Dehydrated vs. Freeze Dried Foods
One question many hikers, even experienced ones, often have is what is the difference between dehydrated and freeze dried food? Or they will use them interchangeably like they are the same thing. Both types involve the removal of moisture to preserve and prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Both types are also widely used by hikers so let’s take a quick look at what each process involves.
The Dehydration Process
In the dehydration process, the water content of the food is removed by evaporation (electric food
dryer, air drying, sun drying, or smoking). Many of these foods can be bought on the shelf of your local grocery store. Many instant foods such as instant mashed potatoes, stuffing, rice, and soups are simply dehydrated and make for a quick meal. Some backpackers prefer to do their own dehydrating at home and do so with an electric dehydrator. These machines circulate hot, dry air across the food to dry it out without cooking it. If you are looking to get your own dehydrator, I recommend the Excalibur EXC10EL, which is completely stainless steel, has 16 sq. ft. of drying space, is NSF approved and made in the USA. Some of the most common foods backpackers dehydrate are meat (jerky), fruits, veggies, and sauces.
The Freeze Drying Process
Freeze drying is an industrial type of dehydrating in which the food is flash frozen. The frozen food is then put in a reduced pressure system where the water (now ice) in the food evaporates directly from a solid to a gaseous state. Freeze dried food offers the same nutritional value as fresh food. The flavors, smells, and textures of the food are also maintained quite well and freeze dried food will last for up to 30 years! It tends to be a little more expensive but if cost is not an issue or you’re just going on a short trip, I recommend freeze dried meals. If you are concerned about getting enough greens while hitting up the trails, consider taking Field of Greens by Vibrant Health which is this awesome mix that is 100% organic greens and freeze dried grasses.
Dehydrated vs Freeze Dried Food
Dehydrated Freeze Dried
Loss in nutritional value Retains most of nutritional value
About 90% of water content removed About 99% of water content removed
15-20 year shelf life 25-30 year shelf life
Less expensive More expensive
Requires longer cooking in hot water Reconstitutes quickly in hot or cold water
Hands down, freeze dried food is the better option, but your selection will probably come down to how much money you are willing to spend and which taste you prefer.
So, what type of food do you prefer while backpacking?