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:
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).
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.
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.
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.