Camp Cuisine: No Cooking Required

Camping without stove or fire gains you freedom, flexibility, simplicity, and compactness, and sometimes a lighter load.
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Camping without stove or fire gains you freedom, flexibility, simplicity, and compactness, and sometimes a lighter load.

From the saw-toothed ridgeline surrounding Pierre Lakes, the sunset was spectacular. Banded layers of scarlet and gold flared beneath a ceiling of Colorado clouds. It was the perfect hour to kick back and appreciate nature's magnificence in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, but my companion wouldn't let up. "C'mon, it's time to get back to camp!" he kept badgering. "We have to get dinner started."

To make a long feud short, I lingered, albeit hungry, to enjoy the memorable vista, while he scrambled down to our cramped camp among the windswept boulders to tinker with priming paste and pans, boiling a dinner he would soon forget.

Don't get me wrong. I love good food, especially after a tough day. But for me, wilderness travel is about beauty, simplicity, and an escape from the harried schedules of civilization, not about sticking to meal plans and toting heavy cookware. That's why I often hike without a stove. By leaving it behind, you:

Gain convenience. There's no need to find extra water for cooking or a flat rock to set your stove on to reduce your impact.

Eat sooner. With less prep time and no endless waits for water to boil, you can feed your tummy when it starts growling, not 45 minutes later.

Stay flexible. Dark clouds forming over the ridge? A no-cook meal gets you fed and back in the tent before the rain begins.

Avoid the tedium and hassle of scrubbing burnt pots.

End mechanical failures. There's no fixing clogged jets or going hungry because you forgot the fuel pump.

Carry a more compact load.

Travel easier.. You no longer have to worry about airline officials confiscating your expensive stove, buying fuel at your destination, or figuring out what to do with leftover fuel.

Backcountry gourmets may shudder with horror at the prospect, but going stoveless doesn't mean depriving your palate, as you'll see by the recipes on the following pages. When I troll the supermarket aisles for a stove-free getaway, I target the foods I know will deliver the nutrition and energy I need without the help of a flame. Tried-and-true categories include:

Canned meats. They're heavy, but supplement a carbohydrate-intensive diet.

Nuts and dried fruits. Calorie-packed and durable, these convenient foods are good for snacking on the run.

Breakfast bars and cereals. A carefree backcountry diet includes these carbo basics.

Chocolate. Guilt might prevent you from indulging in town, but on the trail, it's the universal treat.

Sandwich makings. Robust, grainy breads and simple cheeses (see Moveable Feast, June 2001, for suggestions), spiced up with mayonnaise, mustard, or other spreads from the single-serving packets often included with deli and fast-food meals, provide the satisfying bulk and complex taste required for your big meal of the day.

Sports drinks. Lightweight dietary supplements for rehydrating, avoiding blood-sugar crashes, and suppressing hunger attacks on the trail, they can markedly reduce your trail snack requirements.