I know I said previously that I don’t really like to cook when I’m backpacking, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do it, and as the nights start to get colder I’ll cook more. A warm belly before hitting the sack definitely matters. Before we get too far, keep in mind this is for likely better those hikers trying to cover miles and not have full-blown backcountry gourmet meals. I think I said in a previous post that I like to travel light, really light. I look at it this way. I can carry 30 pounds of gear and probably be uncomfortable or carry 15 and zip around the trails, cover a stupid number of miles and maybe add a peak or two to the day because I’m not carrying a bunch of crap. My point: You can eat hot meals and still not weigh yourself down.
I have two options for stoves, but first, let’s get to the stuff I carry no matter what. The first thing is a Snow Peak 600ml single-wall, titanium cup. This is what I will cook my food in. I also carry a mini-Bic, a very small towel for cleanup and some aluminum foil that serves as a wind screen. I bring a plastic spork too. That’s it.
Getting back to cooking and what I use. The first is with an Optimus Crux Lite stove. It screws on to the top of a canister of white gas, (available at any outfitter) Just turn the gas on, flick a Bic – and pooof – you’ve got fire. I can then set the cup with some water on top, let it come to a boil and toss in my food. It really could not be simpler, and it’s effective, even when it is windy, which has to be a consideration when cooking in a tinder box. This is also the system I use the least often.
More often, I use an alcohol stove. I used to make these myself but the one I have now is done by some dude on the Internet and it’s amazing, although it requires a little more thought. First, this thing weighs almost nothing and is made from a couple of those Starbucks cold drinks you pick up in convenient stores. I’m not going to go through the whole process of how they are made, but it’s a simple design and also precise work. Here’s the general concept. You pour denatured alcohol into the stove, but not above the holes that are poked on the inside. (You can buy denatured alcohol in any convenient store in the automotive section). Along the outside, there are a series of holes that once the alcohol is good and hot act likes jets. Imagine blue flames of gas shooting out the small holes and the cup sitting on top. Those flames heat the water and bring it to a boil. But there’s a trick. When you first light the gas, the flames shoot from the top of the stove. If you put your cup on before the flames adjust and shoot out the side holes, you will smother the flame. No good!
Once the flames are ready, plop your cup on top of the stove and wait for the water to boil. Then you’re cooking. From experience, make sure the stove is on level ground and stable enough to hold the cup. If it spills, so do the flames.
Because I love you guys, I got up this morning about 6:30 or so and decided to make a backcountry meal of ramen noodle for breakfast using the alcohol stove. I was out of oatmeal. Ugh! Usually, I toss some water in the cup, break up the ramen and seasoning and jam it into the cup with the water. Once the jets are going, I put the cup on top of the stove and then put the windscreen around the whole thing. The wind screen is vital because alcohol stoves can be a little unpredictable and are very much subject to the whims of Mother Nature and the wind. What’s cool is the flame only lasts for two or three minutes before the alcohol has burned away. Fortunately that’s more than enough time to boil water and make perfect ramen. I can’t say it was exactly what I wanted for breakfast but it;’s all in the name of entertaining you guys.
The other thing that I love is that everything I need to cook fits in the cup. I put the alcohol in a small canister with the lighter, stove, cleaning cloth, wind screen in the cup. I toss a lid on, secure it with a rubber band and I have everything I need. That’s pretty efficient, weighs almost nothing and obviously packs down small. Obviously this stove works for coffee and my favorite morning drink – hot chocolate. There are all kinds of instant brands that you just stir into hot water.
That’s it guys. It doesn’t have to be ramen or oatmeal either. If it’s your thing, you can make meals, dehydrate them and eat really well in the wilderness. I’m not nearly that insane or motivated,but you can do it. It’s really all about making sure you have a way to get hot water and then anything is possible.
Thanks for reading gang!