When you spend a lot of time on trails like we do, you need to eat, and you need to eat well. Backpacking on a moderately strenous trail can require you to eat many more calories than you normally would in your every day life. If you don't get the proper nutrition and hydration, you can "bonk" on the trail. This is is when you "hit the wall", as the saying goes. If you do eat properly by snacking frequently and drinking a lot of water, you can literally hike all day long. That's not to say you won't be dog tired when you are setting up camp though!
In order to do this well, and not break your back, you have to carry dehydrated foods. So that's why I started dehydrating and also making our own recipes so we can eat more than just peanut butter and jelly while out on the trail. There's nothing better than being out in the middle of nowhere, 20 trail miles from your car, sitting around the fire, and eating a nice home-cooked meal.
We just add hot water (almost boiling) into a freezer bag containing the dehydrated meal. Stir the water in well, reseal the bag, and then we place this inside a "cozy" for 10-15 minutes while the food rehydrates. A "cozy" is something that you put it in that will help retain the heat. We use one of those hot/cold bags you find at your grocery store. Some backpackers use reflectix mailers, or even their knit hat. Just about anything will work as long as it helps insulate your meal while it rehydrates.
I've been dehydrating for a few years now. The main reason I started dehydrating was so that we could have yummy food on the trail just like we do at home. I started with the simple stuff...apple slices, banana slices, and then started just trying things. Yea, there were many mistakes, but that kind of stuff happens. You test things, you learn, you keep experimenting.
My first dehydrator was a Nesco FD-60 Snackmaster Express. I upgraded to have 12 trays, clean a screens, and fruit roll sheets. The only downside is the fact that you have to rotate the trays frequently because the trays on top (closest to the fan) dehydrate faster, so rotating is necessary. The center hole in all of the trays can be a bit of a pain sometimes, especially with fruit rolls, but it is something you get used to and work around. Overall Nesco is a very good dehydrator.
I recently upgraded to an Excalibur 9 tray dehydrator. I have been using it for a couple of months now, and I have zero complaints. This thing holds about 11 lbs of apples! The capacity is amazing! Having square trays is another plus. They are much easier (and faster) to load the trays, and fruit rolls are much easier. I also have the teflex sheets for making fruit rolls. They aren't as non stick as one would think though, so a light spray of non stick spray on your sheets is a good idea when making fruit leather. Trays still need to be rotated with an Excalibur, just not as frequently. I usually just rotate once 180 degrees. The fan is in the back, so the food towards the back dehydrates faster, so by rotating 180 degrees, that evens out the dehydrating process.
Dehydrated food, as long as it is stored properly, will last a very long time. My preferred method of storing is using canning jars and a vacuum sealer with a jar attachment. I then store jars in a spare refrigerator. To be extra cautious, I store meats and fruit leathers (fruit roll-ups) in the freezer.
See MY DEHYDRATING TIPS to learn more. Click below to see some dehydrating instructions and also to view some of our recipes.
Banana Fruit Leather (2 recipes)
Beef Mushroom Noodles (backpacking recipe)
Blackberry Fruit Leather (3 recipes)
Strawberry Fruit Leather (2 recipes)
Turkey Manwich (backpacking recipe)
More to come soon...