Dehydrating/Freeze Drying 101

At some point many outdoorsy types will consider getting a couple of items:

All are worth the investment.  Dehydrating your own food is easy, and can be a big savings on many items, especially if the only other way to find the item is online and being shipped in the mail. Some items are cheaper or less of a pain to just buy, such as chopped onions, but overall after a couple years of hiking meals your investment is paid back, both money wise and in eating better tasting meals when you do the work yourself!

What to look for in a dehydrator:

  • Ability to add trays
  • A wide range in temperatures & the ability to change the temperature. Cheap low end models offer one setting: ‘Desert Blast’.
  • The heat being able to flow throughout the machine, a fan will do this.
  • Does it come with accessories such as fruit leather liners? Mesh screens? For doing small or messy items line the trays with parchment paper.  It is naturally non stick, non porous and heat resistant.

I currently have two dehydrators.  One is a Nesco. They are affordable, and found at most big box stores and online. While not overly fancy, they do the job and work very hard.


NESCO FD-61WHC, Snackmaster Express Food Dehydrator All-in-One Kit with Jerky Gun

Extra “fruit leather” tray liners are available for Nesco machines:
Nesco American Harvest Fruit Roll Sheets for FD-27 & FD-50

Parchment paper for lining trays.

My other, and preferred dehydrator:

L’Equip 528 Food Dehydrator

This dehydrator is a work of art, visually pleasing and whisper quiet.  It comes with trays that are designed for small items as well as fruit leather trays.

Making your own dehydrator:
An easy to make and affordable dehydrator can be made on your own with a few furnace filters for racks, bungie corded to a simple box fan.  This works real well!  In some cases it is better as it does not use heat, so it will not cook your food as it dries. See here for the Alton Brown ‘Good Eats’ method.

For more references on drying food at home, these books can help:

Food vacuums:
Food vacuums are a great way to preserve your dried food.  Especially if you are doing the food in the winter for the next year. I use Food Vac. You can find them at most big box stores and online.

With a little work and time, you can have a year’s worth of trail food.

For more tutorials and articles on Freeze-Drying see the links below:

Freeze-Drying Tutorials:

Dehydrating Tutorials:



Dehydrator Beef & Bean Chili




Beans, Legumes & Peas

Pasta & Grains


Dehydrated Trail Cake

Spaghetti Sauce Redux

Salsa & Sauces

Storage Tips

Freeze-drying versus Dehydrating (a comparison)