In a few weeks I'll be taking one of the longest backpacking trips I've ever been on, a 9 day, 130 mile trek through the 100 mile wilderness and Baxter State Park to Mt Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. There isn't any real way to resupply along the way, so I'm planning on carrying all my food for the duration of the trip with me. Normally, that would amount to about 2 lbs of day of food per day or close to 18 lbs total of food alone, bringing my total pack weight including gear, water, and fuel to around 35 lbs. That's a lot more total weight than I normally carry on section hikes, so I've started dehydrating the hot meals that I plan to bring in order to cut down their weight.
Dehydrating your food is an incredible way to add variety to your backpacking menu and improve the quality and quantity of food that you can bring along on strenuous hikes. Although, I've been into Freezer Bag Cooking for a few years, I'm a recent convert to dehydrating my own food and can't believe that I've only just tried it.
With just 3 weeks to go, I've been cooking and dehydrating food like crazy all weekend: the top photo is a picture of the Ratatouille I made Sunday morning. I've decided to dehydrate both my breakfasts and dinners, in order to reduce the bulk of the food that I need to carry. Normally, I eat granola for breakfast on shorter trips but it takes up a lot of room in my bear bag. So, on this trip, I'll be dehydrating breakfasts made from root vegetables, rice, and fruit, which compress down incredibly small.
To put the weight and compression factors of dehydration into perspective, here are two bags of food that have been dehydrated. The bag on the left is a white bean and artichoke dip recipe from One Pan Wonders. Before dehydration, the ingredients weighed about 30 oz. After dehydration, they weigh 5.4 oz. The bag on the left contains a green pepper, red pepper and onion medley. Before dehydration, the ingredients weighed 32 oz. After dehydration, they weigh, 2.4 oz.
A 9-day Backpacking Menu
Here's a look at the menu plan for my 100 mile wilderness trip which includes recipes from trailcooking.com, one pan wonders, and backpackingchef. They're all pretty easy to make if you have a good dehydrator and a little patience.
|1||Snack 1||Ginger Cookies|
|1||Snack 2||3 Pieces Large Toblerone|
|1||Lunch||Gouda and Crackers|
|1||Snack 3||Sunflower Seeds|
|1||Dinner||Spaghetti, Sauce & Hamburger/Veggies|
|2||Breakfast||Pumpkin Bark and Raisins|
|2||Snack 1||Cranberry Almond Gorp|
|2||Snack 2||Ritter Hazelnut|
|2||Lunch||Gouda and Crackers|
|2||Snack 3||Black Licorice|
|2||Dinner||Rica Canyon Spread and Rice|
|3||Breakfast||Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Corn|
|3||Snack 1||Chili Spiced Mango|
|3||Snack 2||Snickers Bar|
|3||Snack 3||Candied Ginger|
|3||Dinner||Ratatouille and Brown Rice|
|4||Breakfast||Banana Nut Bread Pudding|
|4||Snack 1||Nut Mix|
|4||Snack 2||3 Pieces Large Toblerone|
|4||Lunch||Justin Nut Butter & Crackers|
|4||Snack 3||Dried Fruit Mix|
|4||Dinner||Chicken Adobo (Rice)|
|5||Breakfast||Pumpkin Bark and Raisins|
|5||Snack 1||Cat Cookies|
|5||Snack 2||Ritter Hazelnut|
|5||Lunch||Salami and Crackers|
|5||Snack 3||Black Licorice|
|5||Dinner||Spaghetti, Sauce & Hamburger/Veggies|
|6||Breakfast||Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Corn|
|6||Snack 1||Cranberry Almond Gorp|
|6||Snack 2||Snickers Bar|
|6||Lunch||Salami and Crackers|
|6||Snack 3||Nut Mix|
|6||Dinner||Ratatouille and Brown Rice|
|7||Breakfast||Pumpkin Bark and Raisins|
|7||Snack 1||Nut Mix|
|7||Snack 2||Ginger Cookies|
|7||Lunch||Justin Nut Butter & Crackers|
|7||Snack 3||Bulk Milk Chocolate|
|7||Dinner||Philip's Chicken Curry w Rice|
|8||Snack 1||Nut Mix|
|8||Snack 2||Dried Fruit Mix|
|8||Snack 3||Bulk Milk Chocolate|
|8||Dinner||Spaghetti, Sauce & Hamburger/Veggies|
|9||Breakfast||Banana Nut Bread Pudding|
|9||Snack 1||Cranberry Almond Gorp|
|9||Snack 2||Cat Cookies|
|9||Lunch||Justin Nut Butter & Crackers|
|9||Snack 3||Bulk Milk Chocolate|
|9||Dinner||Rica Canyon Spread and Rice|
Survival Skills for Non-Foodies
Although I am pretty new at this dehydration thing, here are some tips that I can pass along from recent experience:
- If you are not the foodie in your house (I'm not), or if you live with someone who considers the kitchen their domain, they will feel threatened when you take it over for a major dehydration project. If possible, avoid cooking and dehydrating food continuously for 2-3 weeks. You best bet is to build up a supply of staples in the off season and augment as needed for specific trips.
- Clean every kitchen gadget, utensil, and bowl immediately after using it. Otherwise they pile up and can become a real source of tension between you and a partner.
- My dehydrator sounds like a white noise generator and the sound can be irritating when it runs 24 hours a day. If you have the time, dehydrate your food at night when everyone is asleep.
- Siliconized parchment paper is an excellent substrate for drying leathers and bark made from wet ingredients. It conducts heat very well and makes it easy to peel the food from the paper after drying, or at the halfway point when you want to flip it over.
That's all for now. I've got to get downstairs and cook up the next dish in my pipeline. I'll post the final weight of my food bags broken out by item, so you can see the benefits of dehydration and the variety, calorie, and weight trade-offs that I make before setting out.
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