The Secret to Easy Dehydrated Meals

Figuring out what to eat in the backcountry is one of the more intimidating parts of backpacking when you first start. Pre-packaged dehydrated meals are expensive and still quite bulky, so it can be a little overwhelming to figure out what to eat. I assumed dehydrators were really expensive, and some of them are, but there are a lot of cheaper ones on the market and my life got so much easier when I finally bought one! I currently use one of these “cheaper” dehydrators, from Hamilton Beach. It has increased in price since I bought it, but it is still relatively affordable and often goes on sale, so I’ve found it to work great for the price, especially if you’re just starting out and aren’t sure you’ll use it much.

Unfortunately, purchasing a dehydrator was only have the battle and I still found it a little bit overwhelming finding good recipes after I got it. There are lots of resources out there, but they are often still a lot of work – involving either specialty items or a lot of steps. I toyed around with lot of different recipes and tried creating some of my own, but I have one big secret when it comes to easy dehydrated meals. Here’s what I think most people miss out on when dehydrating:

Stop trying to reinvent the wheel and start dehydrating all your favourite every day dishes.

Instead of dehydrating all your veggie and protein sources separately and then combining ingredients and spices, just make your favourite chili or rice dish and pop the entire thing in the dehydrator. Making a stew or pasta? Have leftovers from your favourite mexican or curry restaurant? Just put the whole thing in the dehydrator. You don’t even have to pack the pasta or rice separate, just dehydrate the sauce and pasta together and then you don’t even have to mess around with cooking 2 separate ingredients at camp!

Once I figured this out, I stopped using recipes for dehydrated meals altogether. Instead, I look for easy to cook meals that I like to eat at home and then just dehydrate those. You just need to try and stick to one-pot type meals and things that will dehydrate well. For me, that mostly means avoiding things with a lot of oil (as this won’t dehydrate) and good protein sources (you can dehydrate chicken, but it’s tricky and ground meats and beans will dehydrate better). When I find a good dish, my practice is to cook a double batch, share it with Seth for dinner and then dehydrate the rest. That way I know if it tastes good and I can piggyback off a meal I’m already cooking anyways.

The benefit to dehydrating the rice or pasta along with the dish is that it will save you time and fuel later. Pretty much any dehydrated meal will rehydrate with cold water. So if you let it soak for a few hours, the entire meal will be edible already and only require re-heating rather than cooking. This means you don’t have to boil your pasta for 10 minutes or cook your chili – as long as you soak, you can just quickly heat it and eat it right away. Plus then you don’t need to bring a second pot to cook the rice or pasta separately! It’s also great for quick lunches. I will often add a bit of cold water to my lunch at breakfast, let it soak while I hike, and then eat it cold for lunch (as long it’s a meal you don’t mind eating cold, like a pasta or quinoa salad). It involves no cooking or prep, but tastes a lot better then sliced salami on tortilla.

I’ve been experimenting with hydrated meals a lot this year and plan to share some of my recipes (or links to favourite recipes) as a series later in the year, but for now I just wanted to talk about how one-pot meals made dehydrating so much easier for me. It removed a lot of the stress about serving sizes and taste because I could eat some first and then dehydrate the same amount, rather than having to worry about dehydrating everything separately, assembling, and then hoping I got the level of spices right. So if you backpack a lot, I think getting a dehydrator is a great alterative to the expensive freeze dried meals and it didn’t take me too long to see a lot of value from my dehydrator. Plus I love how lightweight my food bag is as a result.

Bon Appetit!

A Day in Portland

After a great day at Cannon Beach we made our way to Portland. We didn’t have a lot on our agenda except for a bit of shopping, but it ended up taking up the entire day. We started with brunch at Mother’s Bistro, which was both fancy and delicious, before spending 2 hours a piece at Powell’s Bookstore and REI. I’m a huge bookworm (I actually have a second blog where I write book review if you want to check it out – The Paperback Princess), so I was super enthused to visit Powell’s. It was my second time and if possible, it was even bigger than I remembered. I spent the bulk of my time in the front of the store where all the sales and featured books were, and a little bit of time browsing the used books. I never even made it to the third floor.

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The two things I love most about bookstores are learning about new reads that I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise, and browsing used books for good deals. I got to do both at Powell’s! I made a few impulses purchases of books that I thought sounded good or were featured, and found a few used books that I’ve been looking for. I don’t think I actually paid full price for anything and walked away with 6 books.

As for REI, it is a very popular outdoor store, basically the US version of MEC. Despite how popular it is, I’d actually never been, so I was excited to finally visit, especially since they had lots of 4th of July deals on. Unfortunately I didn’t really find any deals, but I did get a cute fanny pack and a new pair of shorts that I really like. Lien and Brandon got a few knick knacks as well and the afternoon pretty much got away from us and we finally checked into our hotel.

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The bulk of our evening was dedicated to going on a little bit of a brewery crawl, which I love doing in Vancouver and most recently did in Calgary. We hit up a few popular breweries (Deschutes and Von Ebert’s), but the beer went to my head pretty fast. Well, at the time I blamed the beer for a bit of a headache, but I later learned it was the first symptom of covid presenting (boo!). So we cut the tour a little short and went in search of some sweet treats instead, with me and Lien getting cookies and Brandon, ice cream.

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The real highlight of the trip though was a ghost tour that Brandon had found and signed us up for! It went around old town Portland and introduced us to its very sordid history. Due to its location near the Pacific and its status as a “port city”, Portland was a hotbed for human trafficking. The city has a very extensive tunnel system that runs throughout the entire old town and was used to smuggle men in and out of the town into a life of slavery aboard the ships running to China. They would be lured into the bars and once they were drunk, dropped into the tunnels and forced servitude. As a result, Portland has gained a new status as one of the most haunted cities in the world.

The tour was fascinating. We had a great tour guide and I loved that we learned so much actual history on top of the ghost stories. I did a walking tour when I visited Portland back in 2014, but it was entirely above-ground and focused on Portland’s more reputable history. I liked the ghost tour because I learned about whole other side of Portland that I knew nothing about.

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The following day we had to head back to Vancouver, but first we decided to check out some of Portland’s most reputable waterfalls: Moltnomah and Wahkeena Falls. If you live in the PNW, you’ve probably already seen them both on instagram and I’m embarrassed to say, I was yet another tourist adding to the masses. My problem was that I didn’t do my research, something rare for me. We drove out the Columbia River only to discover that you need a day pass to visit the falls. The park rangers advised us we could visit Bridal Veil Falls instead, and not wanting the drive to be a total waste, we decided to do that.

Fortunately, Bridal Veil Falls was lovely and I really don’t feel like I missed out on anything. It’s a short walk to the waterfall and there’s a side walk with gorgeous views of Columbia gorge. We had stopped by a pastry shop on the way out of town for breakfast and picked up some delicious treats, which we ate while enjoying the view. It was a quick stop, but it was perfect for us because we still had 5 hours of driving to get back home.

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Unfortunately for us, we had quite a long wait at the border and Brandon cursed both me and Lien for not having Nexus. In fact, the wait was so long that I had enough time to apply for Nexus while waiting. But overall, it was a really fun trip across the border. Portland is a bit of a far drive with the border crossing, but I was glad to finally visit after 8 years of hoping to return! 

Larrabee and Ecola State Parks

This year I decided to celebrate Canada Day by… leaving Canada. It felt a bit ironic to go to America for Canada Day, but I’m not really into celebrating the holiday with what’s going on with residential schools and indigenous groups asking us to recognize it as a day of mourning instead. So I was happy to forgo any celebrations, though I made sure to get out of America before Independence Day because I’m also not into celebrating what’s going on with reproductive rights in the states. So politically, not a great weekend for either country.

But it was a good weekend to hightail it down to Oregon instead! I’ve only been to Oregon once in 2014 when I went on a road trip from Vancouver to San Francisco. We blew through Oregon pretty quickly though and just spent one day in Portland and one day at Crater Lake. I’ve been wanting to re-visit Portland ever since and finally made the time for it 8 years later (what is time?!). Crossing the border can be very slow on long weekends, so we decided to cross after work on Thursday to get ahead of the Friday morning rush. This turned out to be a great decision and it only took us about 5 minutes to cross.

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Brandon was driving and Lien had booked us some campsites for the weekend. It was a last minute plan, so there wasn’t a whole lot available, but he did manage to score us what turned out to be a pretty amazing site! We drove through Bellingham and then exited the I-5 to drive down along the coast to Larrabee State Park. It made for a really nice scenic coastal drive and Larrabee Park has amazing views of Bellingham Bay and the San Juan Islands. We got there just in time to set up our tents and then we walked down to the coast to watch the sunset! It was a totally clear day and the water was really calm. I enjoyed a hot chocolate as we watched the sun light the sky up orange.

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We hit the sack after that because we wanted to get an early start the next morning. We had the car all packed up and ready to go again at 8am and had a lot of driving to get to Oregon. We had decided to wait another day before going to Portland and were heading down to Cannon Beach instead. Unfortunately traffic wasn’t great on the drive down and we crawled through Tacoma. Cannon Beach definitely added a few more hours of driving onto our day, so we hoped it was worth it.

We stopped for lunch after crossing into Oregon and then continued on to Ecola State Park. Between the traffic and the food stops, the drive ended up taking longer than we’d hoped (stretching 5 hours of driving into almost 8 hours) and we arrived at Ecola State Park at 4pm. Ecola State Park is just north of Cannon Beach and has several other beaches and trails that you can explore. We didn’t have the time for any substantial hiking, but we decided it was worth checking out some of the other beaches.

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First we hit up Indian Beach and watched people trying to surf. We walked the length of the beach and did a little exploring before driving back to Ecola viewpoint. The beach is mostly sandy with some rocks and the water was really cold, but you can see a ton of sea stacks at the end of the beach. You can’t access any of the beaches from Ecola point, but it has a beautiful view of Crescent and Cannon Beach. It’s about 2km to hike down to Crescent Beach, so we decided to go for it.

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The trail is advertised as for experienced hikers only, it wasn’t too challenging, but it does have a fair bit of washout and mud along the trail, which you have to walk through or around. It’s a pretty steep descent along switchbacks at the end to get to the beach, so be prepared for a climb on the return. The hike took us about 35 minutes and the whole time I was considering whether it was really worth it or if we should have just went straight to Cannon Beach. When we finally got to Crescent Beach though, it was an easy answer, it was definitely worth it!

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It was around 6pm and we had the entire kilometer long beach to ourselves! It was an overcast day, but the sun did its best to try and peak out while we were there. There’s a big cluster of sea stacks at the end of the beach and because the tide was on its way out, we got a beautiful reflection of the stacks in the water. We walked the entire length of the beach, running in and out of the cold water. No one showed up the entire time we were there and I found several sand dollars buried in the sand. Fortunately, the return trip was easier than anticipated and we headed down towards Cannon Beach when we got back to the car.

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Cannon Beach is pretty popular, but since it was Canada Day and Americans were still working, our timing was good and it wasn’t busy at all. A few of Brandon’s friends met us at the beach in the evening and we had a seafood dinner on the patio at Mo’s overlooking the beach! We didn’t end up doing that much exploring along Cannon Beach, but we did go for a nice post-supper walk before heading to our campsite.

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Unfortunately we couldn’t find a site on the beach, so we had booked one an hour away at L.L. Stub Memorial Park. It was a pain to have to drive there late on Friday night, but it saved us an hour on our drive into Portland the following day. It took us a while to find the site in the dark because Lien had accidentally booked a full service site, so we ended up setting up our 2 tiny tents surrounded by huge RV’s that were clearly spending the entire summer at the park. The one nice thing though was that this park at least had free showers! Something we couldn’t say about Larrabee State Park.