I've got a lot of backpacking trips lined up this summer, including one multi-week one. I'm considering picking up a dehydrator because:

  • It probably would be more cost effective than buying freeze dried food.
  • I get more (total, in fact) control over the ingredients.
  • In addition to meals, I can make snacks like jerky and fruit leathers.

On the meals side (breakfast, dinner) it seems like the re-hydration times are nearly half an hour. Maybe half of that is just letting it sit, but depending on the climate you might need to keep the stove running on simmer for even that phase.

I'm comparing that to freeze dried food which is simply (in my experience) to add boiling water, wait ~7 minutes, and you're good to go.

I'd like to know if anyone has any experience dealing with rehydrating dehydrated food and what kind of dent that puts into fuel use and meal times (compared to freeze dried).

For whatever it's worth, I typically use an MSR Dragonfly.

Update: I recently just got back from a trip where I dehydrated ground beef and pasta sauce in advance. I combined them both in a bowl with water (in the sun, lid on) for ~45 minutes, stirring. Boiled some pasta noodles, combined, and had a pretty awesome dinner. As indicated by the accepted answer below, re-hydration is a thing to deal with but it's certainly do-able.

  • Great idea to make this costly food by yourself! Looking for answers here too.
    – Wills
    Apr 17, 2015 at 13:48
  • Cost-effective? When outdoor meals are €1.60/meal, how can one save significant money on such a tiny part of an outdoor trip budget? For the money I spent just on getting to and from the trailhead for my last big hike (Toronto to Canadian Rockies), I can get buy hundreds of outdoor meals.
    – gerrit
    Apr 17, 2015 at 14:45
  • @gerrit it's related to the ingredients. I do amateur athletics that require a fairly high protein intake. Eating bulk carbs is pretty cheap as you pointed out, but that's not really my cup of tea (or coffee, as it is in the States). I pack away enough carbs to put away 30km days, but I still want ~150g of protein which is crazy expensive to buy pre-done.
    – Eric
    Apr 17, 2015 at 15:02
  • Ah, I solve that by eating lots of nuts.
    – gerrit
    Apr 17, 2015 at 15:06
  • I see trek'n'eat a lot which is about 7€ per meal...
    – Wills
    Apr 17, 2015 at 15:18

1 Answer 1


When I cook home-dehydrated food, I often rehydrate for a day - but not on the stove. In the morning, I boil water for coffee, pour some over dehydrated meat in a Nalgene, leave the lid on loosely until the water is only warm, then tighten the lid firmly. It spends the day in the pack and by dinner time the meat is rehydrated. For some vegetables, such as carrots, I rehydrate them (boiling water in a mug typically) on arrival at the campsite about 4pm. Only a few vegetables get nothing more than cook time for their rehydration. A tomato leather (made from tomato sauce and paste combined), pieces of tomato, corn, mushrooms, and dried fruit will plump up ok in 20 minutes or so while you're cooking rice or pasta. Everything else gets some pre-treatment. Beans (for chili) I start the night before, and in the morning I drain them and add new boiling water.

I won't deny that freeze dried is both lighter and quicker. But I love controlling the proportions and the taste.

  • 2
    The tomato leather sounds interesting - can you eat it directly like fruit leather? Or do you normally rehydrate it into something resembling a sauce? Apr 17, 2015 at 20:56
  • 2
    It's the backbone of my backcountry spaghetti sauce (saute fresh onions and garlic, then add water, tomato leather, dehydrated tomato, mushroom, and cooked ground beef - simmer about 30 min then set aside wrapped in a towel while you use the stove to cook the pasta. Grate a little parmesan onto each serving. A similar approach for my chili. As well, a small bit of the leather will improve many sauces by adding a little umami and body. Apr 17, 2015 at 21:00

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