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Almost all outdoors activities require having a certain quantity of water to prevent dehydration. Many types of jerky or Freeze-dried foods contain high amounts of salt. Should that be considered?

If yes, do people desalinate those foods before eating them?

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different people are going to have different tolerances for things like this. I'd recommend that you experiment with foods on short trips (day trips, overnight trips) and see what works for you, before going out on long multi-day excursions. I personally can't deal with the sodium levels in freeze dried backpacking meals because the affect my blood pressure to much, but most of my friends love them. –  DavidR Nov 14 '12 at 19:38
    
Just edited this question a bit to clarify (as I read it) -- feel free to roll back if I have changed the meaning. –  LBell Nov 14 '12 at 20:07
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2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Depending on your activity level, access to water, etc, the types of food you carry should change accordingly. Some points to consider:

  • Dehydrated foods are great in that they are light-weight since they have no water in them. But they might not be a wise choice if you are dry camping with no water available (e.g. in the desert) since you would just have to carry that water otherwise.
  • When people complain of salty freeze-dried food, chances are they did not add the proper amount of water to re-hydrate the dish during preperation. Properly prepared, it shouldn't taste salty (though many do have have high sodium -- as do most prepared foods, dehydrated or not.)
  • Salt is not necessarily an enemy - especially when you are sweating a lot. Hyponatremia (too much water, not enough salt) is a very real risk when sweating a lot in the desert. Snacking on jerkey and other high-salt foods is required to keep your electrolyte balance up. Only drinking water is a good way to ruin your trip. (Though too much jerkey can also be a problem.)
  • Salty in summer -- sweet in winter. Your body tends to crave more sweet and fatty food in the winter (to burn to keep warm) while needing lighter, saltier foods in the summer to keep your electrolyte balance (see above).
  • We are all different, so best is to monitor your personal reaction to various foods. If you find you have trouble staying hydrated when eating dehydrated meals, you might consider other options. (I haven't used dehydrated foods in the back-country in over a decade -- and don't miss them one bit.)
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Interesting but I would say that "adding the proper amount of water" is not always enough. Some of the dehydrated foods that I bought contained more than 75% of the daily salt amount required. This is too much for one meal. –  Amine Nov 15 '12 at 12:45
    
@Amine -- That does seem excessive. Most canned soups (for example) seem around 35%... Check out this question: outdoors.stackexchange.com/questions/980/… for some lower-sodium options. –  LBell Nov 15 '12 at 14:09
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"more than 75% of the daily salt amount required" -- I think this falls under LBell's comment that we are all different. Daily salt intake recommendations are for you average person. The average person is sedentary. The average outdoorsman is not, and is going to need more of everything than usually recommend "daily", including salt. 75% seems like a lot, but it's a matter of context. All of this is of course presuming salt is a serious risk and new research indicates that salt intake is not the risk once believed. –  Russell Steen Nov 15 '12 at 15:55
    
What brands did you buy? A quick glance through my stash of Mountain House, Backpackers Panty, and Natural High, most were in the 15-35% range. Only one of them broke 50%, and that was at 54%. –  whatsisname Nov 16 '12 at 3:52
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Most of the food I take on trips is low in sodium content by design, so I usually specifically plan on taking some overly salty foods. Like Jerky, although I have done Pringles on some shorter trips.

I used to also take several small disposable salt packets and put one or two in my water bottle when filling up. That much wasn't taste-able, but I was always concerned that if I ran out of salt I would stop sweating and have a much larger issue.

I know others that always take a good amount of powdered drink mixes that contain salt or other necessary electrolytes. It's definitely something to plan for.

High sodium foods affect people in different ways, so it is a good idea to know if you can handle the high sodium foods before you get out on a long trek. You do need to plan to keep your sodium up as the increased activity will require it. You might get away with a few high sodium foods or you might have to put a little salt or drink mix in your water and make sure to salt your food enough. This is something that you need to know about yourself before you go. Regulating your salt intake can take a little bit of practice, but so long as you understand that's it's important and have salty and non-salty options you should be fine.

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