If you’ve been around for a while then you will be aware there are certain topics you should avoid discussing over dinner. Politics, religion and relationships are just a few and while this narrows down the dinner conversation, it also narrows down the chance of arguments.
Hiking is very much the same. Start talking about food options for hiking and it’s amazing how quickly the conversation becomes heated as individuals passionately defend their preferred meal options and tell you why your choices are wrong. This is definitly a topic I avoid when at camp in the evening.
Having said that I do have my opinions and preferences and as much as I like cooking and eating well when I’m at home, I prefer to keep things simple when I’m on the trail. While my main meal choices tend to be freeze dried I do also integrate dehydrated food into the mix.
The following article talks about the pros and cons of using dehydrated food and provides a few suggestions for dehydrating.
To listen to this article as a podcast go here
In basic terms, dehydrating food is food that has had the water removed by drying using a heat source such as the sun (i.e. radiant energy) or heated air (e.g. by electrical energy). As an example, home dehydrators dehydrate food by blowing heated air over the food.
Sometimes sulphite is added to commercial food to aid the drying process – this is causing problems for a growing number of people who have sulphite allergies. Vitamins and minerals are adversely impacted by dehydrating, as opposed to eating it fresh, with the biggest impact being on niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and vitamins A and C. This is unlikely to be an issue for short hikes but will impact you on longer hikes or if you already have a vitamin and/or mineral deficiency.
Alternatives to dehydrated food include:
If you are into dehydrating food then go for it. The up sides are you can tailor to your tastes and preferences. The down sides are preparation and drying time. We have owned a quality home dehydrator for about seven years and it takes a considerable time to dry fruits and homemade dips. That will add to your electricity bill and is time consuming.
Nutrient and calorie loss is also something to consider. Not such an issue for you over a few days but could be a challenge on a long hike. If doing long distance or multi-way hiking, look at taking a multivitamin to keep the essential nutrients up.
Most commonly people will dehydrate a discrete food source such as pieces of fruit or slices of meat as opposed to meals but the choice is yours. If you are experimenting on meals for your hikes, practice at home first, store the food for a few weeks, then rehydrate and see what they taste like. Sometimes when you experiment with food it just doesn’t work and its better to find this out when you are still at home and can do something about it.
I prefer to use Freeze-dried meals as my main meal of the day but will make my lunch dips and snack fruit where possible.
Broad Bean Dip on flat bread
Some people love cooking on the trail and if that’s you then go for it. Having said that make sure you allow plenty of time to cook your meals and to clean up your cooking implements at the end of each day. If you are trying to make big miles over long days then full on cooking may not be an option due to the time required and this is where the simple addition of hot/cold water to rehydrate food comes in handy.
Even at home we make very basic meals with the exception of when we have visitors and even then, we prefer to eat out. So, on the trail we stick to boiling up water. We aren’t going to be cooking up a storm on the trail – its just not our thing! But if cooking is your thing, go for it but just ensure you’re getting the range of nutrients you need.
Peanut Butter Jar which is what I use to ‘cook’ (rehydrate) my dips on a hike. I just add a small amount of olive oil and then some water and a few hours late its ready to go. I get this ready just as I am about to start hiking for the day and all I need to do is a final check on constancy and it’s ready to eat for lunch.
To store any dehydrated meal place in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place. Avoid storing dehydrated food for long periods as it may spoil if not done properly. The best option is to make the meals shortly before your trip. Having said that I have used dehydrated Humus and dehydrated Black Bean Dip 13 months after making and it tasted the same as when I first made it.
Cinnamon Dried Apple in a good quality plastic container will keep it dry
Sometimes the only option is to use ziplock bags. if you use high grade bags then you can reuse them over and over
Who said you can’t have dip for lunch? These dips are high in calories (a good thing when hiking) and extremely easy to prepare on trail.
The following snacks are simple and easy to make with minimal preparation. I avoid things like mango as it’s just too fiddly, preferring to purchase commercially dehydrated product
Honeyed Bananas dried and ready to eat
Black Bean Dip on flat bread
Most foods can be dehydrated if done properly. Vegetables and fruit are great options and you can even dehydrate meat to make your own jerky or meals. Be very careful when you use meat and don’t store dehydrated meat for any extended period. Get it wrong and you can end up with food poisoning.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to dehydrated food but what I would say is dehydrate what you like to eat. If you don’t think it tastes good you won’t eat it.
I’ve spent a number of years working out what I do and don’t like and so long as quarantine regulations are not an issue, I will always make my dips and fruit snacks and I have never grown tired of my limited selection.
Slowly but surely I keep on adding to the range.