Gear Guy

Can I hike the Appalachian Trail without a stove?

I'm planning an Appalachian Trail through-hike for 2003. I've poured over all the gear columns/ratings/etc. And with a bit of your wisdom have narrowed down most of my gear. But...I'm thinking of going stoveless. What's your opinion and do you know any recipes for easy/light/nutritious stoveless meals? Tim Moose, Wyoming

A: For me, it's an easy question: I'd take a stove, no hesitation. The thought of going days and days without hot coffee, a hot meal in the evening, maybe hot oatmeal in the morning, is too depressing to contemplate. Even from a practical standpoint I regard it as a difficult proposition. You'd pretty much be stuck with staples such as dried fruit, energy bars, crackers and bagels, peanut butter, that sort of thing—it's not as if there are "recipes" out there that let you mix together tasty and nutritious meals. After all, that's why "cooking" was invented—it cuts time needed to prepare food, and renders difficult-to-eat things edible. Flour mixed with baking powder, water, a pinch of salt and an egg and mixed together? Disgusting. Dropped on a hot griddle? Pancakes.

I think with careful planning you could minimize the amount of cooking you'd need to do, so you wouldn't be burdened with a lot of fuel. Take something like an MSR Pocket Rocket ($40), which weighs only three ounces. An eight-ounce canister burns full-tilt for an hour, and if you were prudent you probably could make one last three to four days. Figure three to four canisters per leg (you will, of course, be picking up supplies en route), and you've got maybe two pounds committed, plus a light pot. Well worth it, in my view.

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