How To Repack Your Food For MDS To Reduce Weight

Last week we spoke about how to fuel for a multi-stage race such as Marathon Des Sables, and with only 35 days until MDS we thought we would start share some top tips about how to reduce your pack weight starting with your food as repackaging your food can save you a lot of excess weight and volume.

For instance; freeze dried meals are packed protectively but some brands have quite heavy pouches. Normally you would eat the meal directly from the pouch the food comes in. However, in MDS you are provided with 1.5l bottles for your water and they make excellent pots once you’ve cut the top off. This means you can repackage your food in a safe way that optimises space and weight.

The first way you can reduce food package weight is by vacuum packing of the food. This technique can cause some issues such as rubbing against you back or sharp food pieces puncturing the bag if the food has not packed correctly. Luckily for you we have used this method many times before so have some top tips for you, should you decided to vacuum pack your food.

How to vacuum pack successfully 

  • Get a decent vacuum packer unless you can borrow one. These do not need to be expensive you can pick them up on Amazon for around £60. 
  • Get a kitchen scale so that you can measure up exact quantities for your meals. That way you can calculate how many calories you have packed as this will be required information.
  • Use vacuum sealing bags that withstand boiling. These bags are a bit thicker and more durable than bags that cannot be boiled. However, by using these bags you can minimise the risk of the bag being punctured and causing you irritation.
  • Make sure you familiarise yourself with how your vacuum packer and the bags should be used so that you seal the bags correctly. For example, the bags may require a specific side facing upwards.
  • Spread the food out thoroughly in the bag before extracting the air and sealing it so that it packs flat rather than in a ball. This will make it a lot more practical to pack in your backpack.
  • If repackaging freeze dried meals I recommend you remove the oxygen absorbing pouch, especially if you repackage your food close enough to the race.

You can vacuum pack pretty much anything: food, powders, instant coffee, snacks… Just think about how you are going to open the packs on the go if you do, for example having a knife, multi-tool or a pair of scissors handy.  Also, mark up all your repacked food items with the calorie content. You need to be able to prove you have enough calories in the event of kit heck.

Other repackaging methods

The main draw back of vacuum packing food is that it takes a long time if done properly. So, if you’d rather not have the hassle but still want to save weight, you can use zip lock bags. Please note that the same potential puncture issue could apply if you pack food with sharp components whether you vacuum pack or pack in normal bags. Therefore you might be better off choosing bags of decent quality, such as bags for freezing food.

When using Zip Lock freer bags, try to get as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing to avoid any mishaps during the race. This can be done using a straw for example.

Note that if you repackage into normal bags rather than vacuum pack, the shelf life of the food will likely decrease in comparison so we would recommend you repackage food as close to the race as possible.


Whether you repackage your food or not, or how you choose to do it, it’s a good idea to organise meals and snacks into larger zip-lock bags for each day. This way you know exactly where your food is every day and what you have available to eat on that day. In the event of kit checks it is also easier to show you have enough calories.

Good luck!

Please note that it is your own responsibility to comply with the rules of your intended race, whether repackaging your food is allowed or not, what nutritional information you are required to supply, customs import regulations in destination / transit countries, and food safety. We take no responsibility for any problems arising as a result of you using the information in this blog.

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