Something about loads of fresh air and exercise turn my normally latent appetite up to ten, but dehydrated backpacking meals are expensive and it can be a trial-and-error process finding meal options that actually hit the spot in the backcountry. DIY home-cooked meals, however, are easy on the gut, wallet and tastebuds (thanks to being able to taste and adjust ahead of time).
Before you hit the list, here are a few things we’ve learned about making and storing our own backcountry fuel.
- Pre-cook most things, as food that is cooked before dehydration will rehydrate faster and better. Vegetables that you normally cook to eat should be cooked before dehydrating.
- Cut meats and vegetables into small bits to avoid rubbery, crunchy pieces once rehydrated. That might mean shredding the chicken or using ground beef.
- You don’t need a dehydrator to make these! We have one—while it’s worth the lower temperature options and fan, your oven at the lowest setting should work most of the time too.
Ok, now let’s hit it.
If anything, the promise of mushy, lukewarm oatmeal keeps me in my sleeping bag longer. Bleegh. I used to pack extra brown sugar just to be able to force the sludge down, but thanks to better options, that’s in the past.
This recipe is easy to make and multiply, and stores well.
1. Combine 1 cup of oats (I used steel cut, but for a chunkier granola use rolled) with ½ cup chopped nuts, ¼ cup cocoa powder, a pinch of salt, ¼ cup maple syrup, 3 tablespoons of melted coconut oil.
2. Spread on a baking sheet and bake at 300 F for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle on 1 cup of shredded or flaked coconut.
3. Bake for another 5, remove and let it cool before splitting the recipe into 4 Ziploc bags. Add dried fruit of your choice, and about a tablespoon of powdered milk. In camp, simply add a half cup of cold (or warm) water, and enjoy this crunchy, chocolatey, easy-to-stumble-out-of-the-tent-for breakfast.
This recipe can be adapted to any number of spice and fruit combos, but I happened to have some apples that needed using in my fridge, so I whipped up a batch of this delicious backcountry breakfast option for our next camping trip.
1. Rinse a cup of quinoa well and cook in a pot with two chopped apples (or more), two cups of water, one teaspoon of cinnamon (or more) and ¼ teaspoon salt. Boil, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes until quinoa is soft. Off the heat, stir in ¼ cup honey and a teaspoon of vanilla.
2. Spread thin onto a dehydrator tray lined with parchment or solid dehydrator sheets if you have them, or onto a baking sheet if you don’t have a dehydrator. Dehydrate until everything is crispy and dry, about 8 - 12 hours.
3. Divide this recipe into two bags with some powdered milk and a handful of nuts (if you want). At camp, simply dump the contents in a pot with about a cup of water and simmer until soft.
Quick, tasty lunches are something to look forward to, breaking up a day of activity.
Salsa Chicken and Rice
1. Pre-cook rice, plus vegetables such as corn, peppers and black beans. Cook some chicken.
2. Dehydrate everything plus a tray of salsa of your choice for 8-12 hours until crispy.
3. Make up bags with a handful of meat and rice, some salsa leather, and chuck in some veggies. In the morning, add cold water to cover in a thermos or other sealable container, and let it soak for a few hours. Heat before eating or eat cold if you’re in a rush.
Tuna and Pea Pasta
Chicken and beef can get redundant after a couple days. Luckily, tuna dehydrates and rehydrates very well, and this recipe is very quick to throw together at home ahead of time.
1, Cook pasta (I did shell pasta but would not recommend as they stick together), peas and any other vegetable you want to add.
2. Mix in a can or two of tuna.
3. Dehydrate until crisp and fully dry and divide into bags. You can add some cheese powder to bring a saucy, cheesy element to the supper. I couldn’t find any in my local grocery, so I stole the sauce powder from a Knorr Sidekick package I had in the house and that worked great. On the trail, cover with water to cold soak for a few hours before warming. Or, at the end of the day, add hot water and let it sit until ready.
Suppers should be filling and warm ahead of crawling into your sleeping bag. These meals deliver on that promise.
This vegan chili is one of the best chili’s we’ve ever eaten. Super tasty, packed with protein, and easy to de-and-re-hydrate.
1. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pot and add a cup of onion, a cup of chopped bell pepper and a teaspoon of salt, cooking until soft. Toss in two cups of grated or sliced zucchini and sauté in five cloves of minced garlic, a tablespoon of cumin and one or two tablespoons of chili powder (depending on how spicy you want it).
2. Throw in a can of diced tomatoes and a can of drained kidney beans, two tablespoons of tomato paste and two cups of broth or water. Bring to a simmer before adding in a cup of well rinsed red lentils and cooking for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Stir in a teaspoon of sugar and make sure the pot is seasoned to your taste, adding more chili and salt if you wish.
3. Like all the other meals on this list, dehydrate until it’s completely dry and crumbly at the end. To rehydrate, just cover with water and soak for a bit before simmering until everything is soft again, adding water as needed. Enjoy!
(Be aware that the effects of the beans may add some extra ‘loft’ to your sleeping bag).
There are endless options for lunch and supper that don’t take the same amount of work and ingredients to make as that chili. Nearly any sauce can be dehydrated into a leather or powder and combined with pre-cooked and dehydrated pastas, rice, meats and vegetables. We love some tikka masala or butter chicken over pre-cooked and dehydrated rice, and a saucy spaghetti always hits the spot on chilly evenings.
I like to cook a pot of sauce with ground beef and a mix of garden vegetables like finely chopped carrots, leeks, celery and baked spaghetti squash if I have some. To make it easy during prep and cooking in the backcountry, I cook it all in one pan and dehydrate it in one sheet. Pre-cooked and dehydrated pasta gets added to the bag. Simply rehydrate and heat at camp and everyone will go to bed with full, warmed bellies.