Everything You Can Do with Oven Bags – Except Cook A Turkey

Hikers are a resourceful bunch. We use trash compactor bags as pack liners and ladies trouser socks as liner socks. Hikers are always looking at everyday items to incorporate into their packs. So, as you pick up your Turducken (or Tofurkey), prepare to slice the cranberry sauce, and wonder if Ramen Noodles are acceptable to bring to Thanksgiving dinner, I urge you to take a look into Grandma’s pantry and discover the most inexpensive, versatile, ultralight, top of the line piece of hiking gear that is worth its half ounce weight in your pack. This Thanksgiving forget about the turkey and discover the real benefits of the oven bag.


Price: $2.00 for a pack of two

Material: Food Grade Heat Resistant Nylon (BPA Free)

Weight: .5 ounce per bag

Size: 19in x 23.5in or about 7 Liters

1. VBL Sock

Hikers love acronyms. AT, PCT, CDT, you get the drift. But the VBL, or Vapor Barrier Liner, is sure to be your new favorite acronym in your fall and early winter gear kit. Vapor Barrier Liners do just what they sound like they do – they create a waterproof, sweatproof, and yes, vapor proof barrier within your layering system. This is in stark contrast to summer and fall layering systems, which use Waterproof Breathable Layers. Those are your Gore Tex, your HyVent, your H2No, your Membrain fabrics and coatings. You see, Waterproof Breathable layers allow the vapor from your sweat to diffuse through the layer and out into oblivion, while keeping snow, ice and water from on the outside of the barrier, keeping your feet both warm and dry.

Vapor Barrier Liners, however, do not breathe. They trap moisture between your skin and the VBL, creating a warm, wet microclimate. BUT before your start to sweat (ha) think about the positives of the VBL. What could possibly be the use of wet, sweaty feet in cold weather – you may ask? The answer belies the radically different way VBL’s insulate.

Have you ever rolled into camp after a long day of hiking and discovered, while you felt no seepage of snow into your boots, your socks to be damp or even soaked? This happens when the Waterproof Breathable Layer fails to adequately pass enough water vapor from your sweat through its barrier. It is trapped in your boot or shoe – and that means wet socks.

VPL’s work by trapping the sweat close to your foot. The Vapor Barrier Liner is placed close to the skin, preferable over a thin, wicking layer, like a liner sock. Over the Vapor Barrier Liner, the insulating layer is added. Then the boot. After a long day incorporating the VBL system, all the sweat is trapped beneath the first VBL layer. Because there is no vapor to pass through the insulating layer or the Waterproof Breathable Layer, your socks remain dry, they insulate better, and your feet, though incased in your sweaty VPL, are wet but warm.

Now you can sure has heck purchase Vapor Barrier Liners, but my favorite VBL? You guessed it, the humble Reynold’s Oven Bag (Turkey Sized).

2. Sleeping Bag Booster

I am a notoriously cold sleeper. So when the weather dips into the teens and I’m huddled inside my twenty degree bag, I whip out my trusty oven bag and put it over my feet.

Because the turkey oven bag does not have a seal at the top (like it would in your boots), it doesn’t create a Vapor Barrier Liner in your sleeping bag (however, using VPL’s in sleeping bags is a necessity for winter backpacking trips). What it does do is create a warm microclimate between the bag and your feet. Toasty.

3. Double Boiler

The Freezer Bag cooking method is a popular method that make planning and cleanup of dehydrated meals easy and fast. Although freezer bags are an effective system for cooking meals for one or two, Turkey sized oven bags can be used for large group meals. The oven bag system is similar to freezer bag cooking, but there are a few key differences. With freezer bag cooking, you simply add boiling water to the freezer bag and wait for your food to rehydrate within the bag. The oven bag method is more closely akin to a double boiler.

First, you add one to two inches of water to the bottom of the pot.

Then, add the oven bag, rolling down the bag over the sides of the pot.

Add the ingredients and water.

Cover and cook! Voila.

4. Pack Liner/Stuff Sack

Polycro is a crinkly membrane originally developed to aid in window insulation. But you might know it as the hot new material that has taken the ultralight hiking community by storm. It’s lightweight and strong, and can be incorporated into pack liners, stuff sacks and groundsheets. If you don’t feel like taking the leap quite yet, try out an oven bag as a pack liner. Though admittedly less durable than polycro, it’s an ultralight option you don’t have to wait to order.

5. Almost Polycro Groundsheet

A polycro groundsheet will only cost you about ten dollars, which is a steal for any piece of ultralight gear. But why pay for shipping and wait all week for your new gear to come in when you could just attach a few turkey oven bags together? Now although these bags are light, they aren’t the most durable. But they will last for your black friday #optoutside excursion!


Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Trails ya’ll!

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