Hi there! I’ve been a backcountry camper for years, and one of the things that I’ve found really helpful is to prepare dehydrated backpacking and camping meals before heading out into the wilderness.
I’m excited to show you how I put together these meals.
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In this article:
Dehydrating Methods: Two Approaches
Over the years, I’ve read a ton of books about backpacking, backcountry camping and cooking, and I’ve noticed that there are two main schools of thought when it comes to dehydrating meals, the authors usually suggesting one of two methods for dehydrating meals:
- Dehydrating all ingredients separately and assembling the meal later.
- Cooking the whole meal and dehydrating it at once.
I’ve tried both methods, and while they both work, I’ve found that I get the best results when I dehydrate the meats separately from the rest of the meal.
Meats require a higher temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal dehydration, while fruits and vegetables do better at 135 degrees Fahrenheit. By dehydrating at these temperatures, I’ve found that the meals rehydrate more easily and taste better when rehydrated.
Here is the most important tip for any dehydrated meal: precise measurement is the key to perfectly rehydrated backpacking meals.
Measure and Weigh Precisely!
When it comes to dehydrating and rehydrating food, there’s a simple but crucial step that many people overlook: measuring the weight of your ingredients accurately. Before placing any prepared food in your dehydrator, make sure to weigh it precisely.
Then, after the dehydration process is complete, weigh it again. The difference in weight between the two measurements represents the exact amount of water you will need to rehydrate your food later.
To ensure you have the right amount of water, note the weight difference on every bag you fill. The key to successfully rehydrating your food is not to use more or less water, but to be precise in reconstructing a perfect meal.
Let the food sit closed in the calculated amount of hot water for 15 minutes. If you find the consistency is too thick for your liking, you can always add a small amount of water.
For example, let’s say you dehydrated 10 large eggs, which yielded 100 grams of egg powder. To make a perfect scrambled egg, you need exactly 55 grams of warm water for every 20 grams of egg powder.
If you want to make a scrambled egg for four people, just double the amount of powder and water. By measuring your ingredients accurately, you’ll be able to enjoy perfectly rehydrated food every time you’re outdoors.
The Dehydration Process for Backpacking / Camping Meals
Here’s the process that I follow when putting together dehydrated meals:
- Dehydrate the meat at 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Pre-cook some ingredients. This includes any of the starches (rice, pasta, potatoes) or vegetables that taste better after they’ve been sautéed a while, such as onions and mushrooms.
- Assemble the meal without the meat. So, basically, I’m taking all these ingredients, cooked and uncooked ingredients, mixing them up.
- Dehydrate the meal at 135 degrees Fahrenheit, making sure to spread it out evenly on the dehydrator trays.
- Package the meal. This is when I add the meat and any extras, such as egg and dairy substitutes and spices.
Dehydrating the Meals
- Load the dehydrator with 12 trays, set it to 135°F, and let it run for 8-12 hours. (you can use a commercial dehydrator)
- Assemble the meals, aiming for a target weight of 150 grams per meal, with about 1/3 (50 grams) being meat.
- Add spices and extras as desired for each meal.
Assembling the Dehydrated Meals
- Measure the meat: For each meal, target a total weight of 150 grams, with approximately 50 grams of dehydrated meat.
- Add dehydrated meal base: Add the dehydrated meal base to the meat until the desired weight is achieved.
- Add spices and extras: Customize each meal with spices and other ingredients, such as cheese powder or powdered milk.
- Package the meal: this is when I add the meat and any extras, such as egg and dairy substitutes and spices. Use vacuum-sealed bags for long trips or when meals will be stored for extended periods.
Three Delicious Dehydrated Backpacking Meals Recipes
1. Dehydrated Chicken Curry Recipe
- 50 grams of dehydrated chicken
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- 3/4 cup coconut milk
- Sautéed mushrooms and red peppers
- 1/2 cup frozen peas
For the Chicken Curry I do the same process. I start with about 50 grams of dehydrated chicken meat. Then I’m going to add my chicken curry dehydrated earlier. That’s 30. Next, add some spices.
Start with half a teaspoon of freeze-dried garlic, half a teaspoon of chili, and three-quarters of a teaspoon of curry or maybe add a little bit more if you like curry. That’s almost 150 grams.
Top it up with just a little sprinkling of freeze-dried or dehydrated parsley and a little bit of pepper. That’s one meal ready to go.
2. Dehydrated Spanish Chicken Recipe
- 50 grams of dehydrated chicken
- 2 cups cooked brown rice
- 1/3 cup salsa
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- 1 cup black beans
- 1/2 cup frozen corn
All these ingredients bring my Spanish Chicken meal to about 120 or 130 grams. Then I’m going to add the spices, so about half a teaspoon of chili and then about another half a teaspoon of smoked paprika and a little bit of pepper. That’s another meal ready to go!
3. Dehydrated Beef and Macaroni Recipe
- 50 grams of dehydrated beef
- 2 cups cooked macaroni elbows
- 1 cup chopped yellow peppers
- 1 cup sautéed onions
- 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
Beef and Macaroni is a really simple one. Same process again. Start with 50 grams of dehydrated beef, going to add the macaroni which I dehydrated, bringing it up to almost 150 grams.
Now I want this to be like macaroni and cheese, so I’m going to add a heaping tablespoon, almost two tablespoons, of powdered milk. And I’m going to add two tablespoons of cheese powder or a little bit more. Done!
What are dehydrated backpacking and camping meals?
Dehydrated backpacking and camping meals are lightweight, easy-to-carry meals that have had most of their water content removed through a drying process. They are convenient, simple to prepare, and a great option for multi-day hikes or camping trips.
Are freeze-dried and dehydrated meals the same?
No, freeze-dried and dehydrated meals are different; freeze-drying involves freezing the food and removing moisture in a vacuum, while dehydration uses heat to remove moisture.
What are the best backpacking meals to dehydrate?
The best meals to dehydrate include those with a mix of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, such as chicken curry, beef stroganoff, or vegetarian chili. These provide a balance of nutrients and are easy to rehydrate.
What is the cheapest dehydrated food for backpacking?
The cheapest dehydrated food options include rice, pasta, beans, and lentils. They are inexpensive, lightweight, and provide a good source of energy.
What is the healthiest backpacking food?
The healthiest backpacking food includes a mix of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, such as dehydrated meals made from lean meats, whole grains, beans, and vegetables.
How do you pack dehydrated meals for backpacking?
Pack dehydrated meals in vacuum-sealed bags or airtight containers to ensure freshness and prevent spoilage. Label each bag with the meal name, preparation instructions, and any additional ingredients needed.
How long do dehydrated backpacking meals last?
Dehydrated backpacking meals can last anywhere from 6 months to 5 years, depending on the ingredients, packaging, and storage conditions.
How can I make my dehydrated backpacking meals more flavorful?
Make dehydrated backpacking meals more flavorful by adding spices, herbs, seasoning blends, or condiments like hot sauce, soy sauce, or mustard.
What foods to avoid backpacking?
Avoid foods that are heavy, perishable, or require extensive preparation, such as fresh dairy products, raw meats, and foods with high water content like fruits.
Why is yogurt not good for hiking?
Yogurt is not ideal for hiking because it is perishable and requires refrigeration. It can spoil quickly, especially in warm temperatures.
Preparing dehydrated backpacking meals and dehydrated camping meals in advance can significantly enhance your backcountry camping experience.
By using the right techniques, measuring ingredients accurately, and incorporating a variety of flavors, you can create an array of nutritious and delicious meals that are easy to rehydrate and enjoy.
Follow these simple steps and you can create a variety of delicious and nutritious dehydrated meals for your backcountry camping adventures.
So, get creative and start dehydrating your favorite recipes to fuel your next outdoor adventure with satisfying, homemade meals that won’t weigh you down on the trail.
Eric MitchellEric is the owner, author, content director and founder of dehydratorlab.com. He is the lead architect and the main man in matters concerning dehydrators, their accessories, guides, reviews and all the accompaniments.Whenever he is not figuring out simple solutions (hacks) involving cookery and their eventual storage, you will find him testing out the different types of dehydrators, to bring us the juicy details regarding these devices.He is a foodie enthusiast, pasionate about making jerky has a knack for healthy and tasty food and won't hesitate to share out any ideas that might be of value around this subject.
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