By LE’A GLEASON and ROBERT GRAY  |  Moonshine Ink

Truckee resident and passionate backpacker Robert Gray has figured out how to maximize his camping experience when it comes to food. His secret? Dehydrating foods for long backpacking trips, easing weight but still packing in the flavor. Here are some of his hand-picked travel food tips.

How did you first figure out you could lighten your weight while traveling?


In 2009 I did the John Muir Trail with a friend. We bought all these freeze-dried [foods] and we quickly noticed that even with three resupplies on a two-week trip, it was … a whole lot of volume. We were having a really hard time fitting all the stuff in. The first thing I started making (with a dehydrator) was beef jerky.

What do you dehydrate now?

I’ll make jerky, carrots, onions, peas, and potatoes. I learned everything has to be precooked.

What are some things you’d sacrifice weight for on a trip?

Candy. In our group, it’s as important as food. Also, I always bring shallot oil and fish sauce. It really makes anything taste good, and adds a lot of salt. The other thing is alcohol, which is not always for drinking, but helps for sterilizing, too.

What are the lightest types of containers for food?

I found gallon freezer Ziplock bags are the lightest and best.

Beef Jerky


4 lbs top round beef sliced 1/4 inch, sometimes you can find or get this sliced for you

1/2 lbs. yellow onion sliced thin, half rings

1 bulb of garlic, crushed on flat of knife

4 cups full-salt soy sauce

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

3/4 cup molasses

2 cups dry sherry or water

1/4 cup liquid smoke

Ground black pepper

Hot red pepper flakes


Slice meat, garlic, and onions and put in large bowl. In separate bowl mix all of the liquid ingredients until all the molasses is incorporated. Pour liquid ingredients over meat and onions and mix thoroughly with tongs. Add water if needed only until the meat is submerged.
Put a cover on the bowl and put in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours, occasionally mixing.

Put slices of meat (onions optional) on dehydrator rack, making sure to keep it in a single layer. Grind black pepper or red pepper directly on the racks.

Run dehydrator at 165 deg. for at least 12 hours and check for doneness. If the jerky is soft or springy to the touch, it’s not finished. Depending on ambient temperature, quantity, and thickness, it can take up to 30 hours. Store in Ziploc in the refrigerator until ready to hit the trail.

Trail Mix


Nature’s Path Love Crunch granola

Raw almonds


Cashews, if affordable

Chocolate chips. I like the flatter, wafer type

Banana chips (can be made in dehydrator )

Any other dried fruits (optional)


Gray likes the mix to consist of half granola to half nuts, fruit, and chocolate. He says the chocolate will naturally melt, so you have to be okay with gooey chunks of granola, which he enjoys.


  • Le'a Gleason

    LE‘A GLEASON, a recent transplant from the Big Island of Hawai‘i, has happily transitioned from teaching yoga in the rainforest to driving powerboats, biking with bears, and learning how to fall gracefully on skis. She is passionate about writing and editing, as a means to share and connect with people, and thankful to be on the Moonshine team.

    Connect with Le'a

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    Truckee, CA 96161

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