Dehydrating Food for Car Camping: a Camping Pantry Update

Jars with dehydrated camping food

When I first started solo car camping, I was determined to use only shelf-stable, store-bought foods. It made sense at the time - cheap and easy to supply. My thoughts about how I prepare food while camping have changed a bit over time, especially now that I am preparing for my first multi-week trip. My sister, who started car camping around the same time that I did, and my dad, both have an interest in dehydrated foods, so I thought I would give it a go. 

Reasons for adding dehydrated foods to my camping pantry

Cook and prep time at camp

I push myself very hard while traveling. I want to get the maximum fun out of my precious weekends and PTO. unfortunately, sometimes this means that I'm just an exhausted, sweaty mess when I get to camp. Nothing is left in the tank for cooking. 

Dehydrating foods means a quicker cooking time, depending on the food. Some foods, like rice, won't need to be cooked at all and become a viable addition to cold-soaked recipes.  

(for non-dehydrated solutions to the cook time problem, check out this article about Aldi)

Eating healthy, like I would at home

When I have a full stove, oven, fridge, and freezer at home, cooking something healthy is easy. I am good about eating a good balance of macronutrients and a variety of fruits and veggies. All that goes out the window when I'm camping, because I rely on boxed, shelf-stable items. Sometimes I even skip a meal, which is not exactly healthy either. These foods are often higher in sodium and lower in nutrients than what I would be eating at home. Initially, this was fine, because of the frequency of trips. The more I camp, the more this changes. I'm more interested in making camp food that is healthy, not skipping meals, and not overeating because I skipped a meal. Dehydrating beans means that I have an instant source of protein and fiber. 

Dehydrated rice

How I Dehydrate Food Without a Dehydrator

While my family members love their dehydrator, I don't love having single-use cooking tools in my apartment. luckily, you can dehydrate lots of foods with an oven or toaster oven. 

In most cases, start by cooking the food you wish to dehydrate. Fruit, some veggies, and sauces would be exceptions.  

Then, spread everything out on a sheet pan. If you have some kind of rack you can place in the pan so that the food gets even airflow on the bottom, use that. Otherwise, I recommend using a backing sheet to prevent food from sticking to the pan and frequently flipping food for even drying. 

Set the oven to its lowest setting - somewhere in the ballpark of 200 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. The goal is to evaporate all the moisture in the food, not cook it. 

Dehydrating takes a long time, sometimes more than a whole day. The exact time depends on what you are dehydrating, and what equipment you are using. 

What foods can I dehydrate? 

almost anything that doesn't have too much fat in it! Fat can become an issue when it comes to safe, long-term storage, so only use the leanest meat possible when dehydrating. 

Rice, beans, and steamed veggies are a great place to start if you want something beginner-friendly. This is  because most people won't be traveling with the fuel or appliances needed for cooking dry beans. Also, if you are traveling solo, cans to be too big for one serving. 

What kind of camping recipes can I use dehydrated food in? 

So many things! I recommend checking out this blog on backpacking food for inspiration. 


Popular posts from this blog

Lazy Camping Food From Aldi, For When You Have No Energy or Money

My No-Build Prius Camper “Conversion” for Camping with 2 People

Can You Travel Overnight in Amtrak Coach Seats? Our Experience on the California Zephyr