Hiking Food Review : Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack

Following on from last week’s post on Easy Hiking food for Overnight Trips, I was sent some product by the nice folk down in Tassie from Strive Food.

I was interested to read that this small, Aussie business has grown from Todd and Melanie’s basement in Hobart and from their expertise as a nutritionist (Melanie) and Outdoor Ed Instructor (Todd). What a winning combo!

Enjoying the view from Mt Solitary whilst the billy boils.

Enjoying the view from Mt Solitary whilst the billy boils.

For people who are time poor, or lacking experience in the outdoors, having someone else do the packing, prepping and planning for them is a nice weight off their mind.

For years, the market in Australia has been dominated by NZ company Backcountry and fair enough, I’ve eaten many of these in my time and their freeze dried meals are lightweight, easy and tasty. Exactly what everyone wants in the bush.

Vegetarian Laksa Weigh-in at 138 gms

Vegetarian Laksa Weigh-in at 138 gms

I’m encouraged now that there seems to be a really good local Australian competitor to this market in the form of Strive.

I took the 24hr Ration Pack out for a test and the video above shows my experience and thoughts.

Let someone else do all the work - Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack.

Let someone else do all the work – Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack.

The range of products were all known to me and were tasty. I’m not sure about the demand for this full 24hr pack, except perhaps for outdoor ed purposes, which probably is a reflection of Todd’s background. I guess it makes it super easy for a school running Duke of Ed or similar to just stack up on 50 of these packs and hand them out as necessary.

Veggie Laksa Cooking up a treat.

Veggie Laksa Cooking up a treat.

The preparation was super easy, only negative I could find was that the bags didn’t have a simple tear from corner. I needed a knife to get into the bags. Also, the cooking time needed to be about 7 mins longer than stated on the instructions as the noodles weren’t cooked at the stated time.

However, the flavour was good and the serving was ‘generously hearty’ one might say. Actually, it was huge and I struggled to eat all of it! I needed to roll back down the mountain when I’d finished, thankfully I was certainly full of carb energy to do so.

Gnocchi is heavier at 213gm

Gnocchi is heavier at 213gm

I’ve still got the bolognaise and pasta meal to try out and I’m looking forward to that on my upcoming 3 Peaks trip to Kanangra-Boyd NP (just not the traditional route!).

All up, I recommend giving Strive meals a go. Apart from feeling warm and fuzzy inside from the food, there’s also that nice feeling about supporting a local Australian small business.

Ordering online is easy through their website and if you live in Hobart, you can even pop into their shop.

Generally speaking, I think that most people will opt for the main meals when it comes to pre-packaged dehydrated or freeze dried meals. I think it’s basically pretty lazy if you can’t wrangle together breakfast, lunch and snacks from your local supermarket.

For goodness sake, you’re about to put yourself out in the bush for several days – if you can’t manage to pop some muesli and milk powder into a ziploc bag, there’s something wrong!

Q: What’s been your experiences with pre-packed dried foods for hiking? (The good, the bad and the inedible!)

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Easy Hiking Food for Overnight Trips (That’s lightweight too!)

I’m still staggered by the number of people who say that planning and organising food is the issue that stops them from doing overnight hikes.

There’s really no reason these days for using that excuse and my suspicion is that if you’re still using it, then the real issue isn’t to do with the food, but something else. (Ouch!)

I’ve already done this video on Basic Food for Hiking last year, so here’s a refresher to prove that it can be as easy as a trip to your local supermarket or even hopping online and letting someone else do all the work for you.

Once you’ve mastered the basics of supermarket options, and only if you’re keen, you can worry about dehydrating your own food and getting into the other myriad of options available to you.

1.  The “Let someone else worry about it” option

Ready to go 24hr Ration Packs

Let someone else do all the work - Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack.

Let someone else do all the work – Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack.

I mean really. If you just want the easiest option and don’t want to think about it, order a 24hr ration pack that is ready to go. There’s a few varieties that I’ve come across and they’re pretty good. Just check the overall weight and what cooking/preparation you need. eg. do you need to take a stove and billy? (PS: I’m going to be doing a video review on the Strive Food 24hr Ration Pack very soon!)

 2. The “I’ll do some of the thinking” option

Pre-packed Dehydrated Meals

This is simply a trip to your outdoors store (or buy online) purpose made dehydrated hiking meals. There’s a stack of different varieties available these days and some brands, such as Backcountry, come with the easiest of all preparations. ie. Open and stand up the pack, pour in boiling water, close the pack for 10 mins, then eat. Many of these are surprisingly tasty. You can buy packs for all meals, but you might just want to grab the evening meal and substitute it with your supermarket options below.

Enjoying the view from Mt Solitary whilst the billy boils.

Enjoying the view from Mt Solitary whilst the billy boils.

3. The “I’ll grab what I need when I’m shopping and save money” option

DIY Supermarket Option

No offence, but if you can go to a supermarket, you can organise easy overnight hiking meals. Here’s my super simple meal plan for a weekend trip. (Australian available product names used.)

And to make it even easier, you can Download my Hiking Food Shopping and Prep List here, and take it with you to the shops!

Seeds, Fruit & Nuts - The foundation of every good Scroggin.

Seeds, Fruit & Nuts – The foundation of every good Scroggin.

Saturday

Breakfast

  • N/A. Eat it at home super early before you hit the road for the track or take it with you. I usually take a coffee and toast in the car.

Morning Tea

  • Muesli Bar and handful of Scroggin (nuts, dried fruit, etc)
Muesli Bars - Loads of choice!

Muesli Bars – Loads of choice!

Lunch

  • Crackers or flat bread of your choice (Vita-Weats, Rice cakes,  Mountain Bread, Lebanese Bread)
Crackers are easy and lightweight.

Crackers are easy and lightweight.

  • Cheese (Baby-Bell, Laughing Cow, Picon, etc)

Processed cheese like these can be kept out of the fridge.

Processed cheese like these can be kept out of the fridge.

BabyBel Cheese

BabyBel Cheese

  • Salmon/Tuna sachet (smaller 100g) or little 95g tin eg. Tuna with lemon pepper, tuna with tomato and onion, salmon with smokey flavour
Salmon or Tuna slices in sachet.

Salmon or Tuna slices in sachet.

      • A few slices of Salami (1/3 of your supply)
      • Handful of Scroggin if you’re still hungry

Afternoon Tea

      • Muesli Bar and handful of scroggin
      • Jelly snakes/sweets
By late afternoon, you might appreciate a sugar hit to get you up the last hill.

By late afternoon, you might appreciate a sugar hit to get you up the last hill.

Dinner

      • Happy Hour to share (eg. Bag of soy chips, tube of Pringles)
Pringles or similar keep well in your pack. It's nice to have something to share with your mates before dinner!

Pringles or similar keep well in your pack. It’s nice to have something to share with your mates before dinner!

      • Cuppa Soup
You can now buy individual sachets of Cuppa Soup. Perfect if you never touch the stuff in the city.

You can now buy individual sachets of Cuppa Soup. Perfect if you never touch the stuff in the city.

      • Pasta and sauce sachet (eg. Continental – Napoletana)

Packet Pasta & Sauce - loads of options

Packet Pasta & Sauce – loads of options

The tomato based flavour ones work best with your salami

The tomato based flavour ones work best with your salami

      • Salami (non-heat treated)
      • Chocolate to share for dessert

Chocolate - every hikers perfect dessert!

Chocolate – every hikers perfect dessert – How to make friends around the campfire!

And if you really want something to drink before bed (think about it), a hot choccie could be nice.

And if you really want something to drink before bed (think about it), a hot choccie could be nice.

Sunday

Breakfast

      • Muesli or cereal of your choice in ziplock bag (add dessert spoon of powdered milk to bag at home)
      • add some dried fruit if you wish for some flavour and fibre!
There's great varieties of dried fruit now available. Add it to your brekkie.

There’s great varieties of dried fruit now available. Add it to your brekkie.

      • Moccona coffee sachet or coffee bag or tea
There's also coffee bags available, which tend to have a stronger flavour.

There’s also coffee bags available, which tend to have a stronger flavour.

Morning  Tea

      • Muesli Bar and handful of scroggin

Lunch

      • same as Saturday (different flavour tuna)
I've been known to use the lid and ring pull as a spoon to scoop out the salmon… be careful though!

I’ve been known to use the lid and ring pull as a spoon to scoop out the salmon… be careful though!

Afternoon Tea

      • same as morning tea

…and if you screw your nose up at having the same thing 2 days in a row, or no fresh food, suck it up Princess. It’s two days for goodness sake!

This gives you a shopping list (Which you can download here) for the weekend as follows:

      • 1 box sandwich size ziplock bags
      • 500g fruit and nut mix (the yummiest looking you can find)
      • 1 bag  M&Ms
      • 1 bag snakes or sweets of your choice
      • 1 box muesli bars
      • 1 packet of crackers or flat bread
      • 2 small packets (100g) or small tins (95g) of flavoured tuna or salmon
      • 1 x 20cm salami (non-heat treated)
      • 1 bag Baby Bell cheeses (‘little baby cheeses’) or similar
      • Happy Hour (1 large tube of Pringles)
      • 1 packet Pasta and Sauce
      • 1 sachet Cuppa soup
      • 1 family block chocolate
      • 1 box Moccona coffee sachets (I like the cappuccino ones, but wouldn’t drink them in town)
      • Dried fruit (option) I like dried mango or blueberries
      • 1 packet 2min noodles (emergency food)
Every hikers best friend.

Every hikers best friend.

Now the key is not to just pack everything above in your backpack. Here’s the simple prep that I do with these items before I start packing. It’s all about breaking it down, removing the packaging and only taking what you need.

Preparation at home

SNACKS

      • Remove muesli bars from box.
      • Take 4 only and leave the rest.
      • Put 3 large handfuls of fruit and nut mixture into a ziplock bag. Leave the rest.
      • Add 1 handful of M&Ms to fruit and nut ziploc bag. Leave the rest.
      • Take your packet of snakes/sweets as is.

BREAKFAST

      • Put one serve of muesli/cereal in ziploc bag.
      • Add 1 heaped dessert spoon of powdered milk
      • Add sugar if you must
      • Add small handful of dried fruit (optional)
      • Put 2 tea bags or coffee sachets in a ziploc bag. Leave the rest.

LUNCH

      • Put salami in ziploc bag and make sure you have a small pen knife to cut it with. You might even want to put the knife the bag.
      • Take salmon/tuna tins as is.
      • Take 4 baby cheeses. Leave the rest.
      • Count out the number of crackers you will eat for each lunch and put into one ziploc bag. (I take 4 rice crackers for each lunch = 8)

DINNER

      • Take happy hour as is (Pringles tubes are a good way of protecting the chips).
      • Take 1 cuppa soup and leave the rest.
      • Take pasta and sauce packet as is.

Oh and don't forget to take something as emergency food, just in case you get back late or are benighted.

Oh and don’t forget to take something as emergency food, just in case you get back late or are benighted.

Beef Jerky makes a good alternative to salami, especially if you're hiking in the tropics or hot weather!

Beef Jerky makes a good alternative to salami, especially if you’re hiking in the tropics or hot weather!

Coming Soon – Brand New Hiking How-To Videos and New Look Blog!

Yay! I’m so excited!!

You know how they say that change is as good as a holiday? Well, I guess I’m about to feel as though I’ve had one big holiday, because there’s a whole lot of ‘change’ coming very soon.

If you follow the @Lotsafreshair Instagram or Twitter, you might have seen me and the crew oot n’ aboot (a loving nod to my Canadian friends) shooting new clips for the 2nd series of the Lotsafreshair – How To Hiking videos.

The amazing crew of Mark (Big Dog), Peter and I, spent an incredibly busy day up in the Blue Mountains at the end of 2013, putting down as many tips n’ tricks as we could in the time we had.

That's a wrap!

That’s a wrap! Big Dog & Caro – Butterbox at Sunset – near Mt Hay, Leura.

Thanks to the awesome guys at National Parks, we had some amazing locations including Pulpit Rock, overlooking the Grose Valley, and the Butterbox at sunset, out near Mt Hay.

And as they say in late night TV, ‘…But that’s not all!‘ Alas, I don’t have any steak knives to give away, but I am also working on a lovely, fresh new look for the blog. Well, actually, the lovely Cath from Phase Creative is doing all the pretty stuff and I’m super happy with it.

Lotsafreshair.com - New Design Sneak Peek!

Lotsafreshair.com – New Design Sneak Peek!

I’ve been frustrated with the existing design, as I didn’t feel the design allowed enough topics and content on the screen. So we’ve been working on moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org (the bloggers amongst you will know what that all means!), and using this renewed flexibility to come up with a layout and design that really works.

And another sneaky look...

And another sneaky look…

The great news is that the design phase is nearly complete, and now it’s just down to the developing and coding side of things… oh you amazing, mighty, Web Princess of the dark arts of < and >. I am not worthy!  So no launch date yet for the new blog design, but you will start seeing the new videos over the coming weeks… YAY!!!

I’d love to hear what you think about the teaser video and any thoughts on what types of videos you’d like to see in the future. Please drop me a line below to let me know!

Hiking Food : Hidden in your Supermarket

Continuing the theme of trying to get inspired by lunch in the bush, I recently decided to spend some quality time browsing the shelves of my supermarket, to see if there were any hidden gems just itching to get out into the wilderness.
I came to realise that I have developed shopping blinkers when it comes to scanning shelves for familiar brands, packaging or solutions. I’m sure some advertising market researcher would be able to explain the reasons and psychology behind this, but for me, it felt like I was shopping in a foreign country. I was suddenly seeing things on the shelves that I walk past everyday and seeing familiar products in a new light.

All wasn’t gloss and excitement though, the grocery Tombraider in me discovered a few things that are best left on the shelves… or even buried in said tomb.
The winner of this category would have to be anything with the fetching ingredient of Mechanically Separated Chicken in it.

Mechanically Separated Chicken

Mechanically Separated Chicken anyone?

Yep, this little gem, with it’s somewhat industrial sounding name, is about as far from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as you can get.
And with a name like that, is it any wonder that it is usually found tucked up tight inside a tin with other serial offenders such as MSG and TNA’s*?
So unless you’re happy to chow down on a series of numbers and hormone pumped, pulped chicken…(and I mean every bit of it), I’d give this little gem a miss.
So I encourage you to put aside some time for quality shelf browsing and not only in your supermarket, but head to the health food store and (my personal favourite) the Asian grocery store.

Asian Supermarket Gold

A Treasure Trove in the Asian Supermarket

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t know what something is or how to use it. If you get the cold shoulder or find that language is a problem, find another shop. You’ll need to take off your rosé-coloured, blinkered, pre-conceived shopping goggles and enter with a fresh approach, asking yourself how different things could be used, how they would travel and deal with some of the conditions that you may find in the bush.

Oh and remember, (almost) everything tastes good in the bush… Although I’ve never had much luck with dried fish!

*Three Number Acronyms

Hiking Food : Dehydrating Hummus

Of all the meals that I plan for the bush, the one that I always struggle to feel inspired by is lunch.

For the times when I’ve been busy in the week and can’t be bothered to plan too hard, I’ll go for my ‘standard’ of a small foil packet of salmon or tuna, some rice crackers and cheese. After 10 years, this gets pretty boring, especially if you’re on an extended walk of 4 days or more.

Recently, (after being inspired by reader Bernie Boo in a comment) I decided to experiment with making my own hummus at home and dehydrating it. All I can say is, “yum”! Sure, you can buy commercially made dehydrated hummus, but why bother when it’s so cheap, tasty, quick and easy to make your own.

Staples in my pantry

Staples in my pantry

P1020352

  • 400g can chickpeas (drain & rinse)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 2 tbs tahini
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 tsp lemon rind
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh coriander
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Sprinkle of smoky paprika
  • 60ml water (or enough for good consistency)
  • 100ml olive oil
Wizz until consistency right

Wizz until consistency right

Basically, I just chucked everything except the oil and water into the blender and wizzed it until the consistency was good, then just drizzled in the oil/water until it was smooth and lump free.

Then it was simply a matter of spreading out the dip on the dehydrator flat tray (or use aluminium foil to make your own inlays for the ‘holey’ trays) and dry until crumbly like kitty litter.

The time it takes will depend on a variety of factors like the power of your dehydrator and the humidity in the air. Mine took about 8 hours during a Sydney Winter’s day.

Spread out thinly on inlay trays

Spread out thinly on inlay trays

Don’t forget to use the other trays for drying other savoury items at the same time. I dried some red capsicum (peppers) to go with the dip!

Yummy happy campers

Add water to bag at camp and enjoy! (Oops – a bit too much water in this first test!)

When it’s finished, pop into portion sized ziploc bags, label and store in the freezer for your next outdoor adventure.

Then at camp, simply add water to the bag and squish/squeeze it around to rehydrate and enjoy with crackers or whatever takes your fancy!

I’m so excited by the outcome that I’m now going to experiment with dehydrating some babaganoush (eggplant dip) and a few other combo’s to keep the variety up.

TIP: Before putting into the ziploc bags, put the dehydrated hummus through the blender again to reduce it to a fine powder. This will help it to rehydrate quicker with a smoother consistency.

Secrets of the Police Rescue Rat Pack

A little while back I took part in a Land Search and Rescue workshop run by the Blue Mountains Police Rescue squad. It’s just one of the many great training opportunities thanks to the Bushwalkers Wilderness Rescue Squad.

Learning from each other - a great training weekend.

Learning from each other – a great training weekend.

On this two day workshop, we worked with our colleagues in other volunteer squads such as the SES and RFS. We learnt about Search Management from Police Rescue and put everything we learnt into practice during some NavEx and SarEx activities.

Bulkier and heavier than I'm used to

Heavier than I’m used to

One unexpected insight we got into Police operations this weekend, was the ration packs or “Rat Packs” that we were given. In fact, we were told that we were guinea pigs for the testing of what could become the new rat packs as part of their SOPSs during search and rescue operations. Actually, it turns out that we were the crash test dummies of the 2nd version of these packs. Even though they couldn’t tell us what happened to the first set of testers, we happily munched on, devouring our tasty bundles of joy.

Apart from the overall bulk and weight of the rat pack, these bags were pretty amazing. The 1 day pack certainly had enough food and sustenance for me for two days!

Day 1

  • Bounce Protein ball (coconut and macadamia)
  • Annie’s Fruit Leather (boysenberry and apple)
  • Brookfarm Gluten Free Muesli Bar
  • SPC Peaches
  • John West Tuna & Beans
  • Mrs May’s Almond Nutty Toffee Bites (delish!)
  • M&Ms
  • Squinch (Electrolyte powder)
  • PK chewing gum
  • Main Meal: Chicken Jambalaya + Hot Pack

20130521-173807.jpg

Without a doubt, the most impressive part of the pack, was the Hot Packs. Apparently, these are common amongst the military, but as a humble Aussie hiker, I’d never come across these. Put simply, it’s how to heat your main meal in what looks like a plain plastic bag, by only adding an inch of cold water to the bottom. Yep, with a few nifty little chemicals, these things work like magic. (I’m going to post a video in a coming blog me using one so you can see it in action).

Day 2

  • Up & Go
  • SPC Peaches
  • Oat Slice
  • Protein Bounce Ball
  • Brookfarm Muesli Bar
  • Annie’s Fruit Leather (boysenberry and apple)
  • Squinch (Electrolyte powder)
  • Main Meal: Beef Stew + Hot Pack
More yum on the 2nd Day

More yum on the 2nd Day

It was a good weekend with just the right balance of theory and practical. One of the particularly good outcomes, was getting to know some of the folk from the other agencies and how they work. In fact, we’ve already been on call-out operations with them since and it was great to work alongside some of these familiar faces.

Thanks to the Blue Mountains PRS (Particularly SD, IC and DA) for all their efforts. Great stuff.

Oh, and I found another use for the M&Ms in the rat pack!

photo

Backcountry Bakery

This week we say g’day to Matt McClelland*, who has kindly contributed this tasty guest post!

I love good food when walking.

Matt cooking up a treat in a classic Tassie Hut

Matt cooking up a treat in a classic Tassie Hut

Actually, I love good food anytime and fresh bread is my favourite. Years ago I used to carry one of those stove top oven things – they weigh a ton and use a loooooot of fuel – now a plastic bag does the trick. It all started with muffins. When I said, ‘I love good food’, perhaps I should say yummy food!

OK – so do you want a fresh bread roll on day 4 of your next walk? Here’s how…

Before you set off on your walk:

  1. Buy a packet mix of bread flour and yeast from the supermarket.
  2. Add a handful of the flour (30-50 grams) to a freezer bag
  3. Add a bit more yeast than suggest for the ratio (about 1/2 – 3/4 a teaspoon) to the bag.
  4. Squeeze the air out and tie a slip knot in the bag.
Straight out of the bag!

Straight out of the bag!

Once in camp:

  1. Add a splash of water and knead the dough for about 10 mins till it is a sticky but firm dough.
  2. Leave a bit of air in the bag and tie off with a slip knot and let it rise in your pocket or under your sleeping bag for about 20 mins (ie. a warm place).
  3. Knead it a bit more and then let it raise again (back in the warm place) for another 20 mins.
  4. Now the simple trick… Squeeze the air out of the bag (without squashing your roll) and tie another slip knot.
  5. Drop it in a pot of simmering water for about 25 mins leaving a lid on the pot.  Try turning the roll over about half way through the cooking.
  6. Take your roll out of the water and let it cool for a bit before taking it out of the bag.
  7. Enjoy the smell of fresh soft roll!
  8. If you want to add a crust, a few seconds over a flame will do the trick.
Hmmm, I can almost smell it from here!

Hmmm, I can almost smell it from here!

Now all you have to do is use the hot water to make up a tasty soup, add a smidge of butter for your bread, then sit back and enjoy the stars, pondering how great life can be.

A luxury smidge of butter

A luxury smidge of butter

The deal is – if you meet me in camp – you have to share 🙂

A few tips:

  • Bake your first one at home to get the hang of it. Getting the water and kneading right is a tad tricky.
  • Carry a small amount of extra flour in another bag in case you add too much water.
  • Make sure your freezer bags are okay for cooking in.
  • Try to use the hot water for part of your meal so as not to waste the fuel.
  • You can make longer thinner rolls – they cook faster, but can be a bit trickier in the pot.
  • I use a Jetboil stove which has that fancy wetsuit insulation and simmers really well, so it does not use a lot of fuel.
  • You can get by with just one raising – but I prefer two.
  • If cooking muffins or biscuits – use the same baking trick but you don’t need to let them rise (there is no yeast) – choc-chip muffins – yummmmmm!

*Matt McClelland got into bushwalking through Scouts and developed a love for walking and wild places during this time.  Matt lives on the north side of Sydney with his two young kids and one wife.  Matt runs Wildwalks.com and Bushwalk.com and is also the author of “Great North Walk”, “Best River and Alpine walks around Mt Kosciuszko”, “Best Bush and Coast walks on the Central Coast” and the upcoming book, “The Six Foot Track”.  

 

Dinner in a Bag!

I’ve always been pretty fond of the cook-in-the-bag concept out in the bush. Besides doing away with the washing up, it’s another reason not to take a plate/bowl with you, reducing the bulk and weight in your backpack.

Our fabulous Kiwi cousins at Backcountry pretty much have this concept sewn up with their tasty freeze dried meals (I totally rate the Roast Lamb and Beef Curry!). In fact, I pretty much reckon that their meals are the bench mark when it comes to tasty meals in the wilderness.

The other day, I made the decision to head out bush at the last minute and not only had my own stash of dehydrated meals run out, but I didn’t have time to get to a camping store to grab a Backcountry. Sniffing around the supermarket I thought I’d experiment with something that wasn’t promoted as cook-in-bag, but as it was in a foil lined sachet, I thought I’d give it a red hot go!

Not designed for cook-in-bag

Not designed for cook-in-bag (and the wine bladder has water in it… honest!)

Voila! Ainsley Harriott’s Roasted Vegetable Cous Cous, cooked in it’s own sachet!

I knew that the ‘roasted vegetable’ component of the product would be pretty light on, probably needing a magnifying glass to find the vegies, so I took a ziploc bag with some dried vegies (dried peas and dried shallots) from the supermarket and two types of dried mushrooms from the Asian supermarket, added herbs & chilli powder and some good ol’ Biltong, which I threw in before adding the water.

Then, just like a Backcountry, I simply added boiling water, folded over the top and sat upright for about 10 mins, waiting for it all to get hot, gooey and tasty – then ate it right out of the bag. Easy!

P1010538

8 Tips to Using a Dehydrator to make tasty hiking food!

One of the questions I get asked most is what do I eat in the bush? It might also explain why my Basic Food for Hiking Video is the 2nd most popular on the channel. Us hikers love our food!

With all that fresh air and exercise, we sure build up healthy appetites and I’m not convinced that all of it is about ensuring correct nutrition (see A Little Tipple in the Bush). So how do we guarantee tasty, healthy food, whilst keeping pack weights to a minimum? How do we enjoy such treats as Mussaman Lamb or Spag Bol in the middle of the wilderness?… The answer is dehydrating!

If alchemy is the art of turning lead into gold, then dehydrating is like some strange kind of bushwalking alchemy. Here’s some tips to get you started!

  1. The Dehydrator

    Dehydrators - like a series of trays with a hairdryer!

    Dehydrators – like a series of trays with a hairdryer!

    Dehydrators are made up of a number of trays.  In this example there are 5 trays sitting on the base tray. The bottom of each tray is grids which allow for air to flow freely throughout the various trays and around the food. There are also inlay sheets which sit inside the trays and allow you to dry liquids, sauces or fruit leathers. The dry air is generated in the lid section, which is very similar to a low voltage hair dryer. There are quite a few options out there on the market, this one (Sunbeam Healthy Food Dryer) is one of the cheapest at around AUD$100 new. You can pay up to $400+ depending on the model and the functions available. For instance, this model doesn’t have a timer, which would be a helpful thing.  However, you can get around this by using a basic electrical timer that you use between the powerpoint and the plug of the dryer.

  2. Preparation

    Broccoli keeps it's colour if it's blanched first!

    Broccoli keeps it’s colour if it’s blanched first!

    Before placing your food in the dehydrator, you will need to do some preparation.  At the easy end of the spectrum is simply slicing fruit or veggies into small pieces, whereas at the other end of things, is cooking and preparing a full meal. Check your instruction manual which contains loads of helpful advice and tables about the necessary preparation.  Some veggies or fruit need prep such as dipping in lemon juice or blanching in hot water first.  From experience, these simple steps certainly enhance the end product – so if possible, don’t skip this step.

  3. Choosing what to dehydrate

    When choosing meat to dehydrate, the best way to get the most effective drying (and let’s face it, we don’t want to get sick out in the bush) is to use mince meat.  Thankfully, there are lots of options available at your local supermarket – beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, pork and for us Aussies, kangaroo.  (If you ask your butcher nicely, he will mince almost anything for you. Tripe anyone?) Almost everything that goes into the dryer will need to be sliced small to ensure that you get the most surface area, allowing the warm dry air to circulate around as much of the food as possible.

    Butter Chicken after drying

    Butter Chicken after drying

  4. Cook it up!

    For this example, I cooked up a big pot of lamb mince and used a packet sauce mix of Mussaman Lamb.  I followed the recipe on the packet (except for using mince instead of pieces of meat), but also added a stack of my own (small cut) vegetables and fresh herbs.

    Just make a normal meal - but use mince!

    Just make a normal meal – but use mince!

  5. Drying

    Slice things thinly and uniformly for best results

    Slice things thinly and uniformly for best results

    Once the preparation or cooking is done, place the food onto the trays in a single layer.  Again, this is to ensure maximum space around the food to aid drying.
    Dishes with sauce or liquid need to sit on the inlay tray and obviously not onto the normal hole covered trays.  With my dehydrator, I can use the base tray for saucy dishes also.  Note that this base tray dries food quicker than any other area in the dryer. Check the manual that came with the appliance for estimated drying times.  There are no definitive drying times for each type of food as times depend on not only the size of each piece of food, but also the humidity and outside temperature.

    For example:  I once dried Mussaman Lamb in December (Aussie Summer) and it took 14 hrs to dry.  Then, in April (Aussie Autumn) I also dried Mussaman Lamb and it took 8hrs 15mins.

    To make the most of your drying time, don’t just fill one or two trays.  Put a meat dish into two trays, then fill the others with veggies and fruit.  As each type of food will dry at different times, it is important to keep checking on them throughout the process. Each person will find a way that works for them in this, however I tend to check after 6 hrs which will give me an idea of what the overall time is going to be. If you’re doing this overnight, your alarm clock will become your noisy partner in the dehydrating process. The finished product will differ for each type of food. Your instruction manual will give you a description of what to expect and how to know that it is done. The best description I’ve heard for correctly dried mince meat, is kitty litter. Meow!

    Dried Mince looking a bit like kitty litter!

    Dried Mince looking a bit like kitty litter!

  6. Storing the dehydrated food

    Once the food has finished drying, store them in portion sized Ziploc bags. You’ll find that when it is dried, it’s hard to figure out how much a portion is. So make this calculation before you dry. Look at your cooking pot and decide that how many dinners it will cover. Then divide the dried food into this many Ziploc bags.
    Write the date and contents on the bag with indelible pen and place in the freezer.

    Keep notes on your dehydrating efforts

    Keep notes on your dehydrating efforts

    Check your instruction manual for details on storage life. Keep a record of your dehydrating history, rating the humidity on the day and the start/finish times, along with any pre-treatment needed.  This is how you can learn and tweak for your next time.

  7. Out on the track 

    To make it easier for yourself, you may wish to add your other dry ingredients to the Ziploc bag before you head off on your trip.   For example:  Add in other dehydrated veggies such as Surprise Peas or Beans or rice noodles.  This way you have a full meal in a bag. When you arrive at camp, simply pop all the contents of the bag into a billy and cover with cold water.  Put the lid on (to keep the craw

    P1010541

    Meal in a bag!

    lies out) and set aside for an hour.  Perfect time to light the fire and have happy hour! After an hour, simply place the billy over the heat.  Check by tasting the meat.  If it’s still chewy, continue to heat through – leave the lid on and simmer.  Stir frequently. Bon Appetit!

  8. What not to dry

    Being a regular eater of tofu at home, I thought I’d give this a go for the track as well.  Yes, it dried quite successfully, however (thankfully) I gave it a test rehydrate at home before risking taking it out into the bush.

    Whatever you do... don't dehydrate tofu!

    Whatever you do… don’t dehydrate tofu!

    This photo shows the slice of tofu after sitting in water for 24hrs. The best way to describe the texture of it at this stage would be like the bicycle inner tube that I take as an emergency fire lighting tool. Sorry vegetarians… I tried.

  • HOT TIP! Mince represents the major tip in choosing what to dry – Good things come in small packages!
  • HOT TIP!  If you’re a busy person (who isn’t these days?) and you are trying to get a stack of dehydrating done for an upcoming extended trip, I suggest cooking up enough for dinner that night, and then putting all the leftovers into the dehydrator and letting it run through the night.

Goodluck with your dehydrating efforts. I’d love to hear your experiences, recipes and other tips!

Thanks to Swantje and her lovely family (from http://textileshed.wordpress.com) I met at Kanangra Walls over Easter for the inspiration for this post!

Food for Overnight Bushwalks

I have a confession to make…

…Cauliflower.

In fact, half a fresh cauliflower. That’s just under half a kilo of vegetable.

It was October 1999 and that half a kilo of tasty veg was sitting at the top of my backpack, whilst my cousin shouldered an equal amount of fresh broccoli. We had set off from Katoomba station to start a 5 day (132km) walk to Mittagong in the New South Wales Southern Highlands. You could say that what we lacked in track-smarts we made up for in enthusiasm and sense of adventure… Oh, and a 23kg pack. Yes. 23.

We really had no idea. We also didn’t have the knowledge of having walked and learned from a bushwalking club or knowing where to go looking for advice on the internet.

Thankfully, since then, I’ve learnt a thing or two! Here’s some basics on how to get started on your culinary adventures in the bush and how to avoid what George and Gary would call, ‘a world of pain’.