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Not many people know that common Ziploc Freezer Bags can be used to rehydrate/cook dried foods on the trail.
Don’t go El-Cheapo here and try it with zip-top sandwich bags, they are not heavy enough.
Use actual Freezer Bags, regular storage bags will not stand up to the heat of boiling water.
One thing you’ll need though is a “Cozy”. A cozy is like a sleeping bag for your food and allows you to utilize the heat from your boiling water by insulating the outside of your cooking (freezer) bag and holding the heat in.
While you can buy them pre-made, they are extremely easy to make.
It’s basically bubble wrap with a thin layer of Aluminum on both sides. The Aluminum reflects radiant heat while the bubble wrap provides dead air space. It comes in 16”, 24” and 48” wide rolls. While you won’t need an entire roll for a cozy, there are a lot of other uses for this stuff.
To make a cozy:
- Take one of your freezer bags and lay it on top of your partially unrolled Reflectix.
- Then cut a piece of Reflectix from the roll, leaving about 1/2″ extra insulation on either side of the Ziploc bag.
- Fold the Reflectix up over the bag. Leave about a 1”-2” flap of material at the top.
- Tape the sides of the Reflectix by folding duct tape (I recommend Gorilla Tape) over both sides of the seam.
You should end up with something like one of those padded shipping envelopes you see from FedEx or UPS.
In fact, in a pinch you can even use one of these envelopes.
I have successfully freezer-bag-cooked in a homemade/scrounged cozy made from a cut down UPS padded shipping envelope with a large sized Beggin Strips dog treats bag inside of it. (Although I could have probably gotten away without it, I did wash the dog treat bag first. And the food itself was still cooked inside of a freezer bag.)
This free setup seemed to perform comparably to the Reflectix cozy.
If you’re planning for a group, get yourself some Ziploc Gallon Freezer Bags and make a larger cozy.
Simply place your ingredients into the freezer bag.
Put the unsealed freezer bag partway into the cozy and add boiling water.
Close the zipper top until only a small opening is left and squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can without spilling boiling hot liquid onto yourself.
(You will very often see the air inside the bag expand when you add boiling water.)
Then completely seal the zipper top of the bag.
Make sure it’s securely zipped closed all of the way shut, I’ve had my lunch end up all over the inside of my cozy.
Pinch the cozy shut with a clothes pin or simply lay it on the ground and put a rock over the open end to hold it shut. If you want to get real fancy, you can add Velcro to the flap to hold the cozy shut.
When your food is cooked, open the zipper and eat the food out of the bag. The cozy not only keeps the heat inside, it helps keep from burning your hands while you eat.
You can carefully turn the top part of the bag, including the zipper, inside out to help hold the bag open.
Be advised that some foods take longer to cook than others.
If you’re adventurous, you can pack separate ingredients along with an entire box of freezer bags and improvise along the way.
For less work on the trail, prepare meals at home ahead of time by adding your ingredients to the bag, labeling the contents and then sealing them.
Plan your entire menu ahead (breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks) or simply pack a variety of meals and select whatever sounds good for that meal.
I don’t know why, but when you grab whatever sounds good, it always seems that you never want what you have left for the last couple of days.
Cleanup is easy enough. On the trail, rinse the bags and use for packing your trash out. When you get home, add a few drops of soap. I like to use Dr. Bronner’s Baby-mild Liquid Soap and some warm (or hot) water and seal the zipper then agitate. Empty the bag, refill with clean water, agitate and empty again. You can turn the bags inside out and leave them open to dry or get fancy and use a Countertop Bag Dryer if you like gadgets.
Be careful turning the bags inside out as you can split the zipper top apart on the ends. Then they’re not much good except as trash bags.
In the spirit of multitasking, you can even try putting dirty underwear and socks or partially inflating an empty zip-top bag and putting it inside of your cozy and using it as a pillow.
The Blind Squirl