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Backpacker Magazine – April 2001

Dehydrate Your Trail Food

Who says you need water in your food? Dehydrate your vittles and you'll carry less weight, save money, and eat better.

by: Diane Bailey

Rice and pasta: Save money and cooking time on the trail—and avoid the additives and preservatives in instant foods—by precooking rice and pasta. Most of the vitamins in instant rice are lost during processing and must be added later. Cook up an extra big batch of brown rice or whole-grain pasta for dinner at home, then dry the leftovers for your next camping trip to get the full nutritional benefit of these foods. Both will rehydrate in warm water.

Keep dehydrated vittles in airtight containers in a cool, dry, dark place. Fruits and vegetables last about a year. Dried meats can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 weeks, and jerky for about a month; refrigeration or freezing extends the shelf life of both.

On the trail
Toss dehydrated foods in a cook pot, and let them absorb water while they simmer, or presoak them to cut cooking time. Putting your dried dinner veggies in a partially filled water bottle to soak at lunchtime will make them more tender later. A cup of dried food requires approximately 1 cup of water to revive; use hot water and rip apart the food for faster rehydration.

With a store of dried staples, vegetables, meats, and herbs, you'll have everything you'll need to create simple one-pot wonders in camp (see the recipes below). Or, make a hearty soup broth or pasta sauce at home, dry it, and bring it back to life in camp by adding 3 parts water to 1 part dried ingredients. Packaged dinners such as rice or noodles and sauce take on new qualities—in both taste and nutrition—when you add dried veggies or meats. You can even perk up oatmeal with a handful of banana chips.

Snacks To Dry For
Once you have the basics down, let your imagination take over. Some of my home-dried favorites are between-meal foods that help lift feet and spirits during tough uphill slogs or through the gray misery of a cold, rainy day.

Here are a few ideas:

Yogurt tarts.
Drop teaspoonfuls of flavored yogurt onto a tray and dry them into deliciously tart drops. Although yogurt is a milk product, its acidity makes it safe for home drying.

Seasoned veggie chips.
For tasty, healthful trail snacks, dry zucchini slices dipped in tamari or tomato rounds sprinkled with dried basil. The more adventurous can puree vegetables to make vegetable leather (see below).

Bagel chips.
Slice bagels into rounds about 1/8 inch thick, season with garlic powder or cinnamon sugar, and dry for a couple of hours until crisp.

Trail mix.
Dry and combine chunks of different kinds of fruit for a sweet, high-energy treat. Apples work well. Trust me—I've dried bushels of them.

Fruit Leathers
Evenly spread (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick) pureed fresh fruit onto the plastic dehydrator-tray insert for making leathers or a tray lined with freezer, wax, or parchment paper, then dry for 8 to 16 hours until it can be peeled off as fruit leather. Blend apples, cranberries, and oranges, or whir a handful of almonds and a dash of nutmeg into an apricot puree. Or use applesauce from a jar—it now comes in watermelon, berry, and peach mango flavors.

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