Top 4 Reasons to Dehydrate Your Own Backpacking Meals

By Kyle Kamp, RD, LD

Updated January 14, 2024
This post may contain affiliate links.
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Questioning if making your own dehydrated meals for backpacking is right for you? You might consider making your own instead of purchasing commercially prepared meals for various reasons. We have created a list of what we believe to be the top four benefits of DIY backpacking meals.

Benefits of DIY Dehydrated Meals

1. Limitless meal options

Very few things cannot be dehydrated, so your options for meals are limitless. Rumor has it that few life experiences will make a guy (or gal) feel more self-sufficient than cooking up a pot of elk chili from an elk you pulled off the mountain the year prior, dehydrating it, and eating it 5 miles into the backcountry.

2. Control over ingredients to meet personal dietary needs

You’re likely keenly aware of foods that do not sit well with you and naturally try to avoid these while backpacking. Food intolerances can range from mild to severe, requiring you to wear a medical bracelet. Using a dehydrator allows you to customize meals to know exactly what’s going in the bag. This allows you to branch out far beyond the limited number of packaged meals available that do not contain the ingredients you’re trying to avoid

3. Reduced Cost

You can expect to pay between $10 and $15 per meal if you choose to purchase commercially prepared backpacking meals from your favorite outdoor retail store. The cost of dehydrating your own food is essentially the cost of the food itself, a cost that’s inexpensive when pitted against conveniently packaged meals.

There is some electricity cost in using a dehydrator, but it’s actually quite minimal when compared to the amount of electricity required for an entire home. If you’re concerned about increased electricity costs, you can purchase an inexpensive watt meter that will provide the watts used per hour. You can then compare that to your monthly electricity bill.

A heaping portion of our Brownie Batter Hummus (recipe below) costs just over $2.00. You can’t buy a healthy, preservative-free treat like this at the dollar discount store!

4. Customize to meet your nutrition needs for optimal performance

If you struggle with meal planning for backcountry adventures, consider checking out our FREE Ultimate Backpacking Food Starter Guide for simple steps to follow. You’ll see that the nutrients you need are individual and specifically aimed at helping you perform optimally in the backcountry.

Need more carbohydrates than what’s listed on a packaged meal? Gone are the days of adding additional instant potatoes to your packaged spaghetti to increase carbs. The flexibility of DIY dehydrated meals allows you to throw more pasta in the mix to meet your needs, restore your muscle glycogen, and ensure day two will be as effortless as day one was.

Need more protein? Add more ground beef, elk, or your favorite vegetarian or vegan protein sources.

Need more fat? You get the picture. Arguably, the greatest benefit of dehydrating your own backpacking meals is the ability to tailor them to meet your needs.

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    Are you new to dehydrating food for backpacking meals?

    Here are instructions for dehydrating some of our favorite ingredients:

    Give this Backcountry Foodie dehydrated dessert recipe a try!

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    ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
    Backcountry Foodie Kyle Kamp dietitian blog contributor

    Kyle Kamp, RDN, LD, is the owner of Valley to Peak Nutrition, where he offers nutrition packages to help you lose weight in preparation for an upcoming season or bulking up to prepare you for the demands of a backcountry hunt.  He also offers a meal planning service to help map out some of the points discussed above and other consultation services.  Check out his personal story about weight loss and backcountry adventures.

    6 Comments

    • One reason I’m getting deeper into dehydrating food for an upcoming thru-hike is that it will also reduce my pack weight.

      Reply
    • G’day Kim,
      I have always found that using one tray as my control for weight works for me. It has what I would eat in a meal and when I finish dehydrating, I weigh it and make all the meals the same size. Just found that better for portion control. If I use rice in a recipe I like to add freeze dried rice after I dehydrate the main meal. I’m a ziploc cooker and find the freeze dried is better rehydrating.

      Reply
    • I’m curious about the choice of Minute Rice. I’m a fan of short-grain rice. Can this be made with rice that has to be cooked? (I’d like to make it with short-grain brown rice, if possible.)

      Reply
      • Kim,
        You could absolutely use short grain rice if you’re making it on home. The recipe was designed to be made in the backcountry and utilized miniature rice in an effort to save precious fuel for stoves. Thanks for the question!

        Reply
        • Thanks. I’ll be rehydrating it on the trail, but I’m accustomed to my home-dried stuff — I’ve come to accept that my stuff will always have to simmer a bit.

          Reply
          • Great point, Kim. It does seem like my stuff needs a bit more heat and longer soaking time than the traditional backcountry meals you can purchase, but man; isn’t the end product so worth the tradeoff ?!

            Reply

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