It can be done! You don’t need a stove to backpack. In this article, I’ll share some tips on how to hike without cooking your food. And well as reasons why I like to do it. I’ll also go over some of the best backpacking food that won’t require any cooking.
Why You Should Backpack Without A Stove
Backpack space, convenience and less gear to carry.
Backpack space and less gear to carry go hand in hand. The weight might equal out with the bulk of more food items, but you won’t have the solid shapes of the stove and fuel canister(s) taking up space.
Convenience is key for me here though. I can refill most, if not all of my essentials at a 711 or convenience store along the AT. Or maybe up on my way to the trail head straight from work.
You won’t have to worry about tracking down or stashing up on Mountain House meals from REI. You also won’t have to worry about carrying extra fuel canisters or extra water for boiling. Your back will thank you!
How To Choose The Right Food For Your Trip
You’ll want calorie dense foods. Trail mix is king here. Along with peanut M&Ms, peanut butter, peanut butter crackers. Jk (kind of). But seriously you see a trend here?
Peanut butter anything is key. On long multi-day treks, I actually find that carrying a full jar of peanut butter is well worth it’s weight and space that it takes up in the pack. I’ll normally throw peanut butter on some flour tortillas for lunch or dinner. I like flour tortillas because they’ll actually stay together in your pack while bread will break up or get smushed in your pack.
Other key foods would be beef jerky, tuna, protein bars, and maybe even some gels for quick hits of energy. If you’re not opposed to more candy, Snickers and PayDay’s can work wonders. I also like summer sausage and dry cheese occasionally.
Here recently I’ve started grabbing ’90 second meal bags’ for something different and adding something else to them. Like ‘Whole Grain Blend with Brown Rice, Lentils & Quinoa’ mixed with tuna. Or maybe even SPAM. Although that’s not quite my thing.
Bad thing about all of these foods would be the amount of sodium and or sugar you take in throughout the day. When hiking a ton of mileage, that doesn’t bother me. But if that bothers you, you may just want to stick with nuts, seeds, jerky, tuna and other simpler food items. I’ve even carried snack-able olives on a hike for simple healthy fat.
What Gear Do You Need To Backpack Without A Stove?
That’s the beauty in all of this. There’s no need to carry any more gear. You’re actually carrying less gear by ditching the stove, the gas for the stove and the extra water you may carry for cooking.
The only thing you may want to pick up is a dry bag to stash all the food in if you don’t already have one. And a bunch of zip loc bags, both small and large ones.
I normally break down food items into snack sized portions, throw them in the zip loc bags then stash them away in the dry bag. I’ll keep larger items, like the tortilla wraps and tuna packets in the larger zip loc bags. The larger baggies also work better for resealable trash bags.
I’ve found the dry bag helps keep food odors down and of course can help prevent your food from getting soaked overnight while hanging on a bear pole. (If that’s your thing)
On a one month long section hike I did on the Appalachian Trail, sugar gliders or something similar, ate into my buddies food bag and left mine alone. I had my food stashed away in kayak style dry bag while he did not. That was Day 1! Only a few hours after we set-up camp. And I wouldn’t have believed what happened but we actually woke up and witnessed it with our eyes. Those things were jumping and gliding from tree to bag, then back again as he was trying to shoo them away with his hiking pole. That was an experience.
When You Should Backpack With A Stove
It might not be for the feint of heart. Hot meals and a wide selection of menu choices can be hard to leave behind.
There have been some moments where I’m envious of someone with a nice, hot meal. Or where I’ve gladly taken their leftovers if they can’t eat anymore.
Backpacking with a stove and buying those previously mentioned Mountain Meals or their competitors are an easy way to add variety to the day. And remind you of home meals.
So if that’s more your speed, then please continue to bring your stove on hikes. Do you. That’s what it’s all about.