Kitchen Tips

My Kitchen Tips section starts with Planning. For specific examples of food I eat on the trail, go to Trail Food. For information about using a Sierra Zip stove go to Stove.

For a great introduction to backpacking nutrition go to : Pack Light Eat Right. To join the "Light Weight Trail Food Mailing List" and/or get information from a web site devoted to trail food, go to Light Trail Food.


  1. Make a table with days of your trip across the top and meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks) down the side. Fill in the table to show:
    How many meals of each type are needed
    The plan for each meal
  2. Plan on about 1.5 to 2 lbs./day for food. All of my trips so far have been 7-8 days or less. If I were on a thru-hike I think that my estimate of food weight per day would go up as I considered nutrition over the longer time.
  3. Aim at 100 Cal/oz. or more when selecting foods.
  4. Pack olive or canola oil, granola, and nuts for fat, particularly during cold weather. Proteins and carbohydrates are necessary, but alone, will not produce the calories you will need.
  5. Since you have saved weight elsewhere in your pack, treat yourself to fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
  6. Organize your food bags by meal (all lunches in the green bag, dinners in the blue). Carry out (don't burn) all of your plastic bags.
  7. All ingredients for a dish go together in one bag and all parts of a meal go together in a larger bag (main dish, dessert, beverage).
  8. Carry a separate bag for items that are used for more than one meal (cooking oil, seasonings)
  9. Plan on some no-cook meals for those times when you are exhausted or the weather is horrible.
  10. Many hikers use zip-loc bags for food storage. I don't. There have been too many times when I've discovered, too late, that I haven't sealed the bag properly. Instead I use simple plastic bags. If I am only going to open the bag once, I tie the top of the bag with a simple overhand knot (not too tight) or, if the bag is long enough I'll tie a slip knot. Untie the knot or cut it off when ready to use the contents of the bag. If I will be re-opening the bag and it is not long enough for a slip knot, I use a short length of Triptease cord (about 8 inches), and secure the bag with a Miller's knot. Okay, I'll admit that I do use zip-locs for things like pudding where I will be mixing and eating from the bag.
  11. Label all bags with contents and instructions. Use permanent marker on the outside of the bag or small strips of paper placed in the bag.
  12. Get in the habit of saving plastic bags of different sizes that you think will be good for use on future hikes.
  13. Instead of bagging, I wrap some of my meals with waxed paper, then when finished with it, I use it as tinder for fire starting.
  14. Carry extra instant potato flakes. When you have added too much water to the food you are re-hydrating, drop in some potato flakes as a thickener.

Cooking Gear & Techniques

  1. In addition to your 1 or 2 liter water container, carry a wide mouth 2-4 L. Nalgene or Platypus container for water storage in camp.
  2. Explore light weight stoves: The Esbit uses solid fuel tabs. The Sierra Zip stove (titanium version) weighs about 10.5 oz. and burns twigs and the Bushbuddy wood stove weighs about 5 oz. There are now a host of internet sites describing home made alcohol stoves.
  3. Another cooking alternative is the old fashioned campfire. Build a tripod with three, four foot sticks. Attach a line down from the tripod to the bailing wire on your cook pot where you will tie a taut line hitch. Cook on a very small fire and use the taut line hitch to adjust the height of the pot to about one inch from the flame.
  4. Never cook inside a tent because; carbon monoxide, stoves often flare up and tent ceilings are low, stoves tip over, steam creates condensation. All of which is another reason that a tarp is such a great way to go.
  5. Consider an extra tarp if there is a group of you camping. It is a nice place to cook and get out of the rain.
  6. Make an insulated cozy for your pot. Photo A simple one can be made from 3/8" closed cell foam. Cut out a piece the same length as the circumference of your pot. Then measure and cut it to the correct width which is the distance up the side of the pot and over to the center. Now starting at your measurement to the top of the pot, cut 1" wide triangular shaped teeth across the foam. Invert the pot and wrap it with the foam, pushing down the teeth so they meet in the center. Finally lay two strips of duct tape perpendicular to each other to hold the whole thing together. My cook kit fits in here so well that I don't use a stuff sack but just slip the cozy over the pot, which in turn holds my stove.
  7. Short Hikes (1-3) days. An option is to eat only fresh and pre-cooked food, leaving the stove at home.


  1. One on the worst and easiest things to do is to become dehydrated. If your urine color is dark, you are not drinking enough water.
  2. Camel up in the A.M. Drink at least a liter of water before you leave camp. The idea is to carry water in your belly and not so much on your back. Continue to “camel up” at each water re-supply location.
  3. Carry Aquamira or iodine in case your water filter fails. Add vitamin C (100 mg/L) to the treated water to neutralize the iodine taste. Aquamira is a solution of chlorine dioxide. It kills bacteris, viruses, and protozoa, then in about 15 minutes, breaks down into harmless oxygen, water, and tasteless salt .
  4. Take Tang, powdered apple juice or any powdered drink to occasionally flavor your water and add electrolytes which you lose while walking. Most of the time, however, drink just water.

Clean Up

  1. Clean up consists of adding water to the cook pot, scraping it clean with the spoon, drinking it dry, then wiping with leaves, needles etc. The next time I use it, the boiling water will sterilize it.
  2. Leave the scouring pad at home. It will be wet and dirty much of the time and the disease causing microorganisms will love it. I do use one for removing carbon from the outside of my pot.
  3. Tooth paste: Use a single drop of Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Pure-Castile soap. Toothpaste is like bear candy and they can smell it a long way from your camp.
  4. Carry rubbing alcohol in a small squirt bottle for drying out your feet before applying moleskin or duct tape.
  5. Hang your food at night to keep bears, chipmunks, mice etc. away. If you food bag is not waterproof, place the bag in a plastic bag in case it rains during the night.
  6. When in bear country consider Stealth Camping as made famous by Ray Jardine. Eat a late afternoon dinner on the trail where there is water. Then hike on for several hours and make camp well away from water and the established campsites that bears have come to know and love.