I am not a huge fan of backpacking without a stove, but whether you do it or not should be based on the environmental conditions you’re likely to encounter on your hike, the duration, and location of your trip.
Whatever you do, don’t sacrifice your safety margin in order to say that your backpack weighs less than 10 pounds or 5 pounds. I’ve let the ultralight label dictate what I bring on a backpacking trip in the past (including no stove) and although it’s understandable why people do it, it’s not a good enough reason to leave gear behind that you need to be safe and comfortable.
Still, there are some circumstances where I were I could see backpacking without a stove, if I on a short 1 or 2 night trip, there was a favorable weather forecast, I had a reason to minimize the time spent eating or in camp, and I was hiking on well-established trail where I was likely to encounter a few people every day. But remove any one of those ifs and I would definitely bring a stove and cooking fuel.
The Functions of a Backpacking Stove
Consider the functions of a stove:
- Boiling water for purification
- Cooking food for sustenance
- Heating water to augment my insulation/prevent hypothermia
While you can perform all of these functions with a campfire provided you have a pot to cook with and the ability to hold it when it’s hot, you can’t light a fire if you don’t have firewood, your firewood isn’t dry, and high winds or pouring rain prevent you from starting a fire outside your shelter. How likely are these conditions? I encounter them fairly often in New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont where I do most of my hiking, and where it snows 12 months of the year on the higher mountains.
What to Eat Without a Stove
Let’s say that conditions are perfect for backpacking without a stove: the weather is clear and it’summertime. What are some good foods that can be eaten raw without heating and aren’t junk food.
- Probars are dense food bars made out of fruit and nuts
- Peanut butter, honey and tortillas, wraps, bread, or bagels
- Tuna packed in olive oil is a great source of protein and fat
- Hot sausages or salami keep well without refrigeration
- Small wheels of Edam or Gouda Cheese sealed in wax keep well
- Granola, eaten dry or with a little cold water added
- Home made gorp with a mix of nuts, fruit, and chocolate bits
- Protein shakes made with cold water, in moderation
- Store-bought cakes and quick breads
- Dehydrated hummus and chips, pita bread, or bagel chips
- Packit Gourmet puddings (mmm!)