Talking about hiking food can get you into a lot of trouble. Its not quite in the same category as talking politics over Christmas lunch but it sometimes comes close. Everyone has their food preference and ours is freeze-dried food. In this article we’re going to discuss why that is.
In basic terms, freeze-drying prolongs the life of food by removing moisture through a quick-freezing process followed by a strong vacuum process. This turns the water into vapour but allows the food to be easily rehydrated. It is an advanced process and as such is more costly than other types of food preservation such as dehydrating.
Lowering the moisture content of food inhibits microorganism growth – lower moisture levels mean the growth of microorganisms is reduced which in turn means slower food spoilage.
Freeze-dried food shouldn’t be confused with other food options:
So much choice!
If you are into that, then absolutely. The upsides are you can tailor to your tastes and preferences. The down sides are preparation and drying time. We have a quality home dehydrator and it takes a considerable time to dry fruits and homemade dips. That adds up to a lot of electricity!
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. Even with the high nutrient content and calories of the freeze-dried meals, a nutritionist advised Tim to take a multi-vitamin and calorie supplement during his hike of the Bibbulmun Track in 2018.
Most commonly people will dehydrate a discrete food source such as pieces of fruit or slices of meat. It is possible to dehydrate an entire meal but that is well beyond our expertise, inclination and available time!
Honeyed Banana place on the rack ready to dehydrate
Broad Bean Dip spread on a dehydration tray ready to dry
Dehydrated fruit and oats. Moisture had managed to enter the ziplock bag and the Freeze-dried fruit has absorbed moisture. Once you open up a commercial /vacuam sealed food bag then the life span is much shorter
While heavier, fresh is always best and nicer. It just depends on the length of your trip and the resupply options. We generally have a combination of fresh and freeze-dried food on short trips or at the resupply points of a long trip. If we’re skirting around towns we always take the opportunity to refuel with a fresh meal.
Some people love cooking on the trail. 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.
Campers Pantry Cauliflower and Pea Dahl ready to eat
Most people who have never asked a nutritionist to review their diet would say they have a well-balanced diet. That may be the case and your diet may be OK for your normal day-to-day activities. However hiking is a strenuous activity which needs to be supported by good nutrition. This is why we are big fans of freeze-dried food – we can get the nutrition we need in a very convenient and lightweight way.
The following links are are our top 10 and top 5 meal list. Everyones tastes are different but these reviews may help to decide what you may like.
Campers Pantry top 5