Dehydrating Camping Foods

Pre-packaged meals can be expensive, and may not meet your dietary needs. Making your own is easier than you think

FOOD: a long distance backpacker’s or camping enthusiast's best friend! It provides nourishment, energy, warmth, and comfort after a long, gruelling day on the trails. Pre-packaged backpacking meals can be purchased, but they are expensive, and may have preservatives, chemicals, additives, and other ingredients that may not meet your dietary preferences. The best solution? Make your own! It’s easier than you think. Here’s how.

  • Food dehydrator
  • Food scale
  • Parchment paper
  • Ziploc bags (large, heavy- duty freezer type with areas to write on the front)
  • Backpacking stove and pot
  • Your favourite recipes, cooked and prepared – sauce based meals like chili, stew, spaghetti, soup, or casseroles work best. The beauty of this is that you can custom design your meals to any specification: vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc. Try vegetarian chili or home-made mac and cheese.

  1. Take a pre-dehydrated weight: using the food scale, weigh a serving for one person of your cooked and prepared meal before you dehydrate it. Be sure to factor out the weight of the bowl or container the meal is sitting in. This will give you a base weight so you can calculate how much water will be needed to re-hydrate your meal on the trail. 

  2. Place your home made meal in the dehydrator: place the meal on the dehydrating tray lined with parchment paper. This will prevent liquid and small pieces from falling through the tray. Spread the meal in a thin and uniform layer to ensure even dehydration. 
  3. Dehydrate overnight or until dry: follow the instructions of your home dehydrator. A fully dehydrated meal should be brittle, and easy to break away from the parchment paper. It should be free of any moisture. If necessary, dehydrate an hour or two more until completely dry. 

  4. Take a dehydrated weight: place the dehydrated meal in a Ziploc bag and using the food scale, weigh the dehydrated meal. The difference in weight between the pre-dehydrated and dehydrated meal is the amount of water you will need to add. With a permanent marker, write on the Ziploc bag, the contents of the bag and the amount of water to be added. 

  5. Rehydrate your meal on the trail: place the dehydrated meal and the required amount of water into a pot and heat on your backpacking stove. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. Test a spoonful to check if it is fully hydrated. 

  6. Enjoy!
Tips and Tricks:
  • Be sure to test a few recipes out at home first. You don’t want an epic FAIL on the TRAIL!
  • One fluid ounce of water weighs roughly 1.043 dry ounces. For most recipes, it is sufficient to use a 1:1 ratio.
  • Add an ounce or two of extra water if you would like to simmer the meal for an extra few minutes.
  • Store dehydrated meals in the freezer until you are ready to use them.
  • You can pre-soak your meal to save fuel and reduce cooking time.
  • Instead of Ziploc bags, use the foil packages from previously purchased meals that have been brought home and thoroughly washed.
  • Dehydrate your leftover weekday meals and tuck them away in your freezer for your weekend adventures.



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