you are teaching students wet exits and self  rescues - so students work to stay dry and if a student ends up in the water the group works together to assist the rescue of a student and then getting the student dry. This teaches the valuable lesson of, you don't need to spend a lot of money on paddle gear, but you do have to be prepared for eventualities. I like this lesson because it means that you aren't limiting what you can do in the outdoors by the gear you can afford. Currently my favorite paddling jacket is a piece of non-paddling REI outerwear. When I finally decided to buy a drysuit it was more to keep my feet dry, but having a drysuit did change the way I viewed paddling in cold/bad weather.

The second decision they made was, as a student, unless you brought dry bags with you, you weren't going to use them. This sounds crazy right? It's not. Dry bags are expensive, and if you think you are hard on gear, try putting a piece of gear through one season at NOLS Alaska. (The summer of 2006 I did right around 70 days in the field with NOLS and I destroyed a pristine TNF sleeping bag.) So think about how much the school would spend on dry bags for students that would need to be thrown away at the end of the year. So what do they do? They do this, they take a normal nylon stuff sack, and line it with two contractor grade garbage bags. White ones work really well. You squeeze the air out of the inner bag, and then just twist the top closed - you don't knot it - stuffing the twisted top down the side of the bag - the pressure of the outer bag holds it in place - then twist the outer bag and stuff it down into the stuff sack. Seal the stuff sack with the draw cord and you are ready to go. It works amazingly well. At the end of the trip you toss the liner bags.

Which brings us to my food bag problem. NOLS taught me to package food in small plastic bags with all packaging removed with the top of the bag gently knotted. Here is what my rations for the inside passage looked like. These would go into a small non-waterproof duffel bag with two liners keeping your food dry. This is what I have done for over a decade on my own trips. (NOLS would have four of these duffels for a cook group of 3 or 4 people. One would have the stove and all the pots and pans and fuel and bear spray. the other three would have your rations for the first 7 to 10 days. Then you would have "bullet bags" (called so because they are shaped like bullets) packed with your next set of rations. Okay, so here is the problem. See that bag on the left. That is my primary ration bag. It is just a regular gym duffel bag lined with hefty big bag XXL ziplock bags. A duffel bag is nice because it opens big and you can find the food you are looking for easily, as opposed to working through the opening at the top of a narrow dry bag. The problem is, it has gotten really hard to find the really big hefty bags that I use as liners.


The other problem is that the bag itself is the kind of nylon that absorbs a little water each day, so by the end of a trip it is pretty wet and gross. It has also been chewed on by a number of animals, and I really feel that it is time to move onto something waterproof. (I have already moved away from the bullet bags and - as you can see in the picture use sea to summit dry bags for my rations) So how hard could it be to find a waterproof duffel that fits in my kayak? Well, in fact, its really hard. I can't find one small enough. There are plenty of dry bags on the market, there are even a  handful of waterproof duffels, but they are all huge gear duffels. The bag in the picture is maybe 12 by 16.

I have been looking for a long time, I finally found this which looked like it would work perfectly. It seemed a little big measurement wise, but I thought it would still fit. It doesn't. So I am putting it out to the power of internet. It needs to be 20 to 25 liters. In the past a reader solved my deck bag problem, so I am hoping to have good luck this time. Let me know what you think?

15 comments:

  1. I am not clear why you need a 20-25 liter duffle, when 2-10 liter or 3-8 liter dry bags would do the trick. I use lots of small bags. Of course the large hatches on my Explorer are only 9.5 inches in diameter.

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  2. BTW, I use a couple of large Ikea bags to put the small bags in when I need to haul stuff to the campsite.

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  3. There are a couple of reasons I don't want to use two 10 liter bags. First, a lot of people subscribe to the 'many small bags theory' and I am not one of them. Mostly because I am not organized enough to make it work. The second reason is, if you look at the picture above there is one blue duffel - the ration for the first ten days - and then two 13 liter dry bags - the rations for the second and third ten days. At the end of the first ten days, ration two gets emptied into the blue duffel. I like A) having all my food options in one bag, AND having a large opening to pull stuff out of. If I just used a dry bag - which I could - with a narrow top, I would invariably need the garlic (or whatever) that ended up at the bottom of the dry bag. I would end up pouring out the entire contents of the bag every meal, and that is a little frustrating, and in really bad weather not always possible. So that is why I like the duffel. You mentioned the ikea bag, I suspect it is this one http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/17228340/ which I put on my christmas gift post this year. They are very popular. I use two large mesh duffels. One for the bow and one for the stern. Thanks for the comment.

    PO

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    1. Have you considered using a TNF base camp duffel? While not 100% waterproof, the material it's made from should prevent the gross out factor of your nylon bag. Plus so many colors and sizes to choose from.

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  4. I have Jes, the small is still too big. Sorry I haven't been to DC in a while. Blame WMI.

    PO

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  5. I will, Ted and I were starting to get a complex.

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  6. I use a number of different methods for food storage on long trips including Ziploc bags, and vacuum/heat seal bags. On expeditions, I have found it best to prepack food in known Kcal amounts so I do not under eat over time. This seems like a strange concern but somewhere around day 20 I begin losing interest in the food. Some of that might be the general repetitive nature of the food.

    The vacuum bags also offer a bomb proof method of keeping water out of nuts, cereals, and dried foods (and TP). The Ziploc are not quite as good but I seal them, roll, and then usually duct tape the top where I write the contents and directions. This keeps them small, tight and unopened. Vacuum bags can be hard to pack since the contents become very rigid.

    For in boat storage I like the tapered vented dry bags since they fit the bow and stern of my boat perfectly. I use SealLine Kodiak Sacs. The smaller one will hold about 8-10 days of food and the largest one will hold 15 + days. I usually pack them with an Ursack if in Bear country. That way I can decide at camp whether to bear hang the Kodiak or if hanging trees are not available, shuck the Kodiak and tie the Ursack to a tree/drift wood.

    For a duffle you might look at mesh duffels like the ones offered by REI. The large is what I use. http://www.rei.com/product/748132/rei-mesh-duffel-large

    The extra-large might also work. http://www.rei.com/product/748133/rei-mesh-duffel-x-large

    They only work for wettable gear storage. I use them for transporting gear from boat to camp and when boarding ferry but they would work fine for general storage as well. They are plenty tough and dry quickly.

    I tried the NOLs method but it just didn't work for me. Too often I spent lots of time searching for the "it" item in the bottom of the food bag or through various kayaks. I now use the KISIS method. Yeah, you know, Keep It Simple, I'm Stupid.

    Breakfasts are usually no cook - dried fruit, jerky, carnation instant breakfast and/or breakfast bar (target 800-1000 Kcal). Lunches and dinners are turnkey prepacked individual meals which I usually make myself using mostly freeze dried meat and veggies and the rest dried. I usually create about 15 different meals (target 1000 Kcal). I like and take copious amounts of various Wasa crispbreads (often one per meal and two at dinner). Snacks on the boat are dried fruit, nuts, bars (target 2x 400 Kcal). Desert is usually a candy bar or the like.

    Even so I lose 2 pounds per paddle week after the second week.

    I pack my food dinner, snack, lunch, snack, breakfast then I repeat from bottom to top of the bag so which ever bag is to hand it takes little searching to find an appropriate meal/snack.

    I hope this was helpful.

    Mark Sherman

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  7. This is pretty similar to how I do things, except I use plastic bags instead of zip locks. I have had zip locks fail. I essentially use the system I learned working for NOLS. I use those mesh duffels for carrying my gear as well, they work beautifully. I would say the biggest difference between the way we do food is I do a pantry system - I create meals on the spot out of what I have - versus planing meals weeks or months in advance. And I think that is just personal preference.

    Thanks for the detailed comment.

    PO

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  8. this bags are pretty but mostly people use zip locks and air tight bags and protect their equipment or product whatever from the water or dust.........

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  9. Hey Brett,
    Have you looked at Watershed's bags?

    http://drybags.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=D&Category_Code=Duffels

    I have an Ocoee and a Chattooga which I love. On my Chatooga I had them add a purge valve for me, which has been a good decision. Hands down the best dry bags I have ever used.

    -Travis

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  10. Where do you get your plastic food bags? I'm a NOLS grad and want some for food this summer. Every where I look I can only find ziplocs. Thanks!

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  11. Megnut! I use the exact same bags that NOLS uses, and I got the name from Claudia (author of the cookery) who runs the RM branch rations room. here is the info:

    Tweed's Wholesale 307-856-5425 (6 x 3 x 15 inch bags 2 ply/or 2 mil)

    With the down side, you have to buy a massive amount of bags.

    PO

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  12. I should have thought of contacting Claudia about it. Thanks for the info! How many is massive? Suppose they last a long time though!

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  13. Outdoor Research makes a number of different sizes. http://www.mountaingear.com/webstore//Gear/Packs--Duffels/Lightweight-Dry-Sacks/_/R-214450.htm

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  14. anon, I don't have a problem finding traditional dry bags, the problem is i want a duffel style opening. thanks for the comment.

    PO

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