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how to dehydrate food for backpacking


Heading Out on the Trails: A Guide to Dehydrating Food for Backpacking


When it comes to backpacking, one of the key concerns is how to carry enough food to sustain oneself throughout the journey. This is where the technique of dehydrating food comes in handy. By dehydrating food, backpackers can reduce its weight significantly while still preserving its nutrition. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the process of dehydrating food for backpacking, along with tips and tricks to enhance your culinary experience on the trails.

I. The Importance of Dehydrating Food for Backpacking

A) Weight Reduction:

Carrying excessive weight can be a burden while backpacking. Dehydration reduces the weight of food, making it significantly easier to carry.

B) Nutritional Content:

Dehydrating food does not compromise its nutritional content. By removing the water, the essential nutrients remain intact, providing energy to keep you going on long treks.

C) Extended Shelf Life:

Dehydrated food has a longer shelf life compared to fresh produce. This means you can plan your backpacking trips well in advance without worrying about food spoilage.

II. Essential Tools and Equipment for Dehydrating Food

A) Dehydrator:

Investing in a food dehydrator is highly recommended for efficient and consistent results. They come in various sizes and price ranges, making it easy to find one that fits your needs.

B) Oven:

If you don't have a dehydrator, an oven can be used as an alternative. However, keep in mind that this method may take longer, and the results might not be as consistent.

C) Quality Storage Containers:

Ensure you have airtight containers or resealable bags to store your dehydrated food. This will protect it from moisture and maintain its freshness.

III. Selecting the Right Foods for Dehydration

A) Fruits and Vegetables:

Choose ripe and fresh fruits and vegetables to dehydrate. Some popular options include apples, bananas, peaches, strawberries, bell peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes.

B) Meat and Seafood:

For non-vegetarians, dehydrating meat and seafood can add variety to your backpacking menu. Lean cuts of beef, chicken, and fish can be thinly sliced and marinated before dehydration.

C) Grains and Legumes:

Dehydrating grains and legumes such as rice, pasta, beans, and lentils can be convenient for backpackers, as they are lightweight and provide sustained energy.

IV. Preparing and Dehydrating Food

A) Preparing Fruits and Vegetables:

Wash and peel the fruits and vegetables, removing any seeds or pits. Cut them into uniform slices or chunks to ensure even dehydration. Blanche certain vegetables like green beans and Brussels sprouts before dehydrating to retain their color.

B) Preparing Meat and Seafood:

Trim off any excess fat from meat and seafood before slicing them into thin strips. Marinating the strips in your choice of spices or sauces enhances flavor. Ensure the pieces are evenly spaced on the dehydrator trays for efficient airflow.

C) Preparing Grains and Legumes:

Cook grains and legumes until they are nearly done. Afterwards, spread them on dehydrator trays or baking sheets for drying. Stir occasionally to prevent clumping.

V. Dehydration Methods and Timelines

A) Dehydrator:

Refer to the instruction manual that accompanies your dehydrator for specific guidelines. Generally, fruits and vegetables take around 8-12 hours at 125°F (52°C), while meat and seafood require 4-8 hours at 160°F (71°C).

B) Oven:

Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature setting. Keep the oven door slightly open to allow moisture to escape. Dehydration times can vary from 6-12 hours, depending on the food type and thickness.

C) Testing for Dryness:

To check if the food has thoroughly dehydrated, touch the pieces. They should be dry to the touch with no moisture present.

VI. Storing and Rehydrating Dehydrated Food

A) Storage:

Once the food is completely dehydrated, allow it to cool before packing it in airtight containers or resealable bags. Store in a cool, dark place to extend its shelf life.

B) Rehydration:

To rehydrate your dehydrated food, you have multiple options. Soaking the food in boiling water for several minutes is a common method. Alternatively, adding the dried food directly to soups or stews while cooking is also suitable.

VII. Dehydrated Food Recipe Ideas for Backpacking

A) Trail Mix:

Prepare a mix of dehydrated fruits, nuts, and seeds for a nutritious and energy-packed snack on the go.

B) Chicken and Rice:

Dehydrate cooked chicken and rice separately. While on a backpacking trip, combine them with boiling water, along with your choice of seasonings, for a satisfying meal.

C) Pasta Primavera:

Dehydrate pasta, mixed vegetables, and a creamy sauce. Rehydrate everything together with boiled water, and you'll have a hearty pasta dish.

D) Fruit Leather:

Blend ripe fruits into a puree, spread it thinly on parchment paper, and dehydrate. This natural and healthy fruit snack will satisfy your sweet tooth.

E) Beef Jerky:

Slice lean beef into thin strips, marinate overnight, then dehydrate until dry. Your homemade beef jerky will keep you energized while trekking.


Dehydrating food for backpacking is a valuable skill that every outdoor enthusiast should acquire. By reducing weight, preserving nutrition, and extending shelf life, dehydrated food becomes a backpacker's best friend. With the right tools, proper food selection, and by following correct dehydration techniques, you can embark on your backpacking adventures with a lighter load and a culinary delight at every campsite. So, gear up and get ready to savor the flavors of the wild!


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