Dehydrated Hiking Meals – what could possibly go wrong??

I really do not like cooking.

When you think about it, it is the most pointless exercise. You cook, usually making a huge mess at the time, you clean up, you eat, and bugger me, if a short time later, you have to start cooking all over again.

Where is the fun in that?

My idea of fun is going for a nice long stroll in the bush. The flaw in my plan is that you need food to fuel that nice long stroll. When there are no cafes or restaurants within cooee it means I need to plan ahead.

So here is my very first attempt at dehydrating meals in preparation for our 6-day Great Ocean Walk adventure.

Voila! A very gruesome looking Spaghetti Bolognaise.

Gluten Free Penne Pasta

In our household, Spaghetti Bolognaise (also known as spag bol) is a hearty, easy meal when you need something quick and a bucket load of carbohydrates. Perfect food to tuck into after a long day out on the trail. So here goes…

The Pasta

  • Ingredients: 500g penne pasta. I chose this pasta rather than a traditional spaghetti pasta as I thought it would be an easier shape to transport and eat out of a small mug/bowl at the campsite. I also chose gluten free for something a little lighter on the tummy.
  • Method:
    1. Cook pasta as per packet instructions and drain well.
    2. Work quickly to lay pasta out on the dehydrator racks – ensuring a single layer and penne are not stuck together. This will help with even drying across all racks.
    3. Cool on a cake rack or similar sitting on a baking tray – to catch the bits that fall through.
    4. Portion into desired serving sizes.
  • Time & Temperature: 5 hours at 65°C.
  • Comments: I was not careful enough laying out the damp pasta on the dehydrating racks and it ended up with clumps. What was I saying about being a reluctant cook?

The Sauce

ingredients for spaghetti bolognaise
Ingredients for spaghetti bolognaise – except for the beef stock cube.
  • Ingredients:
    • 1 brown onion, peeled and diced
    • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
    • 3-4 garlic cloves (or to taste), peeled and diced fine
    • 500g beef mince, 5-star or lowest fat
    • 6 large mushrooms, cleaned and sliced.
    • 2 heaped tabsp tomato paste
    • 1 440g can of chopped/crushed tomatoes
    • 1 cup red wine
    • 1 cup beef stock
    • 2 heaped tabsp dried oregano (or to taste)
    • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Method:
    1. In a large non-stick frypan, cook off onion and carrot until soft.
    2. Add garlic, cook for 2 minutes.
    3. Add mince, cook until evenly browned. Use a wooden spoon to break up any lumps.
    4. Cook until all juices have evaporated or use a piece of clean paper towel to mop up any excess fat.
    5. Add mushrooms and cook 3-4 minutes until they wilt.
    6. Transfer beef mix to a larger cooking pot to add liquids.
    7. Over a medium heat, add all other ingredients. Bring to the boil.
    8. Reduce to a simmer (with the lid slightly ajar) for 45minutes or until the sauce thickens and reduces. Stir occasionally.
    9. Check seasoning. Add more oregano if desired. Remove the lid for the last 10 minutes to help the evaporation process.
    10. While the sauce is simmering, cut baking paper to fit the dehydrator racks. Make sure the paper is smaller than the actual rack size to allow the air to circulate through the dehydrator and over all the racks.
    11. Gently spoon the bolognaise mixture onto the paper-lined racks. Ensure an even thickness of the sauce on each rack, so it dries consistently.
    12. Once the dehydration process is finished, gently lift the baking paper from the racks, turn the paper over onto a large chopping board or similar and gently press on the back of the paper, pressing the sauce mix off.
    13. Add to the bags of portioned pasta.
  • Time & Temperature: This may vary depending on your dehydrating device. Try 10-12hrs at 75°C.
  • Comments: OMG! I made such a mess doing all this – 50million pots and pans, and spag bol sauce from one end of the kitchen to the other. A Domestic Goddess, I am not! My key tips are:
    • Try to remove ALL oil from the cooking process. Oil inhibits dehydration. Buy the lowest fat mince available and do not add any oil to the recipe.
    • Flavours dissipate when you dehydrate food, so don’t skimp on the seasonings, herbs and spices.
    • I added extra vegetables to a standard bolognaise mix, to give us a few extra vitamins.
    • Make sure the sauce mix is spread evenly and thinly on the dehydrator racks. I didn’t do this and ended up with clumps of sauce that needed additional drying time.
The Lady and the Tramp. Source: Disney
The Lady and the Tramp. Source: Disney

The Results

  • Portions: I portioned both pasta and sauce into four zip lock plastic bags. For the Bibbulmun Track later in the year I will vacuum seal them for a longer life span. Each of the portions will feed two people.
  • Taste: I added 375mls of boiling water to a portion and let it sit for five minutes. The pasta didn’t absorb the water like I expected. It was quite chewy – perhaps that was due to being gluten free? Or, did I not leave it long enough? The meat reconstituted well and was its normal tasty dish. Obviously, there will be no fresh parsley or parmesan cheese out on the track, but perhaps I could sneak in a bit of that long life parmesan?
  • What I would do differently: The next batch I make, I will use ‘normal’ pasta and see if it is less chewy. It will also try macaroni as it may have fewer sharp edges, reducing the risk of piercing the bags when I vacuum seal.
Buon Appetit - a plate of spaghetti bolognaise
Buon Appetito – a plate of spaghetti bolognaise

Being my first ever attempt at dehydrating a meal, I was pretty pleased with myself and the result –  even if the meal itself wasn’t too appealing to look at.

Hit me with your dehydrating tips and tricks. I am keen to learn more.

What is your favourite hiking meal?

#hikingfood #travelinspo #dehydratedmeals #foodonthego #mealsonthego #lightweightfood #kitchenexperiments #justaddwater #longdistancehikes

54 thoughts on “Dehydrated Hiking Meals – what could possibly go wrong??

  1. Heyjude February 23, 2022 / 11:58 am

    Yikes this all sounds like a lot of faffing about. Can’t you simply buy dried meals? In fact pot noodles would suffice for 6 days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure February 23, 2022 / 12:03 pm

      For once, I was trying to do the right thing and provide nutritious and tasty meals! 🙂 I may revert to 2-minute noodles yet! Yes, you can buy dried meals, but they have a terrible reputation as tasteless and also being very expensive! Back to the drawing board….or kitchen! 🙂


      • Heyjude February 23, 2022 / 12:11 pm

        I actually like cooking, though I am getting bored with trying to find something different to make, but this dehydration seems like hard work. I applaud your efforts though and hope you achieve the results you are looking for. 😊

        Liked by 2 people

    • Karen / Elizabeth February 25, 2022 / 5:42 pm

      Impressed as I am with the DIY dehydrating, I’m with Jude on the pot noodle front. Take along multivitamins and minerals pills too. Protein, though … not sure how to add that!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. kayfuzz February 23, 2022 / 2:57 pm

    Well done. Great experiment with not too bad an outcome for a first attempt. Cheese …including parmesan can be carried for quite a few days while back packing. You might not want to carry a grater but I’ll bet you’ll have a pocket knife. You could thinly shave parmesan from a small block on your Bol….a bit cheffy🍽

    Liked by 2 people

      • kayfuzz February 24, 2022 / 1:07 pm

        Also…’Strive’ dehydrated food is absolutely delicious. It is expensive though. I’ve used it and really enjoyed it.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Life...One Big Adventure February 24, 2022 / 1:13 pm

          Good tip. I will check it out. Are you ‘cured’ from your independent hiking bug? Or will you give it another try?


  3. Monkey's Tale February 23, 2022 / 3:28 pm

    I agree with the cheese comment. It can make all the difference in taste. Also are you dehydrating the pasta to save fuel? We don’t usually bother because we’re concerned about food weight more than fuel consumption which may not be the right strategy now that I see it in writing. 😊 Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure February 24, 2022 / 11:09 am

      I am starting to think that carrying cheese may be worth it! Maybe I can sneak it into the husband’s backpack without him knowing?? Yes, cooking and dehydrating the pasta to reduce the amount of gas we use and need to carry. That’s the theory anyway. I suspect you are FAR more experienced at this sort of stuff than moi. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. wetanddustyroads February 23, 2022 / 4:49 pm

    You are above the kitchen queen Mel! I don’t think my reputation in the kitchen will survive preparing a dehydrating meal 😉. In October last year my husband and I went on a 5-day hiking trail in the mountains and he sourced a South African company (Forever Fresh) that makes THE BEST freeze-dried food. I agree that most of the dehydrated meals are tasteless, but oh my, these packets were amazing … or maybe we were just very hungry after each day 😄.
    Yes, take that piece of parmesan cheese with you (and maybe you’re lucky to find some wild parsley on the road)!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure February 24, 2022 / 11:11 am

      Yes, I remember you raving about the delicious food on that hike. It peaked my interest as I have never heard anyone rave about the commercial food options over here. Mostly it is ‘tasteless’, ‘cardboard’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘expensive – not worth it’. I sense a business opportunity coming on! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. restlessjo February 23, 2022 / 6:30 pm

    I read in utter fascination, Mel. I had no idea there was such a thing as a dehydrator. I shall not be using one any time soon. I fear you will have fallen out of love with spag bol by the end of your trail.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jen February 23, 2022 / 6:45 pm

    This looks tasty. I agree with the others, definitely pack some parmesan for the trip. I’ve never been on a long walking/hiking trip like this, so I have no food recommendations.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. margaret21 February 23, 2022 / 6:56 pm

    Full marks for effort, but … However, as you say, it goes light on the e-numbers and chemicals.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Toonsarah February 23, 2022 / 11:52 pm

    Gosh, I like cooking (in moderation!) but no way would I go to this trouble 😮😮 If I were a hiker, which I’m not, I think I would rather put up with tasteless commercial versions and maybe carry condiments to pep them up? But I applaud your dedication to creating a better alternative!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Diana February 24, 2022 / 1:28 am

    I’m interested to know how attempt #2 goes. This is something I’ve considered doing as well. Those prepackaged ones are so expensive.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Endless Weekend February 24, 2022 / 10:01 am

    Your thoughts about cooking … are my thoughts about laundry. You wash, you dry, you fold, you wear, and bugger me, a short time later the cycle starts all over again 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The Travel Architect February 24, 2022 / 1:51 pm

    I’m impressed! I would just go buy MREs (‘cuz I don’t like to cook either – for the exact same reasons you mentioned).

    Liked by 1 person

  12. pam@ichoosethis February 25, 2022 / 12:04 am

    This is BRILLIANT!! I can’t wait to see you hone this skill!!! I also don’t cook much, though during COVID, I found it kind of fun. You’ll post again on this right?? PS, sending an email today 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Master of Something Yet March 14, 2022 / 7:32 am

    Hi! Jude sent me here and I’m so glad she did. I’m just starting out on my overnight hiking adventures and I’ll be doing the GOW starting Easter Monday. I chose 7 days because it’s my first long hike solo and I thought I should probably have some wriggle room. I was hoping to dehydrate some meals (those freeze dried things are pricey!) so I very much appreciated your tips. I’ll be looking forward to hearing about your GOW journey. I’m hoping to do the Great South West Walk in September and I’ll be doing the Goldfields Track (Ballarat to Bendigo) in two pieces with my brother over the coming months. I can see that you will be a useful resource!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure March 14, 2022 / 11:18 am

      High praise indeed! I don’t think I have ever been described as a useful resource! 🙂 Yep, will keep you posted about the GOW. I will be taking lots of notes and blogging afterwards. I rang Vic Parks this morning and they say the water tanks are FULL! I am one happy camper! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Master of Something Yet March 14, 2022 / 12:40 pm

        How lucky am I to have someone doing a virtual practice run of the GOW for me?? 🙂
        So glad there’s water in them thar tanks. Nobody needs to be carrying extra litres.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Life...One Big Adventure March 14, 2022 / 1:11 pm

          I drink A LOT of water, so I was really panicking. When I started adding up the kilos on my back… I started panicking all over again. This is our first hiking/camping trip and I am sure it is going to be a huge learning curve! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

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