I’m not someone who generally likes dehydrated fruit (banana chips–yuck!) or even many fresh vegetables, but after a few days of hiking there are a lot of I-wouldn’t-eat-this-in-‘real’-life sorts of foods that become surprisingly tasty. (Very tangential nerdy side note: I used to show a video to my Biology students about how the brain changes in response to extreme survival situations. To see a similar, shorter video by HowStuffWorks, click here.)
No matter your current tastes, dehydrating foods is one of the best ways to reduce pack weight and carry otherwise perishable items. I should mention, though, for future Appalachian Trail hikers (I can’t speak to other long distance trails yet) that very few long-distance hikers we met went through the trouble of dehydrating food. Most would just pick up fruits and veggies (and all other food) when they passed through a town, either to eat in town or to carry for a day or two down the trail as an extra treat.
Below is a slightly edited copy-and-paste of a post I made for our Appalachian Trail blog (the original post can be found here). At the time, we were still a couple of months away from starting our hike.
- Bark (potato bark, bean bark, & pumpkin pie bark… yum!)
- Bark can be eaten (sort of like a chip) or rehydrated
- Pasta sauce leather
- Rehydrate and it’s back to sauce
- Rice takes a long time to cook initially, but if you cook it, dehydrate it, and cook it again later it softens up much faster
- I’m planning on making one mix of basic veggies and one mix of peppers
- Just about every type of fruit in the grocery store has or will pass through our dehydrator
- Ground beef (low in fat)
- Beef jerky
(UPDATE: After giving both a try, we would definitely avoid the frustration of our own food mail-drops–preparation, the cost of mailing, picking them up, reportioning to fit our needs, resending extras further down the trail–and opt for buying food along the way instead. Plus, your cravings will change. It’s always nice, though, to get treats from family and friends!)
UPDATE: Some fruits were so intensely flavored that even though I wanted the nutrition, I didn’t like eating them alone. My most frequent lunch on the trail became tortillas with nutella, nuts, and fruit–which helped mix flavors and up the caloric value (nutella & peanut butter = invaluable caloric additions to long-distance hikers). Although if you don’t think that sounds terribly delicious right now, my full-stomached, sitting-on-a-comfy-couch self would have to say I’m with you!