Forget those overprice freeze-dried meals…
Imagine if you will… 6 of us all chatting over an ice cold beer (there was some wine too). The conversation was really near the beginning of our talks about backpacking, come to think about it, I am not really sure when the actual decision was made to go backpacking. I think it was something we have always collectively wanted to do so when it was mentioned we just rolled with it. Ok, now where were we….? Ah! Yes, the ice cold beer. The first thing that comes to my mind is “ummmm what are we gonna eat”? So now we get our Google on and our options look so depressing. Ultralighters rely on ramen noodles and tuna, and your average crew uses prepackaged freeze-dried (Mountain House, etc.).
As we toss back that beer we start having thoughts of the steak and potato fairy visiting us on the trail. See, before this backpacking stuff started we were campers that do day hikes. When you camp you can literally bring the kitchen sink if you chose to. Our normal camping meal consisted of things like filet mignon, smoked pork, hamburgers, and all the fixins to go with it. But remember now we are drinkin a beer here, not champagne, so don’t get the wrong impression.
Two of us in the group have a military background so we can shove down some chow when we need to, but in the wilderness or not this is supposed to be a vacation. We want some real food! We have tried a few of the packaged meals, I wont knock them, but I will just say “they server their purpose”. They are lightweight, self contained, minimal trash to carry out, and you just add water. None of them however, are the greatest thing you have ever eaten by any stretch of the imagination.
By now I am not really sure how many bottle caps are in my pocket, but we get the brilliant idea that we will make our own food and bring it with. At the time I can only imagine that someone was expecting a Sherpa to join us with a refrigerator on their back…or maybe there are cute cart girls selling food along the trails like at a golf course.
The night is over and the next day brings on the research until we stumble across dehydrating. I have owned a dehydrator in the past, like just about every “man” on the planet it was solely used for beef jerky. I had never thought about dehydrating actual food….come on you know jerky is tasty but it is far from “food”! We learn you can dehydrate just about anything…this later proved to be wrong, but we are not there yet. Now we feel excitement, this means we can be 4, 10, 20 days into a trip and still have good food?!?!?!?
I wont get into all the details of how to dehydrate and all that good stuff, there are a ton of resources out there to help you with it. But I will give you some tips to start you off in the right direction. We picked up a decent but inexpensive dehydrator, the key to this is temperature control settings. Then we started with some easy stuff, fruit. Always use fresh fruit when possible. Pineapple is amazing, kiwi is phenomenal (and I don’t like regular kiwi), strawberries, bananas (glaze them in honey), pears were a big hit, and a few other ones. So now we got our feet wet it was time to move on.
Spaghetti with meat sauce will be the first full dinner item we try. You would not believe me if I told you that it was AMAZING, but really it was…..really! Some pointers for this would be to use a high quality super lean (90-95%) beef as fat does not dehydrate and can cause spoilage. And when you package the food keep the sauce separate from the noodles and meat. This makes re-hydrating much easier.
From here we progressed and tried some other items that were hamburger based. Burritos and Chili mac were delicious. And then of course quickly jumped aboard the failboat! Chicken, at least the way I did it, does not rehydrate well at all. If you could picture a chicken flavored packing peanut you will get the idea. The other thing you will really want to invest in for this is FoodSaver, they are amazing for compressing everything down and really making the food last.
Now I open the floor to you, do you have any suggestions for meals we should try, meals you have tried, or just something you want me to dehydrate and test? Post a comment and let me know