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A Homemade Backpacking Food Trick

Have a favorite trail recipe or technique you'd like to share? Please do! We also like reviews of various trail food products out there. The Backcountry Food Topix forum is the place to discuss all things related to food and nourishment while in the Sierra wilderness (as well as favorite trail head eateries).
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A Homemade Backpacking Food Trick

Postby Hetchy » Tue Feb 03, 2009 11:12 pm

Y'all might already have heard of this, but here goes:
I got the original idea out of June Flemmings excellent book: "The Well Fed Backpacker".
I utilized a homemade food deydrator made out of peg board and a tiny space heater(careful!) with some window screens for food trays. (The bugs get in now but I don't care!) The whole schebang only set me back 80 bucks.. it has since paid for itself many, many times over!
I take bags of pre-cut frozen vegetables found cheap at the supermarket.. (look for sales) PEAS, Diced Mixed Vegetables, and cut CORN work well for this trick.
I put them in the dehydator.. if they overlap at first it is fine, but generally the thinnest layer possible dries fastest.
After a day of so and when they are more or less bone dry I remove them and put them in a paper luch sack for a week. This insures that any bits the might still retain moisture get a chance to finish drying.
After the week in the sack, I then pour them into the blender, about four cups at a time. Grind them to where they are almost powdered but leaving enough bits to provide "texture".
Then I bag the powdered veggies or mixed veggies ,as the case may be, and bag em in a big zip lock baggie. If you get static cling in the plastic bag with the bits of ground veggie you can be sure the mix is dry enough to keep.. indeed almost indefinitely if you then put it in the freezer.
I have found that just putting the plastic bags of veggie powder in a paper grocery sack(eliminates light) and storing it in the back of the deepest cupboard provides adequate storage for up to a year( I always end up eating it all up so I have never had any longer than that).
When planning meals for a hike I then pour out the amount I need and spice it as I wish and bag up the individual portions for the trail. At meal time in the backcountry the powdered veggies and water are then added to the pot and brought to boil(thats it.. stove off!) it only needs a few minutes to be slightly crunchiy for texture.. want 'em softer, then let stand another five minutes.
The amazing part is that a large bag of frozen cut corn that weighs 4 lbs and has 2000 calories can be reduced to a pound dry and if you keep the dehydration temps below 140 degrees maitains much of it's nutrients and all of it's flavor.
Much cheaper that freeze dried meals, and in my subjective experience, twice as much go power.
"Freeze dried" lightness but REAL food value.. at a fraction of the cost. The varieties are endless and all of them super easy to cook up on the trail.
Enjoy! Hetchy
You can make more money, but you can't make more time.



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Re: A Homemade Backpacking Food Trick

Postby ERIC » Wed Feb 04, 2009 8:54 am

I use a store bought dehydrator that cost a bit less than you paid for the materials on the homemade setup. They're really not as expensive as they used to be. Use mine mainly for drying fruit (for snaking on), and things like peppers, onions, and tomatoes to spice up the cooking. My dried homegrown heirloom tomatoes and white sweetcorn are tops. Really sweet and a nice treat in the backcountry.
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Re: A Homemade Backpacking Food Trick

Postby copeg » Wed Feb 04, 2009 2:32 pm

As much as I love making things, when it came down to it I just bought a dehydrator for about 30 bucks (a bit fancier than the one Eric posted - with a temp adjustment that I think is important when making things between fruit, veggies, and meats).
Never ground down the dehydrated veggies though (at least not intentially - the bear canister is a different story :D )...I like the idea, lots of times the texture of rehydrated veggies isn't all that great, and it would also speed up rehydration.
What I love most about my dehydrator though is making Beef Jerky. I've yet to be satisfied with any store bought jerky (at least jerky that is reasonably priced), and making my own allows me to flavor it any way I want.
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Re: A Homemade Backpacking Food Trick

Postby ERIC » Wed Feb 04, 2009 3:29 pm

My dehydrator has temp control, too, and I agree that's an important feature - just posted that link to show how little you can pay for one these days.

But for beef jerky and salmon, I always use my Little Chief smoker. :yummy:
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Re: A Homemade Backpacking Food Trick

Postby hikerduane » Wed Feb 04, 2009 5:46 pm

One of the retired folks I bp with now and then, dehydrates his tomatoes and makes sauces etc. out of it. I got you guys beat, my mom gave me my dads dehydrator.:)
Piece of cake.
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Re: A Homemade Backpacking Food Trick

Postby ERIC » Wed Feb 04, 2009 5:57 pm

hikerduane wrote:One of the retired folks I bp with now and then, dehydrates his tomatoes and makes sauces etc. out of it. I got you guys beat, my mom gave me my dads dehydrator.:)


heh! :p
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Re: A Homemade Backpacking Food Trick

Postby calipidder » Wed Feb 04, 2009 9:59 pm

I've finally found a brand of dehydrated pre-packaged food that I like, so I don't dehydrate as much any more (enertia trailfoods). But one thing that I always do is sweet potatoes. I bring some along for a side dish with every night's dinner on the trail, and it *always* hits the spot more than any other food I bring. My recipe:

Make mashed sweet potatoes with whatever recipe you want. I mash mine with nutmeg, brown sugar, maple syrup, and dark rum.
Spread the mashed sweet potatoes out in thin discs on a fruit roll pan in a dehydrator (you can use parchment paper as well.
Dehydrate until you can snap the dried sweet potato. This takes a long time! It shouldn't really bend - it should be dry enough to snap.
Break it into pieces and put in a food processor. Give it a whirl until the dried sweet potato is the consistency of instant mashed potatoes (small flakes).

I package mine by the 1/2 cup in freezer bags.
Rehydrate in camp, about a 1:1 ratio (1/2 cup of boiling water per 1/2 cup of sweet potato flakes).

It's like dessert, I can't tell you how much I look forward to my nightly sweet potatoes when on a long hike.
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Re: A Homemade Backpacking Food Trick

Postby Hetchy » Thu Feb 05, 2009 7:03 pm

I know.. I think I kinda overbuilt my dehydrator. dimesions are 4'X4'X3' thats in feet! I tend to do large batches of stuff and then not use the thing for a while.
I think(am sure) a smaller one of like you suggested or a store bought model would be more efficient.
I keep a thermometer in the top[ and my temp never get over 100 degrees.. the peg board lets out the heat/ moisture pretty quickly.
The one up side is that I don't have to fire up the wood burning stove to heat the living room as often!
I gotta try that recipe there Calpidder!
In fact if I had only built it a little bigger I might be tempted to climb in the thing some mornings like Micheal Jackson and his hyperbaric chamber!!
Fortunately on the horse ranch there is plenty of dead Madrone firewood so I don't have to resort to that! The landlord already thinks I am crazy hiking the horsetrails at all hours!
You can make more money, but you can't make more time.
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Re: A Homemade Backpacking Food Trick

Postby Rosabella » Fri Apr 03, 2009 5:40 pm

Wow, Calipidder, I can't wait to try your sweet potatoe recipe, that really sounds good! I like sweet potatoes much more than regular potatoes. I've been playing with different recipes for lentils, and I might try something like this with them also.

I've got a dehydrator also, but have never used it for anything but fruit. I think I'll try Hetchy's idea for the other veggies as well.

thanks for the ideas!
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Re: A Homemade Backpacking Food Trick

Postby gary c. » Sun Apr 05, 2009 10:19 pm

hikerduane wrote: I got you guys beat, my mom gave me my dads dehydrator.:)

I got mine from my mother-in-law :D When this thread came up a couple months ago I got to thinking about how they were a fad back in the 70's and lots of people bought them. It took me three phone calls and I had one delivered to the house the next day. :thumbsup:
Gary C.
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