Of the different challenges that come with backpacking and outing, planning meals is one of the biggest. Many people end up relying on snacks and junk foods, but this doesn’t have to be the case if you put some effort into your prepping plans. You can still enjoy quality meals while at the same time keeping the weight of your foods reasonably low.
Dehydrating foods is one of the best ways to prepare foods for your backpacking adventures and the good part is that you don’t have to settle for dehydrated foods found in your local stores. Homemade foods are always better and dependable especially since you know how you’ve prepared them.
While dehydrating food might seem tough at the beginning, the good news is that it gets easier with one or two tries. As a backpacker, you must try this to diversify your meals and it can also become something fun to do if you have kids. You can dehydrate foods with different flavors and this article will give you tips that can help you achieve such an endeavor when planning for your backpacking adventures.
Tips for dehydrating foods for backpacking:
1. Use ripe fruits and mature veggies
One of the main advantages of dehydrating food is that you can retain the flavor and nutrients therein. However, you will need to use produce that’s at its peak especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables. Dehydrating fruits once they are ripe helps retain the flavor even when the juices are removed thus leaving a concentration of sweetness.
2. Prepare the food
Preparation is very important before dehydrating. This doesn’t take much time but is very important to do it properly. It basically involves cleaning and slicing the foods into smaller pieces. Some foods will also need to be cooked before dehydrating and this is part of the process that requires time.
Choose fresh fruits and vegetables and make sure to slice and prepare them separately. The fruits and vegetables should be placed in the dehydrator trays separately. Leafy greens such as spinach and kales should be de-stemmed before seasoning.
3. Know what to dehydrate
If you are dehydrating meat for your outing or backpacking, then you will need to know exactly what type to go for. Whether dealing with chicken, pork, beef or mutton, the first thing is to pick the right part and then have it minced or thinly sliced.
The goal here is to make sure that the meat is in the smallest of pieces for better circulation of warm, dry air.
4. Placing food on the dehydrator trays
When placing your food on the dehydrator trays, make sure that the layers are as thin as possible. Do not place a lot of food on top of each other as this will hinder the circulation of dry, warm air thus slowing the dehydration process which could result in poor results.
You do not want to get sick due to mold growth caused by moisture retention. Spread the food evenly and don’t heap it much.
5. Give it time
Dehydrating your food shouldn’t be a rushed process and thus should be planned early as you plan for your camping trip. Dehydrating normally takes more than 7 hours for the process to be effective. You shouldn’t rush the process and you should do it earlier before backpacking or commencing your outing.
It will be better for the food to be over-dry rather than have it poorly dried as this does not have any negative effects on your health. You can let the food dry for a longer time if necessary. However, do not increase the temperature with the aim of speeding up the drying process.
Increasing the temperature will only seal the outside parts of the food while leaving moisture trapped inside resulting in mold growth. The time required for dehydrating your food will be determined by factors such as indoor air condition, humidity and even wind drafts.
It is good to set your dehydrator in a place that is warm and dry and away from windows and air vents.
6. Use the right temperature
It’s very important to use the right temperature when dehydrating your food. The time and the temperature used for dehydrating food plays a very important role and will determine the effectiveness of the process.
There are different types of dehydrators and you should read a guide to see the required amount of time and temperature needed to dehydrate different types of foods. You can get some valuable tips on how to choose the best dehydrator from reviewers such as Village Bakery or look at different real user reviews online.
However, reading the guidelines provided with your dehydrator will be a very important step before trying your hand on it.
7. Dehydrate at least 95%
The more your food is dehydrated, the longer you can store it without having to worry about mold growth or other issues that could affect your health on the trail. Food becomes easier to store when it is at least 95% dehydrated, and this keeps mold away for longer.
You should dry the food until it no longer feels sticky, spongy or soft and if you still feel this after the initial drying process, take it back to the dehydrator and give it some more time. When ready, the food should at least be breakable or crunchy and only then should you put it in the backpack and store in a dry place.
8. Proper storage is necessary
The storage of dried food is as important as the process of drying it. It is good to make sure that the food does not stay for too long especially after opening it and the best way to do this is to pack in small portions that can be consumed all at once. Make sure to also monitor daily humidity levels to determine how long the food can be kept unconsumed.
When dehydrating your food, always turn the dehydrator on a few minutes before the process to give it time to warm up and reach the desired temperature levels. Once this is done, you can add your foods freely and follow the process until you obtain the desired results.
It is also important to look at different dehydrators in the market and choose the size that best works for you and also the one that has a better rating.