A Backpacker?s Guide to Making Every Ounce Count: Tips and Tricks for Every Hike (2015)

CHAPTER SIX

FOOD BAG AND OTHER KITS

Watch one hour of your favorite television show. How many commercials were about some sort of food? How many were for snacks, prepackaged meals, or restaurants? What about some sort of drink like an energy drink or even coffee? A lot of our culture is food-based because we spend quite a bit of time eating. The trail is no different.

Another big area where you can pile on the weight is with your food. Since we love to eat, and since you need quite a few calories each day to give you the energy to tackle a big trip, you need to take along a lot of food. The food needs to, and can, be light.

Now I am not going to get into a long drawn-out chapter here, so for detailed nutritional facts, talk to your doctor on your specific needs while planning a backpacking trip so you can avoid having an energy crash and potentially placing you and others in your group in danger.

The fact is, on the trail you need calories because they convert to energy. You need some complex and simple carbs and fat and protein and sugar.

Here is a quick little guide for the types of food you can take, but don’t let this list be the end of your research. Do an Internet search for “backpacking nutrition,” and get ready for a lot of data to consider.

For the quick little three-nighters, you may not need to put a lot of thought into planning your food, but on the month-long treks, I highly recommend it. Check with your doctor for more details on what you may need.

Fats/Protein

Beef jerky – My buddy Josh took along some home-made jerky on one of our trips, and it really tasted good. Since it gave us the right type of nutrition that we needed, it was a bonus. Store-bought jerky will work as well, but don’t buy the jerky weeks before your trip, as it may go bad. I bought some and put it in my gear closet for a trip, the trip got canceled, and when I found it, I had a bag filled with green fur-looking stuff.

Anything fatty or with protein is good. You can take some summer sausage or pepperoni, or even some of the dehydrated eggs for breakfast will be good. A lot of the dehydrated meals I take are loaded with protein, so check out the meals as well.

Trail mix – A great source of healthy fat, but don’t eat too much of it. One source of research I found stated that nuts, which are high in omega-6, can cause constipation, which might actually not be a bad thing on a trip. Mix in some dried fruit and dark chocolate. My trail mix consists of the basic GORP: Good Ol’ Raisins and Peanuts. I also add some almonds. I have a bag of dried banana chips in my pack as well.

Hard cheese – If the weather is cooler, take some hard block cheese. You can snack on it with a few crackers while you are hiking. Also, with some pita bread, or some tortilla shells, the cheese, along with some summer sausage (again if the weather is a bit cooler) and some spices, might make a nice little pita pizza or taco wrap once warmed by the fire.

Carbs

Dehydrated fruits and vegetables – apples, mangoes, sweet potato chips, bananas, raisins, and the like. These can be found already packaged on the snack aisle of your grocery store, or you may want to consider putting together your favorites and bag them yourself for each day.

Dates – are lightweight, starchy, and packed full of carbs.

Dehydrated potatoes – are great on the trail. I have used some prepackaged with bacon and three-cheese and herbs. They are ready for you to eat once you add the water and are quite tasty.

Same as counting every ounce when trying to go light, when talking about food, you want to carry as many calories as you can in the forms of fat, proteins, and carbs. One school of thought is to eat junk food while hiking, and eat carbs and protein for dinner. Some summer sausage or pepperoni with some ramen noodles or potatoes will work.

I’m one of those people who can talk to anyone, and one weekend my wife and I went to a neighborhood-wide yard sale, and I started talking to the lady at one place we stopped. The woman mentioned she was a dietitian, so I asked her to tell me in a quick sentence when and what should someone eat while on a week-long backpacking trip.

She told me to carb load at night, and eat protein in the morning for the energy. I used to think eating protein at night was the way to go, and she said it would be okay, but it was crucial to eat some protein a few hours prior starting your activity. You may get several answers from several people you may talk to, so consult with your doctor to get the right game plan.

Some recommend doing a carb-load at night so your body can store the energy and use it the next day while expelling energy on the trail. At night, as your body digests the food while you sleep, your body generates heat, which helps warm you up at night. Then, as you hike, you deplete the stored energy and start to slow down. Eat something sugary to give you the immediate energy you need to make that last mile or two.

Look at the food you like, evaluate the weight, and decide if you want to take it.

Remember that the key here is to take the foods you like to eat and taste good to you—as well as the right kinds of food. I take a ton of snacks for the trail, but a diabetic will probably have different needs from mine.

Food is awesome. We do quite a bit of socializing around food in one way or another. Many churches still have “Dinner on the Ground” (at least that is what we used to call it). That is usually the event where you are able to get to know each other within the congregation. Since you can’t actually talk during the service, you may make some plans to go to lunch or maybe dinner with other members.

When dating, couples probably still go for a meal like dinner or lunch. Lunches are great first date meals because if it is going poorly, you both know it will be over in less than an hour—thank goodness for the one-hour first date. Maybe you went for a cup of coffee to get to know each other. At least that is what I did back in my day. Did I just say back in my day? Wow, I must be getting older than I realized.

Bottom line: we love to eat. We have to eat to live so we may as well make the food taste good, right? The trail is no different. Bland food is bad. Do you like to eat bland food at home? Do you want bland food while backpacking? Probably not. For me, the dinner around the campfire is what I look forward to most on a trip. Sure, the scenery and conversation are great, and the jokes and banter along the trail are also great, but I enjoy the dinner around the campfire.

You can get imaginative with your trail meals, just make sure that they are light. I can offer a few tips, but keep in mind, I am not a vegetable guy. I like my meat and potatoes. Planning your food ahead of time will help you know how much food per day you need, as well as how much weight you are taking.

There are many types of backpacking foods out there, and sometimes you can use your imagination. Mountain House has great backpacking food. I have tried several of their meals, but I keep going back to spaghetti and meat sauce in the Pro Pack. The Pro Pack is vacuum-sealed so it is in a smaller package, which means it takes up less space. However, I have a tip on how to make that tight little package even lighter, so keep reading.

I have tried their breakfast meals, but I usually stick to my favorite breakfast choice of Pop-Tarts, coffee, and oatmeal. I have been eating this on the trail for years, and I keep coming back to it. You may find your favorite meal combinations as well.

Don’t stop with Mountain House. There are many companies, for example Harmony House, that sell bulk items like vegetables and meat. Well, they call it TVP (meat substitute).

Their meat substitutes are called “Chikenish bits” and “Beefish Bits.” I use these with some ramen noodles or to add to my spaghetti for dinner for a little extra protein.

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If you do an Internet search for “backpacking food” with the quotes, you will get many links that are related to dehydrated foods, how to dehydrate, and how to make your own lightweight foods. At the time I was writing this section, I got over 223,000 results. While editing this section, months later, I searched again with Google, and I got about 307,000 results. So there is no telling how many more will be there by the time you read this section. Have fun.

The thing to remember is that you need to take light food because this is where much of your pack weight will come from. If you are already taking all dry food like crackers and bread or dehydrated food like ramen noodles, then you are ahead of the game.

I have even tried to dehydrate my own chicken, and although it tasted fine, I didn’t like the texture, and it took way too much fuel to rehydrate, so I switched to taking the “Chickenish Bits.” I tested these from home first, then on the trail. They are very light, rehydrate quickly, and are quite tasty—just add some pepper or your spice of choice.

Don’t limit yourself to online shopping for good backpacking foods. Check out the grocery store next time, look down all the aisles for the light, dry, dehydrated foods, and see what you might like. I have tried the cup-o-noodles as well as the chicken-flavored ramen noodles with some foil-packed chicken to add to the mix. Or the beef flavor with some summer sausage added.

The grocery store can be a great place to start you on the right path to Gram Weenieism if you stay away from anything that contains water.

The main thing to remember here is to take what you like. If you want to take a jar of peanut butter and a couple of pita bread slices, go for it. That might be a tasty breakfast item, and peanut butter has protein.

Remember that we are trying to go light, so think about some tortillas and a few slices from a block of cheese with some pepperoni slices heated in the fire. You can make a nice little pizza wrap. Add some spices, and you could make others in your group jealous.

Instant potatoes with some Chickenish Bits from Harmony House is great. In this mix, you have the carbs and the protein. Anything instant is what you are looking for. Some of the Beefish Bits and a package of roast beef ramen noodles are nice, too. Use your imagination here, and you will be surprised what you can come up with.

Some instant Aunt Jemima pancakes would be great if you could figure out how to cook them without having to lug a skillet and oil around. Hmmmm . . . what could we do here?

Here is what you can do with the pancake mix, but please test it from home first so you don’t end up with a mess while backpacking. Get one of your carabiners off your pack or a rock or something small enough to fit into the bottom of your cook pot. Pour enough water into the pot to have about two inches above your rock or ’biner.

Have a premeasured amount of pancake mix and the water needed. You will have to have figured this out ahead of time, based on the instructions on the box.

Add the water (cold and filtered) to the mix in a thick Ziploc freezer bag, and mix it until you have the correct consistency. Put the bag into the boiling water, and let it cook. Just keep an eye on it so it does not overcook, and make sure you keep the plastic away from the flame.

Pull out the bag, and you have a pancake biscuit. Since you are testing from home, and if it tastes good, imagine how it will taste on one of those cold early mornings. Mmmm. When testing meals at home, I have found that they taste ten times better on the trail.

Snacks

The idea with snacks is to take lightweight food, but food that you enjoy, just like your meals. I have taken the peanut M&Ms, trail mix, Gatorade powder packets, and even crackers with cheese. Not all on the same trip, mind you, this is just a list of things I have taken in the past. Almonds, trail mix, oh wait, I already mentioned trail mix. I take trail mix on every trip because of the calories contained within. Plus the dietary needs are there. Nuts contain fat and protein; the M&Ms have the sugar. Therefore, it is a good food to take, and you might enjoy the taste.

One cup of sliced almonds contain 20 grams of protein. One cup of raisins has 6 grams of protein. There is not much fat in raisins at 0.8 grams, but 1 cup of almonds contains 45 grams of fat. One cup of sliced almonds has 529 calories. Calories are what fuels your body for the trip, so while on the trail, you need calories to be able to make each mile. Junk food has a lot of calories, so this is what you need for snacks. Snack as much as you feel the need while hiking. Once you are at camp, fix some good, hearty meals.

Take some sports drink packets to replace the electrolytes you sweat out and to make the water taste better. People don’t drink enough water on the trail, which is bad. Headaches and cramps are just a couple of the symptoms of dehydration. Medicinenet.com has a list of other symptoms of dehydration:

• Dry mouth

• The eyes stop making tears

• Sweating may stop

• Muscle cramps

• Nausea and vomiting

• Heart palpitations

• Lightheadedness (especially when standing)

• Weakness

• Decreased urine output

Remember the rule of three? About three days without water . . .

The key is to take plenty of calories as well as what you enjoy eating. I have eaten my weight in CLIF bars over the years and have gotten to the point where I need a change. They are a great source of calories, which we all need on the trail. Since I like variety in my food bag, I have taken my favorite candy bars in place of the CLIF bars because, well, I just love the Snickers bars. A Snickers bar has 250 calories. I also checked a Butterfinger, and it also has 250 calories. You may turn into a calorie counter when planning your snacks; just make sure to count enough.

Bad-tasting food, or even the wrong type of food, can make for a miserable trip. Do not take high-protein, sugar-packed bars for all your meals and snacks. This would be bad.

A tip on how to lighten your load with food is to replace the original packaging. If possible, take your crackers out of the box and put them in a Ziploc bag. For your freeze-dried meals, remove the contents from the original aluminum foil pack and put it all in a freezer bag, making sure to remove the moisture packet. I use a pot cozy made out of Reflectix to help make my plastic bag stand upright. It also keeps the food hot while it rehydrates. You should be able to purchase it at most any building supply store. Mark on the bag how much water to add, and seal it up. This serves a few purposes:

• You can lay the bag flatter so it is less bulky.

• You eat out of the bag so you don’t need to take a bowl.

• Since you don’t need a bowl, you don’t need to take any soap to wash the bowl after you eat.

• You can add your own spices to the Ziploc bag.

• You also have a Ziploc bag to seal up your trash so you can carry it out.

The freezer bag weighs less than the foil pack. Remember, every ounce counts. Some might say, “He’s crazy to go through all that.” Remember back when I said you will be mocked for some of the stuff you do as a Gram Weenie? This most assuredly brings some comments. Let the math do the talking.

Compare the empty foil pack to a plastic freezer bag. The results are as follows:

Pack of lasagna with meat sauce:

Full foil pack of food = 4¾ ounces

Freezer bag of food = 4¼ ounces

Therefore, you can see that using the quart-size freezer bag saved me ½ ounce for one meal. On a four-night trip with four meals, you save two whole ounces. If you did this with just your evening meals, on a one-week long trip, you could save a lot of weight. Seven evening meals, saving ½ ounce per meal, is a savings of four ounces over taking the aluminum packaging. That is quarter of a pound. Are you starting to see the light yet? If not, keep reading, the light is just around that next tree.

Since every ounce counts, and you have to pack out the trash, the plastic freezer bag is the lighter way to go. One aspect of being a Gram Weenie is to plan the trip ahead of time so you can pack lighter. And packing out your trash needs to be considered here since leaving your trash out there in the middle of the trail is just wrong on many levels. I have found that placing one plastic closable bag into another is easier than placing an aluminum bag into another aluminum bag.

The phrase “pack it in, pack it out” refers to your trash. Don’t leave your trash behind for someone else to carry out. You carried it into the woods; you had better be the one who carries it out. We have seen that people have left their trash around on several trips, and it is very annoying. Hikers have enough to worry about without having to carry your garbage out.

As you plan a trip, you need to be aware of how much food you take. This is a very difficult thing to accomplish. Each trip will determine how much food and what types of food you will be taking, so obviously, the weight of your food bag will change from trip to trip.

On some trips, I still end up with an extra candy bar or pack of ramen noodles, but for the most part I am doing better now than I have only a few years earlier. Almost every backpacker that I have talked to has admitted to taking too much food, so you are not alone.

The food you take will taste good to you, and it will taste good to the critters that are out there as well. On the Appalachian Trail, where I generally hike, the shelters are equipped with steel cable and pulley devices for you to hang your food at night. Even though we camp on the Appalachian Trail, we still sleep in our hammocks, but we use the privy and the cable system to hang our food.

It is a good idea to hang your food anytime you will not be in camp. For example, at Stover Creek Shelter, we had a group of about seven or eight, and some of them wanted to take a day hike down to Three Forks to see the sights. Some of them went and some stayed behind. Had we all gone on the day hike, we would have hung our food. We felt safe that if at least one of us stayed behind, the food would have been safe from scavenging critters.

Just because you are diligent with keeping your food out of camp does not mean others are. The critters in the woods know where to find food, and they are used to finding food at these shelters along the trail. They know what a tent looks like and know they will usually find something edible in the tents and the backpacks. I read a story on www.timesleader.com about a scout who had some candy in his tent and was attacked by a bear; “. . . smaller size Snickers bars were found at the scene,” the article said. It seems that the bear was attracted to the candy bars and ripped the tent up to get to the sweet treat. The bear grabbed the young scout by the pocket and dragged him off into the woods. Long story short, the kid survived the attack.

On a trip to the Smoky Mountains, there were many of us sleeping in a shelter. The guy who was sleeping next to me asked one morning, “Did that critter mess with you last night?” I asked what critter, and he showed me his toilet paper roll. He said that he kept feeling something crawling around his head and hearing something messing around in his pack, and it kept him up all night. It seems that the critter, we assumed a rat, had gotten into his pack and gorged himself on the toilet paper roll the guy stored in his pack. (It must have been scented toilet paper.)

When we go backpacking, we hang anything with an odor. We hang our food, of course, but we also hang our TP, baby wipes, toothpaste, and even our toothbrushes, sunscreen, pills, lip balm, anything.

Here is a quick tip: If you have many backpackers in the group, and a lot of food in the group, it is a good idea to use an empty pack to hang your food. Just do not seal the bag completely. I met a guy at Wise Shelter in Virginia who told me he had some food in his pack, and he zipped it up tight and hung it in the trees. Some critter not only got to his food, it tore his pack up to get to the treats. Please leave your pack open so if something does manage to get to your food, it won’t destroy your pack in the process. Better to lose a few calories than to lose an expensive pack.

On one of the camping trips my father took me on, he slept in a Volkswagen camper/bus and I, along with a friend, slept in a tent. We kept a loaf of bread and other snacks in the tent with us, and at some point during the night, a critter gnawed through the tent, through the bag that held the food, and through the thin plastic that held the loaf of bread. The area where the animal had eaten was a perfectly spherical section from the loaf. It was about the size of a golf ball. We were amazed at how perfectly smooth the section was.

There are quick and easy ways to hang your food if you are in an area that does not provide you with an apparatus you can use. You can throw a rope over a tree branch and pull your bag up at least eight feet or so. Tie off one end to a tree and hope for the best.

Your Lightweight Fire Kit

I have seen some very elaborate fire kits that folks carry in their packs. To be honest, I have also carried a ton of fire-making implements. I do have a FireSteel and a striker. My striker is an empty disposable lighter that I cut the bottom out of and gutted. It works great with dry tinder in optimum conditions, but I have jute twine packed into the bottom of the lighter in case I need it.

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I also follow the “Two means one, one means none” rule when it comes to fire. That means that if I lose the striker or the steel, I have the other one as a backup. I carry a lighter in my pocket on every trip.

Fire is one thing you do not want to be without in the middle of a forest. I have also carried some cotton balls soaked in wax. They are great when you’re trying to get a fire going. A stick or knife can break up the cotton ball, a spark from my steel or striker, and you have a flame that will burn for at least ten minutes. Yes, I timed it when I tested it from home.

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Now some may say that it is too much. “All you need is one mini disposable lighter” is what I keep hearing from people, but on one trip, we could not get a fire started with a little disposable lighter. Guess who stepped up and saved the day. Yup, that would be me. Three of the guys in our group who were giving me a hard time about some of my backpacking contraptions I had (they called me MacGyver) shut up quickly when I got the fire going with a wax-soaked cotton ball. I was the hero for the night. To be a true practitioner of Gram Weenieism, I should only take one mini disposable lighter, but I don’t want to be without fire.

On warmer weather trips, you may only need a little lighter, or a fire steel, but in the winter, like on the trip mentioned above, when the wind is whipping around and there’s snow on the ground, you have to be imaginative on how you get a fire going. Even wet wood has dry wood deep underneath the bark, or you can find dry wood hanging in the trees, but you have to look for it. To be on the safe side, you still may need a backup plan for making fire—a second lighter or some wax-soaked cotton.

If the one lighter I have gets lost, wet, or runs out of fuel, I have a backup. Which means I have fire. Which means I have a way to keep warm and boil water to purify or cook with. Be smart with some of these things. Being safe on the trail is very important, and fire can play a huge part. I keep the little hollowed out bic lighter packed with jute twine or dryer lint in my pack, but like I said above, I have a backup lighter in my pocket.

Fire can keep you warm during the cold months as well as ward off the night-time critters, and with fire, you can make questionable water safe to drink. You need to use your head, and safety should be at the forefront of your thoughts long before you make your first footprint at the trail-head.

Bottom line here is that you need to have some sort of dependable fire and know how to make a fire. Are you familiar with the fire triangle?

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The US Forest Service says this about fire:

What is Fire?

“Fire is a significant force in the forest environment. Depending upon the specific land management objective and a host of environmental variables, fire will sometimes be an enemy, sometimes a friend, and frequently its effects will be mixed between the two extremes.”

Fire Triangle:

In order to have a fire, there must be three elements:

Fuel: something that will burn (such as paper, wood, etc.)

Heat: enough to make the fuel burn

Oxygen: the air we breathe

Remove one of these three elements and the fire will go out.

On the trail, fuel could be the dry leaves on the ground or other natural material, like small twigs and other sticks, and then larger sticks and logs.

Oxygen is a given, so next you need a heat source. Here is where your disposable lighter or fire steel comes into play. A spark from your steel will not ignite a stick, a twig, or even a leaf. You need tiny fibrous materials small enough and with enough surface area to catch the spark you can blow into a flame. We call this a bird’s nest.

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Making a bird’s nest takes practice. This is why I recommend keeping some jute twine, cotton, or dryer lint handy. You can pull out a few pieces and set them in the middle of where your fire will be. Arrange some leaves under the lint and you can direct your spark into the lint.

Start out making your bird’s nest with pine needles, leaves, bark, paper, or anything that you can form into a nest, and put a small amount of cotton into the middle. Then use your striker to throw a spark into the cotton, and it usually lights rather quickly. You can then stick the burning nest into your fire structure.

There are several ways to build a fire, but here is the way I usually do it.

Build your fire structure foundation with some larger sticks to block the wind. On top of the foundation, pile on leaves and smaller sticks no larger than a cigar. Stack those sticks into a tepee shape. Some argue that the triangle shape works better than the log cabin shape and vice versa. I don’t have a dog in that fight, so I stay out of it, and while they argue this point, I get my fire going and start relaxing.

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The trick is to build the fire using very small twigs and graduate up to the larger ones. Log cabin, tepee, or just a pile is not important. Using small pieces of material is.

Personal Kit

My personal kit changes from trip to trip. On one trip we hiked up the Approach Trail to Springer Mountain. I was still recovering from two surgeries, and I had to take some extra items in the form of medical supplies. Long story short, I had major surgery a few months before the trip, and the week before the trip, the surgeon had to cut me open near my belly button to remove some infection because my body was “rejecting the sutures.”

In the end, I had a hole in my stomach, so my personal kit included some latex gloves, gauze pads, and a bottle of clean sterile water. Every morning and evening, I had to pull gauze out of the hole, replace it with clean gauze, and patch the hole with fresh gauze and tape. I love hiking so much that I was not going to let a hole in my stomach keep me from the trail.

Usually, my personal kit includes a roll of TP, pain pills, Handi Wipes, and some maintenance meds that I have to take. I also have deodorant (depending on the time of year), my toothbrush, which I cut in half to shave some weight, and toothpaste pods. I take these pods in lieu of taking a tube of toothpaste. The ones shown here are ready to go and scaled out at 3/8 of an ounce. For scale, here they are next to a full-size toothbrush.

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My personal kit consists of my personal stuff as well as my first-aid kit, which is limited. Having a limited first-aid kit is a personal choice, and you may find that in a group of five hikers, you will find five very different first-aid and personal kits. These two kits are the areas where you and only you can make the decision on what to take. Don’t let anyone talk you out of or into taking greater or fewer items than you believe you will need.

I have seen some first-aid kits that would rival a first responder’s kit, although while thru-hiking, an elaborate kit might be ideal. But for our little weeklong trips, which we usually take in larger groups, an abridged version meets our needs.

If you ask fifteen backpackers what is in their first-aid kit, you might get twenty answers, as some may have multiple kits (one for each season they hike). Put together your own kit based on your skill level with self-rescue techniques and ability to function under pressure.

In your personal kit, you will want the obvious things, like TP, cleansing products, toothpaste, medications, deodorant, and anything else you need on a daily basis for your personal hygiene.

Cook Kit

Again, we’re at a crossroads.

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” —Yogi Berra

This is again a time for you to dig deep and decide: stove or no stove. Some hardcore ultra-light campers may opt to use their campfire to cook their dinner or boil their water for the dehydrated meals. For me, I have opted for the DIY stove from time to time. Here is one that is easy to make. It is a bean dip can, I think. All you need is some sort of solid fuel and a way to keep the pot elevated above the flame a bit.

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The easiest way is to make the stove from a cat food can. Search online for instructions if you want to go the route of a DIY soda can stove.

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On the colder trips, however, you might regret it. The fuel needs to be kept warm, and if you forget to keep it warm at night, like in your sleeping bag, it prolongs “coffee o’clock” and breakfast.

On a trip in March, a very cold March, I had a DIY stove made from an aluminum bottle. It worked great and boiled my water quickly, but I had to keep the fuel, which was denatured alcohol, protected from the harsh cold air. I forgot about the fuel and left it in my bag exposed to the cold environment.

The fuel would not light. I placed the fuel bottle in my coat and had to walk around the camp waiting for it to warm up. Once it was warm, I cranked it up and made coffee. The fuel for these DIY stoves usually has to be protected from the cold air so they are more efficient while burning. It would had taken more fuel to get my coffee going, which may have been an issue later on in the trip if I had not planned on taking enough fuel.

I have gone back to my Soto Micro regulator stove and a canister of compressed gas. It is more dependable than the DIY stoves in my opinion. Not as light, mind you, but more dependable.

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There are several types of stoves out there. Stoves run off liquid fuel, compressed gas, and then the DIY stoves that run off isopropyl and denatured alcohol. The DIY stoves also run off HEET.

Many thru-hikers who I have met prefer the DIY stoves because they are light and easy to make. Since they run off HEET and denatured alcohol, the fuel is easy to purchase throughout the towns on the long-distance trails. The denatured alcohol is also easy to find in the stores along the trail.

Since you can’t mail fuel, long-distance hikers have to replace their fuel as they go, so I can understand the logic behind the DIY stoves. They are easy to make, and the fuel is easy to purchase while on the trail (should you find a store). However, for a weekend or even a one-week-long trip, I prefer my micro regulator stove and fuel canister. On my next trip, I am considering boiling my water next to the fire to avoid the weight of stoves and fuel.

Another option is a dual-walled wood-burning stove. Again, this one is a DIY stove and can be made from a one-quart paint can and a few other materials. You can paint it with a high-temperature flat black paint to help with the protection from the elements as well as to help hold the heat. This is a great stove.

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As the wood burns, the gas comes up in between the walls and reignites, and this is where you get the heat to boil your water. I have tested this once on a trip to see if it worked, and it worked great. This type of stove is light, easy to make, and has an unlimited source of fuel, as long as you are in a wooded area, and it is not raining. But who wants to process wood in the morning? It only prolongs my getting coffee, which is a priority to me.

You have to make these DIY stoves, and as a DIY’er myself, I love to make and alter my gear. However, depending on your trip, you may need something more dependable. Some may argue that a DIY soda can stove is the most dependable. I find it difficult to agree with this. I have used my SOTO on so many trips, and I take care of it, so for me, this is a very dependable stove.