Dehydrated vegetables are insanely popular in the survival market, but they haven't caught on as they should among backpackers. Look in any thru-hikers pack, and you'll see plenty of bars, trail mix, and jerky - you probably won't see any vegetables though. Why?
Maybe because vegetables are not as calorie-dense as most backpackers would like. But they are an essential part of a healthy diet and should not be overlooked. With the ready availability of dehydrated vegetables, there is no reason you can't make room for some broccoli or carrots in your pack.
WHY DRIED VEGGIES?
We've talked about how to carry fresh fruits and vegetables on the trail, but it is challenging. Veggies are heavy to lug around and can spoil or bruise relatively quickly - not a great combination for the rugged and remote lifestyle of a hiker. Before you limit yourself to meat and grains though, you should experiment with a few bags of dehydrated vegetables and see how they work in your food plan. We’ve outlined only some of the benefits you may discover when start packing a stash of dehydrated vegetables.
NUTRITIOUS: Dehydrated vegetables are packed full of vitamins and minerals that your body needs, especially when it is depleted from long days of hiking.
*Tip: The most common question people ask about dehydrated vegetables is whether they are as nutritious as their fresh counterparts. And the answer is (mostly) a 'yes'.
Fresh is best for sure, but dried veggies lose very little of their nutritional value when they go thru the dehydration process. They retain most of the minerals, most of the vitamin A and some of the B-vitamins. What they lose are the volatile nutrients like Vitamin C and beta carotene. You can, however, minimize this loss by dehydrating at lower temperatures or pre-treating the food with chemicals like sulfur dioxide. You also can add back some vitamin C by dipping the food in citrus juice or citric acid.
PACKABLE: They are lightweight and take up a fraction of the size of their fresh counterparts. You can place them at the bottom of your food bag and not worry about them rotting or bruising while you walk.
EASY PREP: Similar to other dried foods, dehydrated vegetables are convenient for backpacking. They are ready-to-eat so you don't have to spend time cutting or chopping them. Just pull them out of the bag and drop them in your food. You also don't have to worry about spoilage even when you are on a long stretch between resupplies.
INEXPENSIVE: Contrary to popular belief, there are plenty of low-price, quality vegetable blends. Pricing varies between manufacturers, but you should expect to pay about a $1 an ounce for smaller 10-ounce packages and less if you buy in bulk. Each ounce yields between 1/4 and 1/2 cup of dehydrated vegetables. Potatoes tend to be the most affordable dehydrated vegetable, while asparagus, mushrooms and sweet potatoes are more expensive.
DEHYDRATED VEGETABLES: are placed in a dehydrator which circulates heated air to dry them out.
Because it uses heat, the veggies tend to lose some of their vitamins in the process. They also shrink in size and harden during dehydration. This process costs less than freeze-drying which is why it is so much more common than other dried options. It also can be done at home with a counter top dehydrator. These vegetables rehydrate by cooking or soaking them in water, but they take some time. You can eat them in soups or add them to your noodles.
You can get a variety of vegetables in a dehydrated form. Not all veggies are sold whole. Some of the dark green leafy vegetables like spinach are sold as flakes because they break easily when dehydrated whole. Our favorites include potato flakes because they hydrate readily and are packed full of carbs. Carrots and green beans also rehydrate well and add some color and flavor to a meal. Broccoli is another excellent choice because it is packed full of nutrition and doesn't require a whole lot of cooking to rehydrate.