Backpacking Culinary Craft 

Backpackers on my recent trips have solved the food and cooking conundrum in a wide range of different styles. Their methods ranged from very heavy to extreme ultra-light. One carried a steel stove, cup, bowl, spoon, a rodent proof food bag and made multiple course meals from primary unprocessed ingredients, even green salads.

One took bagels, peanut butter, prepared hummus, fresh fruit and no stove. An extreme hiker took no stove or cutlery, ate sparsely of high-fat snack food and drank minimal water on the trail, then tanked up on food and water at pre-set cache sites.

If someone greatly prefers their usual food and a cooking gear regardless of pack weight, I say, “Carry on”. However, for those who want to carry a lighter pack there are ways.

Alcohol stoves, either liquid or solid, are the lightest. The Esbet solid fuel stove is popular. An even lighter method is to burn fuel cubes under a pot that is supported by rocks. Alcohol burns slowly and steadily, good for boiling a cup or two of water.

Compressed gas stoves provide convenience, a reasonable weight, and are efficiency. The fastest and most convenient but not the lightest is the Jetboil. Enthusiastic advocates can quickly make hot drinks and can boil water for three hot meals a day and be ready to travel ahead of most.

I use a titanium Snow Peak Gigapower stove. Most of the weight for short trips is in the excess fuel. An empty canister used for a tare can allows determining remaining fuel weight in a partly used canister. By knowing from experience how much fuel is used per day the lightest canister available with enough fuel can be selected for trip of known length. I use 12 grams of fuel to boil three cups of water each day.

A Lexam spoon and a MSR Titan cup and lid complete my cooking equipment. The cup weighs 13.5 oz, holds 1.6 cups, and serves as boiling pot and soup bowl. The stove folds to fit in the cup and the fuel canister fits in the top of the cup over the stove. The lid for the cup is homemade from an aluminum pie plate. For dinner I boil 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups of water twice, the first for a prepackaged vegetarian stew and the second for a substantial soup.

A postage scale or, even better, a 10 lb limit cooking scale is very useful when weighing food for a trip. When there is a choices, be influenced by the difference in weight. About 1 ¼ lb per day of dry food is reasonable. When you return home and unpack, weigh the remaining food. Note the volume of water carried back to the trailhead. Keep a record for each trip.

Will thinking about having to do this detailed preparation inhibit you from showing up at the trailhead ready to roll? Then find less demanding ways to lighten your load. Be satisfied with that accomplishment and let other concerns be soothed by your good food and the wonders of the wilderness.