Food outdoors

The number one thing most hikers think about after putting down their packs after a long trek is a delicious meal. With the evolution of ultra light backpacking, many hikers feel that eating pre-packaged, dehydrated meals is the way to go—to save their backs and fill their bellies. However, there is no reason that you should skimp on quality while saving yourself the burden of heavy foods.

Dehydrating your own meals for the trail is an easy way to create food that is both lightweight and delicious. The moisture in fresh foods is responsible for 60 to 90 percent of the weight. That moisture is also the perfect environment for bacteria that causes your food to spoil.

The key to preparing dehydrated food is removing the weight of this liquid while not removing flavor or jeopardizing texture. This requires dehydrating your fresh foods at a temperature that is high enough to remove water, but not high enough to cook your food. Dehydration times vary according the weight, size, and density of the food you’re working with, and the model of dehydrator you’re using. It’s a delicate balance learned through time, as well as simple trial and error.

It’s also worth noting that dehydrators with fans and temperature controls are better at drying a variety of foods evenly and quickly. This helps preserve nutrients and flavour—and helps you create tasty meals.

Benefits of Dehydrating Your Own Backpacking Meals

Preserve a seasonal harvest

Anyone with a backyard garden has experienced a seasonal vegetable harvest that leaves you with more than your share of fresh zucchini. Integrating your garden’s goods into your recipes will allow you to use your entire crop, with long-lasting benefits. It can be very satisfying to reflect on last fall’s harvest while on your first big spring trip the following year. But even if you don’t have a garden, preparing meals while certain ingredients are in-season means you’ll capture the most possible nutrients at the right time, and usually for the right price, too.

Dehydrating tomatoes

Reduce packaging

By packaging your own food, you’ll eliminate the added waste and weight of pre-packaged camp meals. (Consider using reusable food bags) to further reduce the amount of waste that you contribute to the landfill.) You can also vacuum seal your foods, since this process uses minimal materials. Storing dried meals this way is very beneficial if you’re going to freeze your meals to prolong their shelf life. A valuable tip to remember: let the foods come to room temperature and completely thaw before breaking the seal or putting them in your pack. This will avoid condensation, which can lead to spoiling your food.

Enjoy healthier meals

Dehydrating your own meals means you’ll sidestep the long list of preservatives added to store-bought foods. There’s a reason they have a long shelf life! Additionally, most pre-packaged foods are starch heavy, with few vegetables. While starch can fill you up and provide the energy to keep you moving, your body needs nutrient-rich foods, too. Dehydrating your own meals for backpacking means adding the ingredients you want, in the quantities you want.

Dehydration Times and Methods


Precooked, hydrated meats are an amazing additive to any meal. High in protein, fat, and calories, meat dries best at or above 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Any reduction in fat will help prevent meat from spoiling. Trim away excess fat and blot meat after cooking. To help with rehydration, you can choose to…