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For short trips where it won't drop below freezing, I use the MSR Pocket Rocket. For longer trips, or if it will drop below freezing, I opt for the MSR International. I don't like to cook, so I basically boil water for home made freezer bag meals or Mountain House type meals and for warm drinks. Since I am only boiling water, I boil in a titanium cup that the MSR Pocket Rocket and fuel cannister fit in. I eat out of and drink out the GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpackers Mug.

aka "Boonerelli"

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For yers, I have used a Pocket Rocket to "cook" - basically heating up water.  In cold conditions, i have gone to liquid fueled stoves  For unanticipated nights out and bivvys, etc.  I usually carry Esbit tablets or similar with small lightweight holders.  I always carry a metal cup of some sort.

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Pocket Rocket II,TOAKS 650 pot, TOAKS long handled Ti spoon. Total 4.2 oz plus fuel cylinder. I just heat water to add to homemade meals, or hot drinks. I've used canister stoves down to 10F with no problem, if it's cold I just put the canister in my jacket for 10 min or so before supper, or in my sleeping bag in the morning before I crawl out of it.

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I'll confess to being a Jetboil lover for efficiency.  They use less fuel and work quicker and it's worth a little more weight to me since I eat a lot.  When it's really cold, a liquid stove can be better in that they heat up the space around you pretty efficiently as well though...

As far as cooking, I stick to boiling water if I can.  Most trips I'll take a premade meal or two that I've gotten on sale and then I save the bag to cook other meals in.  I can mix my own meals using quick cooking grains/ pasta and add to those and do a boil/ soak in them like you would a mountain house.  I also eat hot meals for breakfast and lunch when it's cold.  Breakfast porridge is quick and easy to make yourself.  I also add milk powder and dehydrated potatoes to anything that ends up too watery and for extra calories when I need them.  Though expensive, Sherpa brand tsampa is the best for high calorie breakfast to start the day and is quick to make.  Pudding is great for adding calories via dessert.  I'll just add milk powder (or coconut milk powder!) to a boxed pudding mix.  You can do the same thing to other dessert powders as well, but often they have too much sugar for me.

same here.  and not surprisingly, the jet boil boils water the fastest and uses the least amount of fuel. 

I performed a side by side analysis of 4 popular stoves, timing bringing 2 cups of water to a boil, and then measuring the fuel used (by weighing) by each stove.

Interestingly, reading the stove label small details at my local REI, most stoves are tested at bringing 1 liter of water, at room temperature, to a boil.

I, for one have rarely (or never?), can't remember?, ever needed to bring more than about 2 cups of water to a boil, and....I don't think I've ever found any 'room temperature' water at any campsite.

Just saying.

REI Member Since 1979

This [another] post I was planning on doing (yep, still gonna do it!), but some quick comments: There are basically two components to this topic, the food and the cook system.

Those bulky, expensive, freeze-dried, prepacked meals are one option (routinely used by beginners), those "Meals Ready to Eat" (MREs) are another option, but these are also bulky, and can be expensive and heavy. The companies that make them are pretty-much the same, but only a few make REAL M.R.E. meals for the military, the others are privately owned companies and some are even in China. I wouldn't recommend that either, but I would recommend one or two of those "brick-'o'-food" packets for day hikers (I like May Day).

Frankly, I suggest you just go to your local supermarket and really LOOK at anything that is dehydrated or "instant." While you can put together some elaborate plastic bag meals, you need to plan your meals from a "ration" frame of mind. Remember, it may be dehydrated, but the weight ADDS UP! For a simple example, one of my favorite camp meals is spaghetti in Alfredo sauce with Parmesan cheese and some smoked clams. Simple, cheap, easy, and totally packable!

My minimalist cook system uses a small canister of MSR gas, a micro stove (lots of these on the market), a 750ml titanium pot and lid, a spork, and even part of my "hobo stove" as a windscreen. If I run out of gas, I combine the lid and the windscreen to make my hobo stove, then I can cook forever with nothing but handfulls of woodchips and sticks. But this brings up a related topic... FUEL! I can get up to almost two weeks on one of those small MSR gas canisters. "HOW?!" you ask?

First, I use a gadget that transfers fuel, to OVER-fill the can to capacity. Second, I try to use only instant food (instant rice, beans, soups, etc.). Third, If I know I want to cook breakfast the next morning, I take a bottle of water to bed (raising the water temperature), lowering the amount of fuel I need to get a boil. Fourth, I don't turn the stove to high, I only use enough flame to heat the bottom of my pot. Fifth, I use that part of my hobo stove to keep the wind/breeze from blowing the flame out or pushing the flame off the bottom of the pot. And sixth, I turn off the flame BEFORE the food is fully cooked and let the food rehydrate or finish cooking on its own, but I also wrap the pot in a scarf or whatever clothing I have handy, so the heat stays with the pot/food.

More to come....

OK, I don't mind being the one to come to the defense of the dehydrated/freezed dried, pre-packaged aficionados.

I've tried a lot of brands, but seem to keep coming back to Mountain House, although I'm up for any brand that I find tasty and easy to handle.

They are simple, easy, and pretty darned tasty!

They are neither bulky nor heavy. 

I transfer the meal to a quart size zip lock type FREEZER* bag, to minimize weight and bulkiness. 

I add boiling water and tuck the bag into my little homemade cozy and wait about 20min, and voila', I'm eating with my long handled aluminum spoon.

Pro tip #1:  A long handle spoon is all you should ever need for backpacking.  It must be long handled to keep you knuckles out of the lasagna!

Pro tip#2:  Not as hungry as you thought?  Carry a few extra FREEZER zip locks and pour out a little of your meal from the original zip lock into the second and save for later.

Pro tip#3:  FREEZER zip locks are what you need because you can pour BOILING water safely into them.

Again, once you transfer your meal from the original packaging into a small zip lock, they roll up nice and small.

I do this also for my breakfast oatmeal.

This works for me because I used the KISS principle, Keep It Simple. (not going to say what the second S stands for).

That, and the fact I hate to 'cook' and hate even more having to clean out a cooking pot.

Many of my friends are very creative and love to prepare the most fantastic meals at home, everything from freeze drying, to dehydrating, to smoking on a grill.  That makes for great tasting and conversation around the campfire.

I myself was dehydrating for a long time, but fall back on purchasing the meals, mainly to keep it simple.

Pro Tip #4:  When I was dehydrating my wife's fantastic chili, I discovered that after drying, if I ran it through a grinder, in my case, my wife's hank crank pastry nut grinder (don't tell her), the difference  when reconstituted was night-and-day, it really made a huge difference in taste and consistency.

Come to think of it, isn't backpacking just getting to your next campsite so you can eat?

REI Member Since 1979

LOL, "... isn't backpacking just getting to your next campsite so you can eat?"

I once wrote an extensive post/article on backpacking food options and "freezer bag cooking" was included, essentially eliminating the need for a titanium cook set, plates and fuel (I've tried most Mountain House meals and almost all are good!)

However, don't get me wrong, fresh food can be an option too (though a limited one). For example, for my first few days out, I often include in my food bag a number of fresh food items like hard vegetables (i.e. potatoes, carrots, onions) and even bacon which will keep for a day or two in your pack if you pack it strait out of the freezer. Even fresh eggs can be packed if you use plastic egg carriers.

You can also cook by wrapping your meal/s in foil at home, then putting foil package in the coals at camp. Steak and potatoes with a side of fresh vegetables? NO PROBLEM! But if you really want to impress other campers, cooking BACON in camp is second only to BAKING in camp! I can routinely count on having people stop by when I prepare bannock/scones, or other baked goods at the fire pit!


Bacon.... Yeah, I've taken "shelf stable" bacon that I bought at the grocery store, and it's great hot or cold.  As always, it made me wonder what exactly makes it "shelf stable", and the answer (at least to me) seems to be "no oxygen".  So now if I decide I want bacon, I get my vacuum bagger set up, fry up some bacon, smash it between a couple of paper towels to get rid of most of the grease, then while it's still hot I vacuum bag it 4-6 pieces at a time. I've always used it within a few days, but I see no reason why it wouldn't keep for weeks. If anyone dies from trying this, you didn't hear it from me.


Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.