Why I Hike Stoveless

Dawn’s first rays sparkle off my sleeping bag, offering tranquil warmth on a dampened camp. Aromic and dark vices give off steam from inside a foldable mug, while I peek at the ridges that lie in the day ahead. Sipping slowly to delay the chill that will inevitably come when I emerge from the sanctuary of goose down. Cup in hand, everything is all right. 

It’s these peaceful scenes that draw us to the outdoors. Scenes like this fuel my spirit. Scenes like this empower me to push for more nights under the stars. So why, then, am I so quick to give up a hot cup of coffee when I’m backpacking?

Coffee is ritualistic. My love for coffee runs deep. When I’m living somewhere, working, I wouldn’t dare begin my day without it. A small french press accompanies me car camping, winter camping and chasing mountaintop sunrises. But living on the trail, I give up the comfort of hot beverages. Because, to brew a cup in the wilderness requires a stove. Real estate inside my pack is precious, so I opt not to carry one.

Aside from hot coffee in the morning, there’s nothing tempting about having my Jetboil with me. It takes up space, adds weight, and requires cooking and doing dishes every night. Outside the trail, I cook nearly every meal I eat; I adore the creativity. But after ten hours of walking, I want no delay; only to shove food in my mouth on the spot. My stoveless dinner prep consists of cutting a block of cheese into slices, slapping them on tortillas and adding whatever yummy extras I might happen to have (avocado, sundried tomatoes, and nutritional yeast are favorites). 

My stoveless philosophy: don’t eat anything cold that’s meant to be hot. That means no cold soaking ramen, pastas or oatmeal, despite it’s growing popularity with stoveless hikers. Instead, I opt for exactly what my herbivore body craves: snack foods. Nuts, bars, PB, chips, dried fruit, chocolate, pretzels, cookies, crackers- basically anything salty and fatty. For breakfast I’ll make cereal with powdered milk and granola, mixing in fresh picked berries whenever possible. I love walking into a grocery or convenience store and buying up whatever snacks my hungry heart desires. There’s always a variety of sugary, salty snacks to choose from. As for coffee, I’ll mix some combination of instant coffee, powdered milk, protein powder and Breakfast Essentials (whatever I have at the time) and mix it with water in one of my bottles. Coffee shake on the go!

No, I don’t get sick of this and wish I had a hot meal. I find that depriving myself on trail makes eating at restaurants in town extra special. Everyones food preferences are unique and evolving, but that’s what works for me.