Food dehydrators

Those of you who have used them, or have friends who have used them: how good are they? Any specific recommendations?

I may be going on a 5- to 6-week paddling trip in AK and need to be able to carry about 2 weeks of food in between towns. Both my kayaks are fairly small and I have my doubts whether 2 weeks of anything but dehydrated food (and tubes of peanut butter!) will fit in there with the rest of my gear.

The other factor is trash. Because we need to practice good bear-country camping, I’m thinking dehydrate the food AND vacuum bag it. No canned anything.

I have a copy of Sea Kayaker’s article on food dehydrators from a couple years ago. Looking for other feedback from people who have actually used them.

One of my many daughters gave…
…us one about 7 or 8 years ago for a present.

I think we used it once or twice and haven’t used it since. It was too much of a bother.

We have done several multiday trips into the wildernes of AK., and use the Garcia bear cannisters. Are your hatch openings large enough to fit one through?

Our staples are P-nut butter crackers, and the individual packages of oatmeal, and different types of power bars.

What part of AK are you going to?




– Last Updated: Apr-11-04 7:39 AM EST –

are decent, don't really know of 1 brand better than others. I have used em for about 4 years now backpacking . The only real drawback is you need lots of water to rehydrate the food. If you using a purifier and have a decent wter source it would be ok. I wpuld recommend trying recipies at home first to see what works best for you for food. I also use a vacumn sealer and it works great.

Your oven, on low.
Plenty of recipes out there. Vacumm sealers are about the only worth-while gadget I’ve experienced that are helpful after the fact.

I use a dehydrator regularly…
Great for venison jery, banana’s, apple chips, stew, beefsteak, etc…

There is no “perfect one”. Just get one that works…lol. Experiment & enjoy!!!

I would also recomend MRE’s. You can throw all your trash into the “outer container”, put that in the fire & when you put the fire out, you can pull out a nice “palmsized” ball of plastic foil that was your trash. Put that in a container & pack it out if you need to.

Paddle easy,


Walmart, $39.00
I hate to pitch Walmart as a great place to buy anything. But they sell the American Harvet dehydrater for $39.00. It has the temperature control and fan-both essential (IMHO) for a good outcome. I usually dehydrate the leftovers from normal meals and take them along on my kayak trips. I have not purchased a vacuum bagger yet but want to. It would help save space and keep the food good longer. Not to mention-critters would be less likely to smell the food. I also suggest that you purchase a few extra plastic trays to hold liquids. The dehyrdater comes with one or two but you will need more.


Inside Passage
I just don’t think I could stand eating the same two or three items over and over for 6 weeks. Well, of course I could, but it would be a nicer trip with some variety in meals.

That’s easy to check out, since Wal-Marts are everywhere.

Yeah, buying at Wal-Mart is always a bit of a struggle…unethical wage practices…

The round type dehydrator with fan
as sold by american harvest is the cat’s meow for home use. Campmor might have a good deal and thus you could avoid wal mart if you like.

If you have a food coop in your area buying sun dried tomatoes, cheese powder, fantastic foods bean dip, falafel, and perhaps some instant grits or bear mush will lighten the dehydrating work. I ofthe by frontier dehydrated soup mix, it’s just veggies and can be added to anything for taste, color, mineral, vitamin and fiber content. Dried Mushrooms fron the coop or oriental market are also nice. Cold processed dry milk is delicious! I like to use a coughlans egg carrier fron campmor or old school outdoor shops and wax the outside of the eggs (seals the pores, stops gas exchange) by rubbing them with a candle, do not use extra large eggs in the carrier unless it says it was designed for it. A Fresh egg a day is a treat and waxed raw eggs will surely keep for two weeks. If you totally clarify butter, (heat and remove the white scum taking only the clear yellow material, do this through multiple iterations so that you have only yellow material. Must be very pure; then you have ghee, a delicious, not easily perishable (will last a month in the south without frige) high temp, high fat, frying oil and condiment. I use a metal or glass turkey baster to do this, you can do it with plastic just make sure the butter is not super hot. Yum yum! Dont forget your favorite spices! Practie at home before you leave! If you eat meats ro srimp or fish, prepare and freeze some for use over the first 24 hours. Ultra thin straight spagetti packs densely and cooks quick!

Have a great trip

Ps Ghee that I have bought in indian markets has always had the odor of blue cheese about it, so I make my own for backpacking. Olive oil is healthier but should not be used for high temp frying, as it forms trans fatty acids when heated, and burns easily.

Love mine
I’ve had one for 8-9 years now. We dry hamburger (rehydrates extremely well) and canned chicken. I also dehydrate tomato sauces and pastes, salsa, apple sauce (makes wonderful fruit leather), lots of vegetables and fruits (strawberries and blueberries, especially). My main meals are primarily one-pot types: take a rice or noodle mix from the grocery store, add the hamburger or chicken, add extras as needed (mushrooms, onions, seasonings).

If you’re drying meat, make sure it is fully cooked first, run hot water over it to make sure the residual fat is removed, pat dry, then dehydrate. Jerky is also good, and you don’t have to pre-cook it. I find it is too complicated so I usually just buy my jerky.

I have the round one (is it American Harvester?). I used to dehydrate even more items before I found a store that catered to the Amish and Menonites. I find it has numerous dehydrated vegetables so I dry fewer myself now.


I always make up a monster batch of jerky before taking trips - it’s yummy, easy, and takes up no space. The only bad part is it makes me the most popular guy out there! (Get your own jerky, jerky!) I love my dehydrator, it’s also good for fruits and veggies.

Prefer oven drying…
We have a dehydrator that has been on the shelf for years. We used it and it fried the stuff. Even turned on low. Didn’t dry it. Just burned it.

I have better success with an oven and some cookie sheets. And I like vacuum baggers and seal-a-meal machines. Gotta get going on our menu for our June trip…

That place is God’s land
We paddled portions of it last summer.

If you want to see some pictures of the trip, check out



American Harvest
I second (third?) the A H dehydrator. I don’t remember my model but it has the fan - a must! - on top of the unit, and it has a thermostat (also very handy). I’ve dried meats, fruits, morels (season’s coming up) and more. It is efficient and pretty quick.

I’m envious of your trip. It’s been many years since I’ve been to Alaska. Truly no place on earth like it.


By coincidence the local newspaper had instructions on how to make ghee. If I go on this trip (very difficult decision), I would take vegetable oil instead…works well, keeps well.

Another ultracompact pasta is orzo, those little rice-shaped pods. A 1-lb box is smaller than any of the pasta shapes I’ve seen.

Thanks for the suggestions.

Does leaving in the fat cause problems?
I’d like to leave in the fat because I’ve found that after several days of eating commercially prepared freeze-dried dinners, I crave fat. I can’t count the times I’ve looked forward to snagging a big, juicy burger and fries sizzling with oil, after as little as 3 days in the boonies.

Ironic, isn’t it? In “normal” life we tend to get too much fat if we aren’t careful, yet on an extended physical endeavor we carry foods that don’t have enough of it.

How were the bugs?
We are going at what I envision as prime feasting time for mosquitoes. They just loooooooove me, but the feeling is not mutual. I could function as a live magnet for them, saving my companions, that’s how badly bitten I get.

I like lemon eucalyptus repellent and it works in CO at least. Trouble is, maybe bears would be attracted to the scent. I need to find out about that. DEET will eat my paddling clothes and, with no showers, I really don’t want to be swathed in it for so many days.

Believe it or not, this is my #1 AK-related factor among the variables affecting my decision whether to go. (The 2nd-biggest factor is what I’m giving up by taking off on this trip.)

That Mendenhall Lake looks gorgeous!

Animal fats go rancid
Might want to look at my above post on ghee. Lean beef dries best. Yes 85 % sirloin tastes better than 95 but the highe fat beef (wheterh ground or slicec) will not keep as well.

That’s too bad
I thought that old-time pemmican had a lot of fat in it but maybe not.

Anyway, if animal fat won’t keep well even when in a dehydrated mix, I’ll just add veggie oil to the reconstituted food.

Someone told me that she made spaghetti meat sauce and dehydrated it into a rollable “leather.” Sounds good.

NO doubt it did

– Last Updated: Apr-12-04 4:08 PM EST –

but eating rancid fat doesn't make it for me. Maybe it was packe in low surface area units. I never got into anything like authentic pemmican. Maybe they used honey or sugar or salt to preserve things a bit. I once got beef jerky at the berkeley food coop what had a bit of maple syrup and cayenne. Delicious!

Edit, just stipped work for the day. Did som quick research. Pemmican resipes I saw used the same technique on flesh fat that I explained for butter and recommended multiple iterations. Some called for refrigeration. Have a great trip.

some called for no added fat at all.