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5 Easy Steps for Perfect Homemade Dehydrated Backpacking Meals

by Austin Campbell February 06, 2016

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Feed Your Hiker Hunger with a Homemade Dehydrated Meal

One of the joys of backpacking is a hearty meal after a long day on the trail. There are many delicious premade backpacking meals available, but you can easily create your own lightweight backcountry cuisine from your favorite recipes and a food dehydrator. This easy guide will show you how to save money and turn any suitable recipe into a dehydrated meal in 5 easy steps. 

Choosing a Recipe for Dehydrating

The best recipes for dehydrating are meals that involve a sauce. Think meals like pasta, chili, stew, soup or a casserole. You can find many dehydrating specific recipes online, but a dehydrating specific recipe isn't necessary. We often dehydrate the weekday leftovers of our favorite meals so we can enjoy them on our weekend adventures. 

Quick Tip: No time to cook? Canned chili makes a great dehydrated meal, that is both lightweight and delicious!

Required Tools

Food Dehydrator 

Dehydrator for making backpacking meals

Food Scale

A food scale to weigh backpacking meal before and after dehydrating

Ziplock Bags

Portion backpacking meals in ziplock bags

Backpacking Stove and Pot

Use your backpacking stove to rehydrate your homemade backpacking meal


    For these directions, we will be using a homemade chili recipe we found online, but the same steps and techniques are applicable to any suitable recipe. 

    1. Take a Pre-Dehydrated Weight

    Use the food scale to weigh your meal before dehydrating. This gives you a base weight so you can calculate how much water will be needed to rehydrate your meal in camp.Record the meals weight before dehydration


    2. Place Your Homemade Backpacking Meal in the Dehydrator 

    Place each meal on a parchment paper lined dehydrating tray. The parchment paper keeps liquid and small pieces from falling through the tray. Spread the meal in a thin and uniform layer to ensure even dehydration.

    Dehydrating a homemade backpacking meal


    3. Dehydrate Overnight or Until Dry

    Dehydrating overnight is usually sufficient for most backpacking recipes. A fully dehydrated meal should be brittle, easily break away from the parchment paper and be free of moisture when crumbled. Check your meal and simply dehydrate for an hour or two longer as needed.

    After dehydrating your homemade backpacking meal should be dry and brittle 

    4. Take a Dehydrated Weight

    Place your backpacking meal in a ziplock bag and measure it's weight to calculate how much water will be needed to rehydrate. Here we see that we reduced the weight of our backpacking meal by 23.5 oz!

    One fluid ounce of water weighs roughly 1.043 dry ounces so unless you want to get extremely precise you can estimate that you will need to add 23.5 oz of water to rehydrate your backpacking meal in camp.

    Keep dehydrated meals in the freezer until you are ready to hit the trail to keep them fresh.

    Quick Tip:  We add a few extra ounces of water to allow for a few minutes of simmering.

    After Dehydration most homemade backpacking meals will be a fraction of their original weight


    5.  Rehydrate Your Backpacking Meal in Camp

    Place the dehydrated meal and the required amount of water into a pot and heat on your backpacking stove. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently, and simmer for a few minutes. Test a spoonful to make sure it is fully rehydrated and enjoy!

    Quick Tip: You can pre-soak your meal to save fuel and reduce cooking time.

    Rehydrating your homemade backpacking meal in camp is quick and easy


    Do you have a favorite recipe that you dehydrate for backpacking? Share it with the CloudLine community in the comments below. We'd love to try your recipes on our upcoming backpacking adventures!


    New to backpacking? Read tips from a beginners first backpacking trip


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    Austin Campbell
    Austin Campbell


    Austin lives in the Pacific Northwest where he enjoys hiking and backpacking in the Olympic and Cascade mountains.

    2 Responses


    February 22, 2016

    Love the water weight… Never thought of it that way. Dehydrating ground beef or turkey isn’t this easy though, unless you have a good to. My favorite fit meat was slices if lunch meat, shrimp, or immitation crab meat. I added them to any cheesy rice/spiral noodles or (fire the fish) for the seafood a gumbo rice mix (or just use Tony C’s soice and minute rice) and it was pretty amazing


    February 06, 2016

    What kind of dehydrator do you use?

    Leave a comment

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