Q:

Any suggestions for a food dehydrator?

I'm considering purchasing a food dehydrator to help lighten things up on long hikes and bike rides. My research suggests that the best options are the erican Harvest or the Excalibur, but I have no idea of how these compare or if there is a better choice out there. I'm comfortable selecting the price and capacity of the model, but at a loss when it comes to the other nuts and bolts of the subject. Do you have any insights that can inform my decision? Chuck Freeport, Maine

A:Who do you think I am, Martha Stewart? Not that she would do anything so pedestrian as fuss around her kitchen cutting apples and bananas into little slices so she could dry them. She'd have her minions perform that task, and spend her valuable time crafting the dried goods into Statue of Liberty-shaped food trinkets.

In short, I haven't used either one nor dried my own produce, though many do so to improve their backpacking cuisine. Nevertheless I, as a consumer and a guy, feel completely qualified to pass judgment on these products solely on the basis of the following attributes: name, power, and overall Coolness Factor.

Name is no contest. Any guy would want his food dehydrator to have a manly, Arthurian name such as Excalibur, rather than the mundane-sounding American Harvest Dehydrator. I mean, c'mon—that's the best they can do? Why not the Food Blaster?

As for power, more is always better. The American Harvest machine has a 1000-watt heater and 2400-rpm motor. Pretty impressive: squeezes moisture out of an apple slice like stepping on a wet sponge. The Excalibur model comes with a 400- or 600-watt heater. Hmmm. Advantage American Harvest, right? Maybe not. The Excalibur boasts a Parallex Horizontal Airflow. How cool is that? Call this one a draw.

Coolness Factor? Tough to judge; these are food dehydrators, after all. But clearly, considering the case thus far, the Excalibur wins on the basis of its name and cool-sounding airflow system. Plus, from a practical standpoint, I think its square design is more efficient: it stores more easily and probably holds more drying food on a per-square-inch basis. Round is not a very efficient shape.

So there. Is that insight, or what?

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