Store bought dehydrated meals are an expensive and often overrated novelty. Dense, bland calories in fancy packages shouldn’t eat up the majority of your gear budget. Making your own dehydrated meals is not only hardcore, it’s easy, affordable and tasty. Dehydrated meals are also extremely light, something most hammockers appreciate. If you have special food allergies or dietary considerations, making your own dehydrated meals may be your only option.
A dehydrator is the most obvious piece of equipment you’ll need for making your own dehydrated meals. Look for one that is expandable, comes with accessories and is capable of a wide variety of heat settings. Different foods dehydrate better at different temperatures. Adjustable temperatures will make your food dry faster and more completely. You will also want to invest in lots of heavy duty Ziploc bags and possibly a food vacuum sealer with corresponding bags for storage.
When considering your dehydrated meal ingredients, try and plan your meals out ahead of time. This will allow you to pinpoint common ingredients—like roasted turkey—and ultimately decide that they are impractical. To save time, look for foods that are already dried including ramen noodles, rice, barley, lentils and other grains. Some more nutrition focused stores have large areas of bulk of dried fruits and vegetables. Simply choose the dehydrated versions of your favorite foods and stock up.
The tried and true method of making your dehydrated meals is to assemble all the food in a Ziploc bag and simply add boiling water. In most cases, a ratio of approximately 2 to 1—cups of water to food–is appropriate. Keep in mind that it is easier to add water than to take away. Sometimes the addition of more hot water later in the cooking process will cook foods more consistently. Let the food sit in the water for about 20 minutes, just enough time to get all worked up assembling the tent. When the food is ready, eat directly out of the bag for a no mess, no cleanup one bag meal.
Putting together meal bags can get very involved. The dehydrating, sorting, mixing and labeling are time-consuming and quite boring. In light of this, you should aim to make meals as infrequently as possible, but make a lot when you do. The best way to store dehydrated meals long term is with a vacuum food sealer and a freezer. Meals will last up to a year stored this way and can go straight in your pack on your way to the park.
Making your own dehydrated meals is superior to store bought meals in every way but one: convenience. Home prepared meals are far more affordable, taste better and reflect your own distinct, possibly horrible taste in food. If you have constantly bemoaned the lack of a surf and turf dehydrated meal with dried anchovies and beef jerky, now you can make that dream come true.
Ok, so not everyone has time or desire to make their own dehydrated foods. I know I’d rather go buy a pack of dehydrated strawberries than to go dry them out myself. For those who could care less about the benefits and process of eating your own kill, check out some of the best brands in dehydrated foods including Richmoore, who makes amazing freeze dried bananas, and Alpine Aire Foods, who make great Freeze Dried Beef Stroganoff.