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Dehydrating Food At Home For Backpacking and Camping

Updated on July 5, 2011

Food Dehydrating for Hiking and Camping

Let’s face it, one of the more challenging things to plan when your backpacking or doing some minimalist, backwoods camping and bushcrafting is planning your meals. When I was young, one of my favorite times was mealtime when the family was out camping. I just loved the smells of food being cooked over the campfire. But now that I am out on my own, I find that I prefer minimalist backwoods camping, so it makes no sense to even consider a cooler, so I needed something lightweight, easy to carry, easy to prepare, and it has to keep for days without spoiling. That’s a tall order! Dehydrated and freeze dried food is a good solution, but it wasn’t quite perfect, yet.

Campfire cooking

So we head over to the camp and outdoors store, and check out the selection of dehydrated, pre packaged foods and yikes! Those prices will add up quickly. If you camp and backpack often like I do, you’d be spending a fortune on these specialty foods!

There is a solution. Like anything else, doing it yourself usually saves a great deal of money. If you’re willing to spend an afternoon in the kitchen, you’ll be all set with some yummy meals for much cheaper than the store bought varieties. Enter, home made dehydrated food for backpacking and camping.

Home made dehydrated camping and backpacking meals provides many benefits:

  • Much cheaper than store bought
  • You can use your favorite foods and flavors, however you like it
  • Customize the amount and ratios of meats, veggies and starches
  • Home made dehydrated foods have no preservatives
  • They keep for a long time
  • Light weight and easy to pack
  • Easy to prepare
  • Packed full of the nutrients needed to keep you going out in the bush or on the trails
  • Did I mention, your own home made dehydrated food Tastes darn good?

Methods for dehydrating foods at home:

First, let’s go over a few methods. You should try each of these so that you know how to do each of them and find the methods that give the best results for you, based on time, equipment and so on. Remember, get the kids in on these projects!

  • Using a store bought food dehydrator(Excalibur is the best) is probably the fastest and easiest way to make dehydrated food at home, and is the quickest way to get good results also. Keep in mind though, that you’ll want to consider the quality of the dehydrator, and also read the instructions closely.
  • Dehydrating food in your oven is another possibility. There is no super secret formula for making this work. You’ll need some wire racks and some sheet pans. The idea is to put the wire racks on the sheet pans. Lay out the food to be dehydrated on the racks, and slide the whole thing in the oven. I would recommend starting out at a temperature just under 200 degrees. Slowly lower the temp as you go, getting down to 120 degrees over time. I’ve found this helps prevent scorching.
  • Solar dehydrating is the other method that works fairly well. You can even use the same racks and trays we talked about for the oven method. The catch is you need several sunny, hot days in a row for solar dehydrating to work. Some people build their own solar dehydrators, the advantage being that they help keep dirt and bugs off, and may dry the food quicker.

Excalibur Food Dehydrator Review

A few of my Best Tips for food dehydrating:

  • Considering you’ll be carrying this food around on your back when you’re backpacking or hiking, consider ease of packaging.
  • Think all-in-one packaging. You’ll want to make one pot meals, so think along the lines of instant rice, dehydrated vegetables, dehydrated chicken, some salt and pepper, and some seasonings all in one zip lock type bag. Pick your favorite flavors! Think spaghetti in a bag! Be creative.
  • Think how dehydrating foods can work for all meals. Breakfasts are great with some instance oatmeal, dehydrated fruits, and a dash of cinnamon all in one bag.
  • There is almost no limit to the variety of food items that can be dehydrated. One guy dried tomato sauce and made tomato leather! Now that’s creativity.
  • When dehydrating meat, use a low fat meat eg: 90% lean ground beef rather than 60/40 ground chuck. Also, if fat beads on the surface of the meat while drying, blot it off with a paper towel.

More Resources

Whole books and web sites are dedicated to this topic, and covering it all in one hub is an impossible task. What I would like to do is recommend a few of the best places you can go to find out more about the how-to’s of food dehydrating, recipes, tips and more tricks to doing it yourself.

One of my favorite stops on the web is the Backpacking Chef. Not only is the site full of good information, but it’s a fun read also.

Trail Cooking and One Pan Wonders are both sites full of more great info. Be sure to check them out.

Preparing your own dehydrated food for the trail is fun and will provide you with an easy to carry and prepare option to getting you all the calories and nutrition you need while out in the woods.

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    • Five One Cows profile image

      Five One Cows 

      7 years ago from Moo Town

      dehydrated pineapple is the absolute best on the trail or anywhere for that matter. I'm voting it up.

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