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5/06/2016 7:07 am  #1

Dehydrated and dry food vs real food

Hello all,

Just want to get some experiences with what type of food you  would usually bring with you. I have generally always brought dehydrated meals, or stuff like sidekicks or rice mixes, but i've seen a lot of trip reports where people bring steaks, sausage, bacon, eggs and all that delicious food.

Basically just wondering whats your usual real to dehydrated food ratio. Do you bring real food for just first night? or the whole trip? I would think it adds significant weight? What's your preferred method to carry all that food? coolers? barrel? If you're with someone, do you combine gear and have one person carry the food, and the other guy carry the gear?



5/06/2016 7:57 am  #2

Re: Dehydrated and dry food vs real food

Good Question. It's always interesting to hear people's systems because they all tend to be different.

We typically bring hamburgers or steak for the first night. We freeze them and keep them in a cooler until we hit the trail. They are defrosted by dinner but still cold. 

For subsequent meals, we go homemade dehydrated (we've had great luck with chili) or something that can be made with only non-perishables (pasta, soup mixes, etc). We do take some fresh veg for later in the trip. Cabbage will last a long time and you can make a nice coleslaw with a simple vinegar/sugar mix (no creamy dressings). We'll also usually have a few cloves of garlic on hand for flavour and we've had good luck with babybell cheese or other pre-packaged cheese. 

We pack all of our food in one heavy duty dry sack. Whoever doesn't have the food has the tent and other kitchen items in their pack. The dry sack gets hung on the bear line as is. Sometimes the dishes go up with it in a mesh bag if we're worried we didn't get all the grease off. We've never been too interested in bear barrels. We like to single carry portages and work hard to portion out food appropriately so we're not coming home with half the food bag full (we do bring some extra for safety).


Last edited by CanoeClaire (5/06/2016 7:58 am)


5/06/2016 10:14 am  #3

Re: Dehydrated and dry food vs real food

It really does depend on the trip, the time of year and who I'm going with. 

- Trips that don't involve a lot of portaging (think Pen, Ragged) allow for additional weight and more elaborate meals.
- Similarly, trips that are early in the year (like now) or in the colder autumn months also give more flexibility. The days are still cool and the nights "fridge" temperature.
- With some trip partners it's all about the food. 

That being said, I like to bring real when the trip allows for it. Bacon or sausages and eggs always make a nice breakfast. Cured or spiced meats like that can last quite a few days without a problem if properly wrapped and eggs can last a long time at room temperature. In Europe, in fact, they don't refrigerate eggs. Cold cuts such as salami and hard cheeses also can last for extended periods. 

In terms of fresh meats, beef can last a few days without a problem. Chicken and ground beef call for a little more caution and If I bring some it will generally be used first. I often have the butcher vacuum-pack my meat for a trip to help insure freshness and extend its packability. Failing that, you can also extend its freshness by wrapping it in some vinegar soaked paper towel or cheesecloth before double bagging and freezing. 

Fresh vegetables can vary in their packability. A vinegar wash before packing can extend their freshness as well. The ones I've had the most success with are: 

- Root vegetables like potatoes (I like to bring the little round ones unless I'm going to bake them) and carrots.
- Bell peppers, onions and zucchini last well and are good to dress up Sidekicks and rice meals.
- Green beans pack well but start to turn quickly and need to be used by Day 2.
- Mushrooms are always nice but are first day use only.

For backpacking (where it's all about weight) or extended canoe tripping, I generally rely on the Sidekick type meals. These can be dressed up quite well with dehydrated vegetable flakes and TVP.

Not a barrel user. I hang my food in an old K-Way type nylon backpack that's so old I don't remember it not kicking around.


7/17/2016 4:08 pm  #4

Re: Dehydrated and dry food vs real food

We tend to bring mostly homemade dehydrated with a bit of other stuff (eggs, bacon, cheese, etc).


7/18/2016 10:54 am  #5

Re: Dehydrated and dry food vs real food

I love this topic because it opens up my eyes to the variety of alternatives out there.  While the original post is somewhat old, the information in it never is!

We usually do trips that have at least three or four portages on the first day (and as many as eight) and have never done one of the "exterior" interior trips so our approach is more concerned about weight reduction.  That being said, the only fresh meat we have brought would be for the first night or the next morning - pork loin, steaks, bacon or sausage - that were frozen and wrapped in newspaper then stored in the center of the pack.  We've arrived at a site and the center of the meat is still frozen so this could easily last into the second or third day (or even longer) with better insulation and weather conditions.  So our ratio of "fresh" to "dehydrated" is probably 15% to 85% (although it's probably 30% to 70% by weight since fresh food is so heavy).  We occasionally bring chicken or tuna in a foil pack for some dishes - but that doesn't require any special storage conditions.

We use a set of small drybags for food that are fit into the backpacks - I've never owned a barrel and am not particularly interested due to their fixed dimensions (not crushable or pliable) and also the extra weight.  We use a system of lightweight, cheap color-coordinated bags from WalMart - one small blue one for breakfasts, orange ones for lunch and green ones for dinners.  We pack those into a single drybag backpack to hoist over a tree limb for the evening using a nifty pulley system to make it easy. 

We have evolved our meals into more home-made dehydrated items over the years - we used to do freeze-dried and rice dishes (rice-a-roni was a staple for us in the 70's) but now mix it up a great deal.  Spaghetti is an easy meal - and easy to dehydrate the sauce at home so it's a simple, lightweight meal that can easily be enhanced with a block of parmesan cheese shaved over the top (and adding a little dehydrated ground beef - a little trickier than sauce, but still "doable").  Now we do things like one pot chicken & dumplings, olive tapenade appetizer with crackers, cheese, stuffed peppers (dehydrated), corn bark, sweet potato bark, chicken/sausage bolognese, make your own pita pizza, etc. etc. etc.  Our dinners are somewhat fancy but our lunches are generally simple - hard rolls with peanut butter and honey, cheese, beef sticks, gorp, etc. - anything with a good mix of protein and carbohydrates.

It truly has enhanced our trips to have such fine meals in the interior.  There is nothing better than sipping a port wine while enjoying an aged gouda or cheddar along with crackers and olive tapenade while watching the sunset over a remote lake after having enjoyed a rich meal as a reward for the hard work to get there!


7/18/2016 12:11 pm  #6

Re: Dehydrated and dry food vs real food

Like others, I bring burgers or a steak (frozen, kept in a cooler for the drive) for the first night. After that I'm entirely dehydrated. I confess to be utterly boring with my food. I mostly solo camp and the work involved in doing real back-country cooking is beyond what I'm interested in. Breakfast is oatmeal and coffee, so all I have to do is boil water. Lunch is trail snacks (gorp, energy bars, etc) as I'm generally on the move almost every day of a trip and don't want to stop to cook. Dinners are whatever "just add boiling water" meals caught my eye at MEC (lately that's been AlpineAire food - I've yet to find one I didn't like). 

I used to hang bear bags but found it was a chore I didn't enjoy. This was mostly because I obsessed over hanging the perfect bear bag, and finding a good spot to properly hang a bear bag - high enough and far enough from the trunk and other trees - was time consuming. So, many years ago I switch to a 'bear proof' barrel - the BV500. I put 'bear proof' in quotes because I guess some smart bear in the Adirondacks figured out how to open them. I take a walk into the woods behind my site and toss the barrel somewhere - easy peasy. 


As a kayaker I pack my canoe pack multiple times per day (once for each portage) so the consistent size and shape of my food pack allows me to keep a consistent packing method (both in the pack and in the dry hatches), which is really important. So for me, "not crushable or pliable" is an asset, not a hindrance. 


7/18/2016 9:51 pm  #7

Re: Dehydrated and dry food vs real food

I won't quote any previous posts but there are lots of good tips.....but maybe I feel that way because I do the same things described above! Or maybe it's just the "standard": fresh meal first day, dried the rest.

So as mentioned, depends on trips, but:

DESTINATION TRIP: over a long weekend where we stay in one spot with minimal portages we essentially just bring regular meals. Things like steak, pasta, burritos (dinner type and breakfast type), shishkabobs, Caesar salad (kale works best), baked potatoes, garlic bread, yogurt, bacon and eggs, crepes/pancakes, etc....

THROUGH TRIP: first dinner and breakfast we do same as a destination trips and don't worry about refrigeration or weight. After that it's dried meals with the two main ingredients being dried veg and dried tomato/pasta sauce. The flash dried chopped veg from the grocery store frozen section is best. You can buy and dry large quantities for cheap. After the first day it's things like: veg pasta (tomato sauce and pesto based), chilli, veg sloppy joes, burritos for dinner. Breakfast is usually oatmeal with nuts, berries, syrup.

DUTCH OVEN. When the Dutch is brought then we base some meals around it like: bread ( soda, bannock, and if time and weather allow, yeast breads), grilled cheese, lasagna ( favorite!), cinnamon rolls, fruit crumbles, deep pancakes.

I did not mention lunches because we just snack heavily around noon on nuts, cheese, hummus, crackers, chocolate, Winegums, etc..., as we find we are either on the move (through trips) or essentially skipping lunch because breakfast is late and things are mellow (destination trips).

In short: fresh dinner and breakfast for the first day, homemade dried meals after that, snacks for lunch.

Yum, yum.


7/18/2016 10:47 pm  #8

Re: Dehydrated and dry food vs real food

Fresh steaks on the first night with peppers and zucchini. Then it's all dehydrated.   
Breakfast is oatmeal with rehydrated fruit (lots of it, pears, apples, strawberries, blue berries, raspberries)
Lunch is rehydrated baked beans mix with a rehydrated ground beef/Turkey. Or we have  rehydrated pulled pork and sometimes tuna in a pouch if we can find it. For lunch snack we have dehydrated cherries or bananas and gorp
Dinners are either burritos (refried beans ground beef corn onions all rehydrated) sheppards pie (dehydrate the filling and use instant potato flakes at camp) pasta (with a dehydrated meat sauce) stew over rice (rehydrated ground beef/Turkey/chicken with rehydrated parsnips mushrooms carrots zucchini corn and sweet potato)  snacks of fruit leathers gorp and other dehydrated fruits


7/24/2016 9:29 am  #9

Re: Dehydrated and dry food vs real food

I love to read all the different ways people eat on a trip. As I'm currently getting ready for an extended trip into app I thought I'd add my two bits.
We like variety, and lots of food, as we are busy bees in our regular lives, and consume plenty to be able to work outside every day for long hours. This follows through in our camping trips. Three meals a day is a must for us or you'll be picking me off the trail in a heap.
and were not early birds.

Breakfast consists of eggs, bacon,bagel or quick oats made with dried milk powder for a better taste laced with brown sugar and or cinnamon.

Coffee at 9.30am am if possible before we had out for the day. If we are only going on a day trip then I will take my peak one with us in the day pack and lunch is either pita's with peanut butter and Nutella, or I'll have started a badge of bread dough in a large plastic bag/ziplock that's fully risen by noon and pizza is on the menu with coffee/tea. I either use a small frying pan covered with foil or my outback oven if we have a bit more time.pizza decorations usually pepperettes, dried Parmesan,dried tomato sauce with dried spices
And if not making pizza for lunch from the dough, for those that have a sweet tooth, spoonfuls of it dropped into hot oil and you've got fantastic fresh donuts.n
Dough can be mixed with all kinds of dried fruit, although we seem to prefer dried Apples cut in small pieces.

If making pasta for dinner then I add a package of knorr roasted garlic/herbs to it. Mix package with 2 spoonfuls of oil, add mix, then mix into pasta for a
Fantastic hearty taste.
Or pancakes with dried fruit.
prepackaged mashed potatoes and fresh carrots ( they keep well) and  costco's mild pepperettes ( keep well without refridgeration)
Dried vegetables are added to soup mixes (mixes that don't have noodles) thickened with potatoe starch to make stew over rice, sometimes adding jerky.
To many combinations to write them all up. But if dinner meal is somewhat bland then dried onions and fresh green pepper usually help.
day one and sometimes daytwo meals are usually prepared at home fresh.

And for late night snack we make popcorn.  2 handfuls makes enough for 2
1 handful per largest pot you have.
We rarely snack trough the day as the nature of the food we eat at mealtimes satisfies us easily for six hours or so.
We do not use a barrel but a rubber drybag that we hang. I found barrel to cumbersome.


7/25/2016 8:43 am  #10

Re: Dehydrated and dry food vs real food

Tentsterforever: Can you share some of your recipes in their own post? I'm especially curious about your homemade pizza dough and that stew sounds awesome!


7/25/2016 7:35 pm  #11

Re: Dehydrated and dry food vs real food

recipe for pizza dough;makes 2x 9" pizza bottoms

2 cups flower +bit extra to cover hands and if necessary, a bit to roll ball of dough in if it is sticky
1 small tablespoon yeast (quick rise yeast from a jar is fine)
1 tbs sugar 
mix together before trip in ziplock.
3/4 cup lukewarm water and 1/4 cup oil about 2 hours before you wanna eat. Longer if weather is cool, (below 18 celsius).

I use my largest pot to mix the dough into a ball and knead untill elastic , 10 minutes or so. Dough should no longer stick to pot or hands.Will take about 2 hours to rise if weather is warm. Put ball of though in xl size ziplock, or other container untill doubled.
Use non stick frying pan or outback oven pan. Split ball in half and use to make 1 pizza bottom, squeezing dough around pan and up the sides like pie shells. add pizza sauce( i bring smallest squeeze bottle available from grocery store), cheese, real or parmesan, thinly sliced pepperette (the ones that dont need refridgeration) or whatever toppings you like.
set over hot coals on grill rack of fire pit, or, if using stove (i have a peak one that can simmer) you must use a spacer/diffuser (outback ovens come with one), between the flame and bottom of your pan. Cover pans with either a lid or foil, or the hood if you have the outback oven. 
Bake untill golden, about 20 minutes. 
take out and put on plate, too hot to eat anyway. Gives you just enough time to prepare pizza two and get it going. before digging into pizza 1.
you can compare bottom of pizza to thick crust pizza. these babes are no thin crusts!
1 x 8" pizza is plenty filling enough per person for us, but in case  it is not, you can ofcourse make the portions larger before you leave home, and bake more or use larger pans.. 



7/25/2016 9:27 pm  #12

Re: Dehydrated and dry food vs real food

We usually use bisquik for pizza which works well if you don't have time for full dough making session - started doing this based on Black Feather cookbook receipe.

Last edited by ChristineCanoes (7/25/2016 9:29 pm)


7/26/2016 10:11 am  #13

Re: Dehydrated and dry food vs real food

I am always scared of baking with yeast because it seems so finicky (I had a similar fear of meringue that I recently got over) but this recipe sounds so simple and tasty that I am definitely going to try it!

Thanks for sharing!


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