Vacuum sealing food; why cryovac meals are a life saver

Food preparation and cooking at home is usually a fair bit easier than done while camping. What if I told you that food could be prepared and cooked at home, and then made ready in minutes when camping?!

A few months back we purchased a Dometic Vacuum Sealer from Snowys for $159. You simply add the food into special plastic bags, and it sucks all of the air out of it, leaving your food nice and sealed with no air for the nasties to breed in. It runs off 12V and 240V, and is fantastic.

We purchased this specifically for our 3 month trip away into the Northern Territory, but it is used for almost every camping trip we head away on including fishing trips.

Vacuum sealed meals for camping is a trick we’ve been using for a long time now, and its a game changer. This is one of our favourite Camp Cooking accessories.

Want to know what we eat? Here’s 50 Easy Camping Meals to help you out.

Vacuum sealing for camping
The Dometic 240V/12V Vacuum Sealer has become a great part of our kit

What other brands can you buy?

Dometic is not the first place to bring out a 12/240V cryovac machine. However, they are a well known and reputable brand, and for $159 you can’t go wrong.If you are looking at other brands, you can get them from Australian Direct, Chef,  and 4WD Supacentre.

I can’t comment of the quality of those other than the Dometic ones, but I have heard good things about the Kickass ones from Australian Direct.

Why are vacuum sealers so good?

Ease of camping

With a toddler in tow, cooking tasty and healthy meals every night is a push. Instead, Sarah made some amazing meals at home and we vacuum packed them into portion sizes for 2 adults and a toddler. This certainly contributes to 35 ways to make camping with a toddler easier.

Now, most people don’t vacuum pack entire meals (although you could do); they do sauces, marinated meat, cuts of meat, bolognaises, curries and what ever tickles your fancy, and then cook or prepare the remaining part of the meal at camp.

Obviously, we don’t do this for every meal, but it is amazing when you come back from a big day of exploring this great country knowing you spent the time vacuum sealing food for camping and have a tasty and healthy meal that can be ready in 10 minutes with limited effort.

Vacuum packed chicken
A common meal; lovely marinated chicken, mash potato/sweet potato and corn

Less dishes, washing up and water/LPG consumption while camping

A simple meal is a lovely pasta; make the sauce at home with all the goodies in it and the vacuum seal it. When it comes to making the meal at camp, you cook some pasta up, dunk the plastic vacuum sealed bag in with the pasta and it warms up while your pasta is cooked.

Drain the pasta, cut the bag open and tip it into your saucepan, and you have an amazing meal prepared and ready to eat in only a few minutes. You only have one saucepan to wash, and life is good.

If you are just warming something up, we often boil a pot of water, put the bag in until its hot, and then eat. You then have a pot of clean, boiled water ready for dishes once you’ve finished eating!

Make your food last longer

Beyond the convenience of doing this, cryovac sealing is done as a preservation process. Removing the air from your food means that many bugs aren’t able to survive and as a result the food lasts substantially longer.

You can use this for anything from meat to cheese, vegetables and fruit. For those who are into fishing (and actually catch something!) fish that is vacuum sealed quickly after being caught will last and taste the best, by a country mile.

When you vacuum pack food, its shelf life in the fridge pretty much doubles. If its in the freezer, you can get months out of it without the worry of freezer burns.

Vacuum packing food for the NT
Preparing lots of food for 3 months of camping

Better use of space

On our trip up north, we took some 35 odd meals (out of around 80 dinners) either partially or fully prepared. We comfortably fitted that in a 55L freezer, along with a heap of other food. Vacuum sealing removes all of the air, and you can make the packs into what ever shape you want without the risk of them popping (like glad bags!).

There was very little air gap in our freezer between food because of this, which means the freezer works less hard and you can fit more in. Cryovac meals for camping might take more time initially, but it saves you time and effort down the track.

What do we use the vacuum sealer for?

Steak, portioned into the right sizes for a meal (sometimes marinated)

Chops, portioned as above

Butter chicken sauce, cooked and ready to go after warming and making rice

Pasta sauce (cransky sausage, garlic, cream, zucchini, mushrooms, chicken stock powder etc)

Bacon, portioned and ready to go (no more wasted or freezer burnt bacon!)

Chicken breast marinated into meal sizes with several different marinades – delicious over the fire

Potato and leek soup, cooked and ready to go

Spaghetti bolognaise mince and sauce, ready to go without the pasta

Freshly caught fish, after filletting for long term storage

Cheese (cut a big block into several pieces, so there’s no wastage)

Sausages and hamburger patties, portioned into the right size for us

Preparing food at home
Pasta sauce and Butter Chicken being made ready at home

Your butcher can do this

If you don’t have a cryovac machine, but you still want some of the benefits of having one, get your food from the local butcher, and they will portion and vacuum seal it for you.

We did this many times before buying our own, and its great. The only downside of course is you can’t do it while away (like when you catch fish, or want to se-seal a bag of chips!).

For runny food, freeze it first

We had some fun and games trying to vacuum seal foods that were runny – thing bolognaises, sauces and soups.

You can do it, but its awkward and requires bigger bags than necessary. The easy way is to pour the runny goodness into a bag, freeze it in the freezer and then vacuum seal it. No more spillages!

Vacuum sealing sauces
Sauces can be a bit tricky to vacuum seal

If you’ve been looking at a vacuum sealer, we’d highly recommend one. It doesn’t get used exhaustively, but is used enough to make it well and truly worth it.

Over Easter next year, we are away for 11 days and plan on taking 95% pre-prepared food, as we will have a toddler and a very young bub. For me, if you aren’t comfortable when camping then its not enjoyable, and pre-preparing good food to take camping makes things that much easier.

Vacuum sealing fish
We use our vacuum sealer a lot after successful fishing missions

Do you have a vacuum sealer? What do you think of it? Can we borrow some great recipes from you?!

Leave a comment below!

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  1. Hi Steven,

    I can’t comment on the food hygiene side of things. I guess SPC or Heinz might.

    I would say though, for the weight of a can, its not worth the effort. I’d have thought the actual can weight would be a tiny percent of the total weight of each can with its contents inside.

    All the best

  2. Hi there!
    We’re looking at the Overland Track in Tasmania, and weight is a significant factor in our decision making. We love our baked beans! What is your view on buying Heinz / SPC baked bean cans from Coles / Woolworths, opening them up and then popping them in a cryovac / vacuum seal bag? They’d still be at room temperature but come out of a tin that has been exposed to air but sealed again in a vacuum-sealed bag at home?
    Look forward to your response!! ?

  3. Hey Janine,

    Honestly, we’ve never done fruit in the cryovac machine, but there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work in the fridge. We might actually give it a whirl too!

    All the best

  4. Thank you for all the info!

    Ok this sounds like a ridiculous question but when doing fruit do you just cryovac it and then leave in the fridge? Do you then cryovac once you’ve taken out your portion? I miss fruit when we are camping and had never thought to cryovac it!

  5. Hey James,

    You do use a bit of plastic, unfortunately. You can actually re-use them if you wash them out, and we are only onto our 4th roll or so, after several years. If you were heavily using it you’d go through it but for the odd long trip and weekends they last a long time.

    I think there are probably other things you could do to really cut down on plastic use, but it is a side I don’t really like about it.

    All the best

  6. James Topp says:

    Interesting article!! I’m looking at getting one but am concerned about the amount of plastic I’d be using compared to reusable containers.. have you found you use a lot more plastic? I understand the space saving benefits of course! (I own a Jimny so any space saved is good)

  7. Hey Jason,

    Thanks mate. That’s a great idea; I’ll put that in the memory bank We’ve used the water for pasta, but not for dishes!

    All the best

  8. Great article; there’s a real wealth of knowledge on this site Aaron, thank you 🙂

    Regarding re-heating the food and only having one pan to wash up: you can do even better than 1 pan to wash up!

    Most vacuum bags are safe up to just below boiling (check yours first) so most runny sauces/soups/curries etc. can be re-heated by simply popping the sealed bag into a billy or pot of simmering water, then cut it open once it’s hot and ready to eat.

  9. Hey Sw,

    We normally freeze it in something else, then pop it out and vacuum seal it.

    All the best

  10. Can I ask when you freeze the sauces prior to sealing, are they frozen in the bag you are going to vacuum seal?

  11. Great tips in this article. We just bought a vacuum sealer and appreciate the tip on freezing runny food. Thanks.

  12. Hey Kat,

    I’d say it’d be fine. I can’t give you a time frame, but it should do easily double the normal fridge life


  13. I have just bought one and preparing meals now. Is it ok to cook curried sausages and rice and then vacuum seal it. The sauce has milk in it? How long in the fridge do you think it will last

  14. Hey Lucy,

    I don’t think so – they have to be cooked, canned, freeze-dried or dehydrated


  15. Amazing article, lots of information! Just wondering can you prepare vegetables and fruits with the food sealer and take them to NT? Or you have to cook them? Planning a trip to there too! Thank you!

  16. Hey Ziggy,

    We run a fridge and a freezer. The fridge is mainly used for day to day food, and we’d get a meal out early in the day from the freezer if it was going to be consumed that day. Sometimes we’d let one defrost and sit in the fridge until we wanted it.

    Once they are frozen, they stay that way until the day of consumption.

    You don’t have to do this though; it just helps with the ease of vacuum sealing as it has a tenancy to pull the liquid out of the bag when trying to sell. No reason why you couldn’t free it, vacuum seal it and then chuck it in the fridge.


  17. So after freezing and vacuum sealing runny dishes, did you then keep them in your travel fridge frozen?

  18. Great article. Thanks.