The quest to pack the easiest and lightest camping and backpacking food is forever ongoing – ask any avid adventurer about pack weight and one of the most common areas to save a few ounces is by carrying less food.
Naturally, this begs the question on whether you can enjoy your freeze dried meals without water. Freeze dried meals are super lightweight; our meals range from 85g (.19lb) to 114g (.25lb). But, for example, when you add the 12oz of water to our Hearty Harvest bowl (100g dried), that meal that clocked in at a dry weight off .22lb now weighs over a full pound when fully rehydrated! For most backpacking, hunting, or camping trips, water is readily available! But for trips that have long, dry sections like parts of the Tahoe Rim Trail or the desert section of the Pacific Crest Trail, carrying enough water to rehydrate food on top of carrying water to stay hydrated adds up quickly! Carrying a gallon or more of water up and down mountains is... painful.
So, can you eat freeze dried food without water?
Freeze dried food is completely shelf stable and there is no food safety reason why you cannot eat dried food in its dry form. Raise your hand if you have fond memories of eating “astronaut” ice cream as a kid around campfires! In fact, there are some ingredients that I LOVE crunching on dry; our ground bison in the Unstuffed Pepper has a super airy crunch to it that I love. Freeze dried cherry tomatoes were once described by a fellow chef as “savory popcorn cloud bites”! And when I want a filling snack that is easy to munch on while hiking and doesn’t leave me super heavy feeling, I pack small pouches of freeze dried beans.
An example for eating freeze dried stuff without rehydrating first would be some of the older MREs brown square fruit bars. Rather than rehydrating, guys would rip one of the pouches open and eat like a snickers. Blast to the past, when was the last time you saw one of these!
No matter what, freeze dried food is going to seek out moisture to rehydrate – you either add that water to the dried food before enjoying or your body uses moisture in your mouth and your stomach to rehydrate the food. If you try to eat a full meal without rehydrating first, you’ll wind up drinking the same amount of water that you would have added or more since your mouth might be parched.
And no matter how unsavory to discuss, this blog wouldn’t be complete without talking about a common problem sometimes faced by backpackers or anyone else eating a prolonged diet of dehydrated or freeze dried food: feeling “back up” in the bowels. Yup, a little unsavory when discussing food! But, this is a commonly floated question on outdoor forums – “Why do I feel backed up when backpacking?” And the honest truth? You’re dehydrated! Not only are you participating in a grueling, endurance activity that dehydrates your body and depletes you of salts and electrolytes, you are also eating dried food that needs water. And if you aren’t properly hydrated before eating your meal and if you don’t fully rehydrate your food, you’ll make your body even more dehydrated! So want to flush your system and ensure all the pipes are in proper working order? Drink plenty of fluids 😊 If I snack on jerkies or any freeze dried goodies while out on the trail, I make sure I am also drinking an electrolyte filled beverage as well.
Go ahead and enjoy freeze dried food without adding water (though I really don’t recommend eating a meal this way... it just doesn’t sound enjoyable!), but realize that the water will come from somewhere. Stay hydrated and you shouldn’t have any problems!
Fuel your wild side with Bushka's delicious freeze dried meals. Nutritionally dense to fuel even your most rugged adventures. Whether you're backpacking, hunting, rafting, or just enjoying the great outdoors, make great food part of those memories!
If you’re applying for the Pacific Crest Trail permit lottery or already have your permit issued, then congratulations! You’ve taken the first step towards the adventure of a lifetime!
For many, food is the largest source of anxiety when planning a long-distance backpacking trip. Read our resupply guide for more information on successfully planning your food for the PCT.
As a fellow backpacker, athlete, or active outdoorsy person, you know how vital the right food is to your success — especially when you’re on the trail or on the go.
The problem is finding time to source, cook, and pack food that’s lightweight, tastes great and is actually good for your body (the holy trinity of backpacking food!)