• Aria Zoner

5 Ways to Cook in the Backcountry


When it comes to food, I like to eat as good in the backcountry as I do at home, if not better. Depending on the environment and the ingredients, I'll use one or more of these 5 Ways to Cook in the Backcountry to prepare my meals. Each way has its pros, and as you'll see, its cons. But with forethought on where you're going and what you'd like to eat when you get there, mundane trail food can be turned into something that you'll be fired up to sit down and eat once you get there.


Wild Berries & Oatmeal - served on The Hot Springs Trail

Before it gets cold, let's dig in...

OPTION 1: Pressurized Gas Stoves

Traditional gas burning stoves offer a safe and reliable way to cook, practically anywhere.


Snow Peak Giga Stove/Windscreen plus MSR Fuel/Titan Kettle

With basting tray foil screen & mini Bic = 12oz

THE PROS:

  • Easy to set up & get going

  • Offers simmer control & stability

  • Practically hands-free once it's lit

THE CONS:

  • Requires a specific canister

  • The entire kit can be bulky & heavy

  • Expensive for fueling extended trips

BEST FOR:

  • Cooking rice, pasta, & other grains

  • Heating water quickly

  • Cooking in precarious situations

TIPS ON USAGE:

  • Block any wind from hitting the stove by using a loose-fitting windscreen

  • To further conserve fuel, cook using a low flame

  • Mail to remote locations using Surface Mail. *Mark "Consumer Commodity ORM-D"

OPTION 2: Liquid Gas Burner

Although these stove are popular, I've never actually used one on trail. Here's someone who has...


HOMECRUX displays his Homemade Stove

*Weight varies depending on which can you use and how much fuel you carry

THE PROS:

  • Fun to make

  • Lightweight

  • Efficient

THE CONS:

  • I think Soda Hikes speaks for a lot of hikers when he says "I had one spill-out flames and it scared me out of using them."

BEST FOR:

  • Ultralight cooking set-ups

  • D.I.Y. type people

  • Warming rehydrated meals

TIPS ON USAGE:

  • To learn how to make your own liquid gas stove, go here...

OPTION 3: Petroleum Jelly (STERNO)

When I first started backpacking more than 30 years ago, this was what I used.


THE PROS:

  • Cheap

  • Lightweight

  • Can be used as a fire starter

THE CONS:

  • Only a 45 minute burn time per (small) canister

  • Not a source of high-intensity heat

  • Stinks!

BEST FOR:

  • Warming soups

  • Quick-cooking foods like oats

  • Emergency fuel source available in grocers, hardware stores, & gas stations

TIPS ON USAGE:

  • Use in combination with a pot stand & windscreen

  • To extend burn time, condense the final remains

  • Avoid touching the canister immediately after using

OPTION 4: Fire

Possibly the most nostalgic and pleasurable way to cook is over the open flames of a golden fire.


THE PROS:

  • Multi-purpose - offers light plus warmth for warming toes & drying gear

  • Extremely effective

  • Smells good

THE CONS:

  • Only allowed in certain places

  • On possible at certain times

  • Presents a risk of wildfire

BEST FOR:

  • Stir-frying

  • Baking potatoes, yams, or apples

  • Shish Kabobs

TIPS ON USAGE:

  • Lesson soot & smoke by burning a hotter fire with more airspace

  • Avoid re-igniting old coals in established fire pits

  • To prevent leaving coals behind, only burn small sticks & twigs

OPTION 5: Go Raw

Want to eliminate the stove and chore of cooking altogether? Why not just go raw?


Raw Reserve Protein Shake, Goji Berries, & Fresh Produce

THE PROS:

  • No burning of fuel required

  • Quick & convenient

  • Meals can be made inside of a tent without worry of asphyxiation

THE CONS:

  • Can be hard to find in certain places

  • Can be heavy (if carrying fresh produce)

  • Can be easy to find yourself missing a warm meal

BEST FOR:

  • Salads, wraps, shakes, & sandwiches

  • Whole food ingredients like fruits, nuts, & veggies

  • Low-temp dehydrated foods & fresh produce

TIPS ON USAGE:

  • Cookless does not equal Raw - if its been cooked, its been cooked

  • Use old hummus containers or nut butter jars to carry & serve with

  • Use a jacket or sleeping bag to protect fresh produce from the sun

IN SUMMARY: 5 Ways to Cook in the Backcountry

  1. Pressurized Gas

  2. Liquid Fuel

  3. Petroleum Jelly

  4. Fire

  5. Go Raw

For backcountry-friendly recipes, both raw and cooked, VISIT HERE...

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