How to Make Your Own Backpacking Meals

Eat better for less by dehydrating your own camp meals. Chef Glenn McAllister, author of Recipes for Adventure: Healthy, Hearty & Homemade Backpacking Recipes, shares his top tips.

Work ½ cup breadcrumbs into a pound of lean ground beef before cooking and dehydrating. The breadcrumbs improve rehydration.

Precook rice in low-fat vegetable, chicken, or beef broth before dehydrating to make a flavorful starch.

This hearty meal tastes just like homemade stuffed peppers: Combine ¾ cup dried rice, 1⁄3 cup dried ground beef, 1⁄3 cup dried bell peppers, and 1⁄3 cup tomato sauce leather. Rehydrate with 1¾ cups boiling water and wait 15 minutes.

Dried grated potatoes rehydrate well. Steam peeled potatoes and grate like hash browns
directly onto covered dehydrator trays. Or make a flavorful gravy: Boil potatoes and mash or blend with low-fat vegetable, chicken, or beef broth (don’t use butter or milk, which can spoil) and spread thinly on dehydrator trays.


Dehydrate canned beans instead of home-cooked beans, which remain hard after rehydrating. Or make “bean bark,” which dissolves into a delicious sauce that goes well with dried meat, vegetables, and rice. Run beans through a blender with enchilada sauce, barbecue sauce, or salsa and spread mixture thinly on covered trays.

Enhance color and improve rehydration by lightly steaming carrots, corn, peas, green beans, and broccoli before dehydrating. Dry tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and mushrooms raw.

If sauce has chunky vegetables, run it through a blender first—and avoid cheesy sauces, which can spoil. Spread sauce thinly on covered trays.

Dehydrated canned chicken rehydrates much better than grilled, baked, or fried chicken, which get tough when dried.

Get the right dehydrator: You want a fan and temperature control because vegetables, fruit, and meat are dried at different temps. Without a fan, food takes too long to dry. A built-in timer allows you to set the dehydrator to turn off while you’re sleeping or at work. Buy nonstick sheets or fruit leather inserts so you can dry fruit leather, soup, and sauce.

Find more tips from chef Glenn McAllister at