Is Buying a Home Freeze-Dryer Worth the Money?
Sep 21, 2022 at 9:00 am #3760460Drew SmithBPL Member
@drewsmithLocale: Colorado Rockies
Companion forum thread to: Is Buying a Home Freeze-Dryer Worth the Money?
Home Freeze-dryers are handy but expensive. Are they worth the cost? We show you how to find out.Sep 25, 2022 at 9:01 am #3760680Patti BinderBPL Member
@quiltbinderLocale: Southwestern Indiana
Thank you very much for these great articles, Drew. I quite enjoy them.
About 3 yrs ago we purchased med. size freeze dryer with oil free pump and don’t regret it. Still using it and thinking of more foods to preserve. We’re enjoying backpacking meals and lighter packs much more now, too.
Some might want to also consider value of freeze dried food for non-backpacking uses. One that I can think of is snacks (such as freeze dried fruit, veg, cheese, ice cream) for home, school, work, travel, or gifts. Another use is as a preservation method for seasonal produce. Of course the excess backpacking meals produced are also emergency food.
But there are also other costs to consider like the space occupied by the machine and accessories, and space for storage of the preserved food, the noise produced as it runs, and the heat produced by the compressor. I suspect we’re paying more for A/C when running freeze dryer. Also, there is time involved in preparation and storage of food food pre & post drying. We are retired though so don’t mind the time cost either.
Over all, we are very pleased with our Harvest Right Freeze Dryer and think it was a very worthwhile investment.Sep 25, 2022 at 8:37 pm #3760720Nate WBPL Member
Thanks Drew for the great series on freeze drying, they have been informative reading.
I have been running a HarvestRight medium since 2019 and could not be happier with the investment.
One thing to add in to the cost is the storage materials for the final product. For example I may use two 1-gallon size mylar bags to store the bulk dry product, and then break into meal sized mylar zipper pouches based on trip and if it is for my wife and I or our two kids. While this adds a little cost, it still comes in well under the pre-packaged cost and you have so many more options to tailor the size. For example a typical full dryer load will yield 2 meals for the adults and 2 meals for my kids.
2x 1 gallon for bulk storage $0.70ea. total $1.40
2 double size zipper pouches (1 meal per bag for 2 adults) $0.61 ea. $1.22 total
2 single size zipper pouches (1 meal per bag for 2 kids) $0.70 ea. $1.40 total
In grand total then the packaging is $1.40+$1.22+$1.40=$4.02 which is for 2 kids 2 meals each and 2 adults 2 meals each or 8 meals total. So divide by 8 and you get packaging cost of $0.50 per meal. And you could drive that down by purchasing mylar bags in larger quantities or using thinner bags than the 7mil ones I use.
As Patti mentioned above, I also have found many other uses that could be said to add value to the investment.
– A big one, freeze dried coffee, (well for coffee drinkers). How great it has been to take fresh brewed coffee on a trip into the wilderness. I pull espresso shots with fresh roasted coffee, pool them, freeze into blocks and then off to the dryer. Usually I put 40 shots in a dryer run. I take clear vacuum sealer bags and cut down to single serving size and heatseal the cut edges, then add 1 portion of dried coffee. Then in the field you dump into your mug and add however much water you like, from a few oz. for an espresso like drink or 6+ oz. for more of a drip brew. AlpineStart is good stuff, but expensive and to me can’t hold a candle to this kind of fresh brew. (tip don’t do milk based drinks like lattes or capps, the milk is gritty when you reconstitute in the field.)
– Snacks and fruit for the wilderness and around the house. I have dried bananas, kiwi, strawberries and apples, some of which have lasted long enough to go on a trip, but many times get eaten as snacks at home. My kids love giving these to their friends who don’t know what freeze dried foods are. Grab a few boxes of ice cream sandwiches from Costco and pop them in the dryer, ice cream on the trail.
– Lunches for those impromptu day trips. I have gone on many day hikes, where instead of making sandwiches at home, I grab the stove and a couple bags of freeze dried food and we quickly hit the trail. It adds a bit of time in the field to cook, but I would rather sit and cook in the woods than stand in my kitchen making sandwiches. :)
– Lunches if you’re work from home these days. Many times over the past covid years, I have pulled out a meal bag for lunch when the fridge was low or I was tight on time.
– Leftovers, waste no more. What to do with that extra spaghetti from dinner or maybe extra beef stew, run it through the dryer instead of dumping it in the trash.
– Experiment, get creative, try some freeze dried Skittles or gummy bears (use the Haribo brand).
Just a few things I have found that add to the utility of having a freeze dryer in the house.
NateOct 16, 2022 at 6:58 am #3761984Bendrix BBPL Member
Hey, thanks for this final piece. The question of economics was all that held me back from buying a freeze dryer for use by my family and friends.
The question of packaging in non trivial and economically significant. Good quality vacuum bags are not cheap. A good machine is expensive but will last a long time.
One last expense is time. The imagination is a wonderful thing so I can imagine the great meals I’d prepare and package but when I look around at everything else that consumes the time I have to attend to… life; adding work just eats into time I could spend outdoors.
It is a tempting project but for now I’ll just purchase what I need and use the time saved to wear the rubber off my boots.
Thanks for the help!Oct 21, 2022 at 10:08 pm #3762491Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
LOWER SODIUM CONTENT:
Most commercial freeze-dried foods are SALT BOMBS with horrifically high sodium content.
Making your own freeze-dried food can avoid this health problem,Oct 22, 2022 at 7:27 am #3762500dirtbagBPL Member
Not to argue that fact about sodium content, but under some circumstances, hi sodium is warranted and maybe beneficial.Oct 22, 2022 at 8:09 am #3762501BonzoBPL Member
@bon-zoLocale: Virgo Supercluster
…under some circumstances, hi sodium is warranted and maybe beneficial.
Agreed…and I have to watch my salt intake pretty carefully. I would like it if more companies offered lower-salt options, but when you start figuring in the normal effects of altitude, average salt loss, etc, lower-sodium offerings probably aren’t profitable or useful to most consumers, across the board.
Now, preservatives, on the other hand… that’ll cause me to buy my own freeze-dryer, eventually. My hiking partner is allergic to them, so almost every option on the shelf isn’t actually an option.Oct 23, 2022 at 8:28 am #3762568Ben RBPL Member
Any commentary from the BPL community on the reliability of these machines, or regarding troubleshooting support from Harvest Right?
I’ve considered buying one, but the horror stories on reddit are discouraging. They include shipping damage, failed components, mystery errors, etc., often accompanied by poor customer support from Harvest Right.
All products from all manufacturers have some percentage of quality issues, but in this case (a device that weighs several hundred lbs), its hard to return a lemon for a refund.
The math presented in this article assumes that a machine works for a long period of time without major issues or repairs. If you start replacing vacuum pumps or paying for out of warranty repairs, the return on investment will be much less.
When you google info on Harvest Right in general, you are bombarded by blogs with obvious influence from affiliate marketing programs. Its clear that Harvest Right pays a lot of bloggers for exposure, and few of those bloggers acknowledge any downsides to investing $$$$ in one of these machines. It can be hard to find information you can trust.
I generally like BPL’s stance and disclosure about affiliate marketing. The sentiments in the 12/22/2021 founders journal email really hit home for me (be careful who you trust, only buy what you need). However, the series of articles on Harvest Right could use some acknowledgement of the potential risks of investing in a Harvest Right, to avoid looking like just another affiliate blog post.Oct 28, 2022 at 11:10 pm #3763160Nate WBPL Member
In reply to Ben’s question on reliability, I can offer the experiences I have had.
In the 3 years I had had mine, I have contacted HarvestRight support on two occasions. In both cases I found their support to be helpful and they resolved my issues.
– The first case was when I noticed the cycles running for an extended amount of time and the temperature display showing higher than expected readings. At this time the unit was under warranty. I ran some requested tests and sent log files to HarvestRight and after a live phone troubleshooting session the tech determined my system board was bad. They shipped out a new part with instructions how to replace it. I was able to replace the part easily, the internals of the dryer are not all that complex, just take your time. With the new system board in my dryer was back to normal operation. There was no cost to me and the tech I worked with was knowledgeable, and quick to respond.
– The second case was opened due to a vacuum error on the display during a drying run. This time my unit was outside of warranty, and I needed to pay a $45 diagnostic fee to have HarvestRight troubleshoot my problem. I exchanged several emails with the tech who reviewed my logs and asked for some additional tests. After this it was determined the hardware was good, the error was not reproducible, and a software upgrade was available with improved error handling. The tech supplied me with the software upgrade package and after installation my dryer has been operating without any issues. Again the tech was knowledgeable, answered all my questions, and provided a reasonable solution to my problem.
Now a few points to be aware of,
-The unit is large, heavy and arrives via LTL freight. Take HarvestRight seriously when they say open the box and inspect everything before signing the delivery receipt. If any damage, refuse the shipment. Mine arrived well packed and without damage.
-Since it comes via freight you will need to be home and schedule a delivery day with the freight company when the unit makes it to your local area. Also, they will only unload it from the truck, they will not bring it inside your house. I asked the driver and he kindly wheeled it into my garage with the pallet dolly.
-If you have any issues with the refrigeration system, you will need to find a local HVAC shop to work on it for you. It would not be reasonable to try shipping the unit back to HarvestRight for repair.
-If you have issues of any sort you will need to be comfortable working on the unit yourself with the guidance of HarvestRight tech support.
I too, saw many complaints on the Internet when I was considering the purchase and they did concern me. But I also could see many people discussing how they were enjoying their units and in the end I decided to take leap. At this point I have no regrets making the investment.
I hope this can be helpful to others who may be deciding to make the investment or not. Please feel free to ask any other questions you have.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Our Community Posts are Moderated
Backpacking Light community posts are moderated and here to foster helpful and positive discussions about lightweight backpacking. Please be mindful of our values and boundaries and review our Community Guidelines prior to posting.