Originally published at Notes from the bunker…. You can comment here or there.
I know you’re tired of hearing it from me…believe me, Im tired of saying it. But, if theres any firearms related item you’ve been needing for your stash you need to get your act together, pick up the phone and order it in the extremely near future. It really is only going to get worse.
It occurs to me that from time to time I mention vacuum sealing various items but I never actually go into details about the vacuum sealing itself. So, for those who have a few bucks to spend and can appreciate the possibilities, I’m going to recount my experiences.
First off, you’ve got to be prepared to fork out about $200. Maybe you can find a used vacuum sealer, maybe you can buy the ElCheapo from WalMart…good luck with that. I figure I’d pay the money up front, bitch about it, get over it, and then have a good machine.
I wound up getting mine at CostCo. It’s a Tilia FoodSaver. There are other models FoodSaver II, FoodSaver Deluxe, FoodSaver Suck-O-Matic 6000, whatever…I have just the regular one and its served me quite well. Some friends picked up a newer model that looks much nicer than mine and has a built in bag cutter but otherwise they all pretty much do the same thing.
You take a bag, put your goodies in it, lay the mouth of the bag flat on the vacuum surface, close the lid, hold the button, and the air is withdrawn and the bag sealed. What makes this possible is that the bags have an irregular surface of channels so that when the bag collapses on itself theres still passages for the air to be withdrawn. Whats this mean to you? Basically it means you must use the proper bag material. Sticking a Baggie in there won’t do it.
The bags can come pre-cut like a regular sandwich bag but for versatility you want to get the stuff that comes on rolls. What you get is a roll of bag material. The roll is a long tube of material so you’ll need to close one end to form the bag. You cut off a piece at the length you want, close one end of it using the vacuum sealer and you’ve created a bag. Load it up, vacuum out the air, seal the other end and you’ve got a complete sealed package.
The bags are sealed using a heating element that melts the plastic, sealing and filling the air channels of the bag. Its tough to describe, but most of these products come with an instructional video that explains it more than I ever could.
So that’s the process. Whats the advantages? These things are an absolute must if you’re going to get serious on food storage. As you’ve figured out by now, buying in bulk is the way to go. Buying a 16# tray of steaks usually gets you a good price but that money is wasted if three months later you pull a dried out, freezer burned, odd tasting lump of meat out of your freezer. The vacuum sealer, which at this point Im just gonna abbreviate to VS, Removes the air from around the food (which is a main factor in freezer burn, which is actually not a burn but rather a sort of dessication of a section of meat), protects it from taking on weird tastes from odors or whatnot in the fridge, and make thawing a snap (simply immerse the sealed pouch in a pan of warm water for a while). I routinely eat meat out of my freezer that is several years old and have never had any problems.
The bag material is usually microwaveable and boilable. This means if you make something like chili, for example, you can freeze a bowl-sized serving and when you want it simply drop the bag into a pot of boiling water. Boil-in-the-bag convenience….very handy if you’re cooking over a campstove in a blackout and don’t want to have to mess with pots and pans to clean.
Dry goods also benefit. Things like flour, cornmeal, and any other product that is prone to insect infestation can be protected from damp, bugs and spillage by VS’ing the whole bag. I usually just cut a bag to proper size, insert the whole five pound pag of [sugar/flour/etc] and seal it up. No more flour dust leaking from bag seams, no more small insects being found in the flour, and the sugar doesn’t seem to clump up over time. If you’re the cautious type you can dole out your wheat into 5# increments and seal them up, then store your sealed five pound packages in your favorite bucket. If it turns out theres a bug problem in your grain its limited to the one sealed package and not to your entire 50# drum.
So, as you can see, theres some very compelling reasons to have one of these things just from the food standpoint. The fun, however, does not stop there. Anything you want to protect from dirt, damp, water, elements or bugs can be sealed up within reason. Firestarting material for hunting trips always gets this treatment. It keeps it dry no matter what the circumstances. Same story for spare socks and underwear. Copies of important documents, rolled blankets for storage, small electronics like radios, etc, etc. can all be protected. However, there are some precautions one must take.
Obviously the weak link in all of this is the bag itself. If its punctured you lose the vacuum. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing…your non-food item will still be dry and protected from most environmental threats. The solution to keeping the bags integrity is simple – don’t puncture it.
Anything that you stick in the bag should have no sharp corners or edges. Cardboard boxes should have their corners ‘rounded’ by banging them on a hard surface. Don’t hesitate to wrap an item in some type of padding or covering to keep sharp edges or corners padded. If you’re going to store your sealed package in an environment that may promote damage (like under the seat of your truck where things will get bounced around) sandwiching the sealed bag between two pieces of thick cardboard will go a long way. Even padded with cardboard the package is still usually smaller than its non-VS version. If youre going to throw your VS goodie into a backpack or some such ruck, you’ll want to make sure its protected from punctures. Either sandwich it in cardboard or roll it up in some clothing in your bag.
Most of the vacuum sealers come with attachments to let you seal mason jars or special containers. My experience with these has been across-the-board negative. They just don’t form a lasting seal. If you want to store something in a mason jar, then pressure can it or water bath can it.
The big idea everyone seems to have is to VS their guns and/or ammo. I have mixed feelings on this. Guns have all sorts of edges and protrusions that can pierce the plastic. Wrapping the gun in, say, a rag or other covering would work but any moisture would be held in against the gun. Now, the way around that would be to make sure your gun is oiled or otherwise well preserved…but, I have no idea how solvents or lubricants will react with the plastic. So, for me, I long term store guns in either Pelican cases or ammo cans. ,Rawles suggested against vacuum sealing ammo in his blog because it may cause bullets or primers to loosen as the pressure inside the case is now greater than the pressure outside the case. I’m not sure if its really an issue or not…most military ammo is sealed against moisture to begin with. Again, an ammo can goes a long way to storing your ammo…and any event that would compromise the integrity of an ammo can would most assuredly be enough to compromise a plastic vacuum bag. However, I can see a couple cases where VS’ing a gun might be a good idea. If were to keep a gun hidden somewhere outdoors, maybe on the top shelf of a shed in the yard, hidden in an electrical service panel on the side of a building, etc…someplace where there would be genuine exposure to the elements…then it might be worth it. In those situations, the bulk of an ammo can or Pelican case would be prohibitive so the smallest package offering protection is called for.
So, are these things worth the initial expense. Absolutely. Just from a ‘being able to buy bulk food and store it properly’ standpoint you’ll be able to justify it. Their versatility in use with non-food items is just a nice bonus.