How to Dehydrate Food for Backpacking

Written by alice drinkworth
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How to Dehydrate Food for Backpacking
Packing light includs using dehydrated meals, which can easily be prepared at home. (woman with a backpack image by forca from Fotolia.com)

Making your own dehydrated snacks and meals for backpacking can save money. Meals can be made naturally without the undesired qualities of commercial meals, which include use of preservatives, artificial colour or flavour, MSG, excessive salt and partially hydrogenated oils. Dehydrated meals are a must-have when backpacking. Food can account for at least a fourth of the bulk and weight in your pack. Dehydrating your own food is easy to do but takes time, so plan ahead.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Dehydrator
  • Rice - 1/4 to 1/2 uncooked rice per serving
  • Deli meat - 1/4 pound per serving
  • Broccoli - 1/2 to 1 cup per serving
  • Cherry tomatoes - 1/2 to 1 cup per serving
  • Apples - one apple per serving

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Starch is important for energy, and rice can be a good base to backpacking meals. Many backpacking enthusiasts prefer instant rice, but regular brown rice can be used.

  2. 2

    Cook rice according to package instructions. Substitute broth for water to add natural flavour to your meals.

    How to Dehydrate Food for Backpacking
    Dehydrated rice provides energy and a base for backpacking meals. (rice image by Dariusz Urbanczyk from Fotolia.com)
  3. 3

    Cover dehydrator trays with parchment paper; the coating of waxed paper melts in a dehydrator.

  4. 4

    Spread cooked rice in a single layer and dehydrate at 51.7 degrees Cor five hours.

  5. 5

    Halfway through the dehydration, break up chunks of rice sticking together.

  6. 6

    When mixing rice into recipe meals, use the formula of 1/2 cup dehydrated rice, 1/4 cup dehydrated meat and 1/4 cup vegetables. Rehydrate in one cup of water.

  1. 1

    Use lean lunch meat -- such as ham, turkey or roast beef -- with a fat content of 10 per cent or less.

    How to Dehydrate Food for Backpacking
    Deli meats are easily dehydrated for backpacking snacks and meals. (lunch meat and veggies image by Kathy Burns from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Ask the deli to cut the meat in thick slices, about 1/16 of an inch per slice.

  3. 3

    Cut meat into strips about one inch wide and lay in a single layer on dehydrator trays.

  4. 4

    Dehydrate at 51.7 degrees Cor 6 hours or until dry. Blot oil off outside of meat with a paper towel as needed.

  5. 5

    Meat can be eaten like beef jerky or dehydrated strips can be broken up and added to meals.

  1. 1

    Vegetables add needed vitamins and minerals. They also add colour to backpacking meals. Broccoli is a powerhouse of nutrition that also adds flavour and texture to meals.

    How to Dehydrate Food for Backpacking
    Broccoli makes an easy varation to your dehyrdated meals. (broccoli image by domek73 from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Wash and soak broccoli in salt water to remove pesticides or other contaminants.

  3. 3

    Cut into ½ inch pieces or smaller.

  4. 4

    Steam broccoli pieces for five minutes -- long enough to break down fibrous matter and bring out a deep, green colour in the vegetable. Make sure broccoli is firm and not mushy.

  5. 5

    Dehydrate at 51.7 degrees Cor eight hours or until broccoli is brittle.

  1. 1

    Cut tomatoes into 1/8 inch slices.

    How to Dehydrate Food for Backpacking
    Tomatoes dehydrate easily and add flavour to backpacking meals. (Yellow cherry tomatoes & red plum tomatoes. Diversity image by L. Shat from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Place tomatoes on dehydrator tray in a single layer and sprinkle with salt.

  3. 3

    Dehydrate at 62.8 degrees Cor two hours, then reduce heat to 57.2 degrees C and cook for another six hours or until tomatoes are pliable.

  1. 1

    Dehydrating fruit concentrates the sugars, which makes them extra sweet and a good source of energy. Apples are a good choice, as are bananas, which are dehydrated in a similar way.

    How to Dehydrate Food for Backpacking
    Add some energy and sweetness to your backpacking with apples. (apples image by Maria Brzostowska from Fotolia.com)
  2. 2

    Wash apples thoroughly to remove pesticides and waxes from the skin.

  3. 3

    Core apples and cut into equal sized pieces. Cutting uniform sized pieces is a key to success when dehydrating fruit.

  4. 4

    Dip apples in ascorbic acid, such as lemon juice, to prevent browning from oxidation.

  5. 5

    Dehydrate in a single layer at 135 degree for seven to 15 hours, depending on the size of your pieces and the strength of your dehydrator. Dehydrated apples will be pliable.

Tips and warnings

  • Test your meal plans at home before your trip.
  • Dehydrated food has a shelf life of about two months.

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