Expedition Food

Having spent a great deal of time over the years living in the outdoors and also being a keen cook, it came somewhat as a surprise the realization that what I knew about preparing food in the outdoors wasn't always common knowledge.

As is often stated food on expedition is probably one of the most important elements to get right both in terms of nutrition and morale.

A few tips for preparing dehydrated food in the outdoors:

A lot of food in the outdoors is of a freeze-dried nature for good reason it is lighter to carry and it has a longer shelf life. To prepare this food well is harder than one might think a few rules of thumb

  • Don't heed the instructions on the pack too much especially when it comes to liquid measurements.


  • On almost all dehydrated food ignore the manufacture instructions and quantities of water. Mix the mixtures with a very small amount of cold water removing any lumps. (This is hard to do if you add boiling water or add the mixture to water) Then add boiling water slowly while stirring over a low heat (water is much easier to add than take away).  Chocolate pudding is the one exception here the powder should initially be added to the liquid however it is still worth using only about half the liquid the packet recommends, more can still be added at a later stage.


  • Dehydrated food usually tastes better if it is left to sit.  The meal can be brought to the boil then left to rehydrate before being reheated prior serving. This can also avoid having to simmer it hence saving fuel.


  • A good way to improve this process is to create an insulated pouch mine is made out of foil coated bubble wrap the sort used for insulating boilers this keeps the food hot while continuing to cook it.


  • Items of a smaller size usually cook faster for example couscous and noodles cook faster than pasta or rice.




Helpful Hints


  • If you have a flask with you any spare water put in flask for later saves time and fuel.


  • If you have a pan on the stove fill a second with water and place it on top to begin heating it takes a lot of energy to raise water by even 1 degree Celsius. Likewise food that has been boiled and needs to be kept hot can also be stacked. (A word of caution be aware of making the stove unstable, losing your food or worst scolding someone would not be a good idea).


  • To make plastic food bags waterproof and accessible remove air from bag twist top of bag to a firm tube then tie a simple knot. To untie twist top of bag then push through the end, this way the bag can be reused. Tying the two corners together leaves a hole down the middle meaning the bag won't be water proof likewise the ties supplied don't work, there must be a twist in the bag.


  • Always double bag food, much better than a sticky mess.


  • To get foods like sugar out of a bag without contaminating with people spoons roll down sides of bag support underneath with one hand the other hand holding the top of the bag pour out the required amount of the contents.


  • If you are taking fresh vegetable or fruit buy un-ripened items to increase their shelf life and survive travel better.


  • Some vegetable and fruit travel better than others: Onions, garlic, cauliflower, savoy cabbage, squash, apples, oranges all travel fairly well.                                                             
  • On longer trips always take a least one meal that is easy to prepare so if you have a long or hard day you have a meal that is quick to prepare.  Likewise a quick soup at the start of a meal allows you to get hot food into people while the main meal is prepared.


  • A water bottle or flask makes a great rolling pin (if you want to avoid washing the outside wrap it in clean film first)


  • On canoe trips an up turned and supported canoe makes a great table.  To produce a clean prep surface wrap clean film around the boat. *hot pans melt easily through plastic canoes


  • To grate cheese without a grater score a series of slices one way across the surface then run a fork in the opposite direction.


  • Carrying a set of spices and other basics can liven up a boring meal or even allow you to total change the meal.                                                                                                               Mine consist of a selection of the following: chilli powder, curry powder, a stock cube, a small plastic bottle of soya sauces, a small plastic bottle of cooking oil; small bottle of balsamic vinegar, a small bottle of lemon or lime juice; a small bag of flour or corn flour for thickening sauces (potato powder can also be used & doesn't have the same after taste flour has if it isn't cooked fully); lemon, mixed herbs, coriander leaf, garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon, powdered coconut milk.


  • A few special treats or ingredients added to dishes can liven them up (for example: nuts or seeds, pepperoni, bacon flavoured bits, dried fruit, chocolate bit, favourite sweets,)


  • Pack meals in bags with the right amount for each meal


  • Make sure you know who is carry each part the meal, searching everyone's bags when you are hungry is a real hassle.


  • Tins are heavy and not great for most expeditions. However there are some items that come in very thin tins (almost foil) that reduces the weight.  On some trips where weight is not as important we might take a few tins of foods that add to a meal for example tuna added to tuna pasta. However we wouldn't take a whole tinned meal.


  • If you want to take non-dehydrated food for say the first night of an expedition take it out the tin and double bag it; better still make a fresh meal and double bag it, it could even be frozen to make transport easier. If you are going to eat it within the first day home cooked food is a much cheaper option than readymade vacuum packed food.


  • A plastic container with a sealable lid is good for soaking food in. Pulses cook faster if soaked first, dehydrated foods taste better if soaked then reheated. Powdered milk tastes better if made up an then left too stand for a few hours, it also uses less powder.





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