Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Tramping Food: Freezer bag cooking, trail food made simple by Sarah Svien

Freezer Bag Cookery: a book by Sarah Svien

I am always looking for ways to increase the variety and taste of the food I eat while tramping. My general pattern is too take fresh food for the first day or two (steak... yum, yum!) and then rely on dried or freeze dried meals for the remainder of the trip. 
Freezer bag cookery by Sarah Svien

Freezer bag cooking : trail food made simple, by Sarah Svien is the title of a book I am currently reading, The book is a collection of quick cook hiking food recipes which are made by adding water to various ingredients. There are recipes for all three meals plus snack and dessert ideas.

The author suggests Asian food markets as a source of ingredients, a recent visit found the following items;
  • dried fish (shrimp/white fish/prawns)
  • dried rice/noodles
  • udon meals
  • dried mushrooms/vegetables/onion/shallots
  • pasta, cous cous, instant mashed potato
  • freeze dried meat (pork/beef)
  • soups, miso, pickles etc
With these and other items like fresh vegetables, tinned fish/chicken, bouillon cubes, spices and herbs many tasty meals can be made.

A simple cous cous meal...

A tramping food recipe from the book to try

Here is an example of one of the recipes, this is;

Herbed Tomato Rice

1cinstant rice
1⁄4cfreeze-dried corn
1⁄4csun-dried tomatoes
1Tdiced dried onion
1 1⁄2tlower sodium beef or chicken bouillon
1tgranulated garlic
1⁄4tdried oregano
1Tolive oil
cheddar cheese


Find in the cheese sticks in the dairy aisle near the string cheese. Sun-dried tomatoes can be found in the produce department of most grocery stores, dried onion in the spice aisle.


At home:
Pack the rice through oregano into a quart freezer bag. Tuck the oil and cheese in with the bag.

In camp:
Freezer Bag Cookery (FBC) method:

Add 1 1/2 cups near boiling water and the oil to the dry ingredients in a quart freezer bag. Seal tightly and tuck in a freezer bag cozy to insulate for 15 minutes.

One pot method:
Bring 1 1/2 cups water and the oil to a boil, add in the dry ingredients. Take off the heat and cover tightly. Let sit for 15 minutes (in cooler temperatures or at altitude use a pot cozy to retain heat).
Dice up the cheese and fold in.

Packhorse Hut: March 2013

A trip to Packhorse Hut: The closest DOC hut to Christchurch

I really liked the look of the hut when I came up here earlier in the year and decided I would come back when I had a chance to stay overnight. I had a Thursday/Friday to spare so set out to re visit the historic hut. 

Day 1: Kaituna Valley car park to Packhorse Hut

The Port Hills - Banks Peninsula are basically in my back yard and I am keen to explore some of the tracks which cross them. Packhorse Hut is one of only three DOC huts on Banks Peninsula, so most trips here are by necessity day trips.

Kaituna Valley car park- start of the track

DOC track sign in the Kaituna Valley

Kaituna Valley - Packhorse Hut Track
It was misty on the day I set out, I arrived at the Kaituna Valley car park around 11 am and after securing the car set off along the track. The track starts out crossing farm land but then joins an old 4W/D track which sidles up to just near the hut. It is a very easy track to follow.

Kaituna Valley - Packhorse Hut Track: Misty farm track
At a couple of points you move through bush remnants, the mist added a certain spooky nature to the climb. 

Kaituna Valley - Packhorse Hut Track: Moving through bush remnants
The track climbs a spur for most of its length, technically it is very easy, but there are a couple of steep sections that require a bit of exertion. The distance from the parking area to the hut would only be 5 kms. It is a two hour trip to reach the hut.

Kaituna Valley - Packhorse Hut Track: Track ascending hill

View of a mist shrouded Kaituna Valley from the track to Packhorse Hut

 As you gain height your view out to the South improves, eventually you can see the coast in the far distance, although it was mist covered on this day.

View to South West on the Kaituna Valley Track

After about an hour you come into view of the hut perched on the saddle, it is a good location but I imagine the wind could be fierce here in a North Westerly. For those not from Canterbury, a North Westerly wind or Nor' Wester often brings (very) strong winds to the east coast of the South Island. During a recent storm wind gusts of 200kmph were recorded on top of Mt Herbert just to the east of this hut.

Kaituna Saddle: Packhorse Hut in middle

View from the Kaituna Saddle of Lyttleton harbour and the cloud covered Port Hills, The land in the centre of the harbour is Quail Island, an excellent place to go for a day trip on the Lyttleton ferry.

Cloudy Lyttleton from Packhorse Hut

Here are a couple of view's of the distant Southern Alps, not very clear as there was a lot of mist coming up over the saddle and rolling down into Kaituna valley.

Distant Southern Alps from Packhorse Hut

The interior of the hut is quite tidy, being close to Christchurch means it gets its fair share of TLC.
I was the only person here for the afternoon and the evening, I saw one couple coming back from the hut but they were the only people I saw all day. There was a storm predicted for the next day, I imagine this is why I had no company for the night.

Interior of Packhorse Hu, Banks Peninsula in 2013

Packhorse Hut- Dining table and benches

Packhorse Hut- one of the bunk rooms

As it was the end of summer there was no firewood, anticipating this I had dragged an old log up from a nearby patch of bush and proceeded to chop it up, it was needed as it turned quite cold after the sun went down.

I did have the company of "Ralph" the hut mouse who irritated me by rolling a walnut around all night. Unfortunately I could not find the offending nut, only hear it rolling around on the wooden floors.


Interior Packhorse Hut- brewing up on arrival!

Here is a view of the hut from a slight rise next to it, it is a classic early 20th century stone building, there used to be a few stone huts. The only survivors are this one, Mt Aspiring Hut and one on the Tongariro crossing.

Note: Be aware that since February 2016 Packhorse Hut is on the DOC hut booking system. If you intend to stay the night you must book, or you might not have a bunk to sleep on. The positive is that they fill the woodshed regularly and you have a guaranteed bunk for the night. 

Packhorse Hut in 2013

 Sunset from the hut with views over Lyttleton harbour, and the Southern Alps in the far distance.

Day 2: Packhorse Hut to Kaituna Valley

I left early the next morning (6am) as I was interested in trying some easy night tramping, this is a view of Mt Bradley, as dawn rose over it. Mt Bradley is the peak right next to the hut, and an interesting destination in its own right. 

 An hour and a half saw me back at the car park, I went a few kilometres down the road to a nice scenic reserve and stopped to make a hot drink and to have something to eat.

My opinion of Packhorse Hut...

This is not a hard core mountain tramp, but it is a nice hut in a great location, an easy introduction for beginners. I really like this hut, and will be back, possibly as an extended trip taking in the relatively easy ascent of Mt Herbert.

The track leading from Packhorse to Mt Herbert 2014

I would like to do the circuit Gebbies Pass- Packhorse- Mt Herbert-Diamond Harbour (I completed the Summit Walkway in 2016), then catch the ferry back across to Lyttleton. It could be an overnight or a very long day trip, as a day trip it would probably take 6-8 hours total.

 Make sure you check out the report of the day trip I took to the hut earlier in the year for more photos of the track and hut.

Access: On the Aakroa-Christchurch Highway, turn up Kaituna Valley Road, left up Parkinson's Road, then follow Kaituna Valley-Packhorse Hut Track
Track Times: 2 hours to Packhorse Hut, 1.5 hours return to Kaituna
Hut Details: Packhorse Hut: serviced, 12 bunks, wood burner, water tank, wood shed, toilets
Miscellaneous: On DOC Hut booking system, must be booked for overnight visit, some seasonal track closures