Home Freeze-Drying vs. Other Trail Food Preparation Strategies
Feb 2, 2023 at 9:00 am #3772047Drew SmithBPL Member
@drewsmithLocale: Colorado Rockies
Companion forum thread to: Home Freeze-Drying vs. Other Trail Food Preparation Strategies
Drew Smith talks about the place of home freeze-drying in the wider context of trail food strategies, and attempts freeze dried french toast!Feb 5, 2023 at 6:43 am #3772318Ian HBPL Member
A friend of my son’s got medevaced out of Southwest Tasmania, with severe gastro from home-dried food. My son-in-law got hospitalised with Salmonella from the not quite reheated chicken (thankfully that was at home, not out in the bush), so I have a preference for food professionally prepared in a hygienic location, to official standards. My kitchen is a bit too amateur to trust my life to, when I’m far from help :)
I’m a Jetboil fan so I don’t have to ‘cook’, just add water. Commercial porridge sachets are great for breakfasts and the same price as at home. Commercial flatbread wraps are great if you want a lunch, with long storage life, minimal weight per calorie, and 8 to a single bag, add a flavoured spread for a luxury meal. I reckon wrap with Nutella would have the calorie/taste/convenience edge over dried french toast, only tip is not to make it in advance – it’s ok the first day, by 36 hrs the oils and solids in the Nutella have separated, the wrap is soggy…
The Backcountry freezedried meals (made in New Zealand) are around AU$13-18 for a tasty and healthy meal, about the same price as a Macdonald’s dinner. Cheaper if you get them on sale, they have a 2+ year shelf life. For a waterfront or mountaintop ‘restaurant’, the convenience and safety is worth the few extra bucks.Feb 5, 2023 at 9:22 am #3772334Paul GBPL Member
Although I would love to invest in a home freeze dryer, at my age I don’t think I have enough of a hiking career still ahead of me to make it cost-effective.
I do have a dehydrator, but I’ve mainly used it for dehydrating home grown herbs and spices. I find I don’t enjoy dried fruits on the trail, and as a vegetarian jerky is not an option, so that limits my dehydrator’s utility when it comes to trail foods.
I completed a thru-hike of the AT last year, and the approach I found that worked best for me was as follows:
- Purchase commercial freeze-dried meals on sale (which are usually 2 servings each), then divide them into 2 single portions.
- Augment with additional ingredients and flavorings (TVP, dried beans, quick-cook brown rice, powdered cheese, nutritional yeast, etc.) The objective was to boost their protein and caloric content while also enhancing flavor and texture.
- Vacuum seal each meal with oxygen and moisture absorption packets.
- Store in freezer.
Those comprised my dinners on the trail (about 120 total), which my wife mailed to me frequently along the way. Everything else I ate was purchased from stores or hostels.
- Breakfast consisted of Carnation Breakfast Essentials with added whey protein powder and half a protein bar.
- Trail snacks were fun size candy cars, mixed nuts, Lance crackers with peanut butter, and a variety of protein bars.
- Lunch was nut butter on tortilla bread or crackers, and sometimes cheese. A few times I cold soaked tabouleh with soy curls or a Knorr rice side.
- I drank water with electrolytes added (Propel, Gatorade, 4C, etc.) I don’t drink coffee or tea.
When in town I ate bagged salads, fresh fruit, and yogurt whenever possible. I tried to avoid fast food and eat healthy to compensate for my limited trail diet.
This plan worked for me, especially when I began rapidly losing weight early on and needed to find an eating plan that would help stabilize my weight. I lost 32lbs at my lowest point, but once I began following the eating plan above I not only stopped losing weight but actually managed to regain 5lbs by the end of my hike.Feb 11, 2023 at 1:38 pm #3772929Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
I use my dehydrator when possible to keep sodium levels reasonable.
The big problem with 90% of freeze-dried meals is the outrageously high sodium levels!!Feb 11, 2023 at 2:15 pm #3772933Roger CaffinBPL Member
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
outrageously high sodium levels!!
And, you know, it would be so easy for the mfrs to include the salt they think is needed in a little paper packet so the customer could decide.
CheersFeb 12, 2023 at 3:50 am #3772955RobBPL Member
I just saw yesterday that our local Tractor Supply is now carrying freeze-dryers. Got me thinking.Feb 13, 2023 at 12:26 am #3773092Roger CaffinBPL Member
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Tractor-mounted freeze-dryers?Feb 15, 2023 at 6:59 pm #3773308Drew SmithBPL Member
@drewsmithLocale: Colorado Rockies
@Ian H – don’t be so quick to give up on home food prep. Heat-assisted dehydration of meats – which should be done at 150-160F (50C) – will kill off Salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, S. carnosus, and norovirus, the most common sources of meat contamination. However it won’t kill spores of Gram-positive spore-formers like Clostridiales. But these tend to be obligate anaerobes, so not so much of a threat. Freezing bacteria also kills them, although not as completely as heating does, and norovirus survives freezing just fine.
Attributing an episode of gastroenteritis to a specific food source is trickier than you might think. Unless you have a match from culturing both stool samples and the suspect food, you (or your doctor) are just guessing. And unless your doctor is an ID specialist, her guess is probably not very educated – med schools stopped teaching microbiology decades ago.Feb 15, 2023 at 8:05 pm #3773318Ian HBPL Member
Hi Drew, I was just about to pick you up on the auto correct, aerobes for anaerobes, but you got it faster than I did! Yep, I’m old enough to have been at the microbiology lectures in medical school.
I appreciated your piece on self catering options, remembering back to my poor student days when it was boiling rice in the Trangia with methylated spirits. Backpacking Heavy with a litre of fuel to do what a 100gm gas canister can do. At least I never got desperate enough to drink the meths.
I was mainly wanting to warn the unwary that home food preparation that is not going to be eaten straight away is fraught with danger, very few people know about B. cereus and rice, heat-stable toxins, or that you can’t easily wash Norovirus off your hands. We had 13 people die in Australia, from Listeria, due to cut rock melon/cantaloupe, again most people don’t realize Listeria can grow in a fridge.
But for me the clinching factor is the convenience. If I decide I’m going to do a five day walk, I just grab six packets out of the cupboard, of whatever flavours I fancy. It would take me a lot longer than that to think about what I wanted to eat for 5 or 6 nights, and a hell of a lot longer to prepare it! So it’s the lazy man’s way of catering, but also with the hygiene advantage that it is basically no-touch technique, pour the water in, eat with a long handled spoon.
My personal food low point was when (again, as a poor student) I’d planned on commercial mashed potato flakes as my staple diet. A total fire ban came in, and a National Park ranger specified that meant no Trangia. Those potato flakes just don’t rehydrate cold, so I walked out hungry the next day 😱Feb 19, 2023 at 3:59 pm #3773604Kevin GarrisonBPL Member
@kgarrisonLocale: SF Bay Area
I’ll apologize upfront but i find this article’s suggestions to be ridiculous. First observation: grocery bought food is the lowest rank for freshness and nutrition (vs the alternatives discussed). This is nonsense. Second observation: Home Freeze Dried (i.e., Harvest Right) is less expensive that Commercial Freeze Dried). How many backpackers will really do these many miles/meals? That is a very select group that will and this article is a disservice (in my own opinion) for the 90% of the target backpacker audience that will read this article. The article also suggests that the home freeze dried option is the lowest prep. Seriously? Does Harvest Right make the food for us and just stick it in the dryer? Nonsense. I’m sorry, but this is a worthless article. I’ve done thousands of miles and eaten hundreds of meals.Feb 19, 2023 at 11:47 pm #3773639BlackHatGuySpectator
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
Kevin, the article really seemed to push your buttons, which resulted in your rather aggressive reply. But I think parts of your reply are a bit unfair:
“Second observation: Home Freeze Dried (i.e., Harvest Right) is less expensive that Commercial Freeze Dried). How many backpackers will really do these many miles/meals? That is a very select group that will and this article is a disservice (in my own opinion) for the 90% of the target backpacker audience that will read this article.”
The article pretty plainly states: “That low cost part is a bit complicated though. Operational costs are low but you will pay a lot of money to get started ($2500+). If you make dozens of meals per year for 10+ years, then home freeze-drying will be less expensive than any option other than home heat-assisted dehydration (or maybe eating very cheap grocery store food). In contrast, if you prepare just a few meals per year for a couple of years then it is the most expensive option by far.”
Seems to me he’s pretty honest in this bit, as he outright says that it’s the most expensive option by far if you only do a few meals per year.
“The article also suggests that the home freeze dried option is the lowest prep.”
No, it doesn’t. In fact he implies that commercial FD is the easiest, lowest prep (just add water and wait for it to rehydrate). He says that home FD is easy prep, not the easiest.
And while you call the article worthless, (a bit harsh, mate), it’s one in a series, not a standalone article. It’s a wrap up, the other articles in the series provide all kinds of useful information (okay, I’m assuming here since I didn’t read the other articles).
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