When backpacking, every ounce and cubic inch count. Careful planning to balance calories and bulk against weight and pack capacity can enhance a trip in which you tote everything on your back. Use each item as many ways as possible. Pack nothing empty. Eschew luxuries. Leave large food containers at home. Take as much as is needed but no more. For desert packing, water composes a large proportion of pack weight. Prepare meals that absorb water, such as rice, millet and dried foods. Dehydrated foods offer taste, variety, a compact profile and ease of preparation.
Online, chain and local camping supply stores stock dehydrated entrees, condiments, side dishes, snacks, drink powders and desserts to satisfy meat lovers and vegetarians alike. Organic and ethnic dishes can be interesting as well as filling. Some suppliers assemble multi-day backpacking food kits.
Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI)
Sumner, WA 98352-0001
810 Route 17 North
Paramus, NJ 07652
2607 South 3200 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84119
Mary Jane's Farm
1000 Wild Iris Lane
Moscow, ID 83843
For a personal and economic approach, make your food yourself. Granola, snack mixes, hot cocoa and flavoring packets are easy to assemble. If you're more adventurous, cook entrees and dehydrate them. The same goes for energy bars, fruits and vegetables. The most reliable way to dehydrate food is in an appliance made for that purpose. Buy a dehydrator or build it yourself, and you will quickly recoup its cost.
Off the Shelf
Don't neglect easy dehydrated meals from the grocer: Indian food, grain-based entrees and stove-top meals, hummus and couscous. A dried soup mix becomes delicious stew if you add veggies, parboiled rice and dried meat. Spice anything up with a mixture of salt, pepper and your favorite herbs, stowed in a sandwich baggie or prescription medicine vial.