from the July 1986 "Drying Times "

by Barb Moody

When planning an extended backpacking or climbing trip, the problem of weight inevitably arises - how to carry enough food for 10-14 days without having a pack that weighs a ton. Food planning guidelines allow 1 to 2-1/2 pounds of food per person per day. For a longer trip of 10 to 14 days, this would mean up to 35 pounds of food. To decrease weight, many have turned to lighter freeze dried meals. However, freeze dried foods are expensive and tend to be bulky. Last summer, we proved it was possible to travel light with mostly home dehydrated foods. For a 10 day climb, we carried 1 pound of food per person, per day.

10 Days - 10 Pounds of Food

Although our meals were frugal, they provided more than enough energy for us to enjoy our alpine traverse and to climb 6 peaks along the way. Breakfasts were light, and required little or no cooking. This allowed us to get an early start each day. Lunch was really a series of snacks that could be eaten during a short rest stop. Our main meal each day was dinner. It usually consisted of soup, main dish, and dessert. The main dish revolved around a starch, generally rice or noodles. We used dried cooked brown rice, instant wild rice, and sometimes one of the Lipton Rice and Sauce or Noodles and Sauce mixes. To that we added a selection of home dried veggies (zucchini, onion, peas, carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc.). We used a variety of flavorings: Butter Buds, a spray-dried sour cream we found at REI, soup mixes, cheese powder, dried herbs and spices.

Our favorite desert was a fruit compote. We added some powdered maple sugar to a selection of dried fruit (black cherries, strawberries, blueberries, apples, pears, peaches, etc.) and soaked everything in enough water to cover.

Using the "Soak Back" Method

By soaking back our food before cooking it, we were able to reduce our fuel consumption. With 3 of us sharing an MSR Whisperlight stove, a pint of fuel lasted 7 days. On some days, we could soak our food all day. These were days that we would climb a nearby peak instead of moving camp. We would "start" our dinner before we left in the morning. We soaked our fruit dessert in one pot and the main dish ingredients in another pot. (A tight sealing plastic container is great for this.) By the time we returned to camp the food was completely rehydrated. It took only a few minutes to heat it.

PLEASE NOTE: Noodles should NOT be presoaked. Follow the cooking directions on the package. DO NOT USE AN EXTENDED PRE-SOAK FOR FISH OR MEATS. These should be added while cooking or soaked only 30 minutes prior to cooking.

On the days that we moved, we started soaking dinner the minute we reached our camp spot. By the time we had set up camp, cleaned up and relaxed a bit, our food had a good headstart on rehydration. Even a half an hour of presoaking will help reduce cooking time and save on fuel.

Vary Your Menus

We found that variety was important. Using the same type of flavorings over and over, or rice based meals day after day, became tiresome. By packaging the ingredients separately, we could mix and match on the trail according to what we felt like eating.

Shrimp and Rice

Soak brown rice and vegetables in enough water to cover. Thirty minutes before cooking, soak shrimp and seasoning in enough water to cover. Mix together and heat. Cook until shrimp are tender and any excess water has evaporated. Add butter buds before serving. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 2 (generous servings)

Wine Dried Mushrooms

Here is a great way to add a gourmet taste to your meals on the trail.

When used in cooking, these mushrooms will release a delicate wine flavor.
If you prefer not to use wine, try using a soy sauce, teriyaki, or other marinade.
At home, try using wine soaked mushrooms in your casseroles.