Choosing a food dehydrator for backpacking prep

Food dehydrators come in a few common designs. The inexpensive countertop models usually have a top-mounted heating unit that blows air down through a stack of trays. There are also fanless convection dehydrators (avoid these), and cabinet-style models that have a heater and fan mounted to the back.

In general, look for a model that has fans and motors mounted to the top or side. If any elements are below the unit, they will burn out eventually from drippings. Also don’t bother with dehydrators that don’t have fans, as they tend to be too slow to stop some foods from spoiling before they dry.

Inexpensive food dehydrators usually have fixed heat settings and no timers. You can plug these into an appliance electrical timer to solve that problem, but you may find yourself wanting a model with a thermostat if you dehydrate a variety of foods.

Here’s a list of good food dehydrators that I recommend.

Nesco American Harvest FD-28JX
This is an inexpensive, no-frills model that is fitting for light, occasional use. It doesn’t have a thermostat or a timer, but it will do the job.

Nesco Snackmaster Pro FD-75A
This is a good choice if you need to dehydrate fruits and veggies for 1 to 2 people for backpacking over the summer. It’s a 4-tray model that’s 650 Watts with an adjustable thermostat. It can be expanded to hold 2 additional trays and has good, inexpensive accessories like fruit roll sheets. Add an appliance electrical timer and you have a capable, high-value food dehydrator.

Excalibur 2900ECB 9-Tray
If you’re serious about dehydrating, this enthusiast-level model that will do the job for years and is a smart buy. For the additional cost over the previous model, you get 15 square feet of drying space on nine trays, and higher-quality construction. It has a thermostat, and polyscreen tray inserts for easy cleaning. For people with gardens or a large family, this is a popular choice. Again, add an appliance electrical timer for convenience.

TSM Products 5-Shelf Stainless Steel
If you’re dehydrating a fair amount of food on an ongoing basis, you’ll appreciate a commercial-grade unit that can do the job well for years to come. This small commercial-grade unit is probably as much as any avid gardener or large family would need. It has stainless steel construction, an adjustable thermostat and a timer.