There are plenty of campers and hikers who swear by freeze dried meals and buy them for every trip. Certainly they offer a lot of advantages, especially for anyone who has to carry food in a backpack.
But they’re expensive, especially when compared with buying dehydrated, fresh or tinned. It’s quite common to pay over £4 for a main course, and over £3 for dessert. Breakfast, too, runs £3-4, making an outing of a few days into an expensive proposition. Are they really worth the cost?
The Advantages Of Freeze Dried Meals
The greatest advantage of freeze-dried meals is the weight. You have a complete meal in a light pouch, and all you have to do is add water, let it reconstitute, then cook (often not that, if you use boiling water). It couldn’t be simpler.
The meals have a long shelf life, so if you don’t eat something in one camping season it should still be good the following year (although, of course, you should check the “best before” label).
Space can be a major factor for many people, too, especially those hiking and camping, and on average freeze-dried meals take up just one-fifth of the space of tins or fresh food.
In spite of the appearance, fresh ingredients are used in free-dried meals, so there is plenty of nutrition, and in many cases they taste just like fresh after reconstitution (note, however, that’s not true in every case – some can taste strange).
You should be aware that freeze-dried foods aren’t the same as dehydrated foods, by any means. With freeze-dried, the food is flash frozen, then placed in a vacuum chamber, where virtually all the moisture is drawn out through ice evaporation, after which the food is packed into bags that are moisture and oxygen-proof. Unlike dehydrated food, the reconstituted item looks right the real thing. Most foods can be freeze dried successfully.
Dehydrating food is a much older technique, one that relies on heat and evaporation, often through air or sun drying.
Since freeze-dried foods are pre-cooked, all that has to be done is reconstitution and heating, so it doesn’t take long to prepare a meal; they can even be eaten without adding water in a pinch.
The Disadvantages Of Freeze Dried Meals
The cost is probably the most prohibitive factor of free-dried food. As good as it tastes, you’re paying for that quality, with prices not much less than you’d find in a café, for instance.
Certainly, dehydrated food is a lot cheaper – you can sometimes find it for half the cost – especially if you make it yourself, which is quite feasible for some things. In terms of weight and size it’s comparable, and both are far less than fresh or tins. Ultimately, it’s about what you want. If you fancy a full, piping-hot meal at the end of a long day, one that really looks and tastes like food, then it’s worth the cost, although feeding an entire family will be expensive, as the portions aren’t always generous (that’s especially true if you have hungry teens). However, if you’re on your own, and the hardier type who’s not so concerned with appearance, then dehydrated food will be fine, or cook from fresh and tins if you have room for the extra size and weight.