A long time ago, in late 2005, I began dreaming about a functional, but decent looking concept for a cozy for FBC meals. A cozy? Yes. The FBC Cozy would insulate the meals in their bags, to keep them piping hot, and to help with hydration. When I just started writing Freezer Bag Cooking (FBC) recipes in the early 2000’s it was referred to as “zip lock bag meals” and “turkey cooking bag” meals in existing cookbooks, we coined the terms FBC & Freezer Bag Cooking back then, hanging out on the old Backpacker forums (for back in the pre-Facebook days). People used their hats back then to pop bags into, which isn’t a great idea to do in bear country. And your head gets cold anyways….
We had brought out the first edition of Freezer Bag Cooking: Trail Food Made Simple on Thanksgiving weekend of 2005. I was using cozies I had made of Reflectix material, which while they worked, were clunky and big, taking up space in my ultra light backpacking way of life then. I was backpacking 2 to 4 times a month, year round. I dreamed of a soft one, that I could roll up, and stick into a tiny area of my pack. I had the “shape” already, I just needed it better.
There wasn’t anything I could find on the market already being made that fit the above. In early 2006 I started making prototypes. I had found a space age material, made in the United States that was Mylar punched with poly, called InsulBrite. This material allowed a thin FBC Cozy, that was breathable, and actually washable. Paired with fabric on top, it was durable (and did I mention it was lightweight?)
(I still have this FBC Cozy, you don’t get rid of your prototypes!)
They were very rough at first, and still too heavy, the original prototypes were 3 layers of fabric. I wasn’t happy at all with what I was producing. But I kept at it, and by October of 2006 I had a version I was almost happy with.
Trying that version out, on the saddle above Snow Lake here in Washington (Near Snoqualmie Pass), in fall of 2006:
Cooking in the sun, on a ridge, is always better than down below in the coldness.
In the shade snow was already on the ground.
Looking down at Snow Lake.
My friend Dani was with me on that trip, and this plays out later how important that was.
Finally on a trip in January of 2007, I was out hiking in the snow and cold in the high desert, and I got the idea in my mind of what exactly the cozy would look like, and how it went together. I believe it was around 5° in my tent that night. I couldn’t wait to get back home and start sewing (or maybe to just warm up?). I was up at first light and ready to drive home as fast as I could…those long nights in Eastern Washington help one think. I finally had the idea for a 2 layer cozy.
(Yeah, it was cold)
The first cozies made in 2007, with a working idea finally we went into production, and started selling them online. I was cutting and sewing each one myself.
I made a huge jump in March of 2007 when I went as a gear vendor to the Pacific Crest Trail Association’s Trail Fest, which was then a mostly annual event. Sure…my table was rinky-dinky, but I got noticed. Not long after this Backpacker Magazine wrote a 3 page article on the cozies and me. That was what put us out there. See here for the article “Be An Ultra Light Gourmet” from the December 2007 issue.
As time went on, I added more prints, and the really bright ones sold well.
The cozies were sold around the world, this one was made for a hiking partner. I’d even make custom ones, from material sent to me.
As was this groovy frog one.
Cozies for days…..
These were a very limited run using silnylon that was heat reflecting. They were the lightest cozy I sewed. Every single one sold in a day. I had found a bolt of the fabric on clearance, in an outdoor fabric shop. My silver cozy disappeared at some point.
With every batch I tweaked them. The size got smaller eventually, and at one point we stopped doing an envelope closure on top, to save weight. I listened to feedback from customers. We did more trail fests over the years, moving up to be a speaker on trail food at a couple of them.
In early 2012 my friend Dani took over the sewing. Still made one at a time, in Washington State, by a hiker, for hikers! I was pregnant with my 3rd son that year and couldn’t sew.
In the end of 2015 we decided to hand production and sales over to Dani. We gave her the rights, and our blessings, to continue on via her company Valhalla Outdoors. Life got busy for her as well, and She passed it on to Jessica Johnson at Discovering Wilderness who is now in production with them!
Thank you to all who supported us in this venture from 2007 to 2015. We had a lot of fun in producing the cozies, but at the time (from 2010 to 2015), our younger children were very young, and I was not able to give it all my attention it deserved. I always kept the company small, and had no aspirations to take over the world with it. Hikers for hikers. What I was happy was to see my concept, my idea, continue on. Jessica has made the cozy’s a bit fancier (they have labels now!) and put her own touch on them. If you’d like one, go check out their website. She is down near Portland, Oregon and quite the hiker.