When people ask me about my adventures, one of the questions that often comes up is "what do you eat?". Their facial expressions often change when I explain that I don't cook on the trail and simply eat dry stuff. I even had someone calling me weird!
Well, if you want to join the group of weirdos that don't cook on the trail. Here are 10 good reasons why you should. Many people would gladly make these ten sacrifices to have a warm meal on the trail. I let you decided if these sacrifices are worth it. (This is based on 3-seasons hiking. In the winter, you nearly always need a cooker for melting snow to have drinking water.)
1. Weight This one is the most obvious. You will save the weight of your gas/alcohol, the stove itself, cutlery, pots, and the extra water you carry around for your meal. It might not seem much but now imagine replacing all that weight with some extra food (*cough* chocolate *cough*). Worth it, right?
2. Oops What if something goes wrong? Your stove breaks, you run out of gas, you forgot a lighter. Have you ever eaten uncooked couscous? It's like eating sand! (Don't ask how I know that...) I mean in these cases you could always start a fire, and cook on the fire. What if you are above the treeline, on a ridge, in the desert, where no wood can be found? Or in most national parks where fires are prohibited?
3. Availability If I take theJordan Trail,for example. Good luck finding any kind of gas for your stove! Not all trails pass close to outdoor outfitters where you can find the gas canister that most cooker uses (an alcohol stove will see this issue coming up less often).
4. Nasty Weather If the weather is nasty, where do you cook? In your shelter? If you are not in bear country and if it's big enough (don't burn your walls or asphyxiate yourself). Under a big tree? If there are some around camp. Under a tarp? Maybe on canoe trips, but would you carry an extra tarp just for cooking while hiking? To be honest, there are times where you will have to cook under driving rain. It's important to state as well that butane gas doesn't work well when it's close or below freezing.
5. Time-consuming If you are the type that likes to maximize your day on the trail. Eating dry food will definitely give you more time to explore and discover the wild places around you. Most people cooking on the trail minimized that impact by simply cooking one meal (usually the last one).
6. Tired? When you get into camp, tired or not, you have to cook. Personally, after pushing myself all day, it is the last thing I want to do. When I get into camp, I eat food quickly, slip inside my quilt, study a bit the map for the next day, and off to the dream world I go. I will be all comfy sleeping by the time you are washing your pots (not trying to be mean here).
7. Accident Accidents with cooking stoves are more frequent than people think. After all, you are playing with inflammable gas and liquids. Next time you are passing by a busy backcountry campground. Look at the picnic tables (if there are any). You will see some burn marks from stoves. They do fail, but the most common accidents are knock overs.
8. Bear Country If you are like me and do most of your hiking in a bear country. You know that cooked food carries the smell a lot further than dry food. Not to be paranoid here, bears are not coming for you, but they might for your food.
9. Resupply When hiking long distances, you don't always have the huge grocery store to resupply. Sometimes you have to do with what you find at a gas station. I can assure you that not all gas stations have couscous or instant noodles. Chocolate bars, chips, nuts are on the contrary, easily found anywhere.
10. Cost This greatly depends on what food you buy. For those that buy these premade backcountry dinners. You would save a fortune in the long run. They usually go for $8-16 a meal! Not to say the added cost of those gas canisters to be able to cook those meals. What about saving the money and treating yourself with a meal in a restaurant once you get into town?
Are these 10 reasons enough to make you join the weirdo stoveless club? If so, welcome! If you are still into cooking in the outdoor. No hard feelings and enjoy your warm meal.