One of the biggest considerations when hiking is pack weight and how to minimise it. We buy gear based on weight, packability, durability, and functionality - does it do what we need it to do?
Food fits into this consideration too...
Food fuels our adventure and it needs to taste good too. It's very rewarding to have knocked out a few km's on the trail knowing and thinking about what's on the menu for dinner. Take off your boots and put your feet up, have a wash down and relax with a comforting warm meal.
Some considerations might be how much food will you need to carry for your trip, is there sufficient re-supply available in trail towns etc or am I going to pack everything I need in? Whats my food going to weigh?
At some point, most of us have made our own meals and then dehydrated them with a $100 dryer, packed them into ziplock bags for the next trip. It's hard to beat the smell in a hut with aromas of a home-cooked meal that's been made from scratch but cons do come with the pros.
Dehydrating is rewarding but consider the time it takes the cook the meals and allow them to cool, then dry them and then pack them off into vac seal bags. They are however more compact than freeze dry but they are heavier and more gas is needed to be carried for simmering when cooking.
Freeze drying has been around since the 1940's when blood plasma needed to be transported during the war. A bit has changed but the principals are still the same. The product is snap frozen then at -40 degrees Celcius heat is applied. The frozen water crystals skip a phase and turn into a gas this is called sublimation. Home freeze Dryers are still too expensive to purchase for the average Joe. Freeze dry fruit eaten raw has crunch and rehydrated meals have great texture as the cell structure doesn't collapse during the process. These are the lightest food option for hiking.
Wet packs are another option for hikers. These packs have usually gone through a retort process of heat to sterilize the contents inside just like the oldschool army ration packs. They are usually tasty, expensive for their size and heavy. The weight does add up and on a 5 day hike you would be carrying around 1.2kg just for dinners in a 250g pouch. Compare that to cooked 400g freeze dried dinners at just 500g for 5 dinners which is less than half the carrying weight.
Heating is simple as dropping the pouch into a pot of boiling water so make sure you carry more gas to get these packs up to desired temperature.
In the table below we outline the main differences between dehydrating, freeze dry and, wet packs.
|DEHYDRATED||FREEZE DRY||WET PACK|
|WEIGHT BEFORE PREPARATION||140g||100g||250g|
|WATER COMPONENT TO ADD||500ml to 750ml||300ml||None|
|MEAL SIZE WHEN READY||450g||400g||250g|
|SPEED OF PREPARATION||15 mins||Quickest 5-10 mins||10 mins|
|TEXTURE||Not bad||Great - beans and veggies have crunch!||So so - goes mushy like can food 😏|
|MOISTURE REMOVED||5% to 20%||98% to 99%||0%|
|SHELF LIFE||1 Year||2 Years||1 Year|
|PACK WEIGHT OF 5 DINNERS||700g||500g 😁||1.25kg|
Hopefully the above gives you more of an understanding of the different types of food options for your next hike.
Please note this is just a guide and some figures change from time to time.