Dehydrating Food

Prepared, dehydrated food is commercially available, but tends to be quite expensive.  Many paddlers are finding that dehydrating their own food is an economical and practical way to obtain lightweight, nutritious and lightweight meals.

What can be dehydrated?  In general, foods with relatively high water contents and low fat contents are suitable for dehydration.

This includes:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean meats and fish
  • Sauces, purees and stews

Dehydration offers substantial savings in weight.  Many fruits and vegetables consist of between 80% and 90% water, and once this water is removed by dehydration, the weight and space savings can be nothing short of amazing.

For example, a ten pound bag of carrots, washed and sliced, will fit into a large mason jar after dehydration.

A large container of spaghetti sauce will dehydrate to a concentrated 'leather' which will fit into a small Ziploc bag and weigh next to nothing.

A supply of dehydrated ingredients, supplemented by soup and sauce bases available at most bulk food stores can form the basis for a number of lightweight and delicious meals.

Another advantage of dehydrating food is the cost benefit.  You can buy fruit and vegetables in season when they are at their lowest price and dry them for later use.  If you know anyone with a garden, chances are they're looking for people to take those extra tomatoes and zucchinis anyway.  If you've priced commercially prepared dried foods, you already understand how much money you can save by preparing your own.

How Does it Work?

How does dehydration stop food from spoiling?

Food spoilage is caused by the growth of bacteria, and bacteria will not grow is there is not sufficient moisture to allow it to develop.

Drying food removes the moisture necessary for bacterial growth and ensures food can be stored without spoiling.

Freeze Drying

Freeze-drying is a different process than regular dehydration.  When food is freeze-dried, it is flash frozen, then placed into a vacuum chamber.  The low air pressure causes the moisture to be drawn off in its frozen state.

The process results in food that rehydrates quicker and looks more like the original product once it has been rehydrated.

It is however, a fairly complicated commercial process that requires expensive equipment, and is not suitable for home use.