How to Make Dehydrated Food for Backpacking

How to Make Dehydrated Food for Backpacking
Preprocessed dehydrated ingredients and complete meals for a backpacking trip are easy to find. They're not as good as home-cooked meals but they weigh less and occupy little space. They're safe in extreme conditions but can include preservatives and additives. Those with food allergies must exert care to select interesting meals without endangering health.
Another way to keep your pack light and your palate engaged is to dehydrate your own food. With a reliable, relatively inexpensive food dehydrator in your kitchen, you can take almost any favorite food on your next backpacking trip.


Difficulty: Moderate

Fruit and Vegetable Leathers

Things You’ll Need:
  • Recipes
  • Food dehydrator
  • Blender
  • Fruit, vegetables, meats or protein substitutes, condiments
  • Grains and flour
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Dried fruit that does not grow in your area
  • Citrus fruit or juice
  • Salt, pepper, herbs, spices
  • Sugar, honey or preferred sweetener
  • Knives
  • Zip-top baggies in several sizes or vacuum-pack baggies or food sealer
  • Permanent marker
  • Recipes
Step 1
Wash produce. Peel if necessary. Purée in blender, adding citrus juice to fruits that will oxidize (turn brown) and sweetener to taste.
Step 2
Spread purée about one-quarter inch thick on the special trays that came with your dehydrator or on racks covered with parchment paper. Dry 5-10 hours, according to instructions supplied with your appliance and until leather is dry and pliable but no longer sticky.
Step 3
Pry finished leather from trays, roll tightly, and slice rolls into sections. Wrap each section in plastic wrap and consolidate in sandwich-sized zip-top baggies or vacuum-sealed baggies, or shrink-wrap in plastic with a special appliance.
Step 4
Label with product name and date. Store zip-top bags in your freezer and airtight bags in a cool, dry, dark area.

Fruits and Vegetables

Step 1
Wash fruit and vegetables. Peel if you wish.
Step 2
Seed and thinly slice larger fruits; simply seed smaller fruits, including berries. Cook and thinly slice vegetables.
Step 3
Dip products likely to oxidize--pears and apricots among them--in lightly salted water or water and citrus juice.
Step 4
Lay products on dehydrator racks so they do not overlap. Dry at 135 degrees Fahrenheit until leathery or brittle, depending on the product.
Step 5
Cool, package, label and store.

Entrées and Mixtures

Step 1
Prepare entrée or combine ingredients for mixture such as soup.
Step 2
Spread soup vegetables or similar meal ingredients on mesh racks. Spread or place cooked entrée on fruit leather trays or parchment-covered trays.
Step 3
Dry thoroughly.
Step 4
Cool, package, label and store.

Assemble Foods

Step 1
Gather ingredients for mélanges such as trail mix, granola, oatmeal with fruits and nuts, hot cocoa and herb-spice flavoring mixes.
Step 2
Dehydrate ingredients as necessary.
Step 3
Mix to taste.
Step 4
Package, label and store.

Tips & Warnings

What is true of any kitchen process is true of dehydrating, packaging and storing backpack foods. The cleaner your preparation and storage techniques are, the better. Plan to eat food within a year.
Instructions for entrées work for many desserts.
Vegetables like carrots and beets make delicious leather. Add a pinch of salt instead of sugar.
Fruit/vegetable leather instructions also work for liquid and semi-liquid condiments like sour cream and salsa.
This book is a good source: Trail Food: Drying and Cooking Food for Backpacking and Paddling, revised edition, by Alan Kesselheim, copyright 1998, International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, Camden, ME. A portion of profits is donated to an environmental cause.
If one item in a package retains too much moisture, or if a package seal fails and lets in outside air, the entire package will be lost. Just throw it out and do things differently next time.
Signs of product spoilage include mold, mildew, condensation, odor and insect infestation.

Article Written By Lani Johnson

Lani Johnson is a hiking, writing musician. Recent published work includes journalism, poetry and research. See her online writing at or at

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