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Dehydrated Hiking Meals and Freeze Dried Hiking Meals the Differences Explained

Dehydrated Hiking Meals and Freeze Dried Hiking Meals the Differences Explained

November 20, 2020

DEHYDRATED HIKING MEALS VS FREEZE-DRIED HIKING MEALS THE DIFFERENCES EXPLAINED

One of the most significant considerations when hiking is pack weight and how to minimise it. We buy gear based on weight, packability, durability, and functionality - does it do what we need it to do?

Food fits into this consideration too.

Food fuels our adventure, and it needs to taste good too. It's gratifying to have knocked out a few km's on the trail knowing and thinking about what's on the menu for dinner. Take off your boots and put your feet up, have a wash down and relax with a comforting warm meal.

Some considerations might be how much food you need to carry for your trip, is there sufficient re-supply available in trail towns etc., or am I going to pack everything I need in? What's my food going to weigh?

At some point, most of us have made our meals and then dehydrated them with a $100 dryer, packed them into ziplock bags for the next trip. It's hard to beat a home-cooked meal made from scratch, but cons do come with the pros.

DEHYDRATING

Dehydrating is rewarding, but consider the time it takes to cook the meals and cool, dry them, and pack them off into vac seal bags. However, they are more compact than freeze-drying, are heavier, and therefore, more gas must be carried for simmering when cooking.

FREEZE DRY

Freeze drying has been around since the 1940's when blood plasma needed to be transported during the war. A bit has changed but the principals are still the same. The product is snap frozen then at -40 degrees Celcius, and heat is applied. Frozen water crystals skip a phase and turn into a gas, and this is called sublimation. Home freeze Dryers are still too expensive to purchase for the average Joe. Freeze dry fruit eaten raw has crunch, and rehydrated meals have great texture as the cell structure doesn't collapse during the process. These are the lightest food option for hiking. 

WET PACKS

Wet packs are another option for hikers. These packs have usually gone through a retort process of heat to sterilise the contents inside, just like the old school army ration packs. They are generally tasty, expensive for their size and heavy. The weight does add up, and on a 5-day hike, you would be carrying around 1.2kg just for dinners in a 250g pouch. Compare that to cooked 400g freeze-dried dinners at just 500g for five dinners which is less than half the carrying weight.

Heating is simple as dropping the pouch into a pot of boiling water, so make sure you carry more gas to get these packs up to the desired temperature.

 

SO HOW DOES THIS COMPARE?

The table below outlines the main differences between dehydrating, freeze-dry, and wet packs.

 

DEHYDRATED FREEZE DRY  WET PACK
NUTRIENT RETENTION 60% 97% 40%
WEIGHT Light Ultra-light 😃 Heavy
WEIGHT BEFORE PREPARATION 140g 100g 250g
WATER COMPONENT TO ADD 500ml to 750ml 300ml None
MEAL SIZE WHEN READY 450g 400g 250g
PACKABILITY Great Ok Ok
SPEED OF PREPARATION 15 mins Quickest 5-10 mins 10 mins
TASTE Great Great Great
COLOUR OK Great OK
TEXTURE Not bad Great - beans and veggies have crunch! So so - goes mushy like can food 😏
MOISTURE REMOVED 5% to 20% 98% to 99% 0%
SHELF LIFE 1 Year 2 Years 1 Year
CONVENIENCE Ok Best Ok
PACK WEIGHT OF 5 DINNERS 700g 500g 😁 1.25kg

 

Hopefully, the above gives you more understanding of the different types of food options for your next hike.

Please note this is just a guide, and some figures change from time to time.

PRICE COMPARISONS

Below is a price comparison of 5 brands when the meals are cooked and at the "ready to eat" stage.

***To work this out when shopping, divide the meal's cost by the final weight "ready to eat" of the meal, which will give the cost per gram.

 BACKCOUNTRY CUISINE Single Dinner (Mex Chicken) Double Dinner (Mex Chicken)
RRP $11.49 $16.49
FINAL WEIGHT 278g 550g
COST PER GRAM $0.04 $0.03
CAMPERS PANTRY Single Dinner (Cauliflower Dahl) Double Dinner (Spag Bol)
RRP $15.95 $26.95
FINAL WEIGHT 400g 800g
COST PER GRAM $0.04 $0.03
GO NATIVE Single Dinner (Veg Curry)
RRP $14.00
FINAL WEIGHT 250g wet
COST PER GRAM $0.05
ON TRACK MEALS Single Dinner (Chickpea Curry)
RRP $12.95
FINAL WEIGHT 250g wet
COST PER GRAM $0.05
OUTDOOR GOURMET CO Double Dinner (Med Lamb)
RRP $16.99
FINAL WEIGHT 750G
COST PER GRAM $0.03



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