Ditching the stove

What do you mean “no stove”?

How am I going to cook my own food? How am I going to heat water for my meals? Do you just eat Snickers and Fritos everyday? That’s crazy!

That was my initial reaction when my friend Jupiter suggested we go no-cook on our thru-hike. We plan on hiking SOBO starting from Mt Katahdin hiking south, connecting the AT to the BMT (Benton MacKaye Trail)  and then to the PT (Pinhoti National Trail) and then do the Alabama Roadwalk, then ending up on the FT (Florida Trail) and walking south, ending up in Key West. I was absolutely 100% shocked that someone could hike 30 miles a day and not crave a warm meal when they rested their feet at camp. My stove and cook set doesn’t even weigh more than a lb! How is that not worth it?

Well I thought about it. And I tried it.

And it’s the best idea ever! I played around with the idea of no-cook. I discovered couscous (so good they named it twice!) I did some trial runs on the trail, soaking couscous (in a 1.8 oz empty screw cap gelato container) in chicken broth and adding veggies, nuts, meat, spices, fruits, just basically any combination of things you could think of. It’s amazing! I would pack out fresh veggies and fruit when available (especially lemons and apples – they don’t make much of a mess when you repack them and 1 lemon can go a long way) and really the options are endless. I also bring just little dime baggies of different seasoning blends like Italian seasoning, Cajun seasoning, taco seasoning, Mediterranean seasoning, Curry powder,  salt and pepper so there is no need to bring 30 different tiny bags of spices. Hot sauce and crunchy chips (like Fritos -I prefer BBQ or chilli cheese flavored) are also some things I like to add.

I thought about all those times when I’ve been so exhausted after hiking all day. All those times I prayed someone else at camp would do all the cooking and cleaning. I would try and barter a water run just so I wouldn’t have to cook and clean. That’s right – I would rather run down a mountain and carry 9L of water BACK UP than spend time cooking and cleaning (ok maybe not 9L). It’s just so tedious. It’s the last thing I want to do after a long day. I would rather bite the bullet and push through something knowing there’s a finish line. With cooking and cleaning, it’s like there is no finish line. It’s just a big mess of shit that I’d rather not deal with. Of course I want to eat healthy also, so there is a little planning involved, but once that’s done and you get some staple ideas- you’re in the clear.

Even in the corporate working world I would prep all my food and freeze it just so I wouldn’t have to cook everyday. I found I could do a lot more  productive things during my few hours before work like yoga, running, walking the dog, laundry (ugh), cleaning my chameleon’s cage, etc. Once I started meal prepping I found things to be a lot less hassle. I also was able to plan out healthy meals and have them ready to go rather than ordering chicken wings or pizza and getting it delivered at work. Less money, less fat – it’s win-win. And when you’re doing a thru hike, less cooking = more hiking = more miles. I’d also like to bring up that if you eat while hiking, you’re not preparing food in camp, where the scent could attract animals to your campsite.

I’ll probably still dehydrate some veggies and other solid staple meals and do a few mail drops, but I’m not going to solely rely on it. The AT has a town every few days where you can resupply so it’s not that big a deal.

So goodbye stove, maybe next time. I’ll keep my cook system the 2 oz it is now. I didn’t like the way those fuel pellets smelled anyway.

Here’s some example recipes I came up with (I’ve never written a recipe before so please bear with me):

chicken and couscous

Couscous with chicken and veggies:

1/2 cup couscous
3/4 cup chicken broth (water with a bouillon cube)
1 packet of pre-cooked chicken lemon/lemon juice/lemon juice packet to taste
1 packet veggie soup mix dash of olive oil nuts or something else crunchy
parmesan cheese salt/pepper to taste

Directions: Throw it all in a screw top container (I add the lemon, nuts, olive oil and cheese last after the couscous soaks), put it in your pack and forget about it for an hour while you hike some more.

PB wrap

Peanut Butter, banana, chocolate chip roll-ups

1 banana
peanut butter
chocolate chips

Directions: Spread everything on a tortilla and roll it up.

 Black bean tacos

1 packet of pre-cooked already seasoned black beans/refried beans
some salsa/salsa packets
taco seasoning to taste
fritos or something crunchy if you like

Directions: You probably know how to make tacos by now.

Couscous and tuna salad

1/2 cup couscous chicken stock
packet of instant soup mix/dehydrated vegetables
salt/pepper to taste

Directions: Add everything together except the mayonnaise and mustard (add that last after the couscous soaks up the stock)

Breakfast granola

powdered milk and water
dried berries (cranberries, blueberries – whatever)
hell, throw a banana in there too

Directions: Mix everything together and eat. I like to have some of that Starbucks Via instant coffee as a morning beverage also.
Ramen and chicken veggie bowl

 Chicken and noodle soup

1 packet ramen (without the seasoning packet or with and omit the chicken stock)
chicken stock
packet of instant soup mix/dehydrated vegetables
1 packet of pre-cooked chicken lemon/lemon juice/lemon juice packet to taste
Italian seasoning to taste

Directions: Mix everything together in a screw top container.

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