How to Dehydrate Food for Backpacking

How to Dehydrate Food for Backpacking
Instead of buying pre-measured packages of dehydrated food for your next backpacking trip, dry it yourself. The most reliable way to dehydrate is in a food dehydrator you build or buy. With that appliance in your kitchen, you can buy food when it's plentiful or inexpensive and combine ingredients you like best. Recipes are available online and in print. A few general guidelines will help get you started.


Difficulty: Moderate

Fruit and Vegetable Leathers

Things You’ll Need:
  • Food dehydrator
  • Blender
  • Ingredients: fruits, vegetables, meats
  • Salt, pepper, herbs, spices
  • Sugar, honey or preferred sweetener
  • Knives
  • Ziploc baggies in several sizes, vacuum-pack baggies or food sealer
  • Permanent marker
Step 1
Wash (and, if necessary, peel) produce. Purée in blender, adding citrus juice to fruits that will oxidize (turn brown) and sweetener to taste.
Step 2
Spread purée one-eighth to one-quarter-inch thick on the special trays that came with your dehydrator or on racks covered with parchment paper. Dry 5-10 hours, until leather is dry, pliable, and not sticky.
Step 3
Pry finished leather from trays, roll tightly, and slice rolls into sections. Wrap each section in plastic wrap and store packets in sandwich-sized Ziploc baggies, vacuum-sealed baggies or shrink-wrap in plastic with a special appliance.
Step 4
Label and date product. Store baggies in your freezer and air-tight bags in a cool, dry area.

Fruits and Vegetables

Step 1
Wash, peel if you wish, and de-seed fruit and vegetables.
Step 2
Slice larger fruits thinly; prick smaller fruits, including berries. Cook and thinly slice vegetables.
Step 3
Dip products that will oxidize -- apples and pears, for example -- in lightly salted water or water and citrus juice.
Step 4
Lay products on dehydrator racks so they do not touch. Dry at 135 degrees Fahrenheit until leathery or brittle, depending upon the product.
Step 5
Package, label and store.

Meals and Mixtures

Step 1
Prepare entrée or combine ingredients for mixture such as soup.
Step 2
Spread enough soup or stew vegetables for one or two meals on a single mesh rack. Spread or place a serving or two of cooked entrée on a fruit leather or parchment-covered tray.
Step 3
Dry thoroughly.
Step 4
Cool, package, label and store.

Tips & Warnings

A good book: Trail Food: Drying and Cooking Food for Backpacking and Paddling, revised edition, Alan Kesselheim, copyright 1998, International Marine/Ragged Mountain Press, Camden, ME. A portion of profits is donated to an environmental cause.
If even one item in a package retains moisture or if a package seal fails, the entire package will be lost.
Signs of 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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