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Cold-Soak No-Cook Backpacking Meals 101

Cold-Soak No-Cook Backpacking Meals 101

The terms “cold-soak” and “no-cook” have become popular lingo amongst backpackers who opt for another way to eat on-trail without using a stove. Cold-soaking is a no-cook method where you simply soak dry food with water to prepare a meal. Sounds easy, right? For the most part, it is – but if you’re new to the cold-soak world and want to give it a try, there are a few tricks of the trade to make your experience more worthwhile and some points to consider to see if it’s right for you before you ditch your stove for good.

The Basics: How to Cold-Soak

This is the basic, four-step process to stoveless cooking (aka “cold-soak” or “no-cook”). I’ll include more details to elaborate on these four steps to come.

  1. Get a jar that seals and doesn’t leak.
  2. Pour filtered water over the food.
  3. Be aware of the timing – make sure the meal has enough time to “cook.”
  4. Stir and eat it when ready.

Benefits of Cold-Soaking Backpacking Food

So what’s the hype with cold-soaking? I did some research on cold-soaking before I started my Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hike. I had been super content carrying a stove on my Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike, yet this cold-soaking technique had become all the rage since then, so I thought it was worth a look. I decided to do both – carry my trusty stove, pot, and a small Talenti Gelato jar that was only 1.9 ounces. Sure, many ultralight hikers would laugh at me because they had opted to ditch the stove and fuel to save weight, and here I had both in my pack, but I wasn’t sold on cold-soaking just yet.

Through my experimentation and the feedback of other cold-soak junkies, here are the key benefits of Cold-Soaking Backpacking Meals.

Lighten the Load

Some hikers believe it’s less weight to carry when you don’t have a stove or fuel to lug around in your backpack. However, you do have to carry the weight of that water mixed with your food in the container, so it may only save a bit of weight since stoves can be quite light. In terms of space, it definitely feels less bulky to me on subsequent trips when I’ve just carried my Talenti jar and that’s it.

Less Worry

It’s difficult to figure out how much stove fuel you need to carry on a trip, which urges one to lean on the side of caution and carry more. With cold-soaking, you leave that fuel-guessing game behind and don’t have to haul bulky gas canisters.


Some backpacking stoves can get pricey, as well as choosing a lightweight, quality pot. Depending on where you’re hiking, fuel canisters can be off the hook expensive when in demand. This leads some to argue that cold-soaking saves you money, which you can choose to invest in other gear needs.

Check out your local co-op or health food store for some great cold-soak choices - affordable and you can choose the portion you want
Check out your local co-op or health food store for some great cold-soak choices – affordable and you can choose the portion you want.


After a long day of hiking when energy is lacking, sometimes it can feel like a drag to pull out the stove, cook, eat, and then clean up. The same goes with mornings if you just want to get out of your tent and start hiking right away. With cold-soaking, you can walk while your food rehydrates and then stop to eat it whenever you wish.

I really liked doing this when I wanted to hike very early in the dessert section of the PCT to avoid the heat; I would cold-soak my oats and eat them when I wanted a break after an hour or so of walking. On days I was putting in a lot of miles, I chose to cold-soak and carry my food which was ready to eat when I got to camp at night without doing anything extra. This also worked well for me if I wanted to hike at night. I would cold-soak my food around dusk, hike while it did its cooking thing on my back, break to eat, and then keep going without the big production of having to bust out my stove, wait for the water to boil, cook, etc. When efficiency and time are factors, cold-soaking is awesome.

Easy Clean-Up

All you have to do is add some filtered water to your jar after eating, shake, and then drink to clean up easily. I personally like to wipe out any last bits with a little toilet paper that I then pack out, to make sure it’s dry and I’m not sealing up a wet jar; this is especially important in a hot climate where it can get funky. It’s a bit questionable as to how sanitary you can really get that container, especially if it has little grooves in it at the base. On the flip side, when you boil water in your pot, you help to disinfect and sterilize it, which is worth mentioning.

A Rain-Friendly Method

It’s never fun to cook on your stove outside when it’s raining and it’s definitely not advisable to ever use a stove in your tent. Some hikers cook under the tent’s vestibule, but honestly, doing that always freaks me out as I imagine my tent going up in flames should an accident occur. With cold-soaking, you don’t have to worry about getting wet or going hungry if you need to eat in your tent during a storm.

Fire Ban Areas

There are trails you may hike where fire bans are in effect because of wildfire risk and you can’t use a stove. Knowing how to cold-soak doesn’t limit where you can go and ensures you’re respectful of the rules of where you’re backpacking.

Less Smell to Attract Bears

If you’re backpacking in bear country, for example, it can be important to avoid strong cooking smells so as not to attract them to your tent site. Yes, you can cook a distance away from your tent and then return to it when done eating, but it can be extra effort to move around so much after a tiring day. If you cold-soak, you’re skipping the cooking part and lessening food smells wafting in the air, which can contribute to your safety. Of course, you’ll still have to take care of storing your food properly, but at least stoveless eating supports minimizing cooking smell.

I love cold-soaking, but am still loyal to my stove set-up when backpacking
I love cold-soaking, but am still loyal to my stove set-up when backpacking.

Downsides to Cold-Soaking Backpacking Food

There are always two sides to a coin, and that’s no different with cold-soaking as a cooking method. Although I grew quite fond of cold-soaking at times, I still like carrying a stove. Here are some reasons why, and when, you may not wish to cold-soak your food.

No Hot Meals or Drinks

This reason is pretty obvious: no stove means no heat, which means nothing hot to consume. I find that in some conditions, having a warm meal can be soothing and comforting. Not only is this ideal in cold weather, but also for the ritualistic aspect of pausing to break and eat, without rush or hurry. To be transparent, I really don’t like crushing big miles, but I do it when I have a goal and need to hike hard to attain it. I prefer creating time and spaciousness on my trips to enjoy my food and nourish myself well, both nutritionally and emotionally. Cold-soaking can be more of an ‘eat and get it done’ experience which isn’t always what I’m going for when I backpack.

With that said, there were times I didn’t feel as satisfied when I ate cold-soaked meals, and that I was just eating for the sake of it. Sometimes this came in handy, but it wouldn’t be my forever choice. This is worth giving some consideration to. What is your style of eating? Do you like to take time to eat or it doesn’t really matter to you as long as you’re fed? There’s no right or wrong way – you just have to know your way.

Food Choices May Be Limited

I conjured up plenty of cold-soak meal options while on-trail, and complimented it with other stoveless food choices, so there were days I never needed to whip out my stove. There are many possibilities out there with cold-soaking backpacking food, yet you may find some choices are limited. Most packaged backpacking meals cannot be cold-soaked, which includes brands like Mountain House. These meals often contain pasta and rice which really needs to become heated to be edible.

However, I do know hikers who cold-soak Knorr Rice Sides and Mac & Cheese with relative success; these dishes just need to be soaked for several hours before ready to consume. Note that quinoa and instant rice don’t work with cold-soaking. There are some packaged backpacking meals that do work with cold-soaking, but it’s just not a guarantee and requires some experimenting or research.

And if you’re like me, I can’t stand cold coffee, so I don’t even bother without a stove, although other hikers love it. You do you.

Weather Considerations

I mentioned that hot food from a stove and pot can be comforting, and it also can be warming in cold weather conditions. I get cold very easily so I need to think about how a stove benefits me not only for sustenance but in case I need to warm my hands and body temperature. Drinking warm beverages also can ward off hypothermia.

If you chill easily or do a lot of cold weather trips, you may not love cold-soaking. However, in hot, desert conditions and in summer, I’m not as excited about warm meals. I actually prefer the consistency of my cold-soaked oats with all my mix-ins than when I cook them. If you backpack in hot climates often, cold-soaking may be a dream come true.

A Stove is Back-Up Water Purifier

Another reason not to forgo your stove is that boiling water is also a water purification method. If your water filter happens to break or you lose your AquaMira tablets, it’s smart to have a back-up method for drinking water.

Either the Talenti small or large container work well for cold-soaking
Either the Talenti small or large container work well for cold-soaking.

Cold-Soaking Tips and Tricks

Here are some more tips and tricks for cold-soaking meals,  so you can eat with success and pleasure.

Choosing a Cold-Soak Jar/Container

When choosing a cold-soaking vessel, look at these specifics.

  • The container needs to be leakproof and seal tightly.
  • It should be large enough and wide enough – if you’re going to have a lot of food inside, a small container won’t work for you.
  • Not too tall – your spoon or spork has to be able to reach the bottom and it’s tough to clean if too tall.

The container I’ve used with success seems to be one of the most commonly used on trial, the Talenti Gelato 473 ml jar that holds 16 ounces in volume and weighs 1.9 ounces. There were times I wished it was bigger, and this past summer I discovered the next size up – Talenti’s large 950 ml, 32-ounce jar that doesn’t weigh much more. Yes, it takes up more space, but no different than if you had a pot.

Hikers also like using peanut butter jars that seal well, which are also lightweight, and usually come in at around 750 ml. and 25 ounces for volume. Peanut butter jars can be taller though and a bit narrow; I like to be sure it’s wide enough so it’s user-friendly to pour my food into and scoop out. There are other jar options out there, just be sure to test it for ease of use and leaking before heading out on a trip. Also, don’t use glass because it’s heavier and can break.

Adding Water to Your Food

Adding water might sound straightforward, but there are a few nuances to consider.

  • Add enough water to cover your food completely, and then some.
  • Leave room for the food to expand as it rehydrates, which means you don’t want to fill the jar to the top with food.
  • Put on the lid and shake it, especially if you have spices and seasonings in the meals, so it’s distributed throughout.
  • You may want to give a shake to your food in the container periodically to ensure that the meal hydrates evenly, depending on what you’re cold-soaking.

Timing Your Cold-Soak Meals

Giving your food ample time to soak is crucial with this cookless technique. Some foods need more time than others to soak and become edible, and this should be accounted for regarding when you want to eat. I mentioned earlier how some hikers like to cold-soak Knorr Sides, which need hours to rehydrate well. Ramen noodles, on the other hand, take a half-hour.

Cold-soaker aficionados have it down to a science as to what foods need exactly what amount of time because they claim some things get mushy. Frankly, I don’t bother with those specifics when I backpack. I choose to give everything at least an hour to be safe, and sometimes more. For example, to be efficient in the morning, I’ll opt to soak my oats the night before.

Another factor to consider is planning around when you’re near a water source to get that extra water for your food to soak. I also like to channel the power of the sun to help “cook’ my food while I walk; I keep my container on the outside of my backpack in my front mesh pouch.

The key takeaway is not to forget you have to soak your meal, or you’ll be one hungry hiker.

Stir and Eat When Ready

Well, this step goes without much commentary. But when in doubt if it’s actually ready, give it more time.

Lotus Foods, Mike's Mighty Good and McDougall's are some of my favorite healthy brands to cold-soak
Lotus Foods, Mike’s Mighty Good, and McDougall’s are some of my favorite healthy brands to cold-soak.

Good Cold Soak Foods

Here’s a list of foods that can be cold-soaked. I’m very health-conscious with my food choices in life and while backpacking, so I tend to stay with foods that are natural, with no preservatives or weird ingredients. That’s what works for me, yet I encourage you to choose what’s right for you.

  • Couscous
  • Rice Noodles (I prefer these over ramen, although they can get mushy)
  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa Flakes (like oatmeal in texture)
  • Instant Mashed Potatoes
  • Ramen Noodles
  • Polenta Mix or Grits
  • Dehydrated Refried Beans
  • Dried Hummus
  • Creamy Soups (I like McDougall’s Brand, but you can also find these in the bulk section of co-ops. Split pea & black bean are loaded with protein)
  • Dried Falafel Mix (Doesn’t look like falafel balls, but tastes good and is like a spread)
  • Breakfast Powders, Protein Powders, Peanut Butter Powder, Coconut Powder
  • Freeze-dried Fruits and Veggies & Dehydrated (some don’t work great)
  • Dried Seaweed

An excellent thing to note is that homemade, DIY dehydrated meals work great for cold-soaking. This is also ideal because you control the ingredients that go into these meals, and in turn what goes into your body. I have yet to explore the realm of DIY dehydrated meals, but I can say I know many hikers who do and love it. I’ve been given a few and they were delicious! There are tons of resources and recipes online if you search for ‘how to make dehydrated backpacking meals.’

Do-it-yourself by jazzing up couscous, oats and soups with your favorite spices at home.
Do-it-yourself by jazzing up couscous, oats, and soups with your favorite spices at home.

Cold-Soak Meal Recipes & Ideas

One way to make cold-soaking work, in a way that it’s a whole meal, is to combine it with other stoveless food choices. Here are some of my favorite, healthy cold-soak meal creations you can try out on a backpacking trip.

  • Dried oats or quinoa flakes mixed with protein powder or coconut milk powder, cinnamon, dried fruits or dehydrated fruits, dried coconut, cacao nibs, maca powder, matcha powder, hemp seeds, flax meal, chia seeds, and any other nuts/seeds you like.
  • Granola can be mixed with protein powder, coconut milk powder, or even water and soaked in advance to make it softer.
  • Couscous mixed with a packet of salmon or tuna, dried fruit, and nuts, sea salt. Near East is a good brand if you want flavored, or you can add your own seasonings like garam masala, curry, garlic for Indian; lemongrass and ginger for Thai; cumin, chipotle, chili for Mexican, etc.
  • Hummus, falafel mix, or refried beans mix with blue corn chips (any chips/crackers you like works) or on a tortilla. Nutritional yeast has protein and adds a cheesy flavor.
  • Polenta mixed with jerky is tasty.
  • Rice noodles mixed with dried seaweed and peanut butter powder is a go-to for me. (I like Rice Ramen by Lotus Foods which is low sodium and Mike’s Mighty Good).
  • Split Pea soup mix, Black Bean soup mix, Corn chowder soup mix, Curry Lentil soup mix – these are all high protein and yummy with crackers or chips for the crunch factor. I mentioned McDougall’s Soups above.
  • If you want to drink cold coffee, Four Sigmatic is a fantastic brand that makes single-serving packets. Pricey, but contains adaptogen herbs and mushrooms for a healthy, crash-free boost. They also make protein powders and other beverages.
Always bring a friend to enjoy your cold-soaking delights with you
Always bring a friend to enjoy your cold-soaking delights with you.

Closing Thoughts

With a bit of knowledge and a spirit of experimentation, cold-soaking no-cook backpacking meals can be a fun adventure in itself. If you become familiar with the basic process and then play around with your personal tastes and the array of options out there, it can be a practical way to either leave the stove behind OR take it with you and do both (like this crazy hiker does). Whatever you choose, do what’s right for you and what makes you feel comfortable and free to enjoy your backpacking adventures.

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About the author

Heather Daya Rideout has been a life-long outdoorswoman. Her pursuits and passion for hiking and camping have taken her around the world for many long-distance trips; such as backpacking in Nepal, India, South America, Morocco, Europe, and North America. Heather has hiked the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and a route of 1,500 miles combining several Camino routes through Spain and Portugal. On any given day she would rather be outdoors than anything else and her lifestyle is a direct reflection of that deep love affair with nature. Heather currently lives in Idaho and she’s having a wondrous time experiencing the beauty it offers. You can read some of her other writing at


  1. Great article! For myself, I would not want to just depend on cold soaking for all meals, so like you I prefer to carry a stove. I have used the cold-soaked oats in the morning and should try to branch out a little to cold soak the end of the day meal. Thanks for providing the suggestions.

    • Hi Tom and thanks for reading! Yes, I agree that it’s good for me also to have a balance with hot food and cold-soaking. It’s worth a try to branch out and see if it’s right for you.

  2. Wilson’s little Bro

    • Haha, that’s my pal Rollie – my Dad gave him to me before I set out on the PCT so I’d think of him and know I was never alone. I started staging Rollie doing all sorts of funny things on trail, and eating was one of them.

    • Yep, that’s Rollie – my Dad gave him to me before I hiked the PCT so I would think of him and know I was never alone. I began to stage him in all sorts of funny scenarios on trail with me for fun.

  3. The one caution, as you pointed out, is if it’s cold outside in the evening when you’re sit down to have dinner.

    If the temp is like 50 degrees outside, and you’re already chilly, then you’re about to put a big load of 50 degree food inside you.
    Which in my experience will make drop my core temperature, and make me shiver.
    The food does eventually impart some calories/heat, but it’s not a comfortable transition.

    OTW, yea, if it’s hot out, I’m usually don’t want a hotter core temperature and cold soaking food is great.
    One variant would be to carry the Vargo Bot instead of a plastic container which can be used for cold soaking AND stove cooking.

    • Oh, and if you have a Bot, you could also carry a few Esbit tabs in case conditions change and it’s just too cold outside to be cold soaking.

      • Bart, I’m going to be reviewing the Bot soon and am very excited to try it out for both cooking and cold-soaking.

        • This is the best article I’ve read on cold soaking so far! Thank you for the extra food ideas that work with cold soaking!
          Instead of the Bot, try just cutting a piece of silicone sheeting to fit between your pot and it’s lid with some overhang around the edges. Then secure the lid with some rubber bands or an x-band and you have a cold soaker that you can also cook with. You can also use it to pre-soak cooked meals so you use less fuel.
          Sometimes I bring this set up with a little collapsible wood burning stove.
          All the best, Scott

        • Hi Heather,

          When I was Army I would cold soak, but carry the container/pouch near my body.

          For breakfast you sleep with your cold soak from the night before. Make lunch after breakfast. Stow it near your core. Make dinner after lunch.

          It’s true it takes heat from you to warm it, but I found I was at my warmest going to sleep and coldest waking.

          On a side note. Having a sealable pee bottle is also a great way to steal some lost heat back.

          So if you sleep with your cold soak and a warm pee bottle you will break even. lol

          Happy trails

    • Bart, you’re absolutely right about dropping core temperature, especially since it takes calories and energy to digest food.

      I’m going to be trying out the Vargo Bot very soon and will giving a review on it – I’m stoked to try it for cooking and cold-soaking!

  4. 950ml of Talenti gelato – now that’s my kind of cold no-cook meal! Great article!

    • Thank you, Bob! Yes, the bigger Talenti is much more spacious…and who doesn’t want to eat that much gelato, haha

  5. A very thorough review. Thanks for the time and effort.

  6. Great read, a couple of comments, hot food, especially at the start and end of the days, is more than a little morale boosting. Room temp or colder food, not much in the way of comfort there. Good for midday though.

    As for cooking in tents, or preferably vestibules, most modern materials burn surprisingly slowly, unless you really throw some alcohol or launch your gas stove, you only be annoyed at the minor hole or scorch mark you created….

    I will be trying a few recipes though.

    • Hi David and thank you for the tip about tent material burning slow…gives me a little more peace of mind should I need to cook under my vestibule in bad weather.

  7. This was an informative article about something I have been tossing about.
    You mention in the first part that quinua doesn’t work then talk about it in recipes. Could you elaborate?
    I’ll often cook it and dehydrate it (with varying success).
    Like you, I can’t imagine not taking my stove.but.could you use a metal soaking container. It could add versatility.
    Certainly it could help stretch your fuel supply.

    • Hi Jim, quinoa flakes is something different than quinoa and that’s what I use for cold-soaking instead. Quinoa probably works well for dehydrated meals, I’ve just never gone down that path of making any. I hope you give cold-soaking a try for variety!

      • I have the Bot 700. Expensive but unique and well designed. So versatile and durable. Cover can be an extra mug or pot in a pinch. How did I ever manage prior to its conception?
        I would consider a Pot 500 if Vargo was to offer one…

    • Hi Jim, I mentioned using quinoa flakes for cold-soaking which is different than normal quinoa. I bet quinoa works well for dehydrated meals though. I do hope you give cold-soaking a try for some versatility!

    • If you cook quinoa and dehydrate it, it cold soaks wonderfully. One of my favorite summer meals I’d cold soaked quinoa, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, spinache in a white miso + lemon + evoo dressing/marinade. (Using all dehydrated ingredients)

  8. I’ve done cold breakfasts for years, and unlike the author, I find cold coffee drinkable. I really enjoyed this article, suggestions, and the comments. Just going cold for breakfast and lunch extends fuel usage and gives hot evening meals at the same time. I plan on giving more cold trips a try.

    For those with dogs I’d suggesting trying “cold soak” Honest Kitchen’s dehydrated food. Nutritious and tasty for your pet partner.

    Lastly, I’d suggest getting out of the cooking in a tent/vestibule habit. Definitely a no no in bear country. But it can also save your sleep and equipment for other unwanted guests.

  9. Where it’s legal, and forested enough, I carry a Firebox nano titanium stove (3oz) for wood burning (fuel at the ready, not carried), a small titanium cup, and a Talenti jar. (The jar and the cup can be used for ‘stuff’ – or nested – to avoid empty space.) Much food that can be cold soaked, can be heated for the pleasure of it. And then, for the coffee nerds (ahem!), real coffee, immersion method in a titanium cup.

    I also suggest eating before stopping to camp for the night in bear country.

    Best of all worlds:-)

    • Rob and Searlaid – I got into the habit on the PCT of eating dinner while still on trail and then hiking a bit more to set up camp. It’s a good habit to get into for bear country, I agree.

      • I like the idea of a light wood stove for every other day hot drinks or meals, I was just about to ask if anyone couples cold soaking with esbit in a similar way to reduce the stove and fuel overhead. Neither would be legal here in CO during fire season though, but maybe back east…

  10. I have cold cooked stuff when I ran out of gas on the Haute Route Pyrenees ( BTW make sure you have adequate canisters of the RIGHT kind, the French type is different to the screw type used in the rest of the world). Anyway, cold cooking normal pasta was terrible, totally tasteless and definitely unappetising. Didn’t get to work out how long pasta should be cold cooked and not keen to repeat the experiment. I am for a warm/hot meal at the end of a good days trekking and even more so for oats/porridge in the morning

    • I’m an avid cold-soaker. With the stated exceptions, cold-soaking pasta is pretty bad. Ramen works because it’s already cooked. Couscous works because of some magical spell I haven’t yet divined.

  11. Hunter Grantham Hall

    Cold soaking is for sadomasochists. ;)

    Great article though.

    • Plenty of folks think what we do for fun requires a penchant for suffering.

    • Hunter, it has its charm and place at times :). But I know many people, my boyfriend included, who would never ever give up his stove for the comfort of warm food. Thanks for reading!

  12. As a cold-soaker & a hammock camper, I’ve come to appreciate that most discussions around these topics are like religion: people tend to have very strong opinions as to what’s “right” and what’s “wrong.” But we’re all hiking our own hike: if you don’t like it, don’t do it. If you do like it, don’t insist other people have to like it, too.

    I started cold-soaking a few years ago. I still carry a stove – a WhiteBox alcohol stove – and enough fuel for several boils. I’ve yet to “need” anything hot, even when spending a week in the Washington Cascades during which it rained every day. It never got below the high-30s (F) at night, but I was just as comfortable as I would have been eating hot food. (I accepted Cartographer’s offer of some chili he had simmering over his fire on my last night. It was good, but it wasn’t the rapturous experience one might think would come after a week of tepid food.)

    I’m incredibly slow getting out of camp in the morning. I drink a faux mocha & eat a nut & fruit-based bar I make at home and set second breakfast to soaking; I eat second breakfast a few hours into the day’s hike. Because I’m a slowpoke, I frequently eat while hiking – assuming the trail is smooth enough to allow it. A Talenti or peanut butter container fits in the pack on my hipbelt, so I can pull that meal out & start eating any time. I start dinner soaking in the afternoon, and once camp is set up I can eat with no further work.

    As far as variety goes, I highly recommend Backcountry Foodie. It’s run by an RD who’s also an experienced ultralight hiker. Not all of their recipes are cold-soak, but even some of the ones that are listed as requiring cooking will work without hot water. The service is a paltry $3 a month, but there’s a lot of their stuff available for free. (Aaron has done some videos for Backpacker Magazine, and she has a YouTube channel.)

    Another reason to try cold-soaking is that your stove may fail. Mine did, two days into what was supposed to be a week-long hike. If I’d had more experience with cold-soaking, I might have recognized that I could have continued instead of hiking out the next day.

    Finally, an advantage to cold-soaking is that it imposes less of an environmental. No fuel canisters. No fuel. No particulate matter or greenhouse gasses being released into the atmosphere.

  13. I’m a cold-soaker and a hammock camper, and I’m convinced these topics are like religion: people seem to insist they have the “right” answer when in reality what works for one may not work for another.

    I started cold-soaking a few years ago. I carry an alcohol stove & enough fuel for a few boils as a backup, but I’ve not felt the need for anything hot – even during a week of rain in the Washington Cascades. I’m really slow getting out of camp in the morning, and dealing with a stove is one less chore. It also means I can start dinner soaking in the afternoon and eat as soon as camp is set up in the evening.

    I highly recommend Backcountry Foodie. It’s run by an RD who’s also an experienced hiker. It’s $3 to access all of the recipes, but one can find a fair number of the recipes for free online. (Aaron’s done a few videos for Backpacker Magazine & has a YouTube channel.) Some of the recipes are described as requiring cooking or hot water, but many of them will work with cold-soaking.

    A few advantages to cold-soaking: One, if you’re familiar with it and your stove breaks, it may mean you can continue with a trip. I wish I’d known more about cold-soaking when my stove broke on the second day of a week-long trip; I might have been able to continue instead of hiking out the next day. Second, it has a much smaller impact on the environment. No fuel. No fuel canisters. No particulate matter or greenhouse gasses.

    I won’t deny the emotional impact of a hot meal, but it’s the calories – especially the fat – in that meal that keeps you warm through the night.

    Hike your own hike. Just because I’m content not using a stove doesn’t mean you have to give up yours.

  14. I hate articles like this, long on generalizations and short on specifics (except where it comes to choosing a jar that, I think, most people can figure out). My cold soaking experiences have, for the most part, been a disaster. I either end up with gooey mush or crunchy rocks. Specific guidance would have been nice regarding when to start the soak for specific foods, when to add spices, etc. As written, this is little more than a puff piece.

    • Nasty Rex. I actually found this article to be informative and motivating.

    • Rex, did you actually read the article? There are a LOT of specifics in it. Sorry your cold soaks ended up mushy (I HATE mushy food, so I feel your pain) but others will probably find a lot of really good advice in this article.

  15. Coffee, coffee, coffee, coffee!!!

  16. I found this article Very informative and Thank You for all the suggestions and alternatives. Perhaps if Mr. Nasty altered his personality He might meet someone on trail who would take the time to show him step by step how to create a non disastrous cold soaked meal.
    And Heather Daya You are so right it is nice to have a Friend to enjoy Your meal with.

    • It may be a good idea to add apple cider vinegar, papaya, or pineapple to some of these meals in order to help digest the food better.

  17. Things like Knorrs and Ramen are not nutritious and doing you more harm than good. For all that strain and dehydration your body deserves something other than the cheapest empty carbs, msg, no vitamins and more sodium than anyone needs in a week at one meal. Even the word *spices means preservatives. I can see why some ppl are slow to get up in the morning. I gave up processed/ meant to last after a nuclear blast fake food years ago and suddenly no more migraines, fatigue, pain.

  18. I do so much shoulder season camping that the idea of not starting the day with a hot coffee and finishing it with a hot chocolate just doesn’t sound like much fun. Recently bought a Vargo Bot with the intention of experimenting with cold soaking with a quick warm-up.

    So with noodles not having been cooked being a poor choice for cold soaking as it doesn’t cook them, does anyone have experience having cooked and dehydrated pasta based dishes, and then cold soaking on the trail? In theory the noodles have been cooked previously, and just need hydration.

    • Lots of people do this with freezer bag meals. Should work fine cold-soaking too. It’s been a while since I dehydrated pasta with sauce on it, but it works well.

    • I use to cook ramen noodles in prison when I was in lockdown and cold water put them in cold water and you just let him sit for hours bro before you’re ready to eat them and the cold water will cook them it’s not going to be hot but they will be cooked they’ll be soft and chewy it can be done with cold water he just got to let him sit for hours in it

  19. Wait, there’s a dessert section of the PCT? Sign me up!!!* Haha, I know that’s a typo but I LOVE it.

    This is a great article, very informative. I LOVE my hot meals and my stove so I doubt I’ll be giving them up at all but maybe I’ll try some cold soaks one of these days. I don’t really like cold food most of the time, only when it’s really hot, and I tend to backpack where mornings and evenings are cool even in the summer, but this could be a good idea for lunch or afternoon snack. Thanks, Heather!

    • * I’d really love to hike the entire PCT someday, actually. Even knowing there’s not actually a dessert section, I still want to hike it.

    • Thanks for this great post. I am going to try this on my next trip.
      A couple other gems I’ve come across as I’ve been tempted to go stoveless on my next trip:
      1 – packit gourmet has some breakfast smoothies, a few dinners and desserts that look quite appetizing with just adding water to rehydrate
      2 – trader joes sells an “instant cold brew” coffee – havent tried this yet, but Ive heard good things. Could be a promising alternative to hot coffee
      3 – beyond clif bars: there are endless flavors of lara bars and other kinds of protein/meal replacement bars, including each of the greenbelly meal replacement flavors and other cottage vendors.

  20. You mention soaking oats overnight so you have breakfast ready to go. I’d love to do this but don’t understand how I can do this safely. I pack all my foods/scented items in the bear canister and set it away from camp. Are you suggesting the container of oats and water is just left outside of the bear canister?

    Great article btw!!!!

    • I’d think you could find some way to soak them in a watertight container that’s placed in your bear canister. Even Ziplocs could be used.

  21. CAPT Gary M Andres USN ret

    I’m section hiking Connecticut AT next week (second week of November), getting back “on Trail” after a failed 2018 attempt of a thru-hike. This article, among the dozens I’ve “re-reviewed” in, is exceptional (thanks ever so much, once again, Phillip!). Older now, I’ll want to make the best of my time hiking….so I may just try the cold-soak method for one of two (not all!) meals….and definitely will have hot coffee in the mornings! For “lollygagging” at camp, I’ll have my Stanley flask, for a relaxing moment with my hiking partner, Single Barrel Jack Daniels. Again, great article — made the “3 E” list: Eye-opening, Educational, AND Entertaining! Bravo-Zulu! Thanks, everyone!

  22. I’ve never been able to get coconut milk powder to dissolve in cold water, only in hot. YMMV

    Enjoyed the article, lots of good ideas.

  23. I don’t do too much backpacking these days but did my share when my sons were in scouts.

    I do think there are some potential food safety concerns with extended soak times. Soaking for two or even four hours is probably OK. With longer so times there is a possibility that pathogenic spore forming bacteria in the dry food will be able to grow to levels that can cause illness. Just FYI.

  24. Great post – really appreciate you sharing your experiences. My go-to cook system is the canister stove – love hot breakfast with coffee & hot meal at day’s end however I did try cold soaking my breakfast & lunch on a couple of trips last summer. Recipes were tasty & filling, easy to prepare & clean up. I need more practice with portion size of dry ingredients esp couscous – added tuna packet & spicy sauce but almost filled the jar after absorbing water! I may try a trip with cold soaking & alcohol stove for morning coffee to get best of both worlds!

  25. I used this on the JMT. An alternative to the Talenti or peanut butter jar. Meals have at least a little warmth.

    • The problem is that it seems to be permanently out of stock.

    • I want to advise one more cold-soak recipe that is well known among the Russian tourist communities.
      It’s a simple buckwheat. The fried one is preferred (The green buckwheat soaks way slower)
      Anyway when you cook it even at home you have to cold-soak it for some 30-80 minutes. It’s already edible (but the ritual is usually that you steer the cold water and boil some in a pot and just add it to your porridge)
      This simplest meal gives you such a flexibility, that you can decide anytime whether you wish to eat it already, or you can afford to fulfill the “boiling ritual” (by simply boiling some cup o water and pouring it in or even just holding your already soaked buck over some heat)
      So you need only a bag full of buck, spices and some other soakables like flaxseed, chia etc. And some vegetable oil is also not excessive to add.
      Also I recommend cans of buckwheat biscuits (seaman’s galettes) – it was once a part of US navy ration pack and it’s brilliant.

  26. What a fantastic article. I searched under “cold-soak” and found this one. Perfect. I’m just getting back into back packing and would prefer to go without stove/cook kit. Thank you! Great and complete info for me.

  27. Thank you for this piece! I just finished hiking a section of the JMT, and even when it was chilly in the mornings and evenings, I found lighting up the stove more of a PITA than it was worth. I hated dealing with the process (especially the cleanup, & the strategizing to avoid the wind) so much that I gave up coffee for most of the trip out of sheer impatience.

    Since I’ve gotten into dehydrating my own fully home-cooked meals (like risotto, chili, etc.), I’ll try cold-soaking them next time. The ability more easily to eat dinner before stopping for the day is really appealing—I’m not crazy about eating immediately before getting into my tent.

    Now, if only I actually liked Talenti gelato… (Would that Haagen Dazs came in reusable jars instead!)

  28. “…Less Smell to Attract Bears…” D’oh, it is not less smell it is less aroma. Physiology 101, the only thing that smells is a nose, nothing else in the world does. Thing give off an aroma, stench, aroma, and the like. This was taught in grammar school or earlier.

  29. Have you ever tried to rehydrate freeze dried chicken via cold soaking and if so, how long did it take and how was the taste and consistency? Thanks.

  30. Last year when I visited Killarney Park (Canada) during a fire ban, the park rangers demanded to see my canister stove to prove that I would not be using campfires or alcohol stoves to heat my food. I asked what their response would be if I had no stove and planned to cold soak my food. Their instructions were to refuse entry to anyone without a canister stove regardless.

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