My Backpacking Kitchen Essentials
On my last backpacking trip, I decided I am a “comfort backpacker.” That means I’m okay carrying a little extra weight in my backpack if that means I’m a little more comfortable while away from home.
If you’re an ultralight backpacker, you’re probably going to scoff at my list of things I enjoy having when cooking in the backcountry.
My basic backpacking kitchen gear:
- Stove – I use a Jetboil Flash when backpacking and keep it handy when car camping because it’s nice to have boiling hot water in a short amount of time. You can backpack without a stove to save the weight, but what is nicer than getting into camp after a long day knowing you get to have a hot dinner before bed? I like our Flash because the accessories and small fuel canister fit inside the pot portion of the stove.
- Collapsible Cup and Bowl – We carry Sea to Summit collapsible cups and bowls for easy packing and storage. I did find a small hole in the bottom of my bowl after only two uses, but I’m hoping it’s from something in my pack stabbing through the material and not from a bad product. I plan on picking up a new one before our next trip, so I’ll report back if I have more issues. It may be cuter to carry those classic enamel mugs and bowls, but those weigh even more and hot water + enamel cup = sitting around waiting for the mug to cool down enough to not burn the heck out of your mouth. Cut isn’t worth a burned mouth!
- Long Spoon – What happens when you forget to bring a spork and you have a deep bag of freeze dried lasagna that needs to be stirred? You find some other campers who are willing to let you borrow a spoon and get blessed with a long handled spoon! It’s amazing and we are guilty of keeping the spoon in our kitchen year-round. I could try to come up with another reason to have a long handled spoon with you, but reaching the bottom of a bag of food is reason enough for me.
- Sporks – It is a small right of passage to pick out your first (of probably many) spork for your life of adventure. There are titanium sporks, which weigh next to nothing, but I have a habit of either losing my sporks or lending them out and not getting them back. With that in mind, I like Light my Fire brand sporks. They are BPA free and include a knife portion. They come in a variety of colors, are sturdy, and are not too expensive that I get emotional when one goes missing. Other lightweight cutlery: chopsticks and Yogurtland’s spoons!
- Small Nalgene bottle – In addition to your usual 32 ounce water bottle, I suggest bringing a smaller bottle (like this 16 ounce bottle) for coffee or other flavored beverages. I like to keep my bottles separate if drinking more than water. These bottles are great for electrolyte drinks like Nuun.
As for what I like to have in my stash food-wise:
- Tea Bags – I mentioned this tip in my trail report for the Waterwheel Falls in Yosemite National Park. I bring black tea for breakfast, ginger tea for during the day (in case there are tummy aches!), and sleepy tea for the evening. Tea bags are nice and light so it doesn’t feel like a sacrifice to bring some along for a hike.
- Tuna packets – Tuna is an easy source of protein for the trail and comes in easy-to-carry packets. There is no “tuna juice” to drain and the packets flatten easily so it’s easy to pack out at the end of of your trip.
- Condiment packets – I am guilty of snagging a few extra packets of relish, hot sauce, and soy sauce. Relish is great for adding to tuna for some added flavor, hot sauce (especially Tapatio, which apparently also comes in powder form!) is great with anything, and soy sauce is for the ramen noodles you’re bound to eat at one point on a trip.
- Tortillas – You’ll read about tortillas a lot while researching backpacking food. If you are in bear country and required to bring a bear vault, tortillas are easier to carry than bread (we carry pita bread during day hikes instead). Tortillas give you around 100 extra calories a day and turn your food into a burrito, which is pretty magical, if you ask me.
You can get by with less and you could probably be even more comfortable with a few more items (like an insulated mug for your coffee to keep it warm all day). This list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, it is just the basics to get you started.
I posted a quick question on Twitter recently asking for backpacking cooking must-haves and got some great responses.
@CampfireChic a nonstick cooking pot – makes cleanup in the backcountry SO.MUCH.EASIER!
— Sprinkles Hikes (@SprinklesHikes) October 7, 2016
@CampfireChic my hands :) hahaha jk now i seem to have wasted everyones time.
— Eric Eagan (@EmergingTrail) October 6, 2016
@CampfireChic The tin cup. without it, nothing else happens!
— Kootenai Country Mt (@Kootenaicountry) October 6, 2016
@CampfireChic I think it’s called the Alpinist 2 Pot by MSR. Love that piece of cookware.
— Justin Fricke (@JustinLFricke) October 6, 2016
What do you include in your kitchen kit when backpacking?
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