|A cold lunch is easy and can be satisfying even on a cold day.|
(1) Transition gradually. Use a stove for dinner, but skip a hot breakfast. Try going totally stoveless in summer first to see if it works for you.
(2) Think about what foods taste good at room temperature. What do you eat for lunch or at a picnic? Sandwiches, pasta salad, couscous, wraps are all stoveless staples.
(3) Many backpacking meals rehydrate with cold water given enough time. Add cold water to meals you already like, only add it 2-3 hours before meal time. Ramen, soups, chowders, stews, re-fried beans are easy options.
(4) Find substitutes for the ritual of having that hot beverage or spending time cooking. Try drinking cold flavored drinks like Gatorade or packaged ice tea, or eating something slow that you can savor like instant pudding.
|Watching others with their steaming hot beverages can be the biggest challenge.|
Different no-cook food require a different technique to prepare on the trail. Carry a mix of these three categories of food:
(1) Food that can be eaten dry (i.e. that don’t require added water) provide easy and quick calories. The downside is they can be heavier because of their higher water content. Still, it is handy to have these in case you are low on water or need to eat immediately.
Examples: tortilla, wraps, cheese, peanut butter, fresh fruits and veggies.
|Peanut butter mixed with nutella can be spread on a tortilla, or eaten by the spoonful.|
Examples: cereal with powdered milk, powdered hummus, instant pudding with powdered milk, instant cheesecake.
|Mix instant pudding with nido powdered milk at home. In camp, just add cold water.|
Examples: ramen, instant rice, instant black beans, couscous.
What to do on the trail:
That third category of food can be rehydrated either in either plastic jars with screw top lids (like peanut butter jars) or in ziplock freezer bags (double bagged). Try both methods and see which works for you. Plastic jars can be easier to eat out of, but are more bulky.
Package food that requires additional water into individual, pint sized ziplock freezer bags. Add water directly to the food, double bag it in case the bag leaks, and carry it for 2-4 hours. An hour before eating, give it a stir to see if it needs more water.
|A long spoon helps for eating out of plastic bags.|
|The lump below my waist belt is a bag of food rehydrating in the pouch of my hoodie|
Many freeze dried or dehydrated foods that you find in a grocery store will rehydrate in cold water, even if the directions say add boiling water. Get a selection of pre-packaged foods from the pasta or ethnic section of the grocery store—Fantastic Food brand food (like tabouli and black beans), couscous, ramen, instant rice, and instant potatoes. Try a small sample of choices at home or work-- add water in the morning, and to find out how they taste at lunchtime. If they are crunchy or unappealing, you can rescue them in the microwave, and note which ones to bring on your trip.
To make a complete meal- repackage pasta or grains into single-sized serving ziplock bags with any additions like powdered milk, shelf-stable Parmesan cheese, chips, nuts, or dehydrated veggies (which can be found in some grocery stores). On the trail, add cheese, pouch of tuna or chicken, deli meat/ pepperoni, or other toppings.
|Salty crackers or chips add crunch to creamy soups.|
- granola with powdered milk (nido brand is found in the ethnic isle of walmart)
- cereal (like special k, grape nuts, shredded wheat) with protein powder
- carnation instant breakfast
- cereal bars, poptarts, pastries, bagels, croissants, cinnamon rolls
- fresh meat (pre-cooked bacon, salami, pepperoni)
- fresh dairy (hard boiled egg, string cheese, mini baby bell cheese, gouda, cheddar cheese, cream cheese packets)
- fresh bread (tortillas, wraps, naan, french bread, pitas)
- peanut butter, dried fruit, jelly, honey
- fresh veggies (avocado, carrots, apples, sugar snap peas, tomato)
|A simple wrap of hardboiled eggs, tomato, and cheese.|
- ramen, couscous, bulgur wheat, instant potatoes
- dehydrated soups, stews and chowders (split pea soup, lentil soup, miso soup mixes)
- meat (jerky, sausage, tuna, chicken or salmon foil packs, single servings spam in foil)
- frozen burrito or deli sandwich
|Add fresh meats and vegetables to meals for extra flavor and texture.|
- Check Big Lots for dehydrated soups or stews.
- Walmart’s hispanic food section (usually) has nido milk powder.
- Look for cream cheese packets and squeeze packets of hummus in the deli section.
- Individually wrapped cheese sticks, baby bell cheese packed in wax, and string cheese are low mess and last a few days even in summer.
Do not be scared to leave your stove at home, and give stoveless meals a try! You won't miss the weight of the stove and pot, and you may be impressed with the simplicity and speed of this method. Enjoy!
My experience going stoveless
My Food for the PCT
If you do have a dehydrator: Summer Stoveless Favorites and Winter Stoveless Favorites
PMags- Going stoveless- Cold Food for Thought
Recipes for chicken salad wraps
...for no cook pudding and desserts
Chef Glenn's Backpacking Recipes- Another great resource for food with stoveless options mixed in