Read more about my approach to cooking on backpacking trips, including meal prep, nutrition, gear, and post-hike impressions.
As I’ve shaken down my gear over the past year, I’ve made several changes. Before I get into them, I should note that I’m primarily a backpacker—meaning my joy comes more from hiking than from camping. I walk from dawn until sunset, eat, sleep, and then wake up and do it all over again. I don’t usually make campfires, I don’t lounge around camp for hours, and I don’t really cook. I hydrate freeze-dried or quick-cook food for dinner. If you like to take a cooler full of cold food to your campsite and cook bacon and eggs every morning and family-sized pots of chili every night, then this is not the cook kit for you.
Since I don’t pan-cook, pretty much any stove will serve to boil water. I’ve made several alcohol stoves, but I don’t really like them. Between the awkward priming, the windscreens, the pot stands, and the long boil time, I think they’re more effort than is justified by their weight savings.
I prefer fuel canisters to cook. I used to own a Jetboil Flash. It was efficient, easily packable, good in wind, and comfortable to drink hot tea out of. I returned it to REI because it was simply more stove than I needed. It made no sense to cart that big, relatively heavy (15.25 oz) system around when I’m usually just boiling water for myself once or twice per day.
Another downside of the Jetboil is that it uses a proprietary design that doesn’t play well with other systems. And if the thin titanium connector bends, the whole locking mechanism risks failure.
Right before I hiked the Foothills Trail, I realized that I
needed wanted a smaller and lighter system. I ponied up for a TOAKS Titanium 750ml Pot and an MSR Pocket Rocket. Well, I didn’t do my homework, because I thought the stove would nest inside the pot. It doesn’t. That’s probably not a big deal for many people, but it bugged me. I wanted my whole cook kit to fit into one small bundle.
I returned it to Amazon and ordered a Snow Peak LiteMax Stove that easily folds to fit inside the pot. The rest of my kit consists of fuel, Hotlips, and a Bic mini lighter. It’s all wrapped in a bandana so that nothing rattles while I walk.
I really love this system. It’s compact, it’s effective, and it only weighs a combined 11 oz. The other pieces of my kit are a homemade freezer bag cozy and a titanium spoon. As a matter of fact, the cook kit, cozy, and spoon weigh a combined 14 oz, 1.25 oz less than the Jetboil. And with the Jetboil, I carried the cozy, spoon, and lighter anyway.
I originally bought (and still have) a TOAKS titanium spork, but it was never a good fit for several reasons. First, it’s too small to reach the bottom of a freeze-dried envelope, so you get food on your hands. Second, there’s no need for tines when eating soupy, rehydrated food. Third, and most importantly, coarse titanium grates against your teeth.
After learning these lessons the hard way, I bought a TOAKS Titanium Long Spoon. I keep it tucked in the fold of my cozy inside my bear bag or my canister when regulations require that I carry one.
Check it out
Note that I’m not linking the 100-gram fuel canisters or the Bic mini lighter here because they’re grossly overpriced online. Drop by a retail store and you can pick them up for a fraction of the cost.
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