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  1. #1

    Default Freeze dried meals

    I am considering a 2017 NOBO thru hike and have wondered why freeze dried meals are not used more on the trail than they are. People tend to go for the dehydrated foods instead. We are such believers in freeze drying at our house that we even own a freeze drying machine. The process preserves nutrition, removes nearly all the water compared to dehydrated foods, and nearly anything can be freeze dried. It's a great way to carry things like fruits while leaving all the water weight at home. My questions are these:

    1) How readily available on the trail are the Mountain House and other brands of freeze dried meals? Most outfitters carry these, but what about other shops you come across hiking the AT?
    2) Why are people opting for alternatives that are often heavier (water content) with less nutrition? Is it primarily cost? I realize calories/oz is important.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Default

    Mostly I think because they're way too expensive to use on a daily basis for something like a thru hike. Plus I think they'd get boring after a while, and I'm not totally sold on the overall nutritional value. I mean, I like having one Mountain House meal in my food bag for nights when I'm feeling lazy, or when the weather sucks, but every night? No.

  3. #3

    Default

    Thanks for the response. If you limit yourself to Mountain House you may be correct about them getting dull after a while. That is not an issue with freeze drying, however. It is simply the food they choose to prepare (lots of salt) before freeze drying. The nutrition is maintained in the process since freeze drying never even heats the food. It simply freezes it, to maybe -50 F, in a vacuum chamber. Sublimation takes place and the water content escapes as a gas. Assuming you prepare the correct (nutritious) food to begin with, freeze drying sure looks like the ultimate backpacker's food preservation process.

    My suspicion was cost played a big part of why people avoid it. Or maybe they are not aware of choices other than super salty Mountain House meals. For me getting the right food will be of high importance. A diet of noodles, Snicker's bars, and peanut butter for 6 months won't cut it.


    Quote Originally Posted by rafe View Post
    Mostly I think because they're way too expensive to use on a daily basis for something like a thru hike. Plus I think they'd get boring after a while, and I'm not totally sold on the overall nutritional value. I mean, I like having one Mountain House meal in my food bag for nights when I'm feeling lazy, or when the weather sucks, but every night? No.

  4. #4

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    my dehydrator cost me several hundred dollars, not a few thousand.
    https://tinyurl.com/MyFDresults

    A vigorous five-mile walk will do more good for an unhappy but otherwise healthy adult than all the medicine and psychology in the world. ~Paul Dudley White

  5. #5

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    Dehydrators are indeed MUCH cheaper. And I believe they are just fine for preparing your own food a few months prior to eating it. Store bought dehydrated foods are a different story, however. They often contain things like MSG and are generally of such low quality.

    Quote Originally Posted by PennyPincher View Post
    my dehydrator cost me several hundred dollars, not a few thousand.

  6. #6

    Default

    After you have tried several different freeze dried or prepackaged dehydrated meals you will, most likely, find a few you can tolerate.
    Eat those few for a while and you will wish you would have punchased a dehydrated.

  7. #7
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    Default

    I have no clue about the nutritional value. For me, it is a cost factor. Dehydrated = cheaper.

  8. #8

    Default

    I order the freeze-dried and "dehydrated" food items online I consider best, that's it.

    What freeze drying equipment do you have? I am only curious.

  9. #9

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    Harvest Right. It works great but it does take about 36 hours per set of food you load into it. Thru hikers seem to lack vegetables and fruit. When freeze dried these weigh almost nothing and taste exactly like they did before they went into the freeze drier. Texture is lost on some things of course, just as it is with anything you freeze. One thought is to have my wife provide mail drops of primarily fruits and veggies that can be added to meals purchased along the trail. These can usually be eaten right out of the bag. No need to add water. Just drink as you eat.

    Quote Originally Posted by Connie View Post
    What freeze drying equipment do you have? I am only curious.

  10. #10

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    Default

    Food choice is primarily based on three C's

    Convenience
    Calories
    Cost

    Most dont have a full time support staff at home preparing freeze dried meals for them and shipping them out.

  11. #11
    Registered User Maydog's Avatar
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    Except for when it is cold all day long, I wouldn't worry about too much sodium. I would be more concerned with not enough sodium if I'm sweating 6-8 hours per day and drinking plain water. Even if I made my own freeze dried meals, I would make certain to add salt to help prevent hyponatremia.

  12. #12
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    I remember this article from a few years back - I find the industrial process and proprietary techniques fascinating.

    http://www.outsideonline.com/1914281...eze-dried-food

    Every year I get out for a 1 week to 10 day hike and enjoy freeze dried. There was one year that I had purchased breakfast and dinners and after eating them for a week I didn't like the way they made me feel. The stuff is expensive to purchase individually packaged and a machine of your own is cost prohibitive. Last year I got #10 cans of meat and veggies and supplemented them with traditional dehydrated fare.
    There is a fun factor with making dehydrated food and it is easy - it doesn't take 36 hours.

    My question about home freeze driers are: How maintenance intensive are they, and when they break how hard is it to get service? What is the life expectancy in terms of number of cycles the machines average?

  13. #13

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    Thanks for the link, I've been hanging onto a industrial vaccum pump for years...hmmm???

  14. #14

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    Well I'm affraid 50 below is somewhat cost prohibitive for me, but if some can achive this, I'll bring the pump.

  15. #15
    Registered User ldsailor's Avatar
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    I completed a 325 mile, 5 week section hike recently. I ate Mountain House meals for dinner exclusively. The wide selection available never resulted in meal boredom. There was no one at home to send reprovisions, so when I needed more, I got online (Verizon only) and ordered from a list of suppliers who have the best price at the time. The order was sent to a hostel further down the trail, so it worked out well. Many hostels offer a small selection of food, so I used them and stores in towns for additional meal and snack supplies. It worked out well for me.

    The one thing I would do if I had someone who could send me provisions is buy large containers of Mountain House and break them down into smaller zip lock bag portions. That would really bring cost down on a long hike.

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    Default

    One dinner, or 600 cal out of 4000 per day is pretty irrelevant.

  17. #17

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    The only maintenance ours requires is an oil change on the vacuum pump. These are very simple devices. It's just a vacuum chamber and a freezer. The food trays do have electric warmers in them during the final phase of the process.

    They are pricey. But so is a thru hike. And health problems dwarf the cost of attempting to eat well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Bumpy View Post
    My question about home freeze driers are: How maintenance intensive are they, and when they break how hard is it to get service? What is the life expectancy in terms of number of cycles the machines average?

  18. #18

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    What is the purpose of the warmers in the final stage?

  19. #19

    Default

    I looked at the selection of Mountain House freeze dried meals at a store the other day. They had a 50% off sale and I have a hike coming up...

    However, nutritionally these foods are poor. The food is very highly processed. Highly processed foods have had most of their nutrients removed or modified. But even the nutritional facts indicate that there's not much here except simple carbs (=sugar). Not much protein or fat.

    Yes they are light. That's because there's not much there.
    Somehow I don't think our food is the place to concentrate on being ultralight.

  20. #20

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    It speeds up the sublimation process. They are not required, but in the final phase the system will bring the food temp to about 100 degrees F while maintaining an air temp. of -50 F while under full vacuum.

    Quote Originally Posted by rocketsocks View Post
    What is the purpose of the warmers in the final stage?

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