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Gear Guy
Q:

What cookware should I carry on multi-day treks?

What sort of cookware will I need on two- to four-night backpacking trips in the Appalachian backcountry? Kenny Birmingham, Alabama

A: Some would argue, quite reasonably, that you don't need any cookware at all. Pack some bagels, some fruit, a few tins of tuna fish, some cheese and crackers, a water filter—with these provisions on board you can eat or drink comfortably, if not lavishly, for several days. Plus, you save yourself the expense of buying a cookset, not to mention the extra weight of lugging that stuff.

But, have I ever headed into the woods for an overnight trip without a stove? No. A hot meal is just too much of a morale builder after what might be a long, hard day on the trail, or when you return to camp after being defeated by some peak. And then there's coffee. Oh, coffee. Nothing goes together quite like a morning in the mountains and that first cup of hot black sludge. So, I'm definitely on the side that argues for carrying a minimalist cookset at the very least.

It needn't be much. For a decent compact stove, the Gaz Turbo 270 ($25; www.rei.com) provides reliable, simple service at an excellent price. It uses a pressurized butane/propane fuel canister, which is easier to light than a liquid-gas stove and also simmers better. MSR's Pocket Rocket ($40; www.msrcorp.com) offers similar performance in a trimmer size. Fuel canisters run about $4 a pop, and typically contain enough fuel for two people for two to three days.

I prefer cookware with a non-stick coating as it simplifies cleanup on those occasions when you do more than boil water. MSR to the fore again, with its BlackLite Guide Cookset ($44). It comes with three- and four-liter pots, a lid, a carry bag, and a pan holder. For many trips, all you need is the three-liter pot and a sheet of aluminum foil to cover it. Titanium saves weight; Snow Peak's three-piece Titanium cookset (www.snowpeak.com) has two pots and a small fry pan, with a total weight of slightly over seven ounces.

So, that's the basics. Take some sort of plastic mug, of course, a fork and spoon, and a basic seasoning set—salt and pepper, maybe some spices, garlic powder, Cajun seasoning, whatever suits your culinary fancy.

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