Drying your own food for the trail is a great way to save money, reduce weight of your backpack and enjoy quick, tasty and comforting meals throughout your adventure.
There are two ways to prepare dehydrated backpacking meals:
- when you make the meal, by assembling the powdered and/or dried ingredients or
- by cooking the entire meal first, then dehydrating it.
How to dehydrate whole meals and leftovers
To successfully dehydrate whole meals and leftovers you have to follow some rules:
- Thoroughly cook your food before it’s placed in the dehydrator.
- Always reheat leftovers before drying, to prevent the growth of bacteria.
- Cut or shred your vegetables, fish and meats into smaller pieces. This ensures quicker drying and quicker rehydration when you’re at the campsite.
- Place the food evenly on the dehydrator so it quickly dries the food out.
- Allow the dehydrated food to cool down before you package it.
- Divide and pack meals into single servings.
- Label and date each bag.
- Store bags with dried food in a cool, dry, dark place, preferably in the freezer.
- Do not dry food that contains oils, fats and dairy products. It will likely become rancid quickly.
The general rule for food rehydration is to use equal parts water and dried food (1 cup of dried meal to 1 cup of water). You can always add more water later to get the consistency you want. How long it’ll take your food to rehydrate will depend on a number of factors:
- The size of the piece of food. Smaller pieces of food and powders rehydrate almost instantly. Larger pieces may take from 30 minutes to several hours.
- The type of food and whether it was fresh, cooked or canned before drying. Uncooked food takes longer to rehydrate than roasted, canned or blanched food.
- The degree of dryness of the food. Food that was dehydrated until hard will take more time to rehydrate.
- The temperature of liquid being used to rehydrate the food. You can use both cold and hot water for this process. However, rehydration with hot water and further cooking work best for the trail.
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