Freeze dried/Dehydrated grub

What’s your take on this stuff? What’s the best/worst tasting? Easiest/hardest to prepare? Is this ‘backpacking’ food a good thing for multiday trips? I am planning some trips this fall and would like to carry as little weight as possible.

cache lake
Cache lake dehydrated foods seem to be the best, by far–and the prices are good. Check out

Many years ago, I backpacked 1100 miles of the AT, using freeze dried foods all the way–they’re fine if you’re desperate to keep weight low, but I wouldn’t ever bring them kayaking. Mountain House seemed the least bad, which isn’t saying much. Cache Lake foods are much better, and not all that much heavier.

Personally, I now prefer putting meals together with real food (lots of tuna, salmon, beef jerky, all of which are very light and nonperishable).

Mountain House chicken stew
I can go for several days with Mountain House chicken stew for dinner (2-person size is perfect for a big guy like me). It tastes kind of like a cheap frozen pot pie, but with the chicken replaced with crunchy sponges and the peas kind of hard. It helps if you stir it a lot. I throw in a Mountain House beef stew every few days, for variety.

The key to making it taste delicious is to plan long, hard days, then crawl into camp half an hour before dark. Twenty minutes later, you’re spooning up sopping crunchy sponges, and you couldn’t be happier. Finish off with one square of Lindt 85% dark chocolate, to restore your self-worth as a gourmand. Half an hour later, you’re asleep.

– Mark

my favorite…
Beef Stroganoff is the one I treat myself to every few days whether hiking or paddling.

I don’t eat much of anything that requires more than boiling a couple cups of water. I find it easier to clean up that way.

Mt House
I like Mt House, Beef Stroganoff the best. Mt House brand is better than the rest IMHO.

Despite the warnings

– Last Updated: Oct-05-07 6:27 PM EST –

I've heard on other sites about the dangers of putting boiling water in plastic ziplocks, I'm still a fan of Someone posted on here about it a while back, and it's worked extremel well. Recipes, food you're familiar with, and kind of fun, actually. We've gotten pretty creative with it.

If you’re talking home made
"Trail food" by Alan Kesselheim

“Backpack Gourmet” by Linda F. Yaffe

“Leave No Crumbs” by R. Greenspan and H. Kahn

A good website:

Another good one:

If you’re talking store bought freeze-dried or dehydrated, then Backpacker’s Pantry has sufficed for most of my trips. Not perfect, but agree with above poster that an easy dinner after a long day paddling is a blessing. Mountain House is probably better for the middle of the country, meat and potato types who prefer bland, unseasoned foods. BP dinners are highly seasoned, sometimes over the top for my taste. I do have my favorites though so if you’re leaning that way just ask.

Every year I keep promising myself I’m going to make my own food and dehydrate. I’ve never quite found the time or energy to get there, even though I have all the right equipment to do so…maybe for the next trip!


cache lake
Cache lake is the best. I mostly get the fry bread and top the fry bread with things like pizza sauce and cheese. The sweet potato corn bread fry bread is awesome topped with bbq chicken. I have tried their other meals and Im very happy with the taste and portion size. I like several other brands but not all meals from 1 brand is great. Certain brands make certain things better. Its a matter of taste and just trying things. With a little planning you can bring real food and it doesnt add much weight. If you go total dehydrated meals, always bring dessert!

Mountain House/
If you just want to buy it, Mountain House. If you want to be more a part of the process, There’s a recipe book available for sale.

Advernture sells prepared dehydrated meals that are good, but I just buy the bulk freeze dried meats (beef/chicken) and vegies (corn/peas/broccoli/green beans), and freez dried black beans, they even have organic freeze dried tofu (have not tried it yet). Then I bring cooked dried rotini (pasta), potato flakes, minute rice and spices and make some great meals. Have been sitting out in a Wilderness eating great food many a time!

The trick with freeze dried foods is to put them into cold water, and then bring them to a slow boil (if your have to sterilize the water). Then I thicken them up with corn starch if needed (pasta meals).

Mashed potatoes with beef cubes, oil, beef broth, and cut green beans is great. So is rotini with corn/peas and chicken, some spices and oil and corn starch to thicken.

Also checkout backerpacker food forums:

I dont buy any of those…the sodium would kill me. Plus they all taste the same.

I dehydrate my own. Its no big deal over the winter to dehydrate six weeks worth of canoeing meals for the coming summer.

Read Backcountry Cooking vol 1 and 2 from Dorcas Miller.

It might change how you look at your at home meals; there are very few things that preclude you from taking it with you.

are relatively inexpensive, esp. on eBay and at yard sales (the plastic ones). I have had one for years, and done extensive dried fruits (great snacks), and veggies (can make soup bases with some bouillon and the dried veggies), and once made some beef jerky.

It might be cheaper and more satisfying to pick up a dehydrator and try making some of your own foods, then supplementing with bought foods. There’s a large Yahoo group on food drying too; they could answer any questions (can’t think of the exact name now of the group though).

re: freeze dried versus dehydrated
Freeze dried vegies rehydrate to have great flavor and texture, but dehydrated vegies are going to lose a lot of their flavor and are going to be tough compared to the same vegie freeze dried, when cooked for the same amount of time. Now if you simmer the dehydrated vegies for 40 min.maybe they will get tender eventually, but I cannot see them being tender in the 5-10 min. it takes to bring freeze dried veggies to a “gradual” boil.

Freeze dried meats are okay (chicken is the best), and rehydrate to be pretty tender, but dehydrated meats are not going to be tender, in 5-10 min. of cooking time.

not true
I soak my beef for about 15 min in warm water. Sure when it comes out of the vacuum bag it looks and feels like fine gravel but just a little water takes care of that.

Veggies are the same. What you do need to do is have a thermostat on your dehydrator so you avoid case hardening… Veggies do not need 160 degrees, meat does.

My favorite veggies are tomatos, peas beans and corn. None of them are chewy. Just presoak for 15 minutes. There is no need to boil for 40 minutes; thats a waste of fuel plus who wants to eat mush?

There are waay too many additives in prepackaged food. Get back to your local grower and use fresh food.

Freeze dried/Dehydrated grub
The freeze dried backpacking food is the way to go for all camping dinners (except when car camping). We usually have instant oatmeal or grits for breakfast, adding nuts, brown sugar, reconstituted dried milk, and/or bacon bits. Gorp or energy bars for lunches (several lunches every day). The dinners are quick and tasty, we supplement with cheese, wraps or tortillas, spices, dessert. Vegetarian tends to taste the best, the meats can be chewy. The dinners that cook in their own foil container are best, especially the ProPacks, which are easy to eat out of. Other good dinner stuff: cous cous, cook in bag instant rice, tuna in foil packages, real onions.

Go to your local grocery store and
look at what they have already in sealed bags. I love tuna fish and you can get it in foil packets. Soups and oatmeal are other optitions We used nothing but what I mentioned and freezed/dehydrayed food when we went to Alasaka.

I am beating this to death
but look at the nutrition label on prepackaged foods.

Some of the supermarket noodle and rice things (and Zatarains except for the sodium content) are fine with the addition of dehydrated meat and veggies).

Does anyone that uses the freeze dried foods have a big veggie and fruit craving after a month in the bush?

Your body is telling you something.

OK I work with many backpackers and most have gone off the fd stuff.

They don’t make freeze dried
Beanee Weenees…Thank God!

not true what?
Are you saying dehydrated vegies smell like fresh when you open the bag, and taste like fresh when you eat them? Vegies now, not fruit.

Freeze dried vegies are as close as you can get to fresh. I have had soups with “dehydrated” vegie “bits” and it really took a lot of cooking time to get the “bits” even semisoft and then they lacked flavor.

When I open an vapor barrier bag filled with freeze dried corn/peas/brocoli, I am amazed at how good they smell, and then how good they taste when I cook them up.

And while your gravel like beef may rehydrate, I would rather be eating nice cubes of freeze dried beef that rehydrate to a cube of reconizable beef, by taste and texture.

I do not have a craving for vegies after out backpacking because I have been eating them!

Oh, and do not forget to make fry bread, great with potaoes and beef, or with a bowl of hot soup.