Freeze Dried Foods – A Camping Option You Can’t Live Without

“Forever Free.” That’s what camping is about. It’s a time to enjoy the wild blue yonder, be inspired and awed by this wonderful world we are a part of. But unfortunately, you can’t just take off on a hiking trip and expect for the best. Well, you can, but I sure wouldn’t want to camp like those guys on Out of the Wild, a spectacular Discovery survival show. You know this is the one, where they go camping with nothing but a pocket knife. No, I’m certainly not that much of a survivalist.

Anyway, my boyfriend and I absolutely love backpacking, backcountry camping and long hikes.  Naturally, we have to bring food that stores well and takes up only a minimum of space. Why? Well we can’t just lug around a lot of junk and we aren’t RV campers either. So we started thinking about freeze dried foods.  Our older friends have told us that freeze dried foods have a terrible taste. But we decided to try anyway, and we have found several options that are really quite tasty.  But health freaks that we are, we have also dehydrated our own food, which adds yet another nutritious and taste-satisfying dimension to our meals.  To give you some idea on what freeze dried foods to choose from, we’ve made a few suggestions below:

The Store Bought Freeze Dried Food Option

We always buy some packaged food for our trips.  And we usually bring some wine to top off our meals! Yes, it’s a luxury, but to us it’s worth it.  Here are the store bought options we like best.

  • The Mountain House Beef Stroganoff is really good; the texture is great, and it has a nice flavor. We have found that it is best to let it sit after cooking for a little longer than the instructions indicate.  Also, each package is only 310 calories, which isn’t enough after a long hike, so we make rice, instant potatoes and/or beans to go along with it.
  • Mary Janes Farm Organic Chilimac is another favorite with us. It is a little more expensive than others, but it’s worth it.  Again, we combine it with rice to increase the calories.  Best of all, the bag is burnable, so we have less waste to bring back.
  • For more exotic flavors and a change of pace, we like the Backpacker’s Pantry Katmandu Curry. As well, the Backpacker’s Pantry Sweet and Sour Chicken is great.  There is lots of chicken, and it tastes as good as any we have picked up at Chinese take-outs.
  • For a side dish that really satisfies, we like the Mary Janes Farm Organic Garlic Pesto Fry Bread. They go great with some soup, and they are super easy to make.  The Mary Janes Farm Organic Spuds with Spinach is tasty too.  We think this dish is almost exactly like the real thing, and it is high in salt, so this helps on hiking trips.
  • For breakfast, we like the Backpacker’s Pantry Denver Omelet or the Mountain House Breakfast Skillet Wrap. They are both great.  For the MHS wrap, we have found that it needs less water than the directions indicate.  We also bring along a small bottle of hot sauce for both of these options; the hot sauce just adds that extra punch.
  • For a snack on the trail or a tasty dessert after dinner, we love the Mountain House Neapolitan Ice Cream Bars. They actually taste like ice cream, and they satisfy our sweet tooth.

Making your own Dehydrated Food Option

If you want to save money and you have the time, making your own dehydrated meals is a great option.  We love our homemade spaghetti sauce, and it tastes great re-hydrated.  Actually, I prefer my recipes to store-bought foods, so I don’t mind spending the time to dehydrate everything.  You can purchase a dehydrator, but you don’t need to.  Just use your oven!  Check out YouTube for lots of step-by-step videos. 

Besides the taste of my own recipes and saving money, here are some other reasons I like to dehydrate myself instead of buying from the store.

  • I like veggies, but the store bought options are heavy on starches.
  • Most of the store bought options have artificial colors and flavors as well as preservatives. As well, the rice and noodle products have MSG and hydrogenated oils, neither or which are healthy.
  • The other thing I like is being able to make and bring just the right amount of food for my boyfriend and myself, or more when some friends are coming along. That way, we don’t have leftovers which we have to pack out.
  • My home-made meals take up as much as half the space of the store bought ones.

Tips and suggestions you may find useful.

  • To make sure your ground beef doesn’t have the texture of gravel, add some bread crumbs before cooking. Only use lean or extra lean beef, and blot it with a paper towel after it is cooked and while it is drying.
  • Always break other meat into small pieces and make sure it is fully cooked. Then, squeeze it between paper towels to get rid of the moisture.
  • For ham, use the precooked variety with a low fat content. Deli sliced roast beef and turkey also dehydrate well.
  • Generally, chicken does not rehydrate well. I use canned chicken or I cook fresh chicken in my pressure cooker.  This has worked out well.
  • Since instant rice does not add much nutrition to a meal and very little flavor, I cook and dehydrate long grain rice. If you use low fat beef, chicken or vegetable broth to cook it, the flavor is great.
  • Usually, it is not necessary to cook vegetables before dehydrating. Just clean them well, cut them up and dehydrate.   If you would normally cook a vegetable before eating it, like corn or green beans, it’s best to steam them first.
  • Dehydrated fruit makes a great snack while hiking, and it is not hard to prepare. Just wash and rinse it, cut out any core or fibrous tissue, cut it into small pieces and get it dehydrated as quickly as possible so that it does not go brown.

Bottom Line

Freeze dried foods can be a great addition to your diet while on the trail. Like everywhere else, it’s all about combining foods to make the fare more interesting.