Trail meals and eating out on trail is a subject of many hiker discussions, eating is a necassary part of bouncing back and be able to hike the following day. It restores your energy and gives you a full belly to sleep on.
In this post I will go over the different cooking utensils and cleaning up after yourself on trail.
Basic cooking kit layout
Your basic cooking kit consists of the following items. A cook pot where you boil your water and food in, a burner or stove to do the heating up with and a utensil to shove it in your mouth with.
Other items to have next to your cooking kit are a pocket knife to cut up some sausage or fresh veggies you can scavenge. And a tea towel that you can use to clean up and for a million other things. Like a pot grabber. Carrying a pot grabber just for that one function is a bit ridiculous in my opinion. Your better off carrying a multi tool then and use the pliers to grab your pot.
For me eating utensils that I use while outdoors are limited to two items. I carry some bamboe chop sticks to eat stuff like noodles and a spork for everything else. The light my fire titanium spork is an excellent choice and lasts a lifetime of use.
The plastic ones I carried before going titanium, however they always broke on me after a couple of outings. So spend a bit more and get the Titanium one to avoid spending more than you need on replacements.
Other eating utensils you can carry are a spatula if you are planning on frying stuff in a small skillet. And a knife and fork if you are going to eat some more complicated dishes. But at the end of a day of hiking I do not think you are going to do that. I would advise to keep to the basics of cooking outdoors. The less you carry the happier you are during hiking.
Chopsticks for hiking
Chopsticks are maybe not a cooking utensil you think off when hiking. But since you are probably going to be living off instant noodles anyway it is a better option than you may think.
In Asian cuisine and many other places around the world it is a staple in the kitchen and on the dinner table. Chopsticks are very handy, very lightweight and durable. They are also not limited to just eating out on trial. Chopsticks can be used a variety of different ways, for stirring in your meal. Eating and can be used as anything you might need a small straight stick for.
Pick fancy titanium or metal ones up for a more solid choice. Or go the cheep way and walk into a Chinese restaurant. The Bamboo ones last for a surprising amount of time and can even be thrown into the dishwasher in my experience.
The cooking pot
Carrying a cooking pot can be heavy if you choose the wrong material. But truth be told, if your not carrying a cast iron pot there is no wrong choice. The three different materials you can choose from are Stainless steel pots. Aluminium pots or Titanium pots.
Stainless steel pots are pretty much unbeatable for the price and the durability. The biggest downside of them is that they are much heavier than the other options. Stainless steel pots are my favorite when I am doing the more bushcraft oriented camping style. Cooking over an open fire is no problem for a stainless steel pot. For longer distance hiking stainless steel is not the best of options.
Aluminium pots come in two kinds of types. The naked aluminium pots, which are prone to have hot spots and are prone to bending. And the anodized and teflon coated options. The anodized versions I have the most experience with and I can recommend for everybody that is going for the aluminium pots.
The teflon coated versions are nice for their non stick properties. However these coatings do not last for a long time and require you to be gentle with. Something that is sometimes difficult to do after a day of hiking and tired plus hungry.
Aluminum has developed quite a name for itself in the last years for health related concerns. I am not going into that here in this article but I would suggest reading a couple of resources and make up your own choice.
And finally we have the Titanium pots that are very popular in the hiking and also in the bushcraft community. Titanium is lighter than Stainless steel and Aluminum and comparable in durability to Stainless steel. For boiling water and getting simple cooking jobs done while on trail Titanium is a solid choice for almost any outing. They most often come in canteen style cups that have a volume of around 750 milliliters. That is enough for one person while hiking.
A takeaway from all the different materials is that you can choose which one you like best. But try to get one that at the same time can be used as a cup for drinking out off. That way you do not have to carry an extra cup.
Cooking stoves for hiking
Cooking stoves that you can take with you hiking come in a bunch of different types and materials. For most people a gas canister stove is the choice. If you want to read more about the different stove types that are out there for you I would suggest heading back to one of my previous articles on that subject. Different cooking stoves for hiking.
Cleaning up after a hiking meal
Cleaning up after a hiking meal should be quick and easy. The cleanup starts while you are still eating. Lick everything as clean as you can and scrape your pot clean as a whistle. After that you can grab some moss if you are near a forest and wipe every bit down that needs some more work.
After that you can wipe the rest down with your tea cloth that you brought for that purpose. If your pot is very dirty and you can not get it clean like that you will have to sacrifice some water to wash it further. For particularly nasty stuff you can also decide to boil your pot clean. But that does mean more fuel consumption. So that option is best to do if you already have a camp fire going.
Some recipes and idea’s for out on the trail
A couple of staple options you can take with you out on trail are noodles, instant mashed potatoes and dried sausage. Change it up with some spaghetti, macaroni and dried tomato sauce. And elevate it to the next level with more outdoor cooking ingredients. A good sub Reddit that you should join is the r/Trailmeals sub. This one always has good recipes floating around that you can pick up some good idea’s from.
Also check out my other articles that I have done for recipes and more. You can find them in the Hiking food categorie!
For now I leave you with that. Happy hiking and hike for a purpose!