Backpacking burns a lot of energy. One of the most important considerations when planning your trip is what you’re going to eat and how you’re going to cook it. Here are four of the top cooking options commonly used when out on the trail.
Lightweight Camping Stoves
Backpackers looking for a lightweight cooking stove have many options to choose from. Alcohol stoves are the smallest and simplest design and are fueled by denatured alcohol or Yellow HEET, both easily found at hardware stores and gas stations. These can even be improvised from a soda or beer can. For greater heat output and temperature control at a small cost in increased weight, backpackers can try a canister stove. Wood burning stoves are the heaviest of the options, but don’t require backpackers to carry any fuel.
MREs (Meals Ready to Eat)
MREs are full self-contained meals that usually come in a sealed plastic package. The entree is cooked by placing a self-heating device in a bag with water. The device creates a chemical reaction that generates enough heat to raise the water to boiling temperature and cook the entree in its packet. In addition to the entree, MREs generally come packaged with snacks such as peanut butter and crackers and sometimes small candy bars. They also sometimes incorporate powdered beverages such as flavored sugar drinks and tea. Primarily designed for military use, a variant of MREs can also be purchased by anyone from many of the vendors that supply them to the military (though you usually have to buy them in bulk.)
Freeze-dried foods consist of both individual items and meals in self-contained packages, similar to the MRE. Freeze-dried foods have the advantage of being lighter and having a less complicated preparation, however. When food is freeze-dried, it becomes exceptionally light and also has a much longer shelf life. It’s also one of the easiest types of food to prepare as you simply need to add water to reconstitute it. Freeze-dried foods are easily obtained online through vendors such as http://myfoodsupply.com/.
The classic option of cooking over a campfire can sometimes work out best, so long as regulations permit it in the area where you are camping. Campfires work best in areas of colder weather where they can also act as a heat source; building a fire solely for cooking is inefficient in terms of materials and labor. An improvised tripod for holding pots can be made from sticks at the scene, but it’s also possible to make or buy a lightweight folding metal tripod which will be more sturdy and reliable.
Which One Works For You?
Of course, these methods aren’t mutually exclusive. For example, you can pack some freeze-dried fruit for an instant daytime snack, build a campfire at night, then cook some leftover bacon the next day over an alcohol stove. Creative consideration and careful planning in advance will help you enhance your trip with delicious meals. Happy hiking!