When it comes to DIY backpacking food, the culinary options are as plentiful as the personalities surrounding them. Sure, you could carry a cast iron skillet and canned food (or beer) like our buddy Joe, but ultralight backpacking is all the rage these days and all the cool kids are tearing off their clothing labels and sawing their toothbrushes in half to save every last gram. (Hey - we're not judging - our standard Morsel weights in at only 0.8 ounces to fit right into the ultralight backpack)
To be fair to Joe, he found the skillet on the trail and decided to pack it out because, “Dude, free skillet!”
It should come as no surprise that dehydrated meals are still a hugely popular choice among backpackers looking to keep their pack weights to a minimum. We’re in the golden age of dehydrated meals, and new food companies are popping up all the time to fill new niches like keto and organic meals. They taste a heck of a lot better than the MRE’s your grandpappy used to eat, but they sure aren’t cheap! Some of these meals are over $10, and let’s be real: those supposedly “two-serving” meals are only enough for one hungry hungry hiker.
If you’re a cheapskate like us, you may have pondered crafting your own DIY dehydrated meals. After all, food dehydrators aren’t too expensive (and your granola-crunching friends probably have one you can borrow).
We’re here to tell you that we’ve pondered the same thing, and we decided to take action and give it a try. So if you’re ready to dive into the world of DIY dehydrated meals, read on!
First off, let’s start with a few basics of dehydrated foods. Commercial dehydrated meals come in special food-grade ziplock bags that are boil safe. That means you can pour boiling water into them without worrying about the plastic melting or leeching toxic materials into your food. These are commonly called “boil bags” and can be purchased from a variety of online retailers. Pick up a few of these (we suggest one per meal) - they’re generally reusable too!
Next up, let’s talk about how the meals are actually made. Most dehydrated food is made using one of three methods:
We decided to go with the first method, for the sake of simplicity, and used a generic consumer-grade dehydrator. Here are a few tips we learned along the way…
So how did our DIY dehydrated food experiment work? The meal was pretty tasty, all things considered. But we did experience a few unexpected issues....
The internet is full of great recipes and DIY dehydrated food advice. One of our favorite resources is Backpacking Chef - check em out!
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Your favorite gear gives you that extra edge – perhaps it is tougher, lighter or more full-featured than its predecessors. Can you attribute that same level performance to your camping utensils?