Packaging for Dehydrated Meals

6:04 p.m. on August 30, 2017 (EDT)
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Hello everyone, I am new to the forum and am happy to have found a free site to meet other friends with the same interests and have a place to exchange ideas. 

Last night I went on an Amazon shopping spree and got a Nesco Snackmaster dehydrator, vacuum sealer, and digital scale. I'm getting ready to live out of a retrofitted Nissan Pathfinder for 3 months before going home to Arkansas to through-hike the Ozark Highlands Trail and Buffalo National River Trail so dehydrated meals would be great for simple car food as well as on the trail. 

My question is how do you package your vacuum sealed food to provide a good seal for backpacking so the food stays fresh? I have seen videos and posts where someone suggests wrapping parchment paper or uses paper bags. Some suggest a ziplock inside the vacuum seal to prevent sharp foods from breaking through. I thought to expand on the paper bag and parchment paper idea by replacing one or both with paper towels so I could simply open the meal, unwrap and use the dried food and conveniently have a paper towel available for use during and after the meal for cleanup. I have read that absorbent material makes a bad barrier because it could potentially soak up outside liquid though. 

I would greatly appreciate hearing what you have learned and your method for making the most of the vacuum seal. Also, if anyone has experience or ideas regarding the thought to incorporate paper towels, I would like to hear about it. 

Thank you.

6:22 p.m. on August 30, 2017 (EDT)
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I seem to recall a WhiteBlaze poster who talked about how she would use zip bags inside the vacuum bag and leave them open so they would totally compress. Her trick was to use squares of TP in the opening of the zip bag. Then when she received her resupply box she would cut open the vacuum bags, extract the TP for use on trail, then zip up the inner bags and load her pack. May have been a few years ago now so a challenge to find her posts on the topic. No clue which of their many forums it would have been in, sorry.

8:49 p.m. on August 30, 2017 (EDT)
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Food will degrade primarily due to exposure to warmth, sun light, moisture and oxygen. 

Keep your items out of sun light, and warmth, when it is possible.

You can seal your items in a impermeable (less permeable) membrane, such as used with a home vacuum sealing device.  This will minimize exposure to both air and moisture.  Zip lock bags and foil membrane bags sealed using the zip lock are less effective keeping freshness than the home vacuum seal bags. 

If you place your items in permeable packaging, it will remain "fresh" for about a month.

The other issue related to your inquiry is how do you plan to cook your food.  Are you pouring the meal in to a pot of boiling water, or cooking in a pouch.  If you are intent on pouch cooking, do note many plastics exposed to boiling temps will outgas undesirable chemicals into your food.  This includes those home vacuum seal bags.  Therefore whatever the storage bag is selected, you also need plastic product specifically designed for use as boiling bags.  Many grocery stores carry such product on the plastic storage bag or baking aisles.

Ed

1:00 a.m. on August 31, 2017 (EDT)
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On the other hand, we usually just put them in zip lock bags in the freezer until we use them.  And that seems to keep them fine for a few months...

5:34 a.m. on August 31, 2017 (EDT)
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We take the simple approach too...our home dehydrated foods go in freezer Ziplocs bags. I dehydrate for one season at a time and have used them upwards of 4 or 5 months later without noticing any major loss in taste or other issues. Probably depends a good bit on what you are dehydrating.

And welcome to Trailspace Sean!

9:10 a.m. on August 31, 2017 (EDT)
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Another vote for packing them in freezer-weight ziploc bags, store in the freezer, and use the same bags when rehydrating on the trail.

3:39 p.m. on August 31, 2017 (EDT)
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And Freezer Ziploc's can bee cooked in too!

6:40 p.m. on August 31, 2017 (EDT)
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Gary & JR, as I stated in my prior post, Ziplocs and other conventional plastic bags are fine for storing food, but you NOT use these bags to boil your meals.  The plastics they are made of will give off chemicals that are known health hazards when used in this manner.  Instead one should use boil bags sold at the market, that are specifically designed for this purpose. 

Ed

9:02 p.m. on August 31, 2017 (EDT)
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I just empty it into my pot...somehow cleaning isn't a big deal for me and part of the camp rituals. It's also satisfying simmering the food in the pot...its one of my favorite parts of the day and gives me time to contemplate life, extract lint from my navel, compete in staring contests with squirrels, or just simply solve all the world's problems.

Now back to the plastic bag discussion...

7:17 a.m. on September 1, 2017 (EDT)
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If one is "boiling" their dinners then by all means use a bag made for boiling. If one is freezer bag "cooking" by all means use the freezer bags as you are not boiling them.

Ziploc branded freezer bags use food quality plastic and are rated for use in the microwave. The water you pour into your bag quickly drops in temperature as it passes through the air and makes contact with ambient temperature contents, so the plastic is not exposed to actual boiling temperatures.

If using the bags in this way produced dangerous byproducts then they would not be rated for use in the microwave where spot temperatures are actually likely to reach the boiling point or higher.

Now back to the OP's actual discussion about storing dehydrated foods...

I dry separate ingredients and sauces in large quantities and store in the freezer in bulk. Then I put together individual meal bags right before a trip. I've used some pretty old stuff and it still had flavor and texture, but I have no way of knowing about the nutritional value. This is one of the reasons I've gone back to commercial products for longer trips so I can better monitor my intake of nutrients.

4:42 p.m. on September 1, 2017 (EDT)
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LoneStranger said:

'..Ziploc branded freezer bags use food quality plastic and are rated for use in the microwave..."

Well that ran contrary to what I learned years ago, so I looked it up.  It seems things have changed since I invented fire (well actually I burned down the cave but that story is for another discussion thread). 

Manufacturers have moved to using plastics that are safer in the kitchen.  LS stating Ziplocs are safe for boiling (and microwaving) is correct.  Product of this ilk that are not safe are those made of PVC compounds.  Polycarbonate should also not be used to heat foods.  These article1  article2 describe the details.  This article states you don't want to actually use Ziplocs or similar bags in boiling temps as the bags will melt.

Ed

5:08 p.m. on September 5, 2017 (EDT)
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Coming in late to the conversation.

I have used larger bags similar to these:

https://www.amazon.com/100pcs-Premium-Aluminum-Package-Dehydrated/dp/B073ZK1DPK/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1504645621&sr=8-15&keywords=foil+food+bags

You need to shop around to make sure you get the right size. The link I shared is definitely too small for your needs.

Dehydrated food lasts for weeks/months with them. 

11:03 p.m. on September 5, 2017 (EDT)
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Where in Arkansas? I lived in Hope while in high school 1972-73. I went to vocational school in Hot Springs 73-74 and college in Poteau Oklahoma 1974-75.

I have land in south central Missouri near Dora.

Haven't lived in Arkansas since 1974. Home now is North America, no settled home. Live mostly on may bicycle in the western USA.

December 6, 2019
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