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6/04/2018 2:59 pm  #1

Dehydrated meals

How do you supplement dehydrated meals (eg: those sold at MEC)?  I'm OK for breakfasts, and have a dehydrator so can make some stuff as well. Those packaged meals from MEC don't have many calories!  Even 500 per portion, which seems to be on the upper end (unless I eat two portions, which is beginning to look like the best option), is not that much when you've been hiking with a heavy pack for several hours.  I don't want to load myself down with more stuff to carry, but I don't want to go hungry either so I'm looking for "sides" I can supplement with.  Wondering what a typical meal using one of these store bought packages looks like for you.



6/04/2018 3:06 pm  #2

Re: Dehydrated meals

Regardless of what the bag says, a two-portion dehydrated meal is almost always one portion, especially after a long day of travelling. I snack on things during my travel days (energy bars,mixed nuts with M&M's thrown in, pepperoni sticks, that sort of thing) but dinner is just a dehydrated meal, nothing else. Having a few lower-than-usual calorie count days while camping is honestly not a big deal. 'Hungry' isn't really about whether or not you pulled in enough calories, just whether or not you've got something in your stomach - and the dehydrated meals definitely accomplish the latter. 


6/04/2018 3:39 pm  #3

Re: Dehydrated meals

I'll echo what Uppa said about the actual serving size versus the advertised one. A dinner pouch is good for one person after a good day of travel (filter extra water though, a lot of have a ton of sodium). However sometimes I find with the pasta-based dishes I do need a little extra food. This is where bannock comes in. It's super easy to make, has minimal ingredients (3 mandatory, many optional) and can be customized in so many ways. From butter garlic bannock to cocoa & icing sugar bannock and everywhere in between.

Quick bannock recipe: 1 cup flour, 3 tbsp powdered milk, 1 tbsp baking powder. Mix at home, put in ziplock bag. At camp, add a little bit of water, mix. A little more water, mix. needs to looks like dough - not pancake mix! Too much water and ya dun messed up. Bake in pan over super-low heat (critical to be very low heat!). Cover if you can, not mandatory, just cooks faster. Flip after 20 mins, cook for 10 more. Eat with dehydrated meal. Be full. Enjoy campfire!
You can also add anything you want to bannock. Fruit, nuts, cinnamon, raisins, cocoa, whatever! Dessert bannock also rocks.


6/04/2018 4:14 pm  #4

Re: Dehydrated meals

I plan for 3000 to 3500 calories per day per person depending on the expected distances to cover each day. This usually means freeze-dried dinners (Mountain House or Backpackers Pantry) are 2 servings per person. I stick to 1 serving per person for the freeze-dried desserts. Rarely do I use these prepackaged meals for lunches but stick with nuts, dried meats, dried fruits, Clif bars, etc. Breakfasts are a mix of instant oatmeal with added fruit and nuts or breakfast burritos using the freeze-dried egg options. The odd fish supplements lunches and dinners. Given all these options I stick with the 3000-3500 caloric content per day. This has worked well for me especially when trying to keep the pack weight as minimal as possible.

Live Outside

6/04/2018 4:52 pm  #5

Re: Dehydrated meals

I divide two dehydrated meal pouches into 3 meals. One is too much food for me. By repackaging them into freezer bags they also pack down smaller and weigh less. I agree that they do not provide enough calories. The most calorie dense dehydrated meal is Pad Thai. Mostly because of the Peanut butter.

An easy way to add calories to any meal is to add some kind of butter or Oil. Peanut butter, Almond butter, Coconut Oil, Olive Oil. I use Olive Oil. It has pretty much the highest caloric content to weight of any food you can bring camping. 4000 calories per pound. I will add a tablespoon or so to meals for another 150-200 calories. Dark chocolate for dessert another lightweight calorie dense supplement. 


6/04/2018 5:24 pm  #6

Re: Dehydrated meals

The only dehydrated meal that I know of with reasonable calory count (600-1000 per 1 serving) is Hawk Vittles, but they do not ship to Canada. It's a shame, especially considering that they taste better than most other manufacturers.

"Experience breeds competence only if you do things right." - Cliff Jacobson

6/04/2018 5:35 pm  #7

Re: Dehydrated meals

Hi Annie,
My daughter and I use some of the prepackeds meals for dinner, for us a 2 person sized meal feeds one person, ( alpine air). As we both have outdoor jobs and my daughter is an athlete as well, we tend to eat lots. We find their portions good sized, but fairly expensive.
We add cabbage salad ( complete from store) the first few days, as it travels well and stays good.I also have added dried soup veggies to the prepacketched meals. I never add the boiling water to the bag. I always start with half the water recommended in a pot, add ingredients, bring to boil to see what consistency it gets, then add more water as needed. Prevents soupy meals. I also cook meals at least 5 minutes longer then recommended for better consistency. If meals are not quite enough, I add instant pudding for desert. I make that with powdered milk.
But mostly, we create our own dried meals from readily available ingredients in stores so we can better size our meals. As we generally trip for 7-10days in the backcountry, it gets rather expensive with all prepackaged meals.


6/04/2018 7:46 pm  #8

Re: Dehydrated meals

Thanks, these are all great suggestions.  I also came across this website from another thread in this forum:  so I've got a lot of options now and I guess if it's not enough food, I can always look at a donut on the way home and regain all the weight instantly.     Annie

     Thread Starter

6/05/2018 6:29 am  #9

Re: Dehydrated meals

Annie, I don't know if this will help or not, but some sensitivities with food have compelled me to look around a bit and experiment.  A lot of the dehydrated meals don't work well for me for one reason or another.  Initially I was using pouches of tuna fish, and that worked out reasonably well.  This year I have been experimenting with some dehydrated soups.  I found these ones by Alessi that are working for me.  They are typically bean-based soups (lentil, white bean, etc), so there's a reasonable amount of protein there, but the calorie count is not anything to write home about.  I haven't found any yet by them that include meat (one had chicken broth).  That does help keep the dehydrated meal from being a total chemical bath of ingredients.  What I've been doing is adding some beef jerky to it (by "Field Trip", which is a pretty pricey jerky made from grass fed beef).  That adds some protein, and putting it in the soup in the hot water softens it. 

I don't know if that helps you or not, but in your initial post you talked about supplementing the dehydrated meals, and it put me in mind of the beef jerky addition to the soups I've been experimenting with.  


6/05/2018 7:18 am  #10

Re: Dehydrated meals

The corn bark from the backpackingchef is excellent - IF you use good corn (we blanch about ten dozen ears of super-sweet corn in August and freeze it for use year-round; that stuff makes excellent corn bark).  His other recipes (the few I've tried) are also good.

I'll second the suggestion of others to add some high calorie materials to the mix.  Gorp always is a safe bet and is a pleasure to nibble on, jerky, beef sticks, aged cheese, etc. also foot the bill.  We carry one pre-packaged dehydrated meal per trip as an emergency meal if we have to stay an extra day but generally don't eat it.  We make all our own stuff and dehydrate it.  A couple of our favorites:

Olive Tapenade
I first had this tapenade at a Fall gathering being hosted in Ontario, Canadas Algonquin Provincial Park. The recipe came from my friend Alison as it was her contribution to an impromptu potluck. I have modified the dish to suit backcountry trips and although it is great as a spread, it can double as a refreshing addition to pasta.

Dehydration Time: 8 to 10 hours, Serves 4 to 6

1 cup pimento stuffed green olives, drained
1 cup pitted black olives, drained
1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained
1 hot banana pepper, coarsely chopped
1/2 sweet red pepper, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon capers, minced
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

At Home
Put the olives and artichokes in a food processor and pulse to chop the mixture. It should be a fine chop, but not to the point of being a puree. Put the olive mixture in a bowl and set aside. Next, put the peppers in the food processor and pulse until the peppers are the same consistency as the olive mixture. Add the peppers to the olive mixture along with the garlic, basil, capers and lemon juice. Stir until well combined.
Measure the tapenade and write this measurement on a sticky note. Spread onto lined dehydrator trays and dry for 8 to 10 hours. Package the tapenade in a medium ziplock freezer bag and add the olive oil to the other olive oil you are taking on your trip.
At Camp
Add enough water to the tapenade mix to equal the measurement on your sticky note. Be sure to account for and add your dried ingredients to the rehydration container prior to adding the water. You can always add more water if you need to. Let rehydrate for 10 minutes and add more water if needed. Stir in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, if desired, and serve with your favorite cracker or flatbread.

Unstuffed Peppers
  ½ Cup dried or instant rice·   ¼ Cup ground beef, dried
·   ¼ Cup bell peppers, dried
·   ¼ Cup tomato sauce leather, tightly packed
·   2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
·   1¼ cups water
At Home:
Pack parmesan cheese and tomato sauce leather separately in small plastic bags. Enclose in a larger plastic bag with rice, ground beef, and peppers. 
On the Trail:
Combine all ingredients except parmesan cheese in pot with water and soak for five minutes.  Light stove, bring to a boil, and continue cooking with the lid on for one minute.  Remove pot from stove and wait ten minutes. Insulate pot if possible. Stir in parmesan cheese before serving


6/05/2018 8:47 am  #11

Re: Dehydrated meals

That olive tapenade looks amazing. I am excited to try it.

Things I've done as "sides" on the trail.
- Bannock (We use Peek's recipe and it has never failed us)
- Coleslaw - pre-packed coleslaw mix or a 1/4 head of cabbage lasts many days on the trail. The dressing is a simple 1:1 mix of sugar and vinegar of your choice. I add in celery seeds and/or a mustard package on trail. It's so nice to have something crunchy and fresh
- Cured meat (salami, sausage, chorizo, etc) - I will eat it on it's own or add it to any variety of meals. Look for dry types that are shelf stable 
- Cheese - if you get old cheddar; it will last a long time on the trail. Tasty and calorie rich. Also goes well with the sausage. If you're just going to add it to meals, bring parmesan!
- ginger snap cookies (from the bulk barn, bite-sized) - these are my fav on the trail and I will eat at any time - breakfast, lunch, snack, dinner, late night snack, drive home (who am I kidding, there are never any left for the drive home). 


6/05/2018 9:18 am  #12

Re: Dehydrated meals

That was courtesy of Laurie March who used to post here.  She has a camping cookbook called "A Fork in the Trail".  We've also done her garlic hummus which is a nice appetizer as dinner is re-hydrating.


6/05/2018 11:49 am  #13

Re: Dehydrated meals

I rarely use the dehydrated meals ... matter of fact I bring them as a backup in case we run out ... but they are handy.

I actually like losing a bit of weight on a trip so I don't bring a ton of food (I always have a few lbs to lose) .. I usually choose calorie dense foods so there's less to pack.  I have a dehydrator so I do my own jerky and dried fruit.  I also bring a few bags of GORP (lots of nuts).  In addition I bring a couple of packs of thin noodle pasta, pad thai sauce and add whatever fish I can get.  I usually bring a frozen steak for the first night and also bring pre-cooked scrambled eggs with cheese for the first few days.  if I am lucky to get an eating sized fish I always have a bit of tin foil and cook it up almost right away.  I also bring some rice and throw in a little cube of chicken stock.  

I love to cook but I've never been into cooking anything elaborate when tripping ... but I really admire those people that do ...  some of the meals I've seen in trip reports look amazing ...        



8/19/2018 2:27 pm  #14

Re: Dehydrated meals

Seems I missed some of the additional replies to this thread following my last post.  I ended up dehydrating all my own food and brought one purchased meal as a backup, only to find that the meal needed to cook in 3 cups of water when my only container for cooking only holds about 12oz.  No matter, I never made it through all the meals I brought. I normally don't eat breakfast but brought oatmeal (with skim milk powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, dehydrated apples, coconut flakes, and ground almonds) and Starbucks mocha coffee packets (never again - they were more like hot chocolate than coffee) since I figured I'd need the energy for the day's hike.  Once I got to my destination, I had chocolate, nuts, and dehydrated fruit for a snack and didn't eat lunch (instant noodles with dehydrated nappa, green onion, cilantro, beef broth concentrate, soya sauce, sesame seeds, peanut butter, chilli pepper sauce, hoysin sauce, sesame oil, and dehydrated shrimp that never rehydrated (!)) until 3pm which meant I wasn't hungry for supper (chipotle chili with shredded beef and corn chips, which rehydrated remarkably well) so I ended up bringing back all but one supper.

I also brought too many cans of fuel.  I had one can with 5.4oz of fuel left in it, and brought two full cans as well, but only used 1.3oz more so at 6.7oz total, I would have been ok with one full can - although I didn't know at the time that I would only be making one of my suppers. Still, one backup canister would have been plenty even if I'd made all my meals.

Already planning ahead for next year and where I can cut back on weight some more - less food, less fuel!

     Thread Starter

8/20/2018 7:55 am  #15

Re: Dehydrated meals

AnnieD wrote:

Already planning ahead for next year and where I can cut back on weight some more - less food, less fuel!

After most trips, I review what food and fuel I'm coming home with and make some notes. It's really helped me hone in on how much of both to bring for different types of trips. I don't ever want to pack so that I'm coming home with a totally empty food bag and fuel bottle but we've pretty much nailed it down to a safe amount of extra. It seems like every trip, I learn something new to do better on the next one.


8/20/2018 12:10 pm  #16

Re: Dehydrated meals

CanoeClaire wrote:

AnnieD wrote:

Already planning ahead for next year and where I can cut back on weight some more - less food, less fuel!

It seems like every trip, I learn something new to do better on the next one.

That's the plan - I plan on using up some of the reduced weight to bring more rhum - I ran out by day 4.   

     Thread Starter

8/24/2018 4:17 pm  #17

Re: Dehydrated meals

Packages of sidekicks at the grocery store are $1.50
One of them would fill you up and are great for adding things to.


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