If you can afford a freeze dryer, you will be one seriously happy hiker!
Freeze dryers are expensive but they are also invaluable if you can afford them. They are what the astronauts use in order to make their meals and while the price of one of these units used to be beyond the financial capabilities of almost everyone, a company named Harvest Right have recently (last few years) come out with a line of freeze dryers that are affordable and can be run at home.
Don’t get me wrong, they are still pricey, but they are not impossible to buy anymore. I bought one a couple of years ago and was waiting until I had used it extensively before talking about it. Now that I have used it for a couple of years, I can honestly say I love it!
Now, back to price. These things are not cheap. A good food dehydrator can be purchased somewhere between $50.00 and $100.00. A freeze dryer is going to be somewhere between $3,000 to $5,000 depending on the scale you go with. As you can see, there is quite the difference and you had best be prepared for it. On top of that, they do use a electricity as well, but not as much as I was expecting.
Why get a freeze dryer?
You may be asking yourself, “If the price is that expensive, why would I consider it?”. Well, that is a very good question and one I tossed around for quite a while before I bought one. Here is the basis of my decision on buying one.
Freeze Dryer Pros
- Food can be stored for up to 25 years if sealed in mylar bags
- You can freeze dry pretty much anything
- The weight of freeze dried food is next to nothing
- Freeze drying removes 99.9 percent of the water, so your food even when opened, lasts longer
- Re-hydrating of food is much easier than, and turns out better, than a dehydrator
- Would eventually get my money back due to savings from buying freeze dried food for the trail.
Freeze Dryer Cons
- The price
- The size
As you can see above, there are not many con’s to owning a freeze dryer and there are many pro’s. The deciding factor for me was the weight and longevity of the food. No matter how I looked at things, the fact that I could make my favorite meals at home, freeze dry them, and take them on the trail with me won out on almost every argument. Add to this that something like a half pound steak changed to mere grams, or a pasta meal became so light I wouldn’t even notice it in my pack, it was a no brainer that I had to have one of these.
I was spending a lot of money on Mountain House freeze dried meals, and I rapidly came to understand that I would eventually get my money back. Don’t get me wrong, the Mountain House meals are great, and if you can’t afford a freeze drier, I would highly recommend them. I just wanted to eventually spend my money on newer a cooler gear.
Other Considerations When Buying A Freeze Dryer
When you buy your freeze dryer, you are going to need to buy some other stuff. Here are a list of things I bought when I got mine.
Stainless Steel Trays
The freeze dryer came with 4 trays but I bought an extra set so I could be making food and pre-freezing my next batch.
Stainless Steel Loading Basket
I use a box freezer and one thing I found is that when you are freeze drying foods that are more liquid in nature, such as eggs, it is very hard to get them into the freezer without spilling the contents. Additionally, I could not just site the trays on top of each other. So I found a custom made loading basket that was perfect for solving both of these issues.
If you are wanting to make food that you may keep for several years before you use it, you will need mylar bags to store the food in. In addition, you will need to add an oxygen absorber to each bag. I have done this for a number of reasons such as I have found sales on foods, the price of food keeps going up every year, I had a surplus in my garden, etc….
Mylar Bag Sealer
There are a few different sealers out there ranging from manual to automated belt sealers. Because of the amount of food I freeze dry, I went with one of the automated ones.
Many times a food will seem to be dry, but inside it is not. This device can really help is seeing if there is any moisture left inside the food. If there is, simply add more time to the freeze dryer.
What kinds of food do I Freeze Dry?
To sum it up, everything! There are a couple of things that do not work, such as beer or whiskey, lol, but other than that, I have found very little that cannot be freeze dried. Here is a list of a few things I have successfully freeze dried.
- Berries – All kinds. I have done Raspberries, Strawberries, Blue Berries, Black Berries, etc….
- Fruits – Everything. Peaches, Apples, Pears, Bananas, Kiwi, and so on
- Meat – Steak, Chicken, Porkchops, Hamburger, Hot Dogs, …..
- Eggs – Raw and Scrambled. Best to scramble as yokes do not come back like you would expect when rehydrated.
- Pasta Meals
- Sheppards Pie
- Ice Cream
- Pretty much all vegetables
As you can see, there are many considerations when buying a Freeze Dryer. The above are just a few things to consider when thinking of buying one. Overall, I would seriously recommend the purchase of one as it is worth it’s weight in gold when preparing food for the trail. I have never eaten as well as I do now.