The topic of food in multi-day treks is like a blanket that is too short: eating well requires long preparation times and a lot of space in the backpack, while the usual sandwich, fast and not bulky, after a while ‘tired, does not keep. long and ends up crumbling among all the compressed equipment in the backpack.
The bags of freeze-dried ready meals are a solution, but those who have tasted them know that the taste is more similar to that of a concentrate of preservatives and maltodextrins than to that of a recognizable food, not to mention the waste of single-portion plastic bags in which are preserved.
So why not try to self-produce them?
My solution for eating healthily and with a low impact on multi-day treks was to resort to drying, one of the oldest methods of preserving food which, with the right tools, is also useful today in outdoor activities.
Overseas, where the culture of long-distance walking independently is much more widespread, they call it trail-food and there is no thru hiker who hasn’t heard of it.
What is needed
It can be dried using the oven at low temperatures, or a dedicated dryer or even by building a frame by yourself to be placed in a dry and well-ventilated place.
How to do
Getting a meal ready to be prepared in a few minutes with equipment and times reduced to a minimum is very simple: the next time you prepare a pasta and beans, a vegetable couscous or a cold pasta, add a few more portions. What is left over can be dried as it is and stored in airtight jars until the next excursion. Upon departure, it will be sufficient to transfer it to freezer bags (having the foresight to choose plastic resistant to high temperatures: it lasts longer and can be used several times). To consume them you will only need a gas stove and a travel container in which to boil water: you can pour it directly into the bag, wait a few tens of minutes for the mixture to rehydrate and you will have an instant, complete and tasty hot dinner from enjoy watching the sunset at the door of your tent.
Taste and nutrients (if you are a good cook and are able to prepare it using quality raw materials, perhaps from your own garden, there is no comparison with the precooked food of industrial busters).
Very low weight (by eliminating the aqueous component with drying, the original weight of the food is reduced by almost three times, while the nutritional properties remain intact).
Zero waste (the bags can be reused, which means less garbage in the backpack and less plastic in the environment).
Any complete meal can be dried, the important thing is to be careful to reduce its components into smaller pieces than usual to speed up the process (for example, cut the vegetables into cubes, choose small legumes and cereals or chop them once cooked, use short pasta with fast cooking times). The only limitation: if you plan to keep a compound for a long time before consuming it, avoid very fatty foods, the lipids cannot be dehydrated and in the long run they risk going rancid. On the contrary, vegetables, fruits, cereals and legumes can be kept for several months.
Quick snacks and meals
In the outings that end in the day, meal planning certainly takes a back seat compared to the role it plays when it comes to organizing for several days, yet it is appropriate to devote a little attention to this aspect too, after all it is only thanks to the energy that gives us what we eat that we can spend whole days walking, running or climbing.
The rule during sports activity is calories that are quick to assimilate and easy to digest, so bars, dried fruit, chocolate. The mid-day sandwich is fine, as long as it’s light.
When the goal is to maximize yield and reduce weight and bulk to a minimum, many turn to energy gel; as for me I try to use it only in extreme cases, as a rule I prefer unprocessed and possibly self-produced food.
Preparing super energy snacks based on fruit and cereals at home is very simple, even in this case you can take advantage of the drying method to obtain a supply that will last for a long time and forget about it for a long time. A handful of dehydrated apricots or, even better, dates, contains many more minerals, vitamins and calories than you can find in many bars on the shelves and there is no risk of “forgetting” packaging at high altitude.