Stoveless on the Appalachian Trail

I said I was going to write about financial wellness today, but something else has been pushed to the forefront.  Friends and family are wondering why I’m going stoveless, and probably how I’m going to survive.  For those of you who don’t know, most long-distance hikers opt to carry a small fuel canister and an attachment that will hold a pot above a flame fueled by the canister so you can cook.  Important because these are quicker than a campfire and are allowed in areas where there are fire bans.  But there are a few things I’ll save by going stoveless.

Weight and Space

This is a big one.  After first I thought that the little alcohol stove I have wouldn’t weigh that much, but then I realized I’m also carrying fuel and a cook pot.  Those 3 items weigh 14.6oz right now, and my small fuel canister isn’t even full.  They also take up a small but significant portion of my pack.  And one pound might not seem like that much, but I have to carry it 2,200 miles.  And you know what I can carry if I don’t have a  stove?  More food.


More of a coincidence than anything, but each 3.5oz fuel canister would cost me about $4.  It’ll probably only save me $30-$40 for the entire trip but I’ll take the savings.


Not the original reason I started looking at going stoveless, but when I hike for 13 miles I do not want to sit down and set up a stove and wait for my food to cook before I can eat it.  The only thing that might be worse than that?  Having to clean my pot after I’m done eating.  Having to carry a scrubby and dish soap with me 2,200 miles gets a solid “nope” from me.   Some people will boil their water and then pour it into a Ziploc bag and add their food and let it cook this way.  I don’t like the idea of carrying all those gallon bags with me or the idea of packing the dirty bags out with me.

I can change my mind

This is one of those things where I’m not risking my life by opting not to bring it.  There might be points on the trail where I’ll think it would be really nice to have a hot meal- but I won’t freeze to death without it.  Come summer months I’ll probably have no desire for hot food.  If I do get out on the Trail and discover this is the thing that could break me?  It’ll be pretty easy to have my support system send out my pocket rocket stove or to purchase an Esbit stove from one of the outfitters on the trail.  If it comes to that it’ll be a pretty easy moral boost for me out on the trail.  I’ll probably have a future blog about the sorts of things I will be eating.

An Important Note

I will still be carrying a lighter and emergency fuel pellets.  Being out on the trail in the winter without a reliable means to start a fire really could be risking your life.  It’s one of the ten essentials for a reason.

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Comments 6

  • David Paal : Dec 21st

    Margaret, You’re going to be fine. I’m starting on Feb. 15 and am also going stoveless. It’s no big deal, actually will be a time savings. Going “dry” is a far better option for me. If you want a hot meal, wait until you go into town to resupply, shower, or do laundry. The key is to eat nutrient dense calories and forget the idiot ramen noodles which offer absolutely nothing in return. Mac & cheese in a cookpot? Really? Who wants to clean that up afterwards? You’re making a wise decision you will not regret later. $4.00 dehydrated meals? Nope. Get your nuts, granola, oatmeal, peanut butter, jerkey, bagged tuna, fig newtons, Cliff bars, Powerbars, and assorted candy ready. Get your protein and fats in high gear and you will be surprised how much better your experience will be. It works for me. Carry tea bags for your anti-oxidants. Take a multi-vitamin daily. You can do this and you will not miss a thing. See you out there.

    • Margaret : Dec 29th

      I don’t think I’ll have any problems either, but I wanted to reassure family. I’m going to be taking a protein powder that will stand in for a multivitamin, as well as most of what you said. Also, dark chocolate, because it’s one of the most nutritionally dense foods there are, and highest calories per ounce. Somehow I don’t think I’m going to have the problems some people do hitting my caloric intake needs haha.

  • brian mason : Dec 21st

    Well, good luck. I started my section hike stoveless, and within a few years got a lightweight stove. While having a hot dinner was something to look forward to all day, the major problem with cooking cold for me was the lack of variety. I still can’t eat oat&honey granola bars with peanut butter, and I used to love them.

    • Margaret : Dec 29th

      I tend to eat the same things all the time anyway. I acknowledge there’s a good chance it won’t work for me but it’s pretty easy to remedy if it doesn’t. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Slo-go'en : Jan 14th

    I once hiked 800 miles of the AT eating nothing but PB+J sandwiches, GORP and Snickers bars. I don’t really recommend it though. There were times other hikers were envious of my PB+J and other times I was envious of their hot meal. And this was summer time.

    An Alky stove, a little fuel and a titanium cup doesn’t weight much and having the ability to make a hot drink or a Ramen soup on a cold morning or after hiking in a cold rain all day is priceless.

    All in all, non cook food tends to be more bulky, heavier and more expensive then cooked food (which is generally pasta based). So, I doubt you’ll save much weight or space by not having a stove. The “Dollar General” is one of the primary resupply stores hikers use along the AT. Wander through one of their stores and figure out what you’d want to eat from there.

    • Margaret : Jan 14th

      I did some research before deciding to go stoveless so I have a lot more options than peanut butter and jelly. In fact if you soak most hiker foods in water (ramen, pasta in general, couscous, rice) it will rehydrate just fine. Like I say, if I don’t like it it’ll be relatively easy to pick up a stove or have mine sent to me.

      I’ll also be having resupply boxes sent to me rather than shopping along the way since I’ll have my dog and I’m particular about what he eats (a little bit of research showed me I’d be restricted to Meaty Bits as a resupply option for him in quite a few places). I won’t be limited to what I can buy from Dollar General though.


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