Adventures in Dehydrating

As with anything where there is no right answer, there is a plethora of diverging ideas in regards to nutrition on the trail. Having reviewed taken into account many people’s advice, a synopsis of the most common arguments that I have found for Pro-Mail Drops and Pro-Buy as You Go method are as follows.

Mail Drops:

  1. Buy your food in bulk—which would save money instead of buying it individually, or in rural stores where food might be more expensive.
  2. Able to pack your favorite foods and bypass the limited selection offered by convenience stores.
  3. Include additional gear, maps, and clothing for specific sections in the mail drops.
  4. You can have everything repackaged before you send it out so that way you can just drop your box into your bag and go.

    Care Package from Home

    With love from me to you.

  5. A way to keep in touch with loved ones at home.

Buy as You Go:

  1. Avoid the need for a schedule, this way there is no specific town or place you’re committed to going to, and you can just hike.
  2. Bypass the hassle of the Postal Service (which is only open at the most inconvenient times).
  3. Do not have to pay for shipping (this would more than make up for the money saved if you bought your food in bulk and mailed it to yourself).
  4. Shop for what you’re craving at that specific moment, because I am guessing it’s impossible to predict exactly what you are going to want to be eating six months from now—other than the expectation of anything and everything.

Having thoroughly examined these varying opinions and taking into account my own circumstances and disposition, I have decided to go the mail-drop route. This is mainly because I will have to send myself medications and vitamins that I take daily. Another thing too is that I am very food-sensitive. If I skip a meal, or only eat a snack instead of a meal I can feel it mentally and physically. It literally feels as if I am fading away because nothing is really working at full capacity. So I just figured that being the vegetarian that I am, I probably would have a hardish time finding enough nutritious/protein/calorie dense foods to keep me going. Once more, I thoroughly enjoy cooking and have always found it to be a way of relaxing after the main events of the day and sort of figured that keeping up that habit would provide a bit of consistency and help me emotionally on the trail.

This find was a case of instant brown rice for about $17 at Aldi's

This find was a case of instant brown rice for about $17 at Aldi’s

With this decision, I have decided I am going to have instant oatmeal for breakfast (until I get sick of it), dried fruit, protein bars, gorp, nuts, and whatnot for lunches and snacks, and at night-time I would have a homemade meal. To achieve the latter, I have been cooking and then dehydrating my favorite meals (it’s one of the hardest things to refrain from gobbling up whatever I’ve just made, and responsibly put it on the dehydrator). I recently made it a rule with myself to not prepare more than 18 servings of one meal—so that way I won’t have to eat the same supper more often than once every ten days.

The most recent meal that I have made is Coconut Curry Pumpkin Chili. The recipe is as follows:

Coconut Curry Pumpkin Chili

  • 2 cups yellow onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 Jalapeno Peppers, diced

    Cookin' up the concoction.

    Cookin’ up the concoction.

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin organic coconut oil
  • 4 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 can white kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 2- 14 ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 can pumpkin puree (no sugar added)
  • 1/2 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Tumeric
  • 2 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp chili powder

In a large pot, heat coconut oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onions, jalapeno peppers, and garlic until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the canned tomatoes, pumpkin puree, and vegetable broth. Stir to combine.
Add all the seasonings – paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, turmeric, curry powder, and chili powder. Stir.
Bring to a boil, reduce to low heat and leave to simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the rinsed red and white kidney, and black beans and coconut milk at the end, then stir until all incorporated.
Ladle into servings bowls and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro if desired.


Getting ready to dehydrate the soup.

That is how the original recipe goes. However, I made a few changes—the first of which is that I doubled almost all of the spices because dehydrating and rehydrating of foods tend to dull the potency of the spices. I also added about twice as much coconut oil and milk because that is where a lot of the fats come from in this recipe and I want to make sure I get enough calories.

To dry the soup I cut out circles of wax paper to fit on the dehydrator trays, and then I spread about twice the amount of what I would normally eat on each tray—and then each tray would constitute one trail serving (or two meals at home).

Bagged and ready to go.

Bagged and ready to go.

It takes about 1~2 days to dehydrate the soup, and when it’s done I crunch up all of the soup from one tray into a bowl and pour it into a Ziploc baggie and label what it is, if there are any specific instructions for that particular meal I write it on there too.
In addition to drying meals, I have also been dehydrating snacks. In the summer I dried heirloom tomatoes from my boss’ garden, Morel mushrooms that were happened upon at work, and random fruit picks that I come across on sale at the grocery store.
…Hopefully all of this prep will be worth it and not a huge waste of time! ☺


What various snacks and 64 dried meals look like… To me it sort of looks like a doomsday prophesier stocking up.


Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 3

  • AMy : Jul 21st

    Hi, Yours is the only recipe I can find that uses canned coconut milk in the dehydrator. I am about to experiment with it, I also thought it would be too fatty!

  • SKD : Nov 3rd

    How did the coconut milk work out in the dehydrated food? Did it hold out well on the trail?

    I’m thinking of taking some dehydrated Thai curry for some of my meals on a week-long Grand Canyon trek in December. I’ll store the bags of dehydrated food in the freezer prior to the trip, but it’ll be helpful to know how long I can reasonably expect the dehydrated coconut milk to survive out on the trail without any problems.

    • Shayna : May 12th

      Wondering the same thing…


What Do You Think?