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Anyone else go cold, no-cook?

This is something I have been trying to decide whether to stick with or not.

I only bring foods with me on the trail that don't need a stove or any fancy cooking.

The upside is I don't really have to carry any cookware, fuel, stove or anything like that.

The downside is I kind of sacrifice taste and pleasure for weight.

But I'm trying to figure out how to better utilize a campfire for lightweight, hassle-free cooking and still not have to carry anything really.

Anyone have any experience/tips on this?



I don’t have much experience with campfire cooking in lieu of a stove, but I do sometimes “go cold” as you say, when I just don’t want to mess with it.

 Perhaps an alternative / compromise may be a backpackable wood stove. Pillowthread reviewed one for Trailspace here:

It would eliminate the need to carry fuel at least and could be more efficient compared to an open campfire in terms of natural fuel needed.

The folks I run in to doing campfire cooking typically have a lightweight pot with a handle they hang it from. I’ve seen them rig up a tri-pod to suspend it from like the one I just saw last weekend:




I did run into a fellow last year that was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail with a very similar stove. He had done a traditional start in GA during early spring and was about 175 miles in when I talked to him. To that point of his trip he was loving the wood stove and said he had no issues after gaining some experience with it.

I have gone stoveless on a few warm season trips where I intended to cover big distances in the time allotted.  Figured it saved me four or five pounds.  These trips were to no wood fire regions, so I particularly missed my hot Joe in the morning. 

If you are camping where wood fires are permitted, you might consider UL cook ware consisting of foil leftover trays from the grocery store.  If you stick to boiled water fare, only the single foil container is needed.  But if food will come in direct contact with the container, I would suggest first lining it with aluminum foil that can be discarded afterward.  Do not attempt to reuse foil containers that have food residue as they may contaminate subsequent meals sine the containers cannot be adequately cleaned.


I have actually gone this route on a few over-nighters in warmer weather like Ed. 

I am considering going this route for an upcoming trip I am planning in late august being I want to go about as light as I possibly can. I am considering no sleeping bag as well. 

May take a base layer to sleep in. 

As Ed stated the no cook route is something I consider when covering huge chunks on ground in the least amount of time possible. 

Definitely not a colder season thing. 

Sometimes I go with sandwiches, cheese pepperoni/summer sausage and granola, but usually just for an overnighter.  It works just fine its just not what I am used to. 

Thats wat the millitary does with MREs. 

I've taklen sandwich's as well and salads.Also leftover pizza as trail food.Anything that I will eat within a day I take with me that doesn't need  refridgeration. I even took leftovers from a chinease buffet.


Canteen straight on a fire looks pretty light weight.

Here is a relevant link to Hikin Jims page on clean up of wood cooking stuff:


Patman said:

Here is a relevant link to Hikin Jims page on clean up of wood cooking stuff:


 The secret is dish soap before you hit the trail.  Check out the photos for the difference it makes.  :)

Adventures in Stoving

What I used to do was to take a lot of eat from bag - or eat from wrapper type stuff. I liked grape Poptarts warmed over a fire but they quit making them.

I also made rice, beans, tea, etc. by just adding water and letting it sit in the sun. Especially instant foods like instant rice, oatmeal, cream of wheat.

I would almost always backpack where I could fish and I would supplement my diet with fresh fish & crayfish which was food I did not have to carry in.

I am almost always in a place where I can build a fire, but nowadays I usually do not.

Mike G.

In 2001 I end-to-ended the Long Trail on a raw, vegan diet. It worked well for the first week.  I really enjoyed having more time to hike, and didn't miss the cooking much.  I wasn't a coffee drinker at the time either, so mornings were fast.  After 10 days or so, it got tough.  Nuts, seeds, dried fruit and soy protein shakes with cold tea were not doing the trick.  I finished in 25 days, but lost too much weight and suffered from low energy for weeks after.  At fault was an imbalanced diet.  Was this because I didn't cook?  At least partly.  For short trips where speed is of the essence, no-cook meals can save time and weight.  For longer trips, cooking is an important psychological benefit, and can improve your diet.

yes, keep it balanced. It is important.

If you do it, you can freeze some foods like cheese, some salads, salami, etc. to have 2-3 days (consider daytime pack temp) of SAFE yummy cold foods.

I'll do lunch with summer sausage or salami, cheese, flour tortilla (packs flat)_ and some gorp type trail food, sometimes raisins or other dried fruit. I had a hiking buddy who would mostly just eat instant packs of oatmeal out of the package. But I think that the extra weight and time is worth it for a hot meal at night and coffee in the morning.

I am rarely in enough of a rush to miss out on one of the many pleasures I find on the trail, drinking coffee or tea while I drink in my surroundings.

There are lots of food you can carry that don't require cooking, but I'm not so sure you'd save much weight. If you use dehydrated foods, you're not carrying the water that is part of things like cheese sticks, fruit, salami or other non-cooked foods where the moisture usually makes up a fair percentage of the total weight.

If you're allowed to do it, you could probably get away with doing your cooking in a metal canteen or a metal mug and putting that right on the fire. In many of the places I hike, though, open fires aren't allowed, and in the alpine there usually isn't enough fuel anyway.  Personally, I don't function without coffee in the morning, so I'll carry my Trangia Mini even on a short overnighter.

One of the better designs I have seen for campfire cooking. Just replace the pot stick with a pointed fork for cooking meat or fish.

trouthunter said:

I also made rice, beans, tea, etc. by just adding water and letting it sit in the sun. Especially instant foods like instant rice, oatmeal, cream of wheat.

So how well does that work, anyway? I could see it with instant rice and oatmeal, but I'd think regular rice or beans would take quite a while. I've actually never had to try it, though.



I often take cans of food to eat directly from the cans (Spagettios,stew,chili, chunky soups, etc) when camping either on the trail or on my bicycle tours to save having to cook at all, then suppliment with block cheese,crackers,cookies, cold meats sticks like hotdogs, salami, etc. I repack everything into Ziploc bags and then wash out if needed the Ziplocs and reuse them. After washing , turn them inside out and stand or pin to a line to allow to completely dry.

Re: Rice & beans

The mexican/asian food isle at your market should be instant refried beans (very good) and rice.

Both re-hydrate with cold water.

Something I have found that works well cold are those Nissin Chow Mein microwave dinners. I tried one my last outing. After about an hr the noodles were soft and the seasonings where worked in. It made a very fine cold noodle salad.  If you would add in some dehydrated veggies it would be great. 

I almost never cook while hiking.

I am a 'minimalist' ... NOT an ultra-light'er.   Don't use a tent (I use a bivy sack).   No cooking gear.

My approach to food is studied.  I am a vegetarian ... or, more accurately, a piscaterian (eat some seafood).

My friend, a former Navy S.E.A.L., informed that "food is fuel".

With that in mind,  along with thoughtful planning and selection of dry food-stuffs, I have hiked as long as 10 days (Appalachian Trail) without re-supply, or need to leave the Trail environs.   Modest pack weight was the order-of-the-day.   Although, never one to strive for high-mileage on trails, apparently I cover more miles than most.  Not my goal.    I enjoy the journey and the vistas.   I can enjoy hot coffee and cooked meals when back home, or off-trail. I can't hike in a Starbucks or a pizza-joint.

One MUST ingest adequate protein, fats, carbs (along with water) to maintain energy and endurance.

PROTEIN -- or, more accurately -- the LACK thereof, is what impacts most of us.   Fats and carbs are 'no-brainers'.


I have a fairly low Body-Fat Index, and a high BMR  (Basal Metabolic Rate).  I am fit.   I understand my body's needs, in regard to longer-term (one week or more) dietary considerations while in the "backcountry".

Research (use your local library, and do not depend entirely on internet information) ... consultation with a sports-medicine physician ... and consultation with a qualified nutritionist, CAN provide one with just about all the 'facts' and suggestions for what food to take along while hiking, backpacking and camping.   Learn about 'edibles' along the trails.

Most here spend inordinate time researching gear and reading gear reviews.  Spend 'the big-bucks', too.   How much time is spent researching fitness and nutritional needs?   Get a proper physical examination and evaluation.    Money well-spent.   Your medical insurance may cover all or part.

I have formal education in nutrition; but, I am NOT a licensed nutritionist.   Therefore; I am NOT going to outline any specific diets here.   I cannot afford to defend against lawsuits.

I have to smile when I think about what food I packed, when I started trail hiking back around 1955.   Quite a few hard-boiled eggs and baby-food (in glass jars), along with what we now call "gorp".   Home-made, of course.  Hard cheeses.   A lot of (heavy) fruit.  Peanut butter.  French baguettes became 'brick-bats' unless eaten within a day-or-two.   Something to gnawl on, while hiking.

                               ~ r2 ~

peter1955 said:

trouthunter said:

I also made rice, beans, tea, etc. by just adding water and letting it sit in the sun. Especially instant foods like instant rice, oatmeal, cream of wheat.

So how well does that work, anyway? I could see it with instant rice and oatmeal, but I'd think regular rice or beans would take quite a while. I've actually never had to try it, though. have to be a patient planner, haha.

I think I am an okay planer (always room to learn more of course) but I am not so patient when it comes to meal time.

It takes all day for rice & bean meals to 'soak hydrate' that require a 20 minute simmer according to the cooking instructions.

The instant stuff takes only an hour or two. Ramen noodles takes about 1 1/2 hours to get tender.

Tea takes most of a day I guess, just depends on the amount of direct sunlight. I often carry powdered tea.

This waiting period is why I bought a dehydrator, I can pre-cook meals at home and then dehydrate them in "Instant Form" ready for hydration on the trail.

I also do this with leftovers of soups & stews, etc.

The single biggest reason I started using a dehydrator is because Backpacking meals were getting expensive and the older I get the less my stomach seems to tolerate them.

To be honest, once I factor in my time working with the dehydrator I'm not saving any money, but the meals taste much better, they are flavored to my liking, and I find it to be a fun learning experience.

You are right, regular beans & rice meals take a long time. I have never tried to soak hydrate something like pinto beans in a bag, on the trail, like you buy to make chili. I do know they take at least 24 hours at home when I make chili.

Mike G.

You can also eliminate all the junk that is added as preservatives and control the meat to veg or starch ratio.

hotdogman said:

You can also eliminate all the junk that is added as preservatives and control the meat to veg or starch ratio.

 Yes, you are right!

There is a cool guy on YouTube that does some good videos on dehydrating. I watch all his videos!

Each video covers the prep, cooking, dehydrating, packaging, and hydrating of a particular meal.

This week was Chili Spaghetti.

His YouTube channel is: Babelfish5

Mike G.

Edit: I meant BBQ spaghetti.

Here is the video:

I did six days cold camp travel in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.

In addition to food items mentioned, I also had one McDonald's individually wrapped sausage biscuit for each day, individually wrapped string cheese, and vacuum-packed salmon.

I kept the food in an odorproof OPSak in the center of all the insulation, in my pack, during the day.

It is high mountain country. It worked out, fine.

I was not deprived at all.

I measure the success of my food planning this way: Do I really need to run out to a restaurant at the end of the hike?

Mike, I like that video you posted. I'm going to make that BBQ spaghetti for supper thus week that looked goood.

I know you use alcohol. So maybe you noticed the hose going from his heet bottle to his stove. I've never seen that before. Do you know anything about that setup? That really has me curious. If anyone can share some info please do. Thank you

Ive never seen it coming out of a heet bottle. But tinny from minibulldesign has something similar called a chicken feed. Not exactly the same nut it runs off a hose like that no pouring alchol that way

I've done it for a night out with military grade MRE's.  I have packages of the granola and strawberry cereals which contain powdered milk.  All you have to do is add water to the package.  Doesn't matter if it is cold or hot.  They seem to work well also, but they are kinda pricey. 

westbrook,ive tried it with varying degrees of success,in ambients of 70-100 not well,between 30-70 excellent results.

I saw on ebay the other day, they now make a system that cooks with water and a chemical reaction like a mre. Im gonna try them cause I like the concept but not all the mre food agrees with me.

We've done it on many trips. I used "salad" type dishes such as lentil and bean salads as well as items like chia seeds and hemp hearts to help with the protein end of things. 

Cooking over a fire is not a new idea, but one that some new backpackers are (unbelievably) unfamiliar with.  Take advantage of 100,000 years of evolution and cook with one, stay warm with one, keep away the boogey man, feel secure and enjoy the light.  I am a forester, and have been in love with trees my whole life.  I heat with wood at home and love fires.  Stay low enough to avoid regs or try backpacking in some more far flung regions where there are no fire regulations except during drought.

Burning wood releases exactly the amount of carbon accumulated in the life of the tree minus the ashes.  It is carbon neutral, there is no packaging, no transportation cost and the remains are completely recyclable.

In cold weather there is nothing like a lean-to or open tarp tent with a fire in front of it.  Except a canvas wall tent with a wood stove.



I do have one recommendation if one is relying on campfires as a way to cook. Have a backup plan. Prime example, the backcountry I frequent is under a complete fire ban at the moment - not even cooking fires are allowed. This also means no alcohol stoves or wood fired backpacking stoves. It's pretty severe. 

When the weather is warm and the trips are short, any type of food will do.  When it gets cold and wet, especially for longer than about 5 days food becomes not only important physically but psychologically as well.  It needs to be hot and lots of it.

Some people lead disciplined, even Spartan lives.  Their backpacking style logically follows that way of living.   I am going back to cooking bp meals for the sheer fun of it.


October 24, 2020
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