Hiking Food: Why Homemade Dehydrated Meals Are Better

By | March 3, 2017

hiking food

What is a Hiking Food?

If you go on hiking regularly, you may have been asked this question. Or you may have asked it yourself.

To answer, they include nuts, seeds, dried foods and vegetables, energy bars, and many others.

We all need a time-out from our busy schedule, business meetings, and daily stress. Camping and hiking are ideal for relaxing and returning to nature. Vacations are not fun, however,  without some delicious food.

There are many backpacking food ideas that you may find useful for you next trip, but nothing is better than homemade dehydrated hiking food. Do you know why?

Why Homemade Dehydrated Hiking Food Is Better Than Branded Ones

There are many good reasons why you should dehydrate your backpacking meals. But why go through all the trouble to cook a meal and dry it when you can pick a packet from the grocery? Good thinking, but have you ever taken time to compare both options? We did!

  • Quantity. Most of the time, the commercial freeze dried meal doesn’t happen to serve as claimed on the package whereas you are sure of the quantity of homemade dehydrated meals after you rehydrate them.
  • Price. For the price of two servings of packaged meals, you can prepare four servings yourself with the same recipe at home. And if you can somehow get your ingredients at discounted rates, you can make your hiking food even cheaper.
  • Nutrition. No matter what is listed as the ingredients on the label, you can never be sure of its quality. However, if you prepare it yourself, you are not going to settle for anything less than the best. Isn’t it? And of course, research shows us that branded meals are richer in sodium than fiber. You just don’t have any control over that and it is not good for your health.
  • Options to choose the ingredients. When purchasing a dehydrated meal, you have no say over the ingredients. However, if you are cooking it yourself, you can always skip your less favorite ones. You can prepare your meal according to your own taste.
  • No allergic reaction. If you are allergic to certain food items like for example peanuts you have to search something without peanuts. It’s bothersome and lingering. Better prepare your healthy dehydrated backpacking meal yourself.

How a Food Dehydrator Makes Tasty Backpacking Meals

After a 15-miles trek, you are worth a reward! What could be better than a flavorsome meal? Nothing! Backpacking means going light so you can’t haul a canteen at your back.

Again you need to take healthy food on-the-go. But, who knows if they will be tasty and rewarding or not. Well, you can make it both healthy and tasty with some cooking and a dehydrator. Here’s how you can do it.

1. Focus on the meal preparation 

Check out some of the preparation tips that come handy with your dehydrator. Some fruits and vegetable recipes taste superb when marinated or dipped in hot water or lemon juice. When you are deciding on the recipe, please do check out the ADD-ON tips.

Don’t ignore these small steps, it makes your dehydrated food tastier. Blanch your broccoli, peas, corns before you put it in the dehydrator.

2. Understand what and how to dehydrate 

If you are drying fruits, pick those which are matured but firm. Wash properly to remove pesticides and wax and cut into really small (1/8 inch) pieces.

For vegetables, that you can eat raw there is no need to cook them. Just clean and cut them into small pieces and line them in a single layer to dehydrate.

If you are going to boil the vegetables to rehydrate then no need to blanch them. Dehydrate lean meat. Use mince, it dehydrates faster and tastes better. Whatever you dry, make sure they have the maximum surface exposed to warm air circulating in the dehydrator.

Cut your food small or mince it ( for meat) and layer it single in the tray for dehydration. Dehydrate lean meat only – remove the fat.

3. Cook your meal before dehydrating

You can actually dehydrate a full meal of spaghetti with minced lamb. You can add small pieces of vegetables and some spice for flavor.

Then put a thin layer of it on the lined dehydrator trays. If you are having sauce, put it in the inside tray preferably the lower one. If possible put the vegetables and spaghetti separate from the meat.

They take different time to dry and also it prevents mixing of flavors. Now, dehydrate. When you need to eat, just add some boiling water to it and a sitting time of 5-minutes. And your yummy meal is ready.

Dry them in a single layer and try to separate the veggies from the meat to avoid flavor-mixing.

4. Aim at seasoning your meal 

A small packet of spices can add wonders to your meal may it be rice, noodles or meat. It’s refreshing and tasty.

Spice up your noodles with some dried basil and dehydrated onions fries.

How to Store the Homemade Dehydrated Hiking Food

Before you dehydrate, make a calculation of the serving because once dried it will be really hard to figure it out. After dehydration, divide the food in one serving sized zip-lock bags. Check how many servings will go in your cooking pot (the one that you are carrying with you).

Got some adhesive labels? Great! Put one on each bag and write the date and the meal on it. Now, put it into the freezer.

Keep a note of the dehydrating times, ingredients and how to consume. This way you can learn and improve your meal for the next trip.

How to Prepare Dehydrate Hiking Food for Consumption

There are a couple of ways how you can have it depends on what you are having. If you are carrying pasta, rice, meat or noodles on the trail, simply open your Ziploc bag and put the meal into the pot. Pour in some cold water and cover it.

After an hour or so, put it on the heat. Let it boil for a couple of minutes. Or, you can add boiling water to your dehydrated spaghetti or noodles and give it 5-10 minutes sitting time to rehydrate. Don’t forget to sprinkle your favorite seasonings on it.

For energy bars and snacks, you don’t even need boil water or anything. Just open the bag and munch!

It is not the traditional way to eat and there is always a chance you will miss out on nutrition. Think of nutritious yet tasty backpacking food ideas.

To help you with your next backpacking food we got you some tasty Homemade Dehydrated Backpacking Food Ideas for you here.

Freeze Drying vs Dehydrating: Which One Is Better?

Are you  the type of person who likes to buy food in bulk? Or do you like growing your own, always having enough produce to feed a whole village?  Then you probably know how to preserve food through freeze drying or dehydrating. But what is the difference?

We know that food contains water, and it is this water that is the catalyst for food spoilage. Therefore, in order to remove the water, we either dehydrate or freeze-dry them.


This is a process wherein the food is dried using heat. Water is removed through evaporation. This could be done at home using one of the best food dehydrator. Some advantages would be:

  • Lightweight
  • Long shelf life
  • Inexpensive
  • Space-saver
  • Healthy snack

Aside from those listed, most dehydrated food doesn’t have to be reconstituted or ‘rehydrated’ before they are consumed. Convenient when there is no hot water around.

Nutrition-wise, since heat is being used, you may think that the nutrients are compromised. However, aside from just dehydrating the food the normal way, there is also another method. We call it a fast dry method using two temperatures, that will keep the all-important nutrients intact.

Freeze Drying

Instead of using heat, food is flash frozen. In addition, frozen water is removed through a process called sublimation, where, in this case, water in solid state is converted to gas without going through the liquid state.

This is a slower process than dehydration. Therefore, it is much more expensive. On the other hand, the fast removal of water prevents the food  from shrinking or deforming, retaining the form, texture, and color. More water is removed, thus making it much drier. The taste and nutrients are retained.

The advantages compared to dehydration:

  • Much lighter
  • Lower moisture
  • Longer shelf life
  • Easily reconstituted
  • Generally tastes better
  • Easy to use in cooking and baking
  • Most food can be freeze-dried, even ice cream

Preparing is freeze dried food is easy, as you only have to add water to reconstitute or rehydrate, and the food will return to almost the same form.

The downside of freeze drying:

  • It is much more expensive.
  • You can not do it at home as you need special equipment.
  • The dried food takes up a lot of space in comparison with dehydrated food.

Either way, no food will ever go to waste again.

Final Words on Hiking Food

Not all food are good for hiking. However, if you are able to come up with a few that are suitable for your hiking, you will definitely enjoy your adventure more. This is because you get your energy from the food you eat during this period. And getting the best hiking food is going to help a lot.

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