Dehydrating Food for Lightweight Backpacking

Revised and updated June 2018

It can work out quite expensive to buy freeze dried/dehydrated meals all the time for your outdoor adventures. Especially, if you are like me, and are frequently in the outdoors. In March 2017 I started to make my own dehydrated meals. They have turned out to be a huge success and actually taste better than the ones that you can buy. The batch I made in April 2017 lasted me for just over one year and in May 2018 I started the process of making my second batch.

The dehydrator, a Stöckli Dörrex, that I purchased came with three drying trays. I have now purchased three extra drying trays, totalling six trays, so that I can do more at once, thus cutting down the drying time.* The dehydrator can have up to 10 trays in total. I also use some silicon mats which are placed on the trays and stop the food falling down to the bottom of the machine. Some people use baking paper here instead.

*I later found out in 2018 that this is not exactly true. The drying time is extended a little when you have more trays. But having more trays is more convenient and the drying time is just a little longer.

I prepare separate ingredients. I do not cook the meals first and then dehydrate.

I do the meats first, boiling them first (not the tuna) and then drain, making sure that all excess fats are taken out in the process, and dehydrate (see below for further details). It is important that the dehydrated finished meat product contains a very low percent of fat. This will ensure a longer storage life.

Then I prepare the vegetables. I do onions, thawed and drained frozen peas, thawed and drained frozen corn, canned black beans drained, fresh red or yellow peppers diced, chopped tomatoes, carrots grated, leeks, broccoli etc. (see below for further details).

The finished product is roughly 100 grams. I first started doing about 160 grams and this was way too much. I was throwing away half of it. I am approximately 174 cm high and weigh about 74 kilograms just to give you an idea of my size. So if your’e a big eater then maybe you need to portion with 150 or 160 grams instead. I do approximately 25 grams meat (dehydrated), 40 grams vegetables (dehydrated) & spices and about 35 grams of dehydrated cooked rice, dehydrated cooked pasta or dehydrated potato (the last item purchased from the supermarket). Some people purchase the onions already dehydrated from the supermarket too. This year in 2018 I used couscous, rice and potato but no pasta.

Then I vacuum pack all the meals and leave them in the freezer until I need them. The vacuum packer I use is called a Status SV2000 and is a semi-professional model.

When out in the field, you just place the contents into your pot, mix with water, let the food stand for ½ hour if possible, boil, take off the heat and then place the pot in your DIYS pot cozy for about 15 minutes.

DIY cozy for Evernew Ti Ultra Light Pot (0.9 L) 35 g
double walled DIYS pot cozy

If I’m mixing with potato powder then I wait until the last step, when I place the pot in the cozy, before adding this ingredient. Then the simmering process in the cozy is all you need to cook the potatoes. Just make sure that you boil enough water with the meat and vegetables mix if you know you will be adding the potato powder.

Easy peasy.

Skåneleden Trail SL1 Sections 1 & 2
ham, vegetables and mash potato

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Here’s a couple of the meals that I prepare.

I do the meats first:

Minced Beef – low fat variety (1 kg) will reduce to 20% // 7 hrs  at 70℃

Boil the meat. Break up the mince. Bring to the boil. Then drain it while pouring boiling water over it to get rid of all the excess fat.

Chicken (6 chicken breasts) will reduce to 20% // 6 hrs at 70℃

Do the same as the beef but cook for about 15 minutes. After that, first cut the chicken up a little bit. That will help it to cool off. Then take a couple of forks and pull the meat apart to create very small strands of chicken and eliminate any large chunks of meat. Once the chicken has cooled down, you can use your hands to break it down even further.

Tuna (6 cans) will reduce to 20% // 6 hours at 70℃, then another hour at 65℃

Buy tuna in cans in water, NOT OIL, has to be water. Take the tuna out of the cans and put in a bowel and try to break it up a little bit, just to make sure that there are no really big junks of meat.

Makes about 240g

I have also tried with ham as well (see photo above). Remember to cut off all fat.

dehydrated chicken & beef
Stöckli Dörrex dehyradtor here with 3 drying trays, 1 with chicken & 2 with beef

Then load up the trays in the dehydrator, set the temperature to 70℃ and look at it after 3 hours. Turn the meat over and check on how the meat is going. Rotate the trays at the same time as you do this.

Then place the meat into Ziplock bags, label them, and then keep them in freezer until you need them.

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Dehydrating rice and pasta

  • cooked rice (3 small packets of 15min rice from the supermarket) 6 hrs @ 70℃
  • cooked pasta (1 packet cooked and drained) 8 hrs @ 70℃

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Dehydrating fruits and vegetables

Will take about 8-12 hours

  • thawed and drained frozen peas // 5 hrs @ 65℃
  • thawed and drained frozen corn // 9 hrs @ 65℃
  • onions // 10 hrs @ 65℃
  • canned black beans drained // 10 hrs @ 65℃
  • fresh red or yellow peppers diced // 11 hrs @ 65℃
  • chopped tomatoes 8 hrs @ 65℃
  • carrots grated 8 hrs @ 65℃
  • leeks
  • broccoli

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IMG_1270
Chicken curry with vegetables, black beans and rice

Chicken curry with vegetables, black beans and rice

  • dehydrated chicken 25g
  • dehydrated onion
  • dehydrated red peppers
  • dehydrated peas
  • dehydrated corn
  • dehydrated black beans
  • dried garlic, chilli, curry powder
  • salt & pepper
  • dehydrated cooked rice 35g

When packaging the meals start with 25g of dehydrated chicken first. Then add the dehydrated vegetables 35g and dehydrated cooked rice 35g. Then add spices, about half a teaspoon ea. and 3/4 teaspoon of curry (5-10g). The end product should be about 100g or just over of dehydrated food including spices.

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IMG_1302
beef & vegetables with pasta and tomato sauce

Beef with potato, rice or pasta

  • dehydrated beef 25g
  • dehydrated tomatoes
  • dehydrated yellow or red peppers
  • dehydrated onions
  • salt & pepper
  • dehydrated potato, dehydrated cooked rice or dehydrated cooked pasta 35g

When packaging the meals start with 25g of dehydrated beef first. Then add the dehydrated vegetables 35g and dehydrated cooked pasta or dehydrated cooked rice 35g. Then add spices: oregano, chilli (about half a teaspoon ea. or 5-10g total). The end product should be about 100g or just over of dehydrated food including spices. If I will be using dehydrated potato or couscous then I will measure 35g of the ingredient and place in a small Ziplock bag and place that bag with the meat & vegetables in the vacuum packed bag.

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3
The vacuum packer I use is called a Status SV2000 and is a semi-professional model.

Tip – When I vacuum pack the portions I place the contents in a small freezer bag first, then wrap this up in some baking paper. This will ensure that the “sharp” pieces of peppers and meat (chicken) won’t puncture the “expensive” vacuum bags.

IMG_1323
A batch of chicken curry with vegetables, black beans and rice vacuumed packed. These are the large 160g packets. I only pack about 95 – 100g now.

 

UPDATE: MAY – JUNE 2018

This year I wanted to make the dinners a little more exciting and varied and thus I have tried to do as many different varieties as possible using potato powder, couscous and rice and the other main ingredients. I didn’t use any pasta this year. The pasta didn’t really appeal to me in the outback country.

A couple of weeks ago in May I spent the weekend dehydrating the ingredients ready for the next year’s hiking adventures. This first weekend in June I vacuum packed the food. I made 25 meals in total.

Here’s the result:

  1. Curry beef, vegetables and potato
  2. Chilli con carne beef, vegetables and potato
  3. Chilli con carne beef, vegetables and rice
  4. Red curry chicken with couscous and vegetables
  5. Red curry chicken with rice and vegetables
  6. Curry chicken masala with rice and vegetables
  7. Tuna, vegetables, couscous with broccoli and cauliflower white sauce
  8. Tuna, vegetables, rice with broccoli and cauliflower white sauce
1
This is the batch I made this year 2018

Link to more photos on Flickr

Disclosure
Product(s) discussed in this article were purchased by myself from a retailer or manufacturer. I do not accept compensation or donated product in exchange for guaranteed media placement or product review coverage without clearly denoting such coverage as an “ADVERTISEMENT” or “SPONSORED CONTENT.”

11 Comments

  1. What a great and informative post Brian!
    Thanks for taking the time to provide all these info on dehydrating food for backpacking.

    Where we live, we have our on veggie garden and some animals and we eat mostly from our own produce. Therefore, most of the time, I have been preparing packages of lightweight food for my mountaineering activities.

    Now, is great to have some new ideas from your side.

    Well done and looking forward to more posts like this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Give it a go. Here’s another tip with the chicken; put it in your cooking pot with water when you get to camp while your setting up. That’ll give it a little extra time to re-hydrate sufficiently. Then after the simmering time in the cozy you will be good to go. The chicken is actually my favourite of the two meals.

      Like

  2. Thanks for these great ideas. I am just getting in to hiking again and have a lot of food allergies which means I struggle with commercial products. This will help me heaps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad to hear that Vivienne. I’m trying new food items all the time, so don’t hesitate to explore. Almost anything works (but no fats). I just got back from a 3 day trip trying out my new recipes; they were a success.

      Like

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