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Eating dehydrated food not rehydrated

Dear all; preparing dehydrated food it came this question: if I'm not able to rehydrate my dehydrated food, and I eat it, what can be the consequences? And of course I do not mean loose fruit or vegetables, but more elaborate dishes like lentils with vegetables, beans etc.

It is a weird situation since have water it would be a priority; but has anyone been in a similar situation?

I would appreciate if you could share your experiences.


4 Replies

I think you raise one of the problems with dehydrated foods.  As an ex-Arizonan, I have spent a lot of time in arid conditions.  Water is essential food is not (at least in the short term).  Deprivation of water will show up sooner in your endurance and judgement long before you are near starvation.

I don't know of any accounts of eating unrehydrated grub, but I'll bet that water will be drawn from various sources in your body when you chow down, thus worsening your condition.

Basically, if water is scarce, you might as well carry canned goods. I understand an apple is about 90 per cent moisture, which makes it a very efficient canteen .....

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Hikermor nailed it.  If you don't have enough water to rehydrate your food, if you eat it dry, it's going to absorb water from wherever it can, namely from your body.  You'd be dehydrating yourself.  I also think it would be pretty indigestible, causing stomach problems and perhaps progressing on downward.  Haven't tried it, but I'd also bet chewing and swallowing would be a bit of a chore, if you could even choke it down. 


Retired medical technologist and engineer
REI member since 1978
Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I have no direct experience of such a situation so this is just my hopefully reasonable speculation.

If you rehydrate your food you will consume most of the water you add to rehydrate it so I see no advantage in not re-hydrating it in general.

Eating dehydrated food without rehydrating it will likely give you digestive troubles.   To swallow it you will need to wet it with you saliva so it will be inpalatable in any quantity and difficult if you are already dehydrated.  It will possibly be indigestable.  I am not convinced it will necessarily dehydrate you more as others suggest.  That may be the case but I think, only if it is excreted rapidly which seems unlikely without other causes.   It seems more likely it will cause constipation and gas pain.  Dehydrated food is notorious for producing gas in any case.

In an immdiately desperate situation I think it would be best to prefer direct hydration over calories that must rehydrated. However, if they were the only choice of calorie and I needed energy to travel I might add some to water to make a light gruel and drink that.

This does depend on the food in question and how much it is dehydrated. Jerky is essentially dehydrated meat but only dehydrated enough to keep it both preserved and edible without rehydration. Carrying jerky  (or protein bars) along with dried (ie partially dehydrated) fruit and nuts is typical backpacker fare and keeping some back for emergency use is a reasonable tactic...and  probably a better approach than carrying extra days of fully dehydrated food.

My experience: Dehydrated food is hard to gag down when it's well hydrated.

Bring hard candy, or energy gels in reserve. Always have easy food to eat in case your stove breaks for at least a night and a morning.