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5 Best Survival Food Dehydrators For SHTF Food Stockpiles

We’re going to talk about what foods you can dehydrate, different methods to dry them, how food dehydrators work and what is the best survival food dehydrator.

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Dehydrating is undeniably one of the best methods of preserving food. It's a technique that's been around for thousands of years. By removing the moisture from food, you basically eliminate the possibility of spoilage while simultaneously shrinking the food you want to preserve, making it convenient to store. 

It’s easy to prepare ready-to-eat survival foods like dehydrated fruits, nut mixes, and jerky. You can also prepare instant soups, rice, or pasta. These dehydrated foods only require the addition of boiling water to have a hot and nutritious meal in minutes.

Through the process of dehydration, you can create an entire homemade survival food cache! It doesn't take much to realize that if you haven’t been dehydrating foods, you should be.

In this article, we're going to talk a bit about the ins and outs of dehydrating and, of course, give you our recommendations for the 5 best survival food dehydrators on the market. To give you a bit of a spoiler, our top dehydrator pick is the Excalibur 3900B 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator, despite being a bit more on the expensive side.

Before we jump to all of our recommendations, first we’re going to talk about what foods you can dehydrate and a little bit about the different methods that exist to dry them down. Then we’ll talk about how food dehydrators work and how you can know which food dehydrator is the best for you.

In a hurry? If you just want to get to our conclusions, here are our top picks and recommendations!

Last update on 2021-06-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Dehydrating Survival Foods in Brief

One thing that you need to know about dehydrating foods is that you can literally dehydrate anything.

Ok, ok… that's a bit of an exaggeration.

You shouldn't dehydrate avocados or butter. You shouldn't dehydrate bacon (or other really fatty meats). Milk, juice, and soda are also off-limits. But that should be common sense.

Pretty much everything else can be dried down, processed, and stored for later.

It goes without saying that each kind of food has its own process for successful dehydrating. You are not going to dehydrate nuts with the same process that you will use to dehydrate apples or meats. 

When you start dehydrating your survival food, you need to make sure to do your research and learn the best processes for dehydrating different kinds of foods.

Dehydrated apples in a survival food dehydrator

Different Ways to Dehydrate Food

There are many different methods for dehydrating food. Electronic dehydrators, solar or wood-fired setups, sun drying, and air drying are the most common.

All of these processes essentially work the same way: warm air circulates around the food being dehydrated. The warm air pulls out the moisture, and the movement of the air carries it away. With enough heat, ventilation, and time even the juiciest strawberries can be dried down into crisp chips.

Air drying is a great method for certain foods, like herbs and spices. These are a breeze to dry by simply leaving them carefully spread out where warm air circulates.

Other foods, like meat, require a hotter temperature and the addition of salt or other spices to be successfully dried for long term storage.

In certain climates, the sun provides enough free energy and heat to dry down most anything. In other climates, specially designed solar dehydrators concentrate the sun's energy for quicker drying times. It's also possible to create custom food dehydrators that are heated by wood heat. 

The most popular method for drying down food, however, is the common home food dehydrator.

Electric Food Dehydrators

Modern electronic food dehydrators come in all shapes and sizes. They have become a preferred method for drying down harvests, making instant meals, producing homemade jerkies, and preserving herbs and spices. 

Why are electric food dehydrators so popular?

  1. Ease of Use: Simply prepare the food you want to dry down, place it on the drying racks, close it up, and press a couple of buttons to program the temperature and timer.
  2. Consistent Results: Food dried in a modern dehydrator will all dry at the same rate and to the same residual moisture levels which you can control.
  3. Sanitary Conditions: Electric food dehydrators are closed devices that protect the food from dust, debris, or bugs that might contaminate the food.
  4. Quick Results: Food that may take two or three days of drying through traditional methods (think meat or jerky) can be dried down in a matter of hours.

How do Electric Food Dehydrators Work?

Modern food dehydrators work their magic by concentrating the elements that all dehydration methods require: Heat + Airflow + Time.

The major difference is that these factors are controlled for efficiency and consistent results.

Most electric dehydrators for home use come in one of two designs: stackable trays with the heat source and fan on the top or bottom of the unit or pull out shelves with the heat source and fan at the back of the device. 

When you plug in the dehydrator, you’ll need to set the temperature and time controls. The unit will then circulate warm air evenly throughout the trays for the specified amount of time. 

Some units also include a humidity sensor that will trigger the temperature to drop as the food dries down. 

Overall, electric food dehydrators are one of the most efficient ways to prepare survival food of all kinds.

The Problem with Electric Food Dehydrators

The only real problem that you will encounter with commercial food dehydrators is that they are… well… electric devices.

As a survivalist prepper, you should constantly work to learn new skills and prepare yourself for survival after life as we know it is no longer possible. We should strive to limit our dependence on appliances that require electricity and replacement parts.

We recommend making sure that you study up on all of the traditional methods of dehydrating food so that you are not caught off guard if the grid permanently collapses.

That being said, electric food dehydrators for making survival meals are currently an excellent tool to bulk up your survival food supply. They are efficient, convenient, and allow you to preserve an impressive amount of food with minimal effort.

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What's The Best Survival Food Dehydrator?

So, what should you look for in a food dehydrator? What features are most necessary to help you create the highest quality survival food possible?

There are some key features that you need to look for when choosing the best food dehydrator. 

The appliance should:

  • Reach at least 160 degrees to allow you to safely dehydrate meat.
  • Have a low temperature range that lets you dry veggies, herbs, and spices, without damaging their nutritional content.
  • Have an adjustable temperature control.
  • Offer accessories like mesh drying screens.
  • Be easy to clean.
  • Include a drip tray.
  • Have a timer.

As you’re researching the best dehydrators for making survival food, keep these recommendations in mind. 

And that brings us to our favorite dehydrators!  The following appliances are, in our opinion, the best food dehydrators on the market.

5 Best Survival Food Dehydrators

Best Overall Food Dehydrator

Excalibur 3900B 9-Tray Electric Food Dehydrator

Excalibur dehydrators have been around since the early 1970s and have always been made in the USA. They are renowned for their quality and durability.

Last update on 2021-06-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Here’s what we like about the Excalibur Food Dehydrator:

  • It offers 15sq. ft. of drying space.
  • Has an adjustable thermostat range from 105 to 165 degrees.
  • Boasts easy-to-clean non-stick trays.
  • It's energy-efficient.
  • They are easy to repair.
  • It’s relatively quiet.
  • It's a workhorse. You can process batch after batch of food without damaging the unit.

Excalibur dehydrators are notoriously simple to repair should the need ever arise. They offer replacement parts on their website, and excellent customer service to help you troubleshoot any issues you may be having.

Even though this is our choice for the best overall survival food dehydrator, there are still a few minor details that we think you should know about:

  • This particular model has no timer.
  • It’s really big, measuring 19 x 17 x 12.5 in.
  • It does not include a drip tray. Users recommend lining the bottom of the dehydrator with a sheet of parchment paper or plastic wrap to make clean up easier.

If you want to dry fruit leather and other more liquid foods, you’ll need to buy some non-Excalibur drying sheets. We recommend Brightkitchen’s silicone sheets.

The Best Compact Dehydrator

SAHARA Folding Food Dehydrator

Whether you live in a small cabin or a tiny apartment, for some of you it can be hard to find the space to store a large food dehydrator like the Excalibur model. It gets really tricky if you still want a large capacity dehydrator to be able to dry large batches of survival food. 

Brod and Taylor, a European kitchen appliance company, solved this issue with their Sahara folding food dehydrator. It’s an impressive appliance that finds the right compromise between size and capacity. 

Last update on 2021-06-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This is why we like the SAHARA Folding Food Dehydrator:

  • It offers over 15 sq. ft. of drying space.
  • Collapses to about ⅓ of its size for convenient storage.
  • Is energy efficient.
  • Has BPA free, easy to clean shelves.
  • Includes a drip tray.
  • Has a dual timer.
  • Automatically switches to low power during the drying process for increased efficiency.

So why did we not give the SAHARA Folding Food Dehydrator the ‘best overall’ award?

Here’s what we don’t like about it:

  • Maintenance and repair of the unit are not simple.
  • Requires an air filter.
  • Has a short power cord.
  • Some customers complain it's on the noisy side.

Bode and Taylor also offer optional silicone drying mats specially designed for this unit. 

Best Food Dehydrator for Beginners

Nesco Food And Jerky Dehydrator

If you are only wanting to experiment with dehydrating survival food, you’ll most likely want to start out with small batches.

You might not be ready to invest in a large capacity unit. If that’s the case, you should consider purchasing this smaller unit, perfect for beginners.

Last update on 2021-06-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Nesco has a lot of different food dehydrators available on the market, each one slightly different than the other. So why does this Nesco Food and Jerky Dehydrator stand out?

  • It’s compact, measuring just over a square foot.
  • The device includes four trays with a 1.2 ft capacity each, perfect for small batches.
  • If you eventually decide you need more space, you can add up to four more trays.
  • It’s quiet.
  • Has an adjustable thermostat.
  • It’s simple to repair.
  • BPA free, easy to clean trays.
  • Includes one mesh insert for drying more liquid items like fruit leather.
  • It’s economical.

If you decide to go with this Nesco Food And Jerky Dehydrator, there are a few details that you should be aware of:

  • This unit, and others like it, are designed for occasional use. If you are going to be running it day and night, one batch after another, consider a more industrial model.
  • There is no on-off switch. You just plug it in.
  • There is no timer.

Best Budget Dehydrator

Homdox Food Dehydrator

Homdox is a lesser-known company that specializes in home products and appliances. They offer a very highly rated, very economical food dehydrator.

If you do not have the budget for a large capacity high-end food dehydrator but want to be able to frequently process mid-sized batches of food, this unit might be the one for you. 

Last update on 2021-06-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This is what the Homdox Food Dehydrator has to offer:

  • It has an adjustable thermostat.
  • Has a 72-hour programable timer.
  • It has 8 stackable trays that measure apx. 12 x 10 in. each.
  • Trays can be adjusted for added space between them, allowing for thicker foods.
  • Users report being able to run this dehydrator one batch after another with no problem.
  • Is easy to clean.
  • It’s quiet.
  • It’s compact.

Here are the Homdox Food Dehydrator cons:

  • It's a Chinese product with poorly translated written instructions.
  • It is low voltage, so expect longer drying times.
  • Some users report needing to rotate the trays for even drying.

Another thing about this food dehydrator is that it doesn't have model specific mesh or silicone sheets for drying fruit leathers or other, more liquid foods. We recommend Homey Dehydrator Sheets which can be cut down to size and fitted into your drying racks.

Honorable Mention

Cosori Premium Food Dehydrator

The Cosori food dehydrator made it onto our list of the best survival food dehydrators because it is too good to ignore. 

But here’s the thing, it’s too large to be compact (it measures 13.4 x 17.8 x 12.4 in). It has too few shelves to be large capacity. It’s a pretty heavy-duty appliance for beginners and it is just a little too expensive to be in the ‘budget’ category. But overall, it’s a darn good food dehydrator. 

Last update on 2021-06-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This is why you should consider the Cosori Food Dehydrator:

  • It is a solidly constructed, stainless steel, kitchen appliance.
  • Has an adjustable thermostat that ranges from 95 - 165 degrees.
  • Has a 48-hour timer.
  • Has an auto-shutoff with an overheat protection feature.
  • It’s quiet.
  • Includes a mesh tray liner and sheet for making fruit leathers.
  • It has apx. 6 sq. ft total of drying space on 6 trays.
  • It’s energy efficient.

Cons of the Cosori Food Dehydrator:

  • It’s large for its relatively small capacity.
  • It has no drip tray.
  • It's fully digital, so it’s more difficult to repair.

If you're a prepper looking to be more independent and self-sufficient, then you should start your own survival garden! Don't forget to check out our recommendations on the best tools and seeds for a survival garden while you're at it.

The Best Non-Electric Food Dehydrators

As we mentioned before, dehydrating survival food should not be something you do that relies exclusively on an electric appliance. Humans have been preserving their food since long before there was an electric grid and digital thermostats.

If you don’t want to be 100% dependent on a kitchen appliance for your food dehydrating, you should consider one of these handy non-electric food dehydrators.

Net Drying Rack

6-Layer, Net Drying Rack by HYDGOOHO

This large capacity, multi-tiered zippered drying rack is perfect for air drying all kinds of herbs and spices.

You could even improvise by placing lightweight plastic or metal trays on each layer to give it some added support and structure for heavier foods like fruit or tomatoes. 

The drying rack can easily be hung outside in the sun or indoors. The mesh allows air to circulate while the netting keeps out bugs, dust, and other debris. 

Last update on 2021-06-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Solar Food Dehydrator

KinoSol Solar Food Dehydrator

This survival food dehydrator is similar to electric food dehydrators but is solar powered. You’ll notice that the trays are widely spaced to allow for ample air circulation under the transparent plastic cover. Simply place the dehydrator outside or in a sunny window, and let the sun work its magic.

This device works best when placed in an area that is 85 degrees or hotter. It’s not recommended that you dehydrate meat or jerky with this non-electric food dehydrator. Other than that, you can dry down pretty much everything in the 3 sq. ft. of drying space it provides.

Last update on 2021-06-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Portable Solar Dehydrator

Dehytray Portable Solar Food Dehydrator

This solar survival food dehydrator is designed to capture sunlight and magnify it, speeding up the drying process. The concept is simple, a black (food safe) plastic container closed in by clear acrylic doors that capture as much sunlight as possible. 

The lid has a small panel with temperature and humidity vents to allow air to circulate and prevent the cooking of your food.

The tray is 33.6 in. long and 16.2 in. wide. It’s just under 5 in. deep. This gives you enough room to dry down grains, nuts, and even beans - just make sure you stir them every so often.

Last update on 2021-06-25 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How To Store Your Dehydrated Survival Food

So now that you are ready to get dehydrating, one thing that should not be overlooked is the question of what to do with all your dehydrated food.

Honestly, that’s a subject for an entirely different article, but let’s just sum it up like this:

You need to store your food in an airtight container, preferably out of the sunlight.

You have a couple of different options:

  1. Dry Canning: Sealing your foods into mason jars.
  2. Mylar bags: Placing your processed survival foods into clearly labeled bags with oxygen absorbers.
  3. Vacuum Sealing: Place your food into vacuum-sealed bags. You'll need to be careful when storing foods like rice, pasta, or anything 'sharp' with this method because very small holes can be worn through the plastic bag by the food.

No matter how you choose to store your dehydrated food, it is recommended that you store it in convenient portions that you will be able to consume quickly once you have opened the package.

Dehydrated food, if properly stored, can have a shelf life of five years or longer. This does, of course, depend on what kind of food it is. 

Foods that retain a high moisture or oil content like dried fruits, jerky, or nuts should be consumed within four months to a year.

Here's a quick video showing how to use a dehydrator to dry your survival food.

Best Survival Food Dehydrators FAQs

What happens if you leave food in a dehydrator too long?

If you choose to purchase a food dehydrator that does not have a timer, there is a very real risk of leaving it on for too long.

Foods such as jerky and dried fruit that typically retain a higher moisture content are the same foods that will suffer most if left in too long. Jerky can become really hard and leather-like. Fruits can become brittle and hard to chew. 

You shouldn’t worry about over drying foods though.

Sure, maybe the final product isn’t what you wanted, but the food can be used in different ways.

Consider grinding or powdering foods that become over dried. This can work for meat as well.  These powdered foods take up less space in the pantry and can be used for thickening and flavoring soups and stews.

Fruit powders are fantastic for adding to smoothies, baked goods, or other homemade sweets like ice cream. And don’t forget, the drier the food the longer it lasts.

Can I dehydrate pre-made survival meals?

It can be easy to confuse what you can freeze dry with what you can dry in a food dehydrator. 

Freeze dryers allow you to preserve pre-made, ready-to-rehydrate meals. Food dehydrators, on the other hand, don’t.

So how can you make survival meals with a food dehydrator? Basically, you need to dehydrate all of the ingredients separately.

Once you have all of your ingredients ready, you mix them together following a reliable recipe. Then you will seal and store the food for later preparation. 

It’s a bit of a different process, but the result is the same - a healthy and nutritious instant meal that just needs a bit of boiling water.

Start Dehydrating!

If you’ve been on the fence about dehydrating your survival food, hopefully some of your fears have been wiped away. 

Now that you know which are the best survival food dehydrators on the market you have no excuse to put it off any longer. 

Whether you want to 'go pro' right away with a top of the line dehydrator or simply prefer to 'get your feet wet' with a beginners model, you now have the knowledge to make the decision on the best survival food dehydrator that fits your needs.

Dehydrating your food is an excellent practice for healthy eating, self-sufficiency, and emergency preparedness.

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Hi, I'm Russ!

I've been prepping for a long time, but 2020 convinced me that I need to take it to the next level.

This website started as a way to keep me going forward on the path to being better prepared.

Now, I’m turning it into a complete blueprint for anyone else looking to do the same!
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