Dec 6, 2006 at 5:05 pm #1220596
I began dehydrating my own food for backpacking this past summer. My hiking partners as well as myself am amazed at the quality of the eating experience of this method over the usual ramen noodles. I have thus far stored the dehydrated food in Ziplock style bags which has worked for trips of short duration.
I am beginning to prepare food in vast quantity for a much longer hike and from my research have found that vacuum sealing the food will lengthen its life and make for a durable container in which I can boil the food on trail.
What my research hasn’t found are good reviews and suggestions about vacuum sealers from the point of view of a backpacker. What specific models do other BPL’ers have, what are their pros and cons and would you recommend one yourself?Dec 6, 2006 at 5:09 pm #1369736
I wouldn’t recommend one. We’ve had nothing but problems with them (we tested everything from a FoodSaver to a pro model) and the bags get expensive.Dec 6, 2006 at 5:12 pm #1369738
I admit that the expense of the bag was one thing I was concerned about. Although factoring their ease of use, durability and how often I really would use it I felt that was a wash.
I’ve read good reviews from domestic users on the durability and ease of use of the machines so your opinion (especially from someone who has a backpacking cookbook in the works) is held in high regard.
ps – your review of the “Backpack Gourmet” on the OAC site is great. I love that book.Dec 6, 2006 at 5:18 pm #1369739
Ziploc type bags have worked really well for me. I just use a straw to suck out as much air as possible and I freeze my food until I am ready to pack for my trip.
If I really need something vacuum packed I get my butcher to do it for me. We have a great relationship and he has a machine that is amazing (one I could never afford).
Edited to add…
I have also kept foods in good quality zipper bags for 6 months or more without issue. I often reuse the bags. That said I don’t often cook in the bags. I might rehydrate in a baggie once in a while but not with boiling water.
Thanks for the comment about the review. If you click on the archives you’ll also find some recipes from the 2 Lipsmackin’ Backpackin’ books and some of my leather and jerky recipes.
Thanks for the vote of confidence. Much appreciated. I can hardly wait for my own book to be released. There are close to 300 recipes (well before it goes to edit that is). I also have a feature coming out in a new backpacking “how to” type of book. Equipment over here gets well used – that is for sure.Dec 6, 2006 at 5:27 pm #1369742
From a practicality standpoint, yes I should just be using Ziplocks. I’ve just fallen in love with the ease and sturdiness of having the 2mil bags that I could just throw around when I roll into camp.
I’m taking your opinion as “One Against” and will certainly take it to heed, although I have a feeling I may still try it (and possibly fail) on my own.
* I’ll check out your recipes as well. Yum!Dec 6, 2006 at 5:28 pm #1369743
One bit of advice I can give you is – the more expensive the vac pac equipment the better it seems to work.Dec 6, 2006 at 6:35 pm #1369750
@david_bonnLocale: North Cascades
I went through a phase with a borrowed vacuum sealer. It didn’t last very long.
For me, the 1 bag => 1 dinner system doesn’t work that well. Most trips I’ll have a quantity of instant black beans, potato flakes, some soup mixes, tabouli mix, and whatever. I tend to vary my food consumption a lot depending on how tired and hungry I am. Generally I can tell you if I have adequate food for a four or five day trip, but I’m usually very bad at estimating how much food I’ll eat on a given day.
So it helps a lot of I can re-seal bags.
Mostly I’ve done pretty well shopping at health food stores and grocery stores for long backpacking trips. Obviously the selection is less appealing if you are hitting the mini-mart in Bland, VA on the AT as opposed to having access to (for example) a Whole Paycheck (aka Whole Foods), Carr’s, QFC, Von’s, Sav-On Foods, or Caper’s — usually at any such elaborate store I can resupply for weeks in one pass. You can always manage and every now and then you discover something pretty awesome.
I also like to have somewhat modular meals. Sometimes it is great fun to pool food with others you meet with on the trail or are hiking with and improvise some excellent chow.Dec 6, 2006 at 8:23 pm #1369757
Been using my Food Vac for about 3 years. I use it for certain types of foods, but not for everything. As for the bags, I buy them at Sams Club to save money. They are washable and reusable, so cutting long is a good idea.
Is it worth the cost? Maybe. If you can use it enough. We use our machine to seal up stuff like our GPS units, emergency items we rarely need, etc.
I do use it to seal cooked/dryed meals but for meals I mix up from scratch and home dried ingredients like veggies, those just go in freezer bags.Dec 6, 2006 at 8:45 pm #1369761
@pietriykLocale: Northeastern PA
I have had a FoodSaver Vac550 since late 2000, I think. We use it several times a week, mostly to prepare foods bought in bulk for freezing. It has vacuum-sealed all of the meat from 8 whitetail deer, 1/2 a pig, large quantities of beef, tons of chickens that I buy whole and cut up, etc. We now buy bags at Walmart, they have a cheaper brand which has worked great for us. We re-use all of the bags after they are washed and sanitized. I agree with Sarah that cutting bags long is a must if you want to re-use them. I’d also say that you’d want them long enough to sit in a cozy whilst rehydrating, since you can’t re-close them like zip bags.
I’ve used commercial vacuum-sealing machines, and yes, for the 10 grand they cost, they do a better job, faster. But for under 200 bucks you can’t go wrong. I’d stick with an established brand, like Foodsaver, etc.
I’ve packaged some food for backpacking, and had good luck with it. Overall, it’s one of the few of many, many appliances that I’ve had that have lived up to the hype that is associated with them, especially if they have their own infomercial. I’d say they’re well worth the money, and limited only by your own creativity. They really do help to preserve food better, and if you’re only going to use the bags once, it’s still cheaper than buying pre-made food. Plus, you know what’s in your food!
PS- Sarah’s book(s) are a must if you don’t already have them, so many great ideas! That’s what got me started on really making my own complete meals for trips. Can you tell I’m a fan? :)Dec 6, 2006 at 8:56 pm #1369764
I have noticed that X-Mas time is the best time to get bargain prices of Food Saver brand. Check out Costco and Sams Club for good package deals (usually you get the food vac, rolls, bags and maybe canisters.)
I use the canisters at home for grains and pasta. We have about 20 of them!Dec 7, 2006 at 9:52 am #1369828
I like the variety of comments throughout the thread. I am on the fence and judging by others opinions I'm not the only one.
As far as a need for variety in what to eat on trail I find this mostly unecessary. I do my cooking at home and dehydrate everything into one bag into which I simply add water later. The extent of my variety is via the addition of instant potatoes, more oil, et al.
I refuse to shop at Walm$rt and would much rather pay the price to shop at my local Whole (paycheck) Foods Co-op but that's a whole different argument for a whole different forum.Dec 7, 2006 at 3:25 pm #1369875
@dbthalLocale: Mid-Coast Maine
I've not had good luck with my Foodsaver when packing food for long distance canoe trips. When I dehydrate food for the trip it can become hard and "sharp". Despite padding the inside of the expensive Foodsaver bags with additional sandwich bags, I end up with air leaks in about 50% of the vaccum packed bags.
DanDec 7, 2006 at 3:29 pm #1369877
I found that too Dan – btw nice to see a lightweight canoeist here (I love canoeing as much as backpacking)Dec 7, 2006 at 3:49 pm #1369885
Dan, lining the bags with paper towels helps a lot. But, pasta can be very sharp no matter what you do.Dec 10, 2006 at 12:25 pm #1370300
This could definetely be of concern. Pasta is obviously a high-carb food and thus far makes up a significant portion of my hiking diet. I suppose if I was to go the vacuum sealing route I'd have to only invest in round-edged pasta noodles ; )Dec 10, 2006 at 1:09 pm #1370307
With pasta, even when precooked and deydrated, it does just fine being stored in zip bags. I had some for lunch the other day that had been parking in my cupboards for the past 7 or 8 months, stored in a gallon storage bag and it was fine tasting. I wouldn't worry too much about sealing pasta :-)Dec 10, 2006 at 4:07 pm #1370348
No need to take just round edged stuff. I love Farfalle (bowties) and all I do is double zipper bag them or use those double guard freezer bags that have a "liner" bag. The key is to use freezer bags instead of sandwich bags. You'll have a minute bit of added weight if you are a gram counter but at least your food will be protected from the elements.
If your sauces are sharp then you have probably over-dried them.
Hope that helps.
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