Backpacking came to me later in life and is still considered new to me. Backpacking came to me at first just as a way to get to new places to photograph. I had been going to places mainly state parks hiking and exploring and photographing. As a challenge to my self I fashioned a overnight backpacking trip a goal for myself if you will. I had done some car camping in the past but nothing like hiking in 10 miles with everything on my back, camp and hike out. Well with this goal came many challenges to figure out. One of them was food. What will I do about food? Should I just pack a peanut butter sandwich or should I try to cook something and if I was going to cook something how would I do that? And what would I cook? So off to Youtube I went in search for the how. I was overwhelmed there are many ways to cook on the trail I found out and so many different types of stoves, cookware, and the like I really was put back. So here I'll briefly go over some of the things you'll need to cook on the trail.
Food on the trail can be varied but for the most part most backpackers cook some sort of pasta, rice, or re-hydrate some sort of dehydrated meal. There are meals that are already dehydrated for you that you can buy or you can dehydrate your own. I'm just starting to dehydrate food but really am too new to talk on yet. The store bought ones taste great but a little pricy. And after hiking 10 miles Ramen noodles just dosen't cut it. So for me it was going to be dehydrated meals of some kind.
First if your going to cook on the trail you'll need some kind of stove. The first rule in backpacking, I have learned the hard way, is that weight matters! So your stove will have to be lightweight and small. You could cook on a campfire right? Well you could if fires are permitted in the area you are going but it's not very convenient. You have to collect wood start fire (and art in itself) and then cook. What if it rains , what if it has just rained and everything is soaking wet? So cooking on a campfire although would work is not practical. There are homemade alcohol stoves that you can make out of a soda can (Youtube can show you how) and use denatured alcohol and cook on that. This does work and for many backpackers this is the choice. It is very lightweight and all you have to worry about is storing the alcohol. The drawback to me about this system is that it is slow and very wind resistant. If the wind is blowing you must have some kind of wind break or the flame will go out. You cannot control the flame its all or nothing. It takes maybe 9 min to boil water. The next type of stove is the type that I use , a propane stove. They are small stove and you do have to carry a small propane tank but they light quickly and you can boil water in about 3 min and you can control the flame! There are a few more like a fuel tablet that burns for about 10 min. I usually carry one for backup but they are messy for main stove. There are wood stoves that you feed small pieces of wood but flame control is hard. So propane is the stove I chose.
Now your going to need some sort of pot. When I first started I used a old coffee pot that I had used for camping and it worked well. It was a little big and bulky and I had to find a way to remove the handle but it worked and the price was right. Free! The size of the pot that you will use can vary but you need one that will hold at least 2 cups of water. Most of the dehydrated meals need two cups of boiling water. As you can guess there are all kinds some made out of aluminum and some made out of titanium both materials are light weight. What about cups, bowls or something to eat off of. That's where the store bought kits come in. They make kits that have bowls ,cups and everything nest together (like those Russian eggs) and doesn't take up space. I got one that works great for me. It has a pot( teflon coated) with retractable handle, Lid with holes that so it can be a strainer, cup/bowl with insulation, and it all fits into a bag that is rubber coated so you can use it to carry water or a sink. You'll also need some sort of eating spoon with a long handle so you can reach into the bags of food and not get your hands in the food.
Mountain House dehydrated meals are the most popular store bought meals but there are others that can be purchased. They come in many meals from Chicken and Rice, Lasagna , Chili Mac , Beef Stew. You can also cook pasta or more easily Pasta Sides, Ramen Noodles, Instant Mashed Potato's, for breakfast you can make Oatmeal using packets or just bring your own instant oatmeal.
Before you go make sure you practice with your new cooking system because after hiking in many miles you don't want to fumble around trying to figure out how your kit works. There is a link below to a video that I've done to show the cooking process. I made this video while backpacking at Grandfather Mountain State Park on a solo trip I took not to long ago.
Keep Hiking! and Keep Shooting!
Link to My Cooking Video : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQqeqtdvrNg
Photo's: Top Left old coffee pot that I used to cook with with propane stove
Top Right : Popular meals that are rehydrated on the trail counter clockwise from top Mountain House Dehydrated meal, hungry jack mashed potato's, Instant oatmeal, Ramen Noodles, Pasta Sides
Bottom : My current cook set starting at the 1 o'clock postion and going clockwise container that holds my coolest also doubles as a sink, insulated cup/bowl, lid/strainer and long handled spoon, wind screen, pot, in middle stove with propane canister attached.