Posted by: socalsalty | September 13, 2012

Gear Review: Vacuum Sealer Comparison

For over a year now, I’ve been keeping notes about vacuum sealer systems.  I knew that at some point, I’d want to do a comparison post, but felt like I needed time to live with the various options in order to make an informed assessment.  Well the time has come to share my thoughts with you.  I hope you find them useful.

The Contenders

If you dig around, you’ll find a lot of other systems.  These 3 seem pretty generally available though, so they are what I decided to review.

Foodsaver – Gamesaver Silver (Suggested Retail $199)

Ziploc – hand pump system ($4.23 for the pump, $3.22 for pkg of 8 bags (quart or gallon size) at Walmart)

ZipVac – hand or electric pump system ($29.95 suggested retail for Starter Kit)

Evaluation Criteria

1. Ease of use, including availability

2. How well they hold their seal

3. Cost

Foodsaver

This system was the first one that I used.  Even though the suggested retail for this particular unit is $199, I bought mine on sale at Bass Pro and was able to get $20 off + get a variety of both the rolls and pre-cut bags to use.  I initially didn’t like the unit.  I put it away and looked for an alternative (and considered returning it).  The thing that I learned was true of all the units is none of them worked that well if what you are sealing is very wet.  I also learned that when you are using this unit, you need to kind of manipulate the contents while it’s sucking to help the sealer get all the air out.  Once I figured those things out, I had the best long term results using the Foodsaver which is really the biggest deal.  Nothing sucks more (pun intended) than to go to all the trouble of processing your food to save, only to find it freezer burned when you take it out to use later.  I like the fact too that you can buy the rolls and then cut them to whatever size you need.  Another plus is that the rolls are also readily available.  The downsides are the initial cost, and the fact that once you open them, they can’t be re-used.

7 bags of halibut

In terms of cost, I started doing a log of my bag usage in July and kept track of how many I used until I used up a whole roll.  Over the next 6 weeks, I was able to get 21 bags out of 1 roll.  A box of 2 rolls costs $18.97 at Walmart.  Assuming that the size of each bag is going to average out over time, that’s 42 bags for one of those packs, or about $.45 per bag.  Not bad.

Ziploc

I really liked this product when I first used it.  I didn’t have to go through the learning curve of manipulating the contents during the sealing process.  Instead, since it’s by hand, I could just keep pumping away until I liked the seal that I got.  It’s really cheap to get into this system, both initially and moving forward.  The bags are very easy to find too.

It costs $3.22 for a box of 8 replacement bags, which comes out to around $.40 per bag.  The bags are also reusable…not forever, but I found this characteristic very useful for the fish that I’d have in the fridge to eat over the course of the week.  Take out a couple filets to make a meal, reseal the rest and put them back in the fridge.  There is a magic patch in the upper righthand corner of the bag that somehow allows you to suck the air out, but not let air back in.  Unfortunately, the seal doesn’t hold up that great in the freezer.  I think that it may flex as it freezes which ultimately compromises the seal.

ZipVac

This is the system endorsed by outdoors icon, Babe Winkelman.  When I came across this unit, I thought it might be the perfect middle ground between the long term freezer usage I like about the Foodsaver system, and the reusability factor that I like about the Ziploc system.  It’s pretty cheap to get into this system initially, only $29.95 for a starter kit that has both a hand and portable electric pump (which is pretty cool), and some bags to get you started.  The first problem I ran into though was after the bags are gone in the kit, I couldn’t find anymore bags other than online.  I found 12 – gallon size bags on eBay for $11.99, but that cost is significantly higher per bag than either of the other 2 systems.  Secondly, like the Ziploc system, they just didn’t hold up that well in the freezer.

So What Do You Do Salty?

I use the Foodsaver system when I’m going to put some stuff away for awhile…either in the freezer, or like when I smoke some fish and want to seal them up long term.  For the fish I’m going to use for the week, I use the Ziploc bags.  I also find them useful for things like cheese and even if I want to cure some swimbaits in some sort of scent.

If you don’t fish (or hunt) a lot and eat what you get right away, then you probably don’t need to invest in the Foodsaver system.  If you do though, then you’ll appreciate having it.  I just finished up some bluefin tuna that I caught last September and it held up amazingly well in the Foodsaver bags.  For as much as you invest in going out, the cost of your gear, time spent etc., the Foodsaver is a worthwhile investment.

If you just need something to keep what you caught fresh tasting over the course of the week, the Ziploc will be just fine.

I hope this helps.  Tight lines!

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