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  1. #1

    Default Experience with freeze-dried food?

    Do any of you purchase bulk freeze-dried ingredients to prepare your own backpacking meals? This is getting past buying prepared meals from places like Backpacker's Pantry, Mountain House, and Alpine Air.
    Freeze-dried seems to have a lot of advantages over dehydrated.

    Any suggestions on preferred places to buy these ingredients?
    I found a couple places:
    https://readywise.com/
    https://www.preparedirect.com/
    Outdoor Herbivore is another one, but they seem to focus more on dehdyrated foods, rather than freeze-dried.

    I looked for older WBlaze threads on the topic. Several threads are quite old and the suggested website links are broken (companies shut down or, in one case, changed names).
    Thanks.

  2. #2

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    Yes, Mother Earth Products has a large selection of dehydrated and freeze dried base ingredients.

    The (my) main issue with the old school brands like Mountain House and Backpacker's Pantry is that they are manufactured to last for decades, and that involves significant trade-offs: worse than the enormous quantity and wide variety of preservatives required, those meals have no fat in them, because fat goes bad (rancid) quickly.

    That doesn't just affect the taste: fat has 9 kcal/g, while protein and carbs have 4 kcal/g. So those meals are always weight-inefficient.

    Fortunately, there has been a bit of an explosion in the backpacking food cottage industry in the past few years.

    A few cottage industry newcomers are making prepared meals with fresher ingredients that have much shorter shelf life, like Packit Gourmet and Outdoor Pantry. Because their meals expire in a year, not in a quarter century, they can get away with having lots of fat in them, and a lot fewer preservatives. That not only makes their meals a LOT tastier, but more importantly, you get more bang for your buck / calories for your ounces.

    Packit Gourmet and Outdoor Pantry both also sell dehydrated and freeze-dried base ingredients, in addition to prepared meals. In particular, Packit Gourmet's freeze-dried meats are wonderful to bring along as an add-in to other food, and the red meats do have quite a lot of fat content.

    And then there are companies like Backcountry Foodie and MONTyBOCA that have sprung up around providing DIY backpacking meal recipes with widely-available dehydrated and freeze-dried ingredients. If you go that route, you will likely need to invest in a dehydrator and vacuum sealer, both of which are inexpensive.
    Last edited by blackmagic; 01-24-2021 at 01:32.

  3. #3

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    I make my own FBC meals using items purchased in bulk as you suggest. A few companies I have ordered from:
    beprepared.com
    santafebean.com
    freshandhonestfoods.com

    Often I search Amazon and get whatever brand is on sale. Of course I read the ingredients (prefer things I can pronounce and vegetarian). I find that freeze dried foods usually rehydrate better than dehydrated foods.

    I also purchase from my local grocery store. Many things labeled "instant", "minute" or "quick" work well. Rice, couscous, mashed potatoes, barley, oats, etc.

  4. #4

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    Blackmagic

    Thanks for the discussion about traditional long shelf life foods and more recent developments. That really explains a great deal.

    Section Hiker has a good piece about the difference between dehydrated vs freeze dried, generally favors freeze dried.

  5. #5

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    I'm a cold-soaker, and find freeze-dried fruits and veggies work great for me. I prepare all of my own meals. I like the big no. 10 cans - one big can (12 oz) of Augason blueberries gets me ~30 servings in my oatmeal mix. It isn't the cheapest, but I've found the quality to be really good. I'll also use big cans of broccoli and put that in pretty much any dinner mix. I've bought off Amazon, and even found some deals on eBay....those cans last a long time, so even an older can, as long as its been stored well, can still have many years shelf life remaining.

  6. #6
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    I usually buy #10 tin cans from Honeyville but Covid cleaned them out. Aguasons Farms on amazon seems to have inventory. I picked up a vacuum sealer and buy oxygen absorbers from Amazon. I repackage the cans into 1 cup bags. I can throw away half the can and still be ahead on cost. Once bagged it keeps several years.

    A story about dried versus dehydrated. I was on a hike once and met a hiker who was going through a lot of fuel. He had gotten a great deal on rice and beans. I had some dehydrated beans and instant rice and showed him the difference. I could add just a cup of boiling water and wait a couple of minutes while he had to simmer his for 20 to 30 minutes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blackmagic View Post
    . . .The (my) main issue with the old school brands like Mountain House and Backpacker's Pantry is that they are manufactured to last for decades, and that involves significant trade-offs: worse than the enormous quantity and wide variety of preservatives required, those meals have no fat in them, because fat goes bad (rancid) quickly.

    That doesn't just affect the taste: fat has 9 kcal/g, while protein and carbs have 4 kcal/g. So those meals are always weight-inefficient. . .
    It's a trade off, shelf life vs taste vs caloric content etc. I know many of us carry a small bottle of oil or even some butter in a squeeze tube when the weather isn't too hot in order to add a little oil/fat to many of the meals we prepare. Aids in boosting calories, mouth feel, taste, etc. Now, granted, refined oils don't have the same flavor as natural food fats, especially meats, but I don't know if carrying that oil should really be considered a weight penalty, as if the fat/oil is removed from the original product wouldn't the packaged product weigh more if it was left in?

    Unopened cooking oil is typically good for a year or more stored at room temperature. Once opened oxygen starts the turning rancid process. It's usually good for a few more months at that point. So, yeah, from a prepper standpoint, you have to rotate the stock, but for hiking a little supplemental oil/fat shouldn't ever be an issue.
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  8. #8
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    Blackmagic gives an excellent run-down in their post above. I'll also second their recommendation of Packit Gourmet, which is a fine company that makes some very tasty meals that I've come to rely on as my go-to trail foods. They also, if you're still interested in preparing your own meals, have an excellent selection of freeze-dried ingredients (meats, vegetables, fruits, beans, rice) that are fully cooked and can mostly be rehydrated without cooking. They also have a good selection of other ingredients you'll need (stock powders, oils, small condiment and sauce packages, etc.) that can really make for a good and varied trail diet. Look in the "Grocery" section of their website for all that.

    As blackmagic said, trail foods have gotten a lot better now that we don't just have the old-fashioned Mountain House and Backpacker's Pantry long storage meals to choose from. Until I came across Packit, I was making my own trail meals too, by the laborious processes of cooking, dehydrating, and packaging meals with better nutritional and calorie profiles. It was a pain in the wazoo but better than the alternatives I knew. With the options we now have available I've let that go (and I'm a fairly serious cook at home.) It's nice at the end of a long day's hiking to be able to just boil some water, rehydrate a meal with minimum prep, and still get to enjoy something tasty and filling that gives me the calories to get up and do it again the next day.
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    I've gotten lazy and cheep in my older age. I have a cheap food drier and I just buy bags of frozen veggies from the grocery store and dump them into the food drier. They do require some soaking to rehydrate best, but have fantastic flavor and I just dump my dinner's worth in a sealed bottle an hour or so before I stop to make dinner, then add the soaked veggies and flavored water into my pot to boil as the water I add to my couscous, potatoes, ramen, rice, or whatever along with chopped up meat of choice. On longer trips requiring trailside resupply, I'd recommend either buying (or ordering ahead if needed) "Just Veggies" as they are often available in local stores and certainly are available from amazon.

    Good luck and have fun figuring it all out.
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  10. #10

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    Yes, you can dehydrate frozen vegetables (a 1 lb bag will dry down to a few grams, showing you that there is not much there besides water and cellulose). So we dehydrate real food, like steak, hamburger, bacon, ham, turkey, and also use dehydrated whole eggs and cheddar cheese powder to make excellent meals sealed in food saver bags. Just add boiling water and wait 5 minutes. Fresh, cheap, easy, nutritious. Only slightly heavier than freeze dried, like 6 oz per meal. I've tried the highly processed commercial freeze dried foods, beginning in the 1970's and found them to be horribly expensive, weird texture, poor flavor, and always left us hungry. (as a starving 17 year old long distance hiker on the AT in 1974 we always could talk rich weekender kids and Boy Scouts out of their freeze dried meals, because they didn't like them. So yes I've eaten a lot of them for free...). FWIW We did like the freeze dried ice cream, in sort of a crazy strange way.
    Nutritionally the dinners are high in both carbs and fat (sort of like an acorn, arguably the most fattening food in the world). Even the MH Beef Stew has three times more carbs + fat than protein.
    Last edited by RockDoc; 01-24-2021 at 16:32.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by RiverbirchHiker View Post
    Do any of you purchase bulk freeze-dried ingredients to prepare your own backpacking meals? This is getting past buying prepared meals from places like Backpacker's Pantry, Mountain House, and Alpine Air.
    Freeze-dried seems to have a lot of advantages over dehydrated.
    I always purchase Mountain House in #10 cans and then repack in ziplocs. I shop for good deals on google.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by RockDoc View Post
    . . . So we dehydrate real food, like steak, hamburger, bacon, ham, turkey, and also use dehydrated whole eggs and cheddar cheese powder to make excellent meals sealed in food saver bags. . .
    It's surprising how well many leftovers from our family favorites like beef stroganoff and spaghetti with Italian sausage dry in our food drier and rehydrate into shockingly wonderful trail foods. . . way more enjoyable and cheaper than Mountain House, Backpacker's Pantry, or whatnot. I don't know what there shelf life might be past a month or so as I've never left them that long before eating them.

    That being said, drying whole meals takes planning ahead and not being able to eat the left overs for lunch the next day. Throwing together a bunch of couscous, dried veggies and chopped up jerky takes almost no planning ahead, so sadly, is what I do most often.

    Ah, HYOH.
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