Making Your Own Backpacking Food: From Dehydration to Deliciousness

Dehydrating Apples

Making your own backpacking food is a great alternative to buying pre-packaged backpacking meals. Spending time in advance of your backpacking trip making the food can save you money, provide you with better tasting food, and prove to be more nutritious than store bought food.

Requirements for Backpacking Food

When deciding what types of food to bring on a backpacking trip, most hikers want food with the most nutrition and carbohydrates in the lightest weight, smallest bulk, possible. All of the food for the trip needs to fit into your pack as well as supplies to cook it, clothing, sleeping equipment, and other essentials. The food you make needs to be compact, tasteful and nutritious.

Dehydrating Food

Dehydrating fruits, vegetables, and meat before you leave on your trip is one of the best methods of making your own backpacking food. The dehydrated food is compact and lightweight to carry in your backpack. Once you arrive at your destination you can eat the food dry and crunchy or rehydrate it with water. Dehydrated food requires no refrigeration while it is dry.


It is best to buy a good electric food dehydrator when you desire to dehydrate any type of food. Look for a dehydrator with a good fan, as air circulation is a key factor when drying food. The dehydrator should be made of double wall construction with an internal thermostat between 85 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit when running. A good dehydrator will cost a bit more money, but if you camp often, you will save money over time on the expensive cost of prepackaged dehydrated food. The cost of a high quality dehydrator is well worth it when considering the bonuses of better nutrition, better taste, and lower cost of the food. Buy food dehydrators at home department stores or online at:

Most dehydrators come with instructions on how to dehydrate fruits, vegetables, and meat. It is important to follow these directions. In most cases, it is probably best to dehydrate fruits and vegetables separate from your meat.

Dehydrating Fruits and Vegetables

The best fruits to dehydrate:

  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Peaches
  • Cherries
  • Pineapple
  • Mangoes
  • Blueberries

The best vegetables to dehydrate:

  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli

The easiest meats to dehydrate are thinly sliced deli style:

  • Ham
  • Beef
  • Turkey

To dehydrate, cut your fruit, vegetables, or meat into bite sized pieces. Lay them out on the dehydration tray so they do not touch. Follow the directions on the dehydrator to make sure each food item is completely dry before storage

Marinade and Instructions For Drying Meat

Freeze the meat you will be dehydrating for 30 days to kill microorganisms. Follow the instructions on your food dehydrator, keeping in mind these helpful tips:

  • Thinly slice the meat while partially frozen
  • Wash your hands before and after handling
  • Trim off fat
  • Place strips on dehydrator tray close, but not overlapping
  • Dry for about 10 to 24 hours
  • Let temperature reach at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Package in plastic bags or consider vacuum packing for longer storage

Jerky Marinade

  • Mix ¼ soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper, onion powder, and garlic
  • 1-teaspoon hickory smoke flavored salt

Place strips of meat in the marinade-cover and refrigerate for two hours or overnight. Boil the meat for about five minutes before drying to reduce possible food borne microorganisms.

Packaging Your Dried Food For Your Trip

The best way to store and carry dehydrated food is in heavy-duty zipper lock bags. Store each fruit and vegetable individually. Put the food into the bag and seal it, leaving a one-inch opening, squeeze out as much air as you can and seal it the rest of the way. Label the bag with a permanent marker so you will know what it contains.

Making Your Own Backpacking Food

Assembling your dried ingredients with other foods will help in making your own backpacking food.

Meal Ideas

Turkey, Broccoli, and Rice

In a large zipper lock bag add:

  • 1 cup minute rice
  • 1 cup dehydrated broccoli
  • 1 cup dehydrated turkey
  • 1 package of powdered onion soup mix

When you want to hydrate the meal boil two cups of water, pour the bag of ingredients into your pot and boil until soft.

Ramen Noodle Soup

In a large zipper lock bag add:

  • Broken up ramen noodles and flavor packet
  • ½ cup dehydrated peas, corn, or carrots
  • ½ cup of dehydrated meat

Boil in two cups hot water until soft.


The National Center for Home Food Preservation is an excellent resource in drying food and what to look for in a good home dehydrator.

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Making Your Own Backpacking Food: From Dehydration to Deliciousness