Robert and I just returned from a great backpacking trip on the Washington Coast. The weather wasn’t the best, but we had the whole beach to ourselves for most of the trip – just us and the seals staring back and forth at each other! Nothing beats the sense of peace & relaxation that a few days in the wilderness provides. That said, one of my absolute favorite things about backpacking is getting to play kitchen scientist when it comes to meal planning. Each trip gives me a chance to develop and test a new recipe or two. The goal is always to come up with food that is tasty yet extremely lightweight and easy to prepare in the back country.

This year, I decided to try my hand at making ham & bean soup. My mom used to make this when we would backpack as a family many years ago, and she told me recently that it was always one of her favorites – the ultimate comfort food for when you are deep in the wilderness. After a little bit of experimentation, I achieved good results. By dehydrating the soup in the oven, I was able to transform five cups of soup into a mere six ounces. It re-hydrated beautifully at camp and – mom was right – the soup was delicious! It was awfully cold & blustery during our trip but, sitting on the beach next to a roaring fire with a bowl of hearty ham & bean soup, we didn’t mind the weather one bit!

I began by making a very basic ham & white bean soup (any recipe will do; I used this one and I halved the recipe.) I let the prepared soup rest overnight in the refrigerator so that I could start the dehydrating process first thing the next morning. I decided to dehydrate the soup in two steps: the solids first followed by the liquid. I was worried that trying to do it all at once would end up taking forever. This two-stage process is more time-consuming, but most of this time is unattended. I don’t own a dehydrator so I do all of my dehydrating in the oven: I keep the oven at a temperature between 140 and 150 degrees and I crack the oven door slightly to provide airflow.

The first morning, I drained the soup (reserving the liquid.) I spread the solids out on a baking sheet and placed them in the oven to dry, stirring every hour or so. It took about nine hours for the solids to completely dehydrate. The next day, I started on the liquid. First, I reduced the liquid down as much as possible by simmering it in a pot on the stove. Once I had a thick puree, I poured it out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and transferred it to the oven. When the puree is dehydrated, it will break up into dry chips similar to dried mud cracks. You don’t need to stir the puree during the dehydrating process, but it is a good idea to turn the drying chips over once so that both sides dry evenly. It took about 10 hours for the puree to dry completely. Once it was dry, I crushed it to a powder using my food processor and then added it to a small ziploc bag along with the dried solids.

To prepare the soup at camp, I simply mixed the dried soup with four cups of water (the soup originally measured at five cups – knowing that it would never fully re-hydrate to its original state, I opted to use a cup less water for cooking.) I let the soup rest in the pot for five minutes to give it a head start on re-hydrating. Then, I brought it to a simmer and let it cook gently for 7-8 minutes, stirring often (basically until it was thick and no longer crunchy.) The ham stayed a bit on the chewy side. We didn’t mind it, but if it bothers you, you can always cook the soup for longer, adding more water if necessary. Everything else re-hydrated beautifully. Enjoy!


  1. you are truly amazing – beautiful photo too!

    Comment by gail — August 2, 2009 @ 10:53 am

  2. Love ham and bean soup! I made some the other day so I’m definitely going to try this! Thanks!

    Comment by Lauren — October 19, 2015 @ 2:01 pm

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