Thursday, April 22, 2010

Freezer Bag Cozies

If you read our earlier post on Disney Freeze Dried Real Sliced Apples, you know that we tested "cooking" our trail food breakfast in a freezer bag cozy. For those not familiar with freezer bag cooking, we're talking about putting a dehydrated meal into a quart freezer bag, adding hot water, waiting several minutes, and then nooshing right out of the plastic bag. No plates. No bowls. Just one small plastic bag with a messy inside that you deflate, zip close, and pack out to your home trash can. The one flaw in this system is that your hot water may cool down before your dried noodles or rice have had the opportunity to fully hydrate or soften. Thus, the cozy.

Making a homemade cozy

For our freezer bag cozy we selected a standard manila bubble padded envelope that a papperback book had arrived in. Ignoring the labels and the shipping tape, we trimmed the torn parts of the bag off and then trimmed one side of the bag to be about 2-3 inches shorter than the other. (Just remove a rectangle from one side at the opening end.) This provides a flap that can be folded over to trap the warmed air inside. We weren't sure how well an ordinary padded envelop would work. Would the plastic bubble wrap inside melt from the heat? Would the envelope distort causing our meal to suddenly pour out across our desk? Inquiring minds wanted to know.

Using a freezer bag cozy

Again, if you've read the freeze dried apples review, you already know we put a quart ziplock freezer bag into our modified envelope, dumped in two packets of oatmeal and a packet of apples, dumped in a cup of boiling hot water, zipped up the freezer bag and closed the flap on our "cozy". After a few minutes we opened everything up and give our oatmeal a short stir with a spoon. (Caution, do not use forks or knives inside your freezer bag. The heated plastic is extremely pliable and very easily punctured.) A few minutes later, we opened up the cozy and the freezer bag and dug in. HOT! Too hot!

Eating out of the bag while inside our cozy was a bit ackward. Taking the freezer bag out and putting the bag inside a small bowl proved more satisfactory. (Warning: do NOT take the hot freezer bag out of your cozy without having somewhere to put it. Its way too hot to hold in your hand.)

So, our hastily improvised bubble mailer cozy worked. The plastic bubbles did not melt, pop, or otherwise distort. The air withing the plastic bubble wrap provided extremely good insulation and kept our meal hot. We didn't need to line the bag with aluminum foil or anything.

As our cozy weighes next to nothing and packs very flat, we'll probably take it or an upgrade along on our section hike. While picking up some small plastic flip top bottles at The Container Store, we noted that they also carry Bubblope mailers, a bright foil version of our manilla mailer but with a velcro resealable flap. Bubblopes come in various colors of silver, gold, red, blue, and purple foil for just under $3. At that low price, we may shell out a few dollars for some trail bling.


We bought a $3 red Bubblope and used it on a two week Appalachian Trail section hike. The bubblope held up well and did not leak. There was some separation of the outside plastic from the envelope at the end of our hike. The bubblope was plenty deep and the velcro closure was extremely useful. Enjoyed some very hot oatmeal with apples and some wonderfully hot instant mashed potatoes.


  1. Thanks for this tip!
    I'm ready to hit a couple of nights in Desolation Wilderness, by Lake Tahoe. This will really come in handy.
    Deanna in California

  2. Great idea, I've also heard of people mixing water with rice or oatmeal and placing it in a zip-lock bag and then inside of a sock. They carry the sock inside of their jacket against their body while they hike and when they stop they have food that is warm and ready to eat. Doesn't sound too savory but I guess it would work in a pinch if you don't have a way to heat your food.

  3. We used an 'oven' on the trail to rehydrate, which is a thermal silver lined reusable grocery bag but had talked about cutting it down and duct taping it into an envelope shape. I have some concerns about the paper outsides of the padded envelopes holding up if they get wet-

  4. My first cozy was a manila padded envelope and one day I accidentally missed the freezer bag and poured water inside the cozy. It does leak the water, but the plastic bubble wrap will continue to insulate the food. I left the envelope out to dry. Other than a small hole in the corner, it still works and I use it around the office from time to time.