Stoveless Hiking Q & A

Yours truly with “Guy on a Buffalo” | Colorado Trail, 2015 | In addition to being a triple crowner at the ripe old age of 21, GOAB has great taste when it comes to his choice of food hydrating containers (see below) 😉 .

Over the past twelve years, I’ve chosen to go stoveless on most of my three-season hiking trips. Here’s a quick summary of the hows, whys and wherefores behind that decision:

Why?

Time, convenience and weight.

Whilst realizing it’s not a choice that suits everyone, personally speaking it has always made sense. I prefer to spend most of my time hiking rather than in camp, so not carrying a stove and fuel equates to a lighter load whilst on trail.

In addition, going stoveless means one less thing for me to do at day’s end. Generally speaking I’ll have dinner hydrating in my pack 20 to 30 minutes before finishing up. That way once I arrive in camp, I can set up my shelter, do some stretches and start tucking in sooner rather than later.

“But come on, mate, you have to admit that hot food for dinner just tastes better?!”

Yes, I agree. However, as my dietary needs tend towards the spartan side of the culinary spectrum, personally speaking the difference is negligible. Simply put, I choose to save pack weight and time over having hot food.

Bonus Benefit: Going stoveless is a good option when hiking in bear country. As my long-time hiking buddy and High Sierra guru, Mike “The Gambler” Towne, always says: “It’s all about the low-scent profile.”

What do you eat?

Dehydrated fare such as beans, lentils, couscous, noodles, pea and sweet corn soups. Often I’ll buy these items in bulk (e.g. 10 lb bags) online. My long-time favourite choices when it comes to beans are from Fantastic Foods, Taste Adventure and Santa Fe Bean Company. In addition, I’ll regularly hydrate oatmeal for mid-morning breakfasts (eaten with raisins and NIDO milk powder).

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Dehydrated beans for dinner | West Coast Tasmania, 2016.

What do you use to hydrate the food in?

For many years my container of choice has been a repurposed 18.3 oz Gatorade Powder canister. Lightweight, wide opening, very secure screw top (never had a leak) and just the right volume for a good sized hiker dinner.

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Repurposed Gatorade Powder Container (Weight – 1.2 oz).

Hydration Times?

For the soups it’s usually no more than 10 to 15 minutes. For noodles and beans you’re often looking at about 20 to 25 minutes. In regards to oatmeal (i.e. porridge), it all depends on how fine the flakes are, but generally speaking 20 to 30 minutes.

What about coffee? 

A combination of Starbucks Via (or Jiva cubes), NIDO Milk Powder and cold water. All mixed and shaken together in a repurposed sports drink bottle. Add some Swiss Miss Chocolate Powder (or equivalent) and you have yourself a “backcountry mocha.”

I know, I know……….it’s not quite a steaming hot cuppa of your favourite brew. But personally speaking, I like the taste, it’s easy to prepare and it saves both time and weight.

Morning-coffee

Breaking camp on the Colorado Trail with a “morning mocha” (half finished) by my side.

When do You Carry a Stove?

On shorter, more sociable-type hikes with friends and family. The same holds true for most of my journeys in Third World countries, where dehydrated/no-cook options are often thin on the ground. Finally, I invariably cook during winter hikes when below freezing temperatures are the norm.


Comments

Stoveless Hiking Q & A — 22 Comments

  1. nothing wrong with going stoveless. I have carried no stove, in hot weather or in places where food establishments are plentiful (AT in Pa). Used Peak 1, Svea, MSRs stoves of all types and now prefer a beer can alcohol stove. A bit slower, but it weighs maybe 2 oz.

    • Jack,
      I know I have, and even came up with a cup-in-a-cup system that holds the entire mess inside a big titanium cup. It’s OK for short trips, and heating water, but like he said, the more sociable trips, I want to cook a little better fare.

    • Thanks for the kind words. No, I’ve never used an esbit stove. If I’m cooking, generally speaking I’ll take along an alcohol stove.

  2. I understand the no-hassle factor at the expense of some preparation time. I question the weight advantage though. In fact, your container alone weights as much as a typical pot, burner and a full, M size gas canister all together. If I only cook dinner, such canister is good for 2 whole months worth of cooking for me and the weight goes down as the fuel is used. Being able to heat water also gives you more room at the time of ressuply from a small village shop while on a long distance trip.

  3. Hi, nice article.

    I was wondering what you do to stay stove-less while on a longer trip with in town resupplies? Are there particular, regularly available,grocery store items that you like to use? Or do you only go for shorter trips/mail drop?

    Cheers,
    Noah

  4. Hi. I still often go walking and camping with no stove although have carried butane stoves in recent years as they are very efficient. For a couple of days a single 230g canister and very small Kovea stove works and is light

    However last week went walking for 4 days, 3 nights and used a small fire to cook dinner & breakfast. Mostly have simple food like you but heat water makes a great soup easily and hot coffee & tea are must
    There is also something different about having a fire at night. It seems to de-stress one. Appreciate in many places fires are not permitted or there is no wood, thus the stove

    Gadget for fire lighting: slurp tube. 8mm plastic tube 600mm long. Can be used to get water from difficult places & great to get wet wood burning by concentrated blowing. A small fire is best for cooking

  5. Thank you for the great article. I appreciate that your pieces are well written, concise and full of usable information. Your experience and extensive trail miles really come through. Cheers.

  6. Hi Cam,

    This is a bit off topic but will you be doing any more posts on your trip to Tassy? I’d like to see your gear choices/list ad some more info on the day to day part of the trip. I was interested in your comments on the HMG pack. Did you use Cascadias on your feet or something else? My 10s split across the sides of the flexing part of the upper on each shoe last year after very little mileage.

    • Hi Chris,

      Yes, I’m putting together a two part trip report as well as a gear list. In regards to the shoes, I took a pair of Merrell Moab Ventilators instead of the Cascadias. They are a bit heavier, but I needed the extra durability.

      I’ve heard from a lot of people that the Cascadia 10’s weren’t up to scratch. Hopefully the latest incarnation will be better.

      Cheers,

      Cam

  7. Hi Cam, I was wondering if your meals for dinner are just a bunch of beans? Do you ever measure out portions to know how many calories you’re eating? And what kind of other foods do you typically eat? I am really interested in going stoveless and now that the warmer months are here it would be perfect to give it a try. Thanks!

    • Hey Alex,

      In regards to the bean dinner, I almost always mix it together with some corn chips (“original” type – just corn, oil and salt).

      The breakdown of the meal is more or less as follows: 6 oz beans (700 calories) and 2 oz Corn chips (320 calories).

      In regards to other foods, I generally carry a combination of nuts, dried fruit (e.g. dates, raisins, cranberries), powdered milk, granola, chocolate and Energy/Meal bars. Whenever I’m in a town, I try to load up on fruit and vegetables, and I’ll often carry out some fresh produce (e.g. spinach, boiled eggs) to tide me over for the first day to day and a half.

      Cheers,

      Cam

    • Eat, rinse, drink the dregs, rinse again (on this trip with sand or river gravel), dry with bandana, screw on the lid.

  8. Hi Cam,

    Any idea where to buy the dehydrated beans/lentils in oz?? I read about them all the time in US-based blogs but can’t seem to find them on the internet over here.

    Ta 🙂

    • Hey Louise,

      I wish I could help you. I haven’t been able to find them back home either. I’ve tried a few health food stores with no luck. If you do manage to locate a source, please drop me another line.

      Cheers,

      Cam

  9. Anyone tried humus/humous,i.e. chick peas = garbanzo beans? Here in the Mid-East its a staple because its tasty, proteinaceous,and easy on the tummy, not gaseous. It gives a feeling of well-being! You can find commercial humous powders that you can whip up real fast. I take chick-pea flour and brown it in a frying pan. It becomes a pretty fair substitute for the powder.
    The latter must be mixed w/ a bit of water before eating. Any humous needs to be sparked up with some combination of olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, and spices. You can also re-package whole chick peas from a can for consuming on the first day.

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