When you’re headed on a camping trip, you may want to consider bringing dehydrated food along for snacks and meals. Dehydrated food is a great option because it’s lightweight and easy to pack. Dehydrating your own food also offers you more meal choices – there are only so many backpacking meals available, but when you make your own dehydrated food the options are endless.
How to Dehydrate Food
Dehydrating food also lets you control your nutrition – if you have special dietary needs, you can plan your meals around that. Dehydrating also ensures you keep many of the nutrients in the food you prepare. Dehydrating food can also be cheaper than using only pre-packaged backpacking meals, and it means you can safely bring a lot of foods that usually require refrigeration like meat along with you on your trip.
There are certain foods that lend themselves to dehydrating, while others aren’t suited to the process. Good foods to dehydrate include:
- legumes including beans and lentils
- rice, pasta, and other grains
- low-fat meat or seafood
- sauces that don’t include fat, dairy, or eggs
There are other foods you do not want to dehydrate, either because the food will be unsafe to eat, or because it just won’t work. Foods to avoid dehydrating include:
- food with fats in it – dehydration requires moisture to evaporate and fats do not evaporate. This will leave moisture in your food and it can spoil
- nut butters – these contain a lot of fats and for the above reason, aren’t a good option
- avocados – again, too high in fat
- dairy – you can find powdered products like powdered milk or sour cream powder that you can use instead
- eggs – trying to dehydrate eggs can lead to salmonella. There are some egg crystals and powdered eggs that you can use instead
How to dehydrate food without a dehydrator
You may be wondering how to dehydrate food, especially if you don’t have a dehydrator. It’s not a complicated process, and you can master the art of dehydration without any extra equipment. Before you dehydrate fruit, you’ll want to give it a bath in lemon juice and water to preserve the flavor and color of your fruit. You may want to blanch certain vegetables – usually any vegetable you wouldn’t normally eat raw – in boiling water to preserve their color and kill any bacteria. If your fruit or veggies are large, cut them all into the same shape so they can be evenly dehydrated. You’ll want them cut in 1/4 inch strips.
How to dehydrate food in an oven
To dehydrate food in your oven, line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mate. Arrange your fruits or veggies on the sheet. You can group them close together, but they shouldn’t touch or overlap. Set your oven to the lowest temperature – about 180°F – and put your sheet on the middle rack. Leave the oven door open slightly and let the food bake for at least an hour. When fruit is properly dehydrated, it will be slightly bendable but not sticky. Vegetables will be crisp like chips.
How to dehydrate food in a microwave
You can also dehydrate fruit, vegetables, and herbs in the microwave. Arrange your fruits or vegetables on the glass tray in your microwave, making sure you don’t overlap your food. Pat the slices gently with a paper towel to absorb any moisture. Then, microwave your food. This article from The Food Network gives you microwave times for several fruits and other foods.
How to dehydrate food with a dehydrator
To dehydrate food using a dehydrator, cut pieces into a uniform size, about 1/4 inch thick. Soak fruit in a lemon juice and water solution to prevent browning. Blanche or steam any vegetables that you wouldn’t normally eat raw, and tough vegetables like carrots. You can also use frozen vegetables that you have thawed. Place your vegetables in a dehydrator and set the temperature to 125°F and allow them to dehydrate until they are crisp or hard. This should take between 4-12 hours. Fruit should be dehydrated at 135°F. Drying time for fruit will vary, depending on the fruit. You’ll know your fruit is done when it is no longer sticky. You can test for doneness by cutting a few pieces in half and squeezing them. If no moisture comes out, the fruit is done.
For an in-depth look at dehydrating food, this article from Fresh Off The Grid answers just about any questions you may have.
When you’re looking for foods to bring along backpacking, you want them to be lightweight. They can’t require refrigeration or be too sensitive to the squishing or smashing that might occur in your backpack. They’ll also need to be healthy foods that give you the energy you’ll need for each day of walking and whatever other activities you have planned. Dehydrated food is obviously an excellent choice. You may also want a water filter straw if you’ll be near a water source – that can cut down on the amount of water you have to bring along. You may also want to see our list of the Best Hiking Snacks for ideas to keep your energy up during the day. We’ve also included a few suggestions below for meals you can bring backpacking.
Just because you’re roughing it doesn’t mean you have to give up flavor on your trip! Here are some delicious recipes for dehydrated meals you can make while backpacking.
- Oatmeal with Apples, Raisins & Cinnamon is a great way to start the day
- Strawberries & Cream Quinoa Porridge is a delicious breakfast recipe
Lunch or Dinner
- Dehydrated Risotto with Vegetables makes a tasty dinner meal after you’ve been hiking all day.
- Spicy Fried Rice With Thai Basil is another delicious option
- Beef or Mushroom Stroganoff makes a hearty meal
- Dumplings And Veggies Or Chicken
- Chicken or Veggie Pasta Primavera