I’m the first to admit it – I am not very good at cooking things while camping.

It’s something I definitely want to improve at but to be honest most of the time I just offer to carry the gear of the designated camp chef. But when I’m going solo in the backcountry, I always want a big, hot breakfast – so I’ll usually pack a freeze-dried offering.

The folks at Mountain House have been very, very helpful in this venue. When I spent a month traveling around Utah and Arizona last year, they gave me a ton of tasty meals to keep me moving along the way – and recently they sent me a new package – something they call the Just in Case Breakfast Bucket.

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Part of an appeal to hyper-planning backpackers and folks who just like to be prepared (earthquake kits, anyone?), the Just in Case series has a few different models, including an Essential and Classic assortment. The Breakfast Bucket features 16 freeze-dried breakfast foods, including scrambled eggs with ham and peppers, scrambled eggs with bacon, a breakfast skillet filler that’s got hash browns, scrambled eggs, pork sausage, peppers, and onions – and granola with blueberries.

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The basic cooking instructions for all of the packets are the same – just add water, stir, and wait.

I boiled some water and tossed it into the ham and pepper scramble packet. After a few minutes, I drained out some of the excess water and put the meal onto a plate with some pepper and Sriracha sauce (because, come on, what ISN’T improved by Siriacha?) and tucked in.

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I thought the food was surprisingly good – the bits of ham were nice and tender and the eggs for the most part were tasty, too.

With freeze dried packets, I’ve found there’s almost always going to be one or two bites that weren’t re-hydrated enough but it’s nothing that’s going to ruin your day. Let’s face it – food like this is never going to be quite as good as actual scrambled eggs and ham – but it’s a heck of a lot easier to make when you’re deep in the backcountry – and the packets themselves don’t have any expiration date – only a date when the optimal flavor starts to decline.

I will say, though, that I absolutely love Mountain House’s granola with milk and blueberries – and it tastes just as good if not better than granola you’d fill up with at home – it might even be my favorite freeze-dried breakfast out there.

You can pick up the Mountain House Just in Case Breakfast Bucket, Essential Assortment, and the Classic Assortment for between $65 and $88 on Amazon.

Want to win a free Breakfast Bucket from Mountain House?

The team at Mountain House is giving away one free Breakfast Bucket to Modern Hiker readers!

All you have to do is leave me a comment with your best camp cooking experience – good OR bad. I’ll pick my favorite by Monday, March 17th and contact the winner by email (so make sure you’re logged in with a working email address!)

Good luck!

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Casey Schreiner

Founder and Editor at Modern Hiker
In addition to writing about the outdoors since 2006, Casey has also been producing and writing television since 2003.He was the Head Writer on G4's "Attack of the Show," co-writer and host of "The MMO Report," and the Series Producer / Head Writer of pivot's "TakePart Live."His work has received several honors, including Webby, Telly, and CableFAX awards.
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This post was written by Casey Schreiner on March 13, 2014

21 Comments

  • Congratulations to Brant Williams – the winner of this Mountain House Breakfast Bucket contest!

    Hopefully you’ll be able to enjoy some of these breakfasts *without* having to cook them in hot springs :) An email with more instructions is in your inbox now.

    And thanks to everyone who entered. Seriously, every time I read through submissions for a contest like this, I’m struck by just how awesome Modern Hiker readers are!

  • I think my worse cooking experience while camping was when my husband and I went to Lassen Nation Park and we had this wonderful idea of making pizzas out of pita bread. The idea sounded amazing in our head but the out come was pretty terrible. We had our jet boil but nothing big enough to heat up the pita bread. Therefore we attempted to heat them up tortilla style over the jet boil. We burn half of them and the other half fell apart. On top of that, even though we double bagged the pizza sauce, everything in our bear canister ended up smelling and tasting like tomato. Mind you that we were cooking with almost no sunlight and a bunch of mosquitoes trying to make us their meal. The pita pizzas turned out to be edible just not how we pictured them. Ever since then we plan our meals ahead of time and we make sure that we are able to cook the food. I would love to win the bucket of Mountain House, as this would be perfect for our JMT trip this July!

  • sweetpickles6 says:

    We were out doing short 2 day section on NY on the Appalachian trail and it was the first time we were using our new alcohol stove out on the trail. Turns out we didn’t add enough fuel at first. It burned only for a brief minute, so of course added more fuel. Guess we added too much and set the table on fire! We quickly extinguished it, but certainly learned our lesson mighty quick! The next night went much more smoothly :)

  • annabear says:

    My worst, to date, involves my first backpacking trip ever – one that I planned and organized. We went up to Yosemite, five or six of us, and it was awesome. Like, really great couple night trip, north from Tuolumne Meadows. My friend had organized the group food for the trip, since she had done so for many other group trips, and volunteered to do it this time. The snag comes in in that she had previously packed food on trips of a dozen, for 7 day or so long trips – with a lot more big hungry guys. Long story short, she way over-estimated on our couscous needs. So we made a big pot of (delicious) couscous with garlic and spices and chicken and it was just great. And then we all had a second helping. And then we all took a look at how much couscous was still in the pot, and made a valiant effort. We were too high in the park to have a fire, so we couldn’t burn the remnants. My friend who was the chef ate so much she even got a little bit puke-y. We ended up having to carry *out* a larger volume of couscous than we had carried in in the first place! The trip was still amazing, but 9 years later we still talk about “the trip with the cousccous”.

  • My best? Our kids were asking for popcorn, so I picked up a jiffy pop. I know it says not to use it over open flame, but they couldn’t be serious right? Turns out they are, it ended badly and the entire place smelled like burnt popcorn.

  • My best cooking experience on the trail was going all-out while backpacking in Bolivia. We made inverted pizzas, Pad Thai and Quinua italiano with lots of delicious sausage! Oh, and we washed it down with an Argentinian Malbec. Perfect!

  • Fred Brown says:

    One of my best camp cooking experiences was a weekend trip with friends. My ex did wonders with a skillet, some hamburger, spices, veggies, oil and fresh tortillas. We had fresh tacos that would best most restaurants even here in SoCal. I’m no slouch on a stove, but I don’t think I can ever pull that off as well as she did.

  • Best camp cooking experience was back in New York. A small group of my friends and I got together for a weekend camp excursion away from the hustle and bustle of life. While they all packed in some mystery meats and chips, I packed in ground venison marinated with some of my own mix of spices. After a day of hiking, fishing, and relaxing…I stoked the fire, added some hickory (very plentiful in the woods where we camped) and loaded up the grate with tasty burgers. You could have heard a pin drop around that fire when everyone was eating. There wasn’t a bit left and it was by far one of the best meals a group of friends could share. By the end of the weekend, my venison burgers were requested for the following years trip more than once.

  • portagepup says:

    Many, many years ago, leading a backpacking group of special needs students ….we always sought to have something unique, and new for the students ( and alwayshave enough to share with the hut caretakers!). How about flaming Cherries Jubilee…some canned cherries, cooked and flamed with a bit of brandy (alcohol burned off, of course!), on the backpacking stove, put on top of freeze dried ice cream… don’t really remember how it tasted, but it was quite the impressive visual display!

  • Solo AT hike through the Maryland section southbound to Harper’s Ferry last year. I brought a few no cook items like salami, cheese and wraps but also brought a few things to cook for breakfast and dinner. I get to the Ed Garvey Shelter and no one is there which is a rarity in the summertime. Great shelter other than the view of the roadway below. Every other time I have spent the night there has at least been a couple of other people. I pulled out my little stove and boiled some water for some quinoa. I had the remains of a cranberry and almond salad topper at home that I threw into my bag. Mixed it into the quinoa with a little coconut oil, which I have found travels better than olive oil. It is wax-like and unless it crazy hot stays that way in the container till added to hot foods. Tasted great sitting there with the shelter to myself. For breakfast the next morning I boiled some water for coffee. I use the Starkbucks Via packets, but dump them into a ziplock with powdered creamer and stevia. Shake up the bag dump a little into bottle and it tastes pretty good for trail coffee. I then had Mountain House scrambled eggs with bacon. Great stuff and my usual breakfast. I like Mountain House breakfast entrees for the time savings in the mornings. I usually add some hot sauce or ketchup and throw it in the wrap. All in all a great trip and a few decent meals.

  • Scott says:

    My worst camping experience has to be when i was making a full on big hiker breakfast. Eggs, potatoes, meat and biscuits. I love a big breakfast when camping. Enjoying my coffee and about to plate my food, I went to my tent to retrieve some additional item for breakfast. As I unzipped my tent to get a few things I heard noises behind me towards the camp table and kitchen area I set up. Nothing to loud, I continued to get my supplies from my tent, zipped it back up to find 2 fat raccoon’s dishing on my eggs, bacon, and potatoes. I yelled instantly, ran towards them the paused knowing what a raccoon can do if it so desired. I continued to yell, one scooted away quickly the other slowly stepped off the table top to the bench seat. I started to move closer to inspect what was left. All i could see from my position was a mess all over my camp stove, spilled coffee and my biscuits which were untouched towards the other end of the table. Hungry and frustrated, I yelled once again for the second raccoon to leave. He stepped down to the bench walked towards the end of the table then hopped back up on it and took a biscuit, looked back at me then hopped off the table. Both left me nothing to eat. Needless to say I leave nothing to chance any longer when i am making breakfast and never leave my meals whether base camp cooking or cooking while backpacking. And i haven’t had a critter take off with my food since!

  • Cynthia P says:

    It’s long but it might make you smile. :)

    My boyfriend and I took our first big trip together a couple years ago to the Dolomites in Italy. We camped in the outskirts of a town called Cortina and walked that morning into town to catch a bus that would take us to the via ferrata’s which is a type of mountain hiking with cables.

    I was so excited to get my gear on and start the trail that I didn’t properly tie my food pouch and 30 minutes into the hike I hear rocks clacking below and see my orange food pouch gone. It was too steep to climb down and not worth the risk of injury. So on we went. We ended up being on the mountain all day! We missed the lift to the bus stop so we had to hike down an extra 1 1/2. Then, we missed the bus so we had to call a cab to take us into town. It was still a great day, just very exhausting.

    While we were on the trail he proposed to me! ( I said yes of course). So when we got to town we headed to the nearest” fancy” restaurant and started to chow down on bread and wine. Mind you we were still in our gear but at this point we didn’t care. We just wanted to eat! Plus by this time the sun was setting so we just sat outside in the low light of the evening.

    The food came out and it was not what we pictured. The pizza was hard and overcooked and the tortellini soup was salty. Needless to say we finished our wine and left feeling defeated.

    When we got back to camp I remembered I had packed a couple of Mountain House meals just in case we couldn’t find a place to eat while traveling. Unlike the U.S., Italian shops close early if you’re not in a touristy city.

    Out goes the jetboil and in minutes we were ready to eat!

    OH! Glorious beef stroganoff! You guys don’t even know how good this was! It was so satisfying and just awesome! We were sitting there in the tent just passing the bag back and forth laughing. I think we hit a new level of food happiness that day. After that we slept so well! Woke up, packed up and continued on to the next town.

    This is why I always have a Mountain House’s beef stroganoff ready to go camping. It is a wonderful reminder of how it saved the day and will forever be our first meal as an engaged couple. I know, its cheesy but it’s my absolutely favorite meal because of all things that happened that day. It pays to be prepared :)

  • beezuss says:

    Best meal ever… In July of 2005 while on a 7 day Kayaking Trip on Lake Superior our group was caught in a storm and winded out for days. Unexpected days and days. First we ran out our fresh food (we all were in 16-17 ft boats after all, you can fit a 2 burner Coleman stove in one of those!), then we ran out of our pancake mix, chili mix, etc, and lastly we ran out of COFFEE! The last day as we tried to figure out if we could hike out through a First Nations Reservation (and no one had packed hiking boats…we were supposed to be kayaking) I remembered that at the last minute hundreds of miles away, while packing my huge boat on top of my tiny car for the journey north…I had stuffed 24 Freeze Dried MH Ice Cream Sandwiches into the nose of my boat. Oh happy day to sit on the stormy beach, being stung by blowing sand, while eating three Ice Cream Sandwiches per person…

  • Chuck Strawn says:

    Love Mountain House- it’s been a go-to ever since my backpacking partner spilled the pasta noodles all over the ground next to the fire, and we were left eating very gritty and dusty spaghetti that night for dinner.

    We certainly got our allotment of minerals that trip, as well as an amazing story (and a reminder to not let Dan cook in the future… which may have been his plan all along).

  • Rohan A. says:

    Best camp cooking experience was at Outpost Camp (10,365 ft) this year during a winter ascent attempt on Mt. Whitney. Me and my buddy cooked Chicken Cashew Curry and Chocolate Mousse for dinner in our The North Face VE 25 tent in the middle of 70 miles per hour gale winds and freezing temperatures. It felt heaven inside our tent, which steaming with the smell of chicken. Here’s a picture – http://imgur.com/H59FbSg

  • My best experience had to have been when the wife and I hiked Mount Whitney. Due to a permit mistake we ended up changing our plans of staying at Trail Camp and then summiting the second day, and instead left our gear at Outpost Camp and slack packed it to the top the first day. We didn’t get back until well after dark and we were both starving. I filtered some water and cooked our (conveniently enough for this post) Mountain House Meat Lasagna. To this day, I swear that was the best thing I have ever eaten. As they say, hunger is the best sauce!

  • Brant Williams says:

    Solo backpacked out to Sespe Hot Springs via the Johnson Ridge trail last fall. The rangers said because of severe fire danger even my little camp stove was a no-no so I had brought some self heating MRE’s for the trip. After a full day of hiking I dropped my bag in what would be my camp for the night and was so excited for a warm meal. I pulled out all my food packets and then realized…I had left all of the water activated heater packets at home on my table. I sat for a minute a bit disappointed and then remembered that I had just hiked out to a HOT SPRINGS. So I followed the spring up to the source where the water was coming out at almost 200 degrees. Put my delicious government issue spaghetti packet into the water and ten minutes later had a fantastic hot meal alone in the middle of nowhere. Perfect.

  • Sarah says:

    Best/worst was camping with my dad when I was about 8. He brought eggs but by the time we got to the site they were already scrambled so we has scrambled eggs and shells for dinner. Definately not recomended.

  • Angus A. says:

    Best camp cooking experience has to go to when I took my daughter for the first time to Little Jimmy in the Angeles National Forest. Typically, I go as light as possible on my trips and sometimes to achieve that, I rely on MH meals. However, on the trip when my daughter was with me, I made sure she had freshly cooked meals for both our dinner and breakfast.

    By far the breakfast was the winner for her and I…Fresh eggs, pancakes, and bacon…ummm.

  • Jon B says:

    I’m right there with you on not being a very good camp cook. If the instructions go much beyond ‘Boil water, add food’ then I start to panic. However, one frankenmeal that turned out quite nice was a combination of Idahoan Four Cheese Mashed potatoes, a single serving packed of Ranch Flavored Tuna, and tossed in some Oberto Bacon Jerky. It was like a loaded baked potato heaven. Had no problem with dinner that night and that is still my high water mark of back country cuisine.

    A close second was a feast night casserole of two Mountain House meals. I had been camping in Yosemite with two friends for a week. On our last night we decided to cook everything that was left and just gorge ourselves. This resulted in the discovery that Mountain House Mac’N’Cheese plus Rice & Chicken make for an awesome casserole dish. Normally either by itself is just okay. But mixed together they were amazing. Added in some Sriracha and a new feast night tradition was born. We now carry these two explicitly for our last nights dinner in the wilderness.

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