Jul 6, 2023
What is the best way to experience nature at its finest? You go out camping. Leave behind the comfort of your home and commune with Mother Earth. That does not have to mean struggling and sleeping on dirt. Advances in camping and backpacking technology make life as comfortable, or more so, out in nature.
Modern tents, campers, and bags make the trips outdoors more seamless and hassle-free. Once you have proper shelter, the next thing on the list is usually food. It can be challenging to properly plan for this, especially with the amount of space it consumes. And not everyone can live off the land. What if you do not catch something or have no idea how to prepare it?
That is why freeze-dried camping food has become popular lately. They are easy to store, and you can buy them in bulk.
Food preservation has been one of the challenges when camping or backpacking. You do not have the luxury of bringing a refrigerator or cooler wherever you go. That is possible if you are taking a camper. But they do take up valuable storage space.
Freeze-drying was a process widely implemented around World War II. First used for heat-sensitive materials like blood serum. Eventually, the process found its way to preserving food.
The idea is to take as much moisture out as possible through lyophilization. In doing so, you can increase the shelf-life of the perishable material. There are three main steps to achieving freeze-drying.
First is the initial freezing phase. There are multiple ways to do this, and it is the most critical part. The goal is to cool the material to below the triple point. The material is preserved while keeping its general structure.
The second step is the primary drying phase, where most of the water and moisture are removed from the material. That is done by lowering the pressure and gradually adding heat to the material.
The third and last step is secondary drying or absorption. The goal here is to remove the water ionically bound to the material.
Altogether, the process can reduce the residual moisture to just 1%.
That gives you several advantages. First is that it overcomes your problem on how to bring food to your camping trip. Freeze-dried camping and backpacking food are compact and very light. Removing water and moisture makes them smaller. You can easily take them in your backpack.
Another advantage is reducing the risk of bacteria growing on your food during travels. Because there is very little moisture left, it minimizes the chance of bacteria growth and spoilage. That is why many campers and backpackers have turned to this.
You can make freeze-dried meals before your camping trip. The five main parts of the meal are:
The base is any starchy food you can find. The important thing is that it cooks fast and is easy to store. Good foods for this include macaroni pasta, white rice, couscous, potato flakes, and noodles.
Next is choosing vegetables to freeze-dry and take with you on your camping trip. There is a huge variety of beans and greens you can choose from to add nutrients to your meal. You can start with carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, spinach, and different types of mushrooms.
Protein is crucial to any meal. It helps you get stronger, healthier, and recover from fatigue. Diced chicken breast is a good idea to freeze-dry and bring on your next trip. It is easy to create a recipe with it.
A balanced meal needs to include some fat, helping your body absorb nutrients and vitamins. They can come in many forms, like olive oil and butter. They also add some flavor to your meal and help with cooking. Dry frying food is usually not a good idea.
Last is taking a few spices with you on your camping trip. Choose your favorite ones in your spice rack and place them in manageable containers. These will give your freeze-dried meals an extra kick when you are out in nature.
You can freeze-dry backpacking food in several ways. Whatever you choose, they all start with properly preparing the food.
Choose food that is as fresh as possible. That will allow you to get the maximum amount of nutrients, flavor, and shelf-life. Wash it properly to get all contaminants out of it. Now, cut up whatever you are freeze-drying into equal pieces. That helps with removing the moisture faster and equally. You would not want to have one more preserved than the others.
From here, you have several options. If you are dedicated to the craft, you can purchase a freeze-drying machine. With that, all you have to do is:
If you do not want to invest in a new appliance yet, you can use the freezer in your home.
You can do the process using dry ice, too. It is similar to using your freezer. The difference is you place the food inside a cooler with dry ice. Make sure to keep the food in proper containers first.
You can purchase freeze-dried backpacking food in several stores across the United States. Some of the most popular brands to look out for are:
You can expect to spend $7-15 per serving of freeze-dried camping food if you are shopping online. That covers most choices like beef, chicken, pork, and vegetarian meals. Dessert packets are a little cheaper than that.
If you are looking to freeze-dry your backpacking food, you can expect to spend around $10 per pound.
Are you ready to eat? Reconstituting your freeze-dried camping food is easy. Just add water, and it will absorb the moisture it needs. For cooking meals, while camping, you can mix proteins into your sauce to cook and rehydrate at the same time.
You can even eat freeze-dried food without water. Trail mix is a good example of that. There is no safety concern in doing so. Unless the food was freeze-dried before cooking, then it is best to process it first.
You should store your freeze-dried backpacking and camping food in airtight containers. That keeps the food fresh and retains nutrients. Make sure not to expose the packaging to sunlight. It is best to keep them in your kitchen cabinets.
Freeze-drying gives the best shelf-life. That is why it has become a popular method for preserving camping food. In some cases, you can keep them for over five years. Others have shown they can even last for up to 25 years if stored properly.
One of the best things about freeze-drying food is the taste. Unlike conventional freezing and chemical preservatives, the taste is the same. The texture can be different, depending on the food.
Nutrients are best kept through freeze-drying, too. Reports show that it retains up to 97% of the original nutrients.
Adding up all the benefits, it is clear why freeze-dried camping and backpacking food has become popular with the outdoor community. The food tastes great, and it is easy to bring with you. You can store plenty of packs at home, just in case you don’t want to make dinner.