Trail Food Dehydration 101: Making Your Own Backcountry Meals and Snacks by Kellie Connelly

If you’re looking to save some money on backpacking food, or just eat better, dehydrating your own backpacking food is a fun way to enhance your hiking diet. Preserving food and getting it to a lighter pack weight is not a new idea, but we have become more and more reliant on prepackaged commercial goods that have high sodium content, added preservatives, lost nutritional value, and a high price tag to meet our backcountry needs.

In this presentation, Appalachian Mountain Club leader Kellie Connelly covers the basics of food dehydration, necessary equipment, suitable foods, shortcuts, and some recipes that you can use to start creating your own backcountry meals, including:

  • Homemade Beef Jerky
  • Meatless Pemmican
  • Oatmeal with Granola
  • Spaghetti with Sauce
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Beef Stew
  • Hummus

Kellie has been developing her own selection of dehydrated meals, snacks, granola and beef jerky over the last six years; which have been successfully field tested as the group meals or snacks when she is co-leading AMC Hiking/Backpacking trips. She has also used her dehydration techniques to put together well balanced meals for long excursions backpacks on the AT 100-mile Wilderness and Kootenay’s Rockwall.

They say that armies march on their bellies and it’s no wonder that backpackers do to!


  1. I usually march on my feet and crawl on my belly… but that’s just me.

    Of course, some of those belly crawls could be traced back to my lack of culinary expertise.

  2. For some reason, creating my own dehydrated meals is a daunting task. I’ve graduated from buying mountain house to combining simple “just add water” type ingredients like ramen or pasta and freeze dried vegetables and a protein. Last year I bought the book Freezer Bag Cooking which gave me some ideas.

  3. That slide show really made me hungry! I’ve made lots of beef jerky in my dehydrator and did try dehydrating mac ‘n cheese and spaghetti. I’m sure I need to practice more because my mac and spaghetti didn’t reconstitute, even when soaked all night in water, however, I did enjoy it as a crunchy snack.

    Since my longest hike has been five days, ramen noodles, jerky, dried potatoes and veggies has worked well for me, although my menu would certainly get pretty boring on an extended trip.

    • It’s strange that your food wouldn’t reconstitute… My advice would be to make sure that the water you’re adding is hot enough for one and also to make sure that your meal is broken up into small pieces and not several or even one big chunk. Barring that try to make sure that there is at least plenty of space for the water to penetrate. The more surface area you have the faster it will re-hydrate (and the faster it will dry in the first place!)

      Good luck and keep it up!

  4. roberto_k_foster

    I want that food dehydrator. So sick! I usually take a perishable meal in for the first night. You burn a lot of calories with the load bearing, so it is good to replace what you have burned off. On the Grand Daddy trip, I wedged reds and yukon golds, threw in some slices of butter, some salt and pepper, and about two teaspoons of oil. Wrap them up in tinfoil, put them in a ziploc bag, which usually ends up being the cuttingboard on a rock, and when you get to camp, throw them right on the fire. Flip and turn them for about 20 min, then check em. Delicious. I will usually pack an apple, for cutting wedges and putting them in my oatmeal. Go-gurts are sick too if you have a small cold pack like I do. I will get pre-made Indian food you heat in boiling water right in the package. Ready in 5 min, and curry is good in the woods. I have packed in Braughts and put them in chili before. Also small sweet potatoes in tin foil right on the fire are tasty too. We did corn last summer as well. Nice to soak it in the lake while still on the husk, then cook it in the husk and then when ready, peel, slide some butter on there, and munch. So good. I like a bit of fresh food on the trail. Those backpackers meals are full of sodium. I do take those too, but try to mix it up. Fresh food just seems to give you more energy out there. This is why I want the food dehydrator. Perfect for setting up food for the trip in.

  5. I have never been able to produce anything even close to resembling a decent meal , maybe its just a male thing, so I have always relied on factory produced stuff but I must admit this story has made me keen to have another go

  6. It really helps if you like your own cooking, to start. Then get a quality food dryer. Without those two in pomace I can understand

  7. Are there directions for the granola recipe?

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