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Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Dog Foods for Backpacking

Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Dog Foods for Backpacking

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Figuring out what food to pack for yourself for a backpacking or camping trip can be a struggle. At least I know it is for me! But it doesn’t need to be for your dog. Fortunately, there are a ton of great, high quality, freeze-dried and dehydrated dog foods available on the market that fit the bill.

I love to bring them not only because they are healthy for my pup, especially after a day of high activity, but they are also super lightweight. For more tips on packing dog food for outdoor adventures, read this post.

I’ve included a list below featuring a selection of freeze-dried and dehydrated dog food ideal for bringing on camping and backpacking trips when space and weight really matter.

First, let’s learn more about freeze-dried and dehydrated dog foods and why they’re great for travel.

What is the Difference between Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Dog Food?

Diet is undoubtedly one of the most hotly debated topics in the dog world. Dog owners tend to be extremely passionate about the particular diet they feed their dogs and nothing can change their minds.

I personally believe that a variety is best for my dogs. This way, they develop stronger stomachs, never get bored of their food, and experience different textures. I can also see what kind of foods work best over a period of time.

For raw and fresh food feeders, freeze-dried and dehydrated dog foods offer dog owners time-saving ways to feed their dogs without dealing with raw meat. These are also great for vegetarians and vegans who have a hard time handling meat in general.

What are the differences between the two?

Dehydrated raw dog food

Uses warm air to slowly remove moisture from the raw ingredients in order to preserve them. This is the same process as any dehydrated foods you might eat, like mangos and apricots.

  • This process keeps food free of artificial preservatives
  • Maintains most of the nutrients and enzymes
  • Offer the benefits of raw dog food without having to handle raw meat or worry about contamination
  • Does not require refrigeration
  • Lightweight and great for traveling or camping

Freeze-dried dog food

Removes moisture from perishable food through a pressurized vacuum chamber that removes the moisture from raw, frozen foods. This also destroys any harmful pathogens and bacteria in the process. Since no heat is involved, freeze-dried foods contain maximum nutritional content.

  • Retains more of the nutritional content than dehydrating
  • Proteins, vitamins, and minerals remain thanks to the freezing
  • Lightweight and great for camping and traveling
  • Does not require refrigeration

You’ll notice that some of the foods on this list are also “air-dried.” Air drying is the process of placing food into drying chambers where continuously circulating air slowly evaporates the moisture in the foods. 

Air-dried dog food does not require rehydration like dehydrated and freeze-dried foods. Just serve straight from the bag. This is a great option if there is not going to be water where you’re camping.

What to Look for in Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Dog Foods

It seems like pet food is constantly under scrutiny with regular recalls and the recent DCM scare, so it’s natural for pet parents to be concerned about their food choices for their fur babies.

With that said, there are a few key indicators to look for when choosing a quality dog food. I love shopping from Only Natural Pet because they only work with brands that meet specific requirements, such as:

Human-grade ingredients. Pet food is well-known to include the 4D foods. I choose never to give my dog anything that I wouldn’t consume myself. Look out for buzzwords like “all natural” and “healthy” which can be used to trick consumers into believing the brand is using quality ingredients.

Non-GMO foods. As with your own food, you’ll want to avoid GMO foods, which are linked to kidney failure, immune system damage, skin and food allergies, cancer and more. Certified organic foods will not contain GMOs. You can also check the Non-GMO Project for a list of acceptable pet foods.

Made and/or Sourced in the USA – Some pet food brands will cut costs by sourcing ingredients from China and saying that they’re made in the USA. Read labels carefully. Many brands source lamb from New Zealand, actually, just avoid anything that comes from China.

Animal protein as the top ingredient. The first ingredient on any dog food should be the animal protein, i.e. beef, chicken, or turkey. Check the protein content on each label. According to the National Research Council, dogs should get a minimum of 18% of their daily calories from protein sources.

Whole vegetables, fruits, and grains. Fresh and unprocessed produce and grains provide nutritional benefits such as vitamins, enzymes, and antioxidants for dogs. 

Why Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Dog Foods for Camping?

Even if you don’t regularly feed your dog freeze-dried or dehydrated foods at home, they’re great for camping for a number of reasons:

  • Lightweight. If you’re backpacking for several days, opting for freeze-dried or dehydrated dog food will seriously lighten your load (or if you’re like me, you make your dog carry their food)
  • Hydration. Sitka doesn’t always drink as much water as I would like and I worry about dehydration, especially after long days on the trail. Dogs are designed to get moisture from their food and kibble doesn’t provide that. Since most freeze-dried and dehydrated foods require rehydration, then your pup will be forced to drink more water.
  • Filled with nutrients. Healthy foods will help repair sore muscles after hard exercise, keeping your dog’s muscles and joints ready for the next adventure.

I regularly switch my dog’s food, so I rarely need to slowly introduce new foods into his diet. I do this because I don’t’ eat the same food every day, and I don’t think that he would like to either! Since I switch things up each time I order dog food, my dogs don’t have any trouble adjusting to a new diet.

If you tend to stick to the same foods, then follow the introduction guidelines on the packaging to minimize the chance of an upset stomach during your trip.

I love Dexas collapsible bowls for serving my dog’s food. They’re lightweight and pack down small for easy storage.

The Best Freeze-Dried and Dehydrated Dog Foods for Camping

Now that you know all about freeze-dried and dehydrated dog foods, it’s time I shared with you my top picks for foods to bring on camping and backpacking trips. 

I included the conversion of bag weight to pounds of dog food made with added water when available. There are many brands out there and this is just a selection of some that I use and recommend.

Only Natural Pet EasyRaw Dehydrated Dog Food

Only Natural Pet EasyRaw Dehydrated Dog Food

Best Budget-friendly Dehydrated Raw Dog Food

My favorite online pet store sells their own brand of dehydrated dog food containing non-GMO whole food ingredients, made from scratch in the USA. Recipes include raw meat as the first ingredient, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, and bone broth.

Instructions: Just add equal parts water and dog food in a bowl, stir, and let sit for 5-10 minutes. 7 lbs makes 35lbs of dog food

Available flavors: Turkey & Sweet Potato, Lamb & Sweet Potato, Beef & Sweet Potato, Chicken & Sweet Potato

Only Natural Pet Wholesome Homemade Dehydrated Dog Food

Only Natural Pet Wholesome Homemade Dehydrated Dog Food

Best Budget Friendly Cooked Dehydrated Dog Food

Another great option from Only Natural Pet is their Wholesome Homemade line. This dehydrated dog food is grain-free and you can make it ahead of time for easy prep. The food contains high quality cooked meat, nutrient-rich vegetables like sweet potato, carrots, cranberries, and spinach, and superfoods like chia seeds and turmeric.

Instructions: Add water and wait 10 minutes for a complete and balanced stew. 

6lbs makes 18lbs; 18lbs makes 56lbs of fresh dog food

Available flavors: Poultry, Fish & Fowl, Red Meat

Only Natural Pet MaxMeat Air-Dried Dog Food

Only Natural Pet MaxMeat Air-Dried Dog Food

Best multi-purpose dog food.

This grain and legume-free dog food is made from 90% meat organs containing the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids your dog needs. The meat comes from free-range, pasture-raised New Zealand farms.

MaxMeat can be used as a whole meal, meal topper, or as treats.

Instructions: Feed straight from the bag. No rehydration necessary.

Available flavors: Lamb & Cod, Chicken, Beef

Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Dehydrated Dog Food

Honest Kitchen Whole Grain Dehydrated Dog Food

Best consistently reliable dog food

I love the Honest Kitchen and it is one of my go-to brands. It is budget-friendly and I am down with their mission and commitment to high quality dog food. Recipes include meat protein, organic barley, flaxseeds, and vegetables.

The Honest Kitchen does not use GMO ingredients, soy, corn, or wheat in their human-grade meals.

Instructions: Just add warm water and wait 3 minutes. 4lbs makes 16 lbs of dog food; 10lbs makes 40lbs of dog food

Available flavors: Chicken, Beef, Turkey, Fish

Sojos Complete Grain-Free Dog Food Mix

Sojos Complete Grain-Free Dog Food Mix

Best for allergy-prone dogs

Each Sojos formula is gluten-free, grain-free, and made with quality freeze-dried raw meat, made in small batches in the USA. Recipes Include real fruits and veggies, like broccoli, celery, apples, and pumpkin.

Instructions: Add water and let soak for 30 minutes. 2lbs makes 14lbs; 8lbs makes 55lbs of dog food

Available flavors: Lamb, Turkey, Beef

Stella & Chewy's Raw Dinner Patties

Stella & Chewy’s Raw Dinner Patties

Most Variety

Stella & Chewy’s is a popular brand for dehydrated raw dog food and for good reason. These shelf stable, freeze-dried patties are derived from naturally raised meat from USDA inspected facilities that contain no added hormones or antibiotics made in their USA kitchen. 

The addition of organic fruits and vegetables, including carrots, broccoli, and beets add a nutrient boost for active dogs. 

Instructions: Feed straight from the bag, no need to rehydrate. However, if you want your dog to drink more water, add ¼ cup of water for every two patties. 

Available Flavors: Stella’s Super Beef, Chewy’s Chicken, Duck Duck Goose, Dandy Lamb, Surf n Turf, Tantalizing Turkey, Absolutely Rabbit, Remarkable Red Meat, Venison Blend, Purley Pork, Simply Venison

Primal Pet Foods Freeze-Dried Nuggets

Primal Pet Foods Freeze-Dried Nuggets

Best for Picky Dogs

Primal Freeze-dried dog food uses the freshest human-grade ingredients, poultry, meat, and game are antibiotic and steroid-free, without added hormones. Products are certified organic and contain fresh ground bone for added calcium supplementation. All ingredients are sourced from either the USA or New Zealand and support sustainable agriculture.

Instructions: Feed straight from the bag or rehydrate as needed. 14oz makes 3 lbs of dog food

Available Flavors: Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Duck, Turkey & Sardine, Venison, Pork, Rabbit

Steve's Real Food Freeze-Dried Nuggets

Steve’s Real Food Freeze-Dried Nuggets

Best for dogs with digestive problems

Following a biologically appropriate raw food model, Steve’s Real food uses an 80:20 ratio of meat-to-produce to ensure nutritionally complete meals for your pup. The addition of raw goat’s milk adds probiotics to aid with digestion. Ingredients include superfoods like kelp and coconut oil. Made in the USA.

Instructions: Add water and soak for 10 minutes. 

Available flavors: Beef, Turkey, Pork

Grandma Lucy's Freeze-Dried Dog Food

Grandma Lucy’s Freeze-Dried Dog Food

Best for Highest Quality

Grandma Lucy’s takes pride in using only human-quality, all natural ingredients and that’s it. The recipes do not contain by-products, the meat is free of antibiotics and hormones, and everything is sourced in the USA and made in Grandma Lucy’s California facility. 

Instructions: No need to rehydrate, just feed straight from the bag.

Available flavors: Chicken, Lamb, Venison

What are your favorite foods to pack for your dog for backpacking and camping adventures?

Have you tried freeze-dried or dehydrated dog foods for camping?

freeze-dried and dehydrated dog food for backpacking


Saturday 14th of October 2023

Really disappointed in this blog.

This was a good resources for hiking-related topics, only to find out the person would not be allowed to train in most of Europe.

Jen Sotolongo

Wednesday 8th of November 2023

Sorry to hear you're disappointed, Rika!

Richard Moran

Saturday 6th of August 2022

Hiking wind river high route next month with my malinois. We did CT last fall and couldn’t keep enough weight on with dehydrated or freeze dried food…light but bulky for calories . Given it’s a 10 day carry may try mix of his high calorie kibble and FD…any idea who makes highest calorie FD or dehydrated? He’s carrying a pack for some of the trail that is T to technical. Thx Richard and Scout


Tuesday 20th of September 2022

@Richard Moran, What about Ziwi brand? I've found them to be the most nutrient dense of the dehydrated foods. Maybe K9 Naturals too. K9 naturals is probably a bit lighter but a bit more calories in Ziwi. I'd add powdered butter or powdered whole goat milk too. And bring some free-dried whole baltic sprat fish. I have a mal/GSD mix puppy & I literally watch him get skinnier on long hikes :( Haven't done multi-day treks with him yet but already making my list for what he's gonna need to eat!

Jen Sotolongo

Tuesday 9th of August 2022

Hmm that is a problem! I don't know what the highest calorie kibble and/or FD is. I'll have do to some research. One thing maybe you could do is grind up some seeds into a powder and bring that along for extra calories and fat. I was also thinking some kind of fish oil, but that's heavy and messy. Maybe see what kind of kibble mushers feed their dogs? That must be high calorie!

Mitchell W Stewart

Thursday 14th of January 2021

Interesting article especially for me since as I mentioned in comments on a different article I do multi-day wilderness backpacking with my dog -- and as with my own food, it's all about the tension between weight and nutrition. I am not as enamored with the "natural" foods as you, but then I may be unduly influenced by the nutritionists at Tufts University ( Along those lines, not all of the foods you list meet the AAFCO guidelines which still seem to me at least to be the gold standard for dog food nutrition. But, those are my personal views and quibbles; even with those I found your article to extraordinarily valuable in helping me with my backpacking dog food search.

Jen Sotolongo

Monday 18th of January 2021

Glad you found my post helpful and hope that you have some potential food ideas for your next backpacking trip!

Larry Rush

Saturday 12th of September 2020

I take my Golden Retriever Piper backpacking with me and have been looking for a lower weight food to bring for her. Someone recommended Honest Kitchen Dehydrated dog food which I bought and she likes. However it does not appear that I am reducing the weight we need to carry. 1 cup of the food is 4.1 ounces (prior to adding water) which has 485 Kcal. This compares to the kibble I have been using Grandma Mae's Country Natural in which 1 cup of food is 3.9 ounces and has 460 Kcal. Any thoughts of what food to bring that would reduce the weight we carry Thanks, Larry

Jen Sotolongo

Monday 14th of September 2020

Hmm. You've done more homework than I have! I guess I always assumed that dehydrated would be lighter. It does definitely take up less space and will save more over longer trips. I know that Ziwi Peak is very calorie dense, so maybe give that a try!


Saturday 18th of July 2020

it would be helpful if the serving information also contained servings per bag


Saturday 14th of October 2023

@Jen Sotolongo, Most of these companies list kCal/kg on their PDF fact-sheets.

Or you can email them and they will give you a sheet with nutrients as dry matter % or as grams per 1 000 kCal.

Jen Sotolongo

Wednesday 22nd of July 2020

I included the amount in lbs per bag when I could find it. Each bag includes serving sizes by weight in the photos. I omitted since dogs weigh different amounts.