My Experience with Stoveless Backpacking

I wrote in this article about my desire to try stoveless backpacking on my Appalachian Trail section hike.  Now that the hike has completed I thought I would capture a few additional thoughts.

Why did I want to try going without a stove on this backpacking trip?

When looking at traditional freeze dried foods such as Mountain House and other brands there is way to much salt and non-food ingredients.  This leaves me with drying my own food which I have done on multiple trips. The problem is I do not like to reheat food in the plastic vacuum sealed bags in which I store it.  I do not trust the plastic bag with boiling water, basically I’m paranoid they’re leaching chemicals into my food. This leaves me with reheating the food in a pot which then leads to cleaning it afterwords and properly disposing of the waste water.  Now the hassles are starting to build.  At times it is a pain to cook, like in the pouring rain. Add to that having to clean up the cookware and I now begin to lean towards no cook meals.

What about hot drinks, such as AM coffee?

I’m not a coffee drinker on the trail or at home.  I do drink two to three cups of tea daily at home.  I’ve carried tea bags on many backpacking trips but never used them.  They were never worth the effort of boiling more water.  Even with carrying a stove I did not make hot drinks unless I had my kids with me and we would make hot chocolate.  So no, I did not miss them.

Other than Probars, what other food did I take?

Kind Bars, foil packed tuna salad, beef jerky, smoked sausage, (2) fresh apples, dried fruit, mixed nuts, peanut butter packets and small squares of chocolate. Most meals were based around a Probars except for couple foil packs of tuna salad.  I always included either the jerky  smoked sausage in each meal. The other items were used to complete the meals or as snacks.

How did the food selection work out?

One problem I have when backpacking is I either have no appetite or I’m super hungry and can not eat enough.  This trip i tended to have no appetite.  The second night it took all I had to force down a minuscule amount of food.  This may weigh my opinion but I found that it was a lot of bars to eat even though they were all different flavors.  Easily doable for a weekend trip but when approaching 9 meals on the trail it was getting a bit monotonous. I still prefer the Probars to packaged tuna salad.

Did I miss hot meals?

On most trips I only cook dinners, breakfasts are usually mixed nuts, lunches vary but are no cook.  I typically do not cook much but the short answer was yes, the first night I wished I had brought a hot meal.  We were at a shelter site with a picnic table, the weather was gorgeous and the day’s hike was easy.  That makes it a bit easier to cook and eat.

Did I reduce my pack weight by going stoveless?

This is a hard question, my goal was not weight savings and my food selection varies from trip to trip.  Also, food is not something I’m usually weighing like the rest of my gear.  That said, with going stoveless the food was not dehydrated so there was more water weight.  I suspect this offset the weight of the fuel used to cook, especially with carrying some fresh fruit.

The ultimate question, would I do it again?

The short answer is yes.  Most definitely on shorter weekend trips that have long miles where I do not want to mess with cooking.  I would even consider it for longer trips but i need to experiment with more variety.

-Jeff

Photo Credit: Jamie King… “Pocket Rocket”

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