Making a meal plan for your backpacking in advance is a great way to make sure you’ll stay well fed and strong. Of course, if you’re going to stay for a long time in a camp, you’ll be able to cook more elaborate meals, but when you’re backpacking, your options are much more limited, and you have to plan accordingly.
For a longer hike, apart from prepping your food plan in advance, you need to choose wisely, and consider what’s worth enough to sit in your backpack and what’s weighing you down.
Food is essential, and you need it for each day you’ll spend in the wilderness. Your best bet, weight-wise, and practicality-wise is to bring preprepared lightweight meals with you.
Thankfully, there are manufacturers, like Back Country Cuisine, creating healthy and convenient food options for backpackers: preprepared meals that preserve the texture, the flavours and, above all, the nutrients.
Methods of Food Preservation for Backpacking
There are three most popular methods of preserving food for backpacking: dehydration, pre-cooking, and freeze drying.
Dehydration dries the meal without freezing it, by using low heat. The process of removing the water is slow, and it doesn’t change the composition of the food radically. The negative side of this process, is that nutrient loss is a quite possible. Nutrients, such as vitamin A and C are destroyed due to the extended exposure to the heat, and the process of dehydrating.
Pre-cooking your own meals is the fastest, easiest, and probably the cheapest method. However, it will preserve the food from spoiling only for so long, so it’s not suitable for longer hikes.
The best method in terms of nutrient preservation is the process freeze drying. The process preserves the nutrients, whilst leaving only 1-4% of the water in the food, making the meals long lasting and lightweight.
Making of Freeze-Dried Food
The first step of the preparation is cooking the raw food and ingredients, and then freezing them solid. This ensures that the water in the food won’t melt whilst being dried, but will rather be removed without becoming liquid, by transitioning from solid to gas state directly.
This process is called sublimation, and it ensures preserving the food texture. In this phase, the frozen water is removed from the food, by heating it slightly, and putting it in a vacuum, speeding up the process of converting the ice into a gaseous water vapor. This process is faster than dehydrating, and it removes most of the water. In the last step, the heat is raised to remove the residual water.
Benefits of Freeze-Dried Food
Easy to Prepare
The cooking of your freeze-dried meal, consists in simply putting back the water that your meal has lost in the drying process of the preparation. The cooking takes different times for different meals, but it’s never complicated or too time-consuming.
The meal is already cooked, so the only thing you need to do is to follow the instructions, in order to get the right flavour and texture. Properly rehydrating and heating the freeze-dried meal will make for a perfect backpacking eating experience.
Freeze-dried meals, like the tasty Back Country meals, come in useful packages that can be used to prepare and consume the meal. The only thing you would need is a way to heat some water, like a flameless heater pack or a portable gas burner, and a pot to heat it in.
With most of the water removed from the food, freeze-dried meals are very lightweight, which for a backpacker is crucial. Also, freeze-dried meals, come in useful packages that can be used to prepare and consume the meal, giving you the option to further reduce the weight on your back, by removing the need of a dish or two.
Out of all the food preservation methods, freeze drying is the one that retains nutrients best. This means that consuming these pre-prepared meals, will be as healthy as if they were prepared from fresh ingredients.
They are purposely made to contain the right amount of carbs, proteins, and carbs in each meal, in order to provide you with enough energy to recover from your hikes.
The calories you consume are your fuel, and in nature, being strong and able to withstand physically demanding tasks can make a huge difference, not only in the level of enjoyment, but also, more importantly, in your safety.
Freeze-dried meals contain around 300-800 calories and weigh between around 80 and 150 grams. They come in packages of one or two servings. Of course, the best way to prepare the proper food for your hikes is to check the ingredients on the packaging, to make sure you’re getting the right amount of the right nutrients.
Flavourful and Versatile
High quality freeze-dried backpacking food, like Back Country Cuisine come in a variety of flavours, both savory and sweet. In order to get the best of what your meal offers, you should follow instructions, because improper preparation can ruin the texture, as well as the taste.
The good news is that there are so many options out there, that you can certainly find a meal with rich flavour to your liking. However, like with any other food or meal, the only way to really know which taste you’ll like is to try it and decide for yourself. The taste and texture vary, but one thing is for sure, after a long day of hiking, they will be very satisfactory and give you the much-needed strength.