Gear and Tools:
Eating well doesn’t mean you need to carry a big kitchen with you on the trail. You needn’t carry heavy pans, multiple pans, a lot of fuel, and have to do cleanup after your meals. You can eat great, have a nice variety of foods, and be done eating before dark. There are a few items and techniques that will go a long way to achieving edible nirvana….or as close as we can get to it.
Basic tools needed:
A backpacking tea kettle or lightweight pot with lid.
For solo you will want capacity of 1 1/2 to 4 cups water. For two you will want at least 4 cups (1 Liter) to 8 cups (a 2 Liter pot). With bigger families or groups you can go as large as a 3 Liter pot but it becomes easier to carry two smaller pots and two stoves – it is often faster that way. Any metal (Titanium, Hard Anodized Aluminum, etc) is fine you will develop a preference over time. If boiling water only your pot need not be non-stick or hard anodized. While not needed for one pot cooking, the coatings make cleanup much easier.
A canister or alcohol stove.
Good brands of canister stoves are MSR, Primus, Coleman, Snowpeak and JetBoil and many others. Canister stoves are simple and safe to use, making them a great choice for those who don’t like to tinker. Do use name brand fuel, off brands can foul up your stove quickly. If your stove has an electric starter (a Piezo) do pack a backup way to light it. They can and do break! Canister stoves are a good choice for families and when fire bans are on. You rarely get flareups and are quick to shut off. Expect issues with performance at high altitudes and in the cold.
Alcohol stoves are very popular due to ease of use – with no parts to break and whisper quiet. They do have a learning curve and should not be used during fire bans or in tinder dry areas (they are an open flame). Do use with caution around children and animals.
White gas/multi fuel stoves. They have their fans for winter use/high altitude adventures. Do know how to field repair them before using one. Expect them to be the messiest of choices. Learn how to light it to avoid flareups.
Solid fuel stoves. Usually known under Esbit these minimalist stoves are good for solo hikers who only need to boil a cup or so of water. They work well but can leave a sooty coating on your pot (it washes off with dish soap easily) and has a chemical smell when burning. Practice at home till you get the hang of it.
A windscreen for your stove made of a turkey pan, stove liner pan or heavy-duty foil folded 3 times. This will increase fuel efficiency. Most companies that make alcohol stoves include them with the stove.
FBC Cozy: If you plan on doing meals FBC style you will need something to insulate your meal with. A dedicated cozy is important. You can then tuck it into your food bag at night. Look for lightweight and washable.
A long-handled spoon to eat with. You can find heat safe plastic, wood (and now Bamboo!) and metal. Sporks can be used very carefully if eating pasta dishes. Be careful though with poking the bags.
A mug/cup with measuring markers on it. Dual purpose for your hot beverages but also for an exact measure for meals. Many mugs made for backpackers now have measurement lines.
Paper Towels: Yes, an odd one there but you will find them quite useful. Tear off a paper towel per day and fold into quarters. Pack them in a quart freezer bag. They work great for assembling food on, wiping messes up and as well wiping out a cooking pot to remove leftover food before cleaning.
Lighter and matches. We carry both. In separate areas of our packs.
Bags: We recommend bringing 1 or 2 extra quart freezer bags in your food bag and double bagging dried pasta as it can have sharp ends. You can use brand name freezer bags (avoid dollar store ones), Food Vac bags or ‘Boil-In-Bag’ bags for FBC meals. For meals prepared in a mug or in a pot feel free to use snack or sandwich size plastic bags. For those avoiding plastics you can buy wax paper “bags” for sandwiches but are not good for powder items. You can as well make bags out of muslin fabric if one was inclined.
A black permanent marker to write on your bags. Mark what your meal is, and how much water to add. You can also write it on a scrap of paper and stick it inside.
Are there other items?
Of course….you can end up like Sarah, with many storage bins overflowing with dishes, pepper mills, spatulas, fry pans, baking ovens……
Just start small and build up is the best advice!