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steve_podleski
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PostFri Jul 20, 2018 4:04 pm 
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Appreciate any recommendations for food dehydrators to prep food for backpacking.
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Bernardo
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PostFri Jul 20, 2018 4:20 pm 
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Steve, those Harmony House packs they sell at REI or online are awesome.   I've been cooking these up for the last couple of years and  now I don't think it's worth it to dehydrate on your own. Happy to discuss further, but my two cents.

I like to eat healthy and this is a good compromise between a super  laborious process and outsourcing the labor.

Part II:  Food dehydrators do work and can be fun.  Bigger is usually better.  I have a Hamilton Beach that I bought at Costco in Mexico and it works fine.
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Ski
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PostFri Jul 20, 2018 4:57 pm 
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Any old dehydrator will work.
Some work better than others.
I am using an "American Harvester" unit myself, which has a variable temperature control and about half a dozen trays (so I can dehydrate a lot of stuff in one batch.)

Hopefully, nwhikers' resident trail-cooking diva Sarbar will notice your post and respond.
She is arguably the expert on this kind of stuff and can offer all kinds of tips.
Here is the link to Sarbar's trailcooking.com website with recipes for all kinds of good things to eat and tips to make it easier.

Here's a thread with my favorite backpacking dehydrator recipes.
Spaghetti sauce and chili are both easy peasy, tasty, and a fraction of the cost of buying the "freeze-dried" stuff at REI or other retailers.

If you do not own a dehydrator:
Start checking Craigslist. I've seen perfectly good units for as little as $20 bucks on CL.
Sarbar can offer tips on the best models. As I recall, you're best off with something that has a temperature control and a fan.
If you can't score one on CL, check garage sales. People buy them (or receive them as gifts), use them once, and then put them into storage.

Baking parchment is your friend for dehydrating. Cheapest at Costco, but you can also usually find it at the "dollar" stores (although the last roll I bought was pretty narrow - you want parchment that will be wide enough to line the tray of the dehydrator - see the photos in my thread above.)

Last tip: Go skimpy (or omit totally) the SALT when dehydrating meals. Dehydrating seems to concentrate the "saltiness".

==

another dehydrator thread with a few recipes 05/24/16

another dehydrator thread with a few recipes 02/21/14

another dehydrator thread discussing dehydrating ground beef (and other meats) 06/02/15

another dehydrating thread with a recipe or two 07/22/15


lots of other threads found using search function above with keyword "dehydrator" or "dehydrating".

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JonnyQuest
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PostFri Jul 20, 2018 5:06 pm 
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I've got a Living Foods dehydrator that I love.  They are (were) made locally, I believe in Fall City.  They used to sell completed or kits.  And the book "Dry It, You'll Like It" by Gen MacManiman (from Fall City) includes the plans for building your own.  They're the "non-forced air" style (no fan) which I much prefer.  Great product if they're still in business.  Was just a family business.
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Ski
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PostFri Jul 20, 2018 5:20 pm 
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For "dehydrating" grated Parmesan cheese (that I always pack for my spaghetti and my salmon tortellini dish) I do the following:

Grate cheese coarsely.
Lay about 8 layers of paper towels on a large cookie sheet.
Spread the grated cheese onto the paper towels.
Place in OVEN (in electric range) with just the oven light on.
(The temperature in my oven with just the 40-watt oven light was about 95° F when I measured it with a thermometer.)
Leave it in oven for two or three hours, take it out, give it a "stir" so that it dries evenly.
Keep a close eye on it - if you leave it in too long it will get too dried out and it won't melt into the dish you're adding it to. There's a happy medium in there somewhere that reduces the weight and seems to make it keep a bit better sealed up in a zip-lock bag inside a pack in 85° F weather.

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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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Adohrn
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 11:03 am 
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Ski is right the old Harvest maid dehydrators are pretty much top of the line.   Look more like old microwaves than anything else. 
Harvest maid
Harvest maid
Trays
Trays

You can buy the modern equivalent which would be an excalibur dehydrator which will put you back 2-3 hundred new.   Lots of cheaper models $50ish that do work.   Generally there round with airflow through the middle.   They are a lot more fiddley though, and not much good for bulk work.  Dehydrating is a lot of effort, if you can’t find a used harvest/Excalibur going with a cheaper unit will tell you if this is something your interested in.
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steve_podleski
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 5:26 pm 
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Great.  I try a few of the Harmony.  I could not stomach most of the Mountain House stuff.
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steve_podleski
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 5:31 pm 
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great advice!!!
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Ski
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 6:41 pm 
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steve_podleski wrote:
"I could not stomach most..."

Just my lousy opinion here:
I've looked at the ingredients lists and the nutritional content of some of those pre-packaged freeze-dried/dehydrated backpacking meals, and am amazed that they are so popular.
Way too much sodium, too many chemicals and other ingredients with names that are unpronounceable, and damn little nutritional content.

Doing it yourself you are in complete control of the ingredients used, and (especially) the sodium content.

Adohrn wrote:
"Dehydrating is a lot of effort..."

I found the dehydrating part really easy - not nearly as much work as actually cooking the dish I was dehydrating. The spaghetti sauce and chili were both no-brainers and both turned out to be great backcountry suppers.

Again, check out those first two links I cited in my post above. Once you've done a batch of stuff you'll see that there's really not a lot to it.

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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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Malachai Constant
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 6:42 pm 
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We make most of our own food for long hikes. We have a cheap round dryer and mostly dry veggies like peppers, mushrooms, onions, etc. Costco has some dried herbs which are pretty good. Carbs are instant rice, some noodles, angel hair, ramen, and quinoa. Lots of spices, nuts, bullion, and peanut powder. Pack in freezer bags add boiling water and put in a cozy. Lighter than commercial and way cheaper. Receipts are on web. MH makes us sick too much msg. If you want meat slice up a landjeager.

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RumiDude
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 7:10 pm 
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Yea, just start with an inexpensive dehydrator. You can find them at thrift stores and such for little to nothing. If you really get in to it, then get something like the Excalibur makes sense. But if you are just dehydrating a bit of food for backpacking then the Excalibur is expensive overkill.

I will say we dehydrate lots of veggies for home use. Carrots, celery, green peppers, tomatoes, and others can be easily done and kept in vacuum sealed quart mason jars and used for soups and such.  We do a lot of canning and so throwing together a stew or soup from canned broth and dehydrated veggies is quick and easy. If you dehydrate onions, do it outside. Just sayin' ...

I use a lot of freeze dried stuff for backpacking meals also. Most of it rehydrates well.

Rumi

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Ski
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 8:48 pm 
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RumiDude wrote:
If you dehydrate onions, do it outside. Just sayin' ...

HA! Yeah... for sure! lol.gif
I sliced up some nice Walla Walla Sweets and put them into the dehydrator - they were excellent added to dried soup mixes!

I found it was less trouble (and actually less expensive) to just buy a bulk, dried veggie mix at a food co-op.
The food co-ops also had two types of dried soup mixes: a black bean soup and a lentil soup, both of which were pretty tasty with a bit of doctoring up (adding the dried veggie mix, onion, raw cashews or raw almonds.)

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"I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. 
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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Adohrn
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PostSat Jul 21, 2018 11:12 pm 
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Ok maybe I could have said that better Ski.  Let’s put it this way if you like making your own jam and canning food your very likely to take to dehydrating.  Look into getting a used harvest/Excalibur.  If your not sure save your money.  Get an inexpensive round unit, and give it a try. On the other hand if the last time you made jam resulted in full blown ptsd, and a near divorce  learn to love mountain house. biggrin.gif
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wildernessed
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PostSun Jul 22, 2018 5:52 am 
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My daughter used the Nesco Snackmaster Pro to prepare all her meals for the PCT last year we bought one this year and have her mass producing for us the fruit is really good an ultralight. She had her meals down to a science and was the only one who gained muscle mass / weight throughout her 5 month trip.

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Navy salad
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PostMon Jul 23, 2018 11:19 am 
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One other tip that at least applies to the Nesco: get the model with the fan on top. (When this model first came out, I remember reading a critique that it was stupid putting the fan on top because "everyone knows warm air rises"; however, the fan pushing the air easily overcomes gravity!!) I had an older Nesco with the fan on the bottom and the problem was stuff kept escaping my drying trays and getting into the fan mechanism at the bottom and gunking it all up. Now, there's nothing on the bottom other than a tray.

I also recommend only considering models that have both a fan and an adjustable thermostat.
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