Trail Chef: Trailside Dining Manners

One of the greatest things about eating in the wilderness is that a lot of the traditional dining rules are abandoned. But it's still nice to wash your hands...

A recent article on (yes, even the Trail Chef needs inspiration at times) about restaurant etiquette got me thinking about the rules of on-the-trail dining etiquette. Certainly one of the greatest things about eating in the wilderness is that a lot of the traditional eating rules are abandoned. Pants become excellent napkins. Almost anything is finger food. And cheese doesn't have to be refrigerated.*

But there is the little problem of bears and rodents in the woods that requires backwoods dining due diligence. And then there's the matter of sharing tight quarters with close, or not-so-close, friends. So below are several dining rules to consider on your next outing:

1. Be Realistic About How Much/What You Eat

On the trail is not the time to push the lettuce around the plate, so to speak. If you know that tuna in the woods will make your stomach turn don't agree to nightly meals of tuna mac 'n cheese. Or if you know that only a six-pound bag of peanut M&Ms will get you to the top of a Fourteener, bring it. Not having enough fuel on the trail can make even the shortest hike miserable and hauling food you know you won't eat is just a waste of space and energy.

2. Be Aware of the Beasts in the Backwoods

If you're traveling to bear country, look into the food storage requirements for the region and plan accordingly. Have you ever tried to fit a ten-pound Christmas ham in a bear canister? It's not pretty. And it's not just the big beasts that are looking for food. Mice are an issue in some areas, so maybe you need an Ursack Minor. Then there's washing dishes and food scents on clothes...but we're getting away from the etiquette here...

3. Don't Siphon M&M's from the Trail Mix

If you don't like nuts and raisins you don't like trail mix. 'Nuf said.

4. "Drink Your Dishwater. It's the Ultimate Leave No Trace."

-Shannon Davis, Senior Editor (And the same person who peed on his shoes for the sake of "gear testing" so his etiquette generally leaves something to be desired, but he's right this is the ultimate LNT way. He skips the dishsoap, by the way.) Also from Shannon:

5. Cover Your Own A** for Coffee

Never good to hork in on someone’s personal caffeine stash.

6. Share the Duties

Everyone's tired at the end of a long day on the trail so divide and conquer the cooking and cleaning for the quickest way to campfire lounging.

7. Don't litter.

Not even a little bit.

What else? Let us know in the comments below. Anecdotes welcome.

--Trail Chef

*This is not a hard and fast non-rule by any means.