View Full Version : Cook-less Hiking

Zero Day
2003-04-17, 14:10
Part of my desire to spend time in the woods is for meditation and simplification. To this end I have, on occasion, gone cook-less. That is, no stove, no fuel, and no pot. Trail mix, jerky, and cold instant oatmeal. I have also tried some lifeboat survival rations. I suppose fasting is next. I like the idea of simple things like a blanket, a water bottle, and a piece of plastic for shelter.

Anyone have any thoughts, or am I getting too close to the edge?

Do I need to get (1)a life, or (2)therapy?


2003-04-17, 18:18
Originally posted by Zero Day
Do I need to get (1)a life, or (2)therapy?
yeah both!

but seriously, as far as cooking, you don't really need to. i knew a guy who lived on dry fruit loops on the AT. i occasionally ate my liptons uncooked (yuk, but hey, they don't taste good cooked either). i have done fine on snickers, gorp, jerky, powdered milk and cereal. fasting? no way, you have to eat! where else ya gonna get the energy to hike?

i get your desire for simplicity!

2003-04-17, 18:48
How can you possibly meditate without a cup of instant coffee in the AM, or tea at night.

You need help. I think I read a book once about a guy who de-evolved into a dolphin. YOu trying to de-evolve into a squirell or what?

RIck B

2003-04-18, 00:21
At the last ATC meeting in Shippensberg Lynn Welden (no slouch in hiking circles) gave a talk on ultra-lite techniques. He had actually tried to do an extended hike with out food. At first glance it "should" work; apparently it doesn't. He said that the exertion of hiking without food was too dangerous for him to ever consider trying again. That's why they make Snickers! I've heard a story that someone really did thru hike on Snickers only but can't verify that one.

2003-04-18, 09:24
i'm glad this subject of "no cook hiking" was brought up. got a lot going for it! save a little weight and a lot of hassle. it's got me thinking i might try it on my southbound. wow, no stove, no pot or fuel to worry about. just all the gorp, snickers, jerky, cereal, etc i can eat (all readily available along the AT)! in 2000, i only cooked at night anyway and it was not a big deal. i can easily see myself foregoing that one hot meal (was only noodles anyway). my tastes are really simple as long as i do a AYCE occasionally.

2003-04-18, 14:51
I study a Russian martial art and a well known instructor in the style recommends fasting for 24 to 72 hours each week while maintaining your regular routines.

This can be done without any ill effects of you work up to it, as your body has stores of energy that are sitting there useless and untapped.... and more than that, strong cells wil survive such treatment, weak cels will not... the weak cells will die and be removed from the body leaving only the strong cells to propogate.

This idea was developed by Porfiry Ivanov, a man who was known to live quite comfortably in nothing more than shorts, even in Russian winters

Bill Phillips
2003-04-19, 15:51
Don't stop at the edge! Be fearless. Certainly an enlightened monk/hermit and a Wall Street stock broker would see each other as insane.

Yes cooking is mostly just a luxury. The idea is prehistoric and has been "rediscovered" numerous times. In the old days many people travelled on hard tack and jerky, eating fresh food when they could. Surviving intense cold, fasting for months, and other mystical feats are posible but should not be attempted unless you know you have this ability.

I'm with you on keeping it simple. Soon a 3 oz. PDA will probably have built in satellite communications and you could have streaming video in the wilderness. Doesn't that defeat the purpose for many of us?

But there are some practical benefits to cooking too. Hot fluids are great for rehydrating in the evening. Of course you're not supposed to let yourself get dehydrated but it happens. Lots of cold water will interfere with your dinner's digestion. Should you or someone else be on the verge of hypothermnia, hot fluids can really help. (Be familiar with this deadly phenomena. You may not want to use hot fluids for someone seriously hypothermic.) Boiling is a reliable way to sterilze water. It is also weight efficient if you are only occasionally boiling suspect water.

Cooking is also used to kill parasites in some fresh foods or make inedible/toxic foods digestable. On a long trip a couple fishing lures and some line can supply pounds of fresh protien, oils, vitamins and enzymes. Eat it raw if you like.

2003-04-19, 16:29
One question kept surfacing as I read the last several posts. Why?

I would think it rather difficult to meditate on anything but the gnawing discomfort in my empty gut, or while shivering under my one blanket, like a dog crapping peach seeds. It seems apparent that logic and reason have gone out the window.

I've been considering attempting to cut down on the number of times I breathe during the day. I'm sure I don't need to do it so often.

I would hope that anyone who attempts to do a thru-hike on Snickers and Gorp has a damned good dentist and internist at the end of the trail.

Is there some intelligent (that being the operative word in this sentence) reason why anyone in his right mind would even consider running around in just his shorts during a Russian - or any other kind of - winter? Other than to get attention, I mean.

Zero Day
2003-04-20, 12:49
Thanks for the support. Maybe I am not really that close to the edge.

A couple of clarifying notes:

1)I am not into high mileage, hence my trail name "Zero Day” so malnutrition or energy levels are not really a problem.

2)Here in Georgia, in the summer, any thought of hypothermia is just a dream, but I have shivered on a rainy night.

I seem to have gotten two things going here. One is the idea of meditation and fasting that is probably best left as a subject for another forum.

The second is cook-less hiking. Since this is, after all, a hiking forum, I will offer a few thoughts;

1) I like the idea of no hassle eating. Stop, open bag, eat, close bag, hike on.

2) Many foods don’t re-hydrate well with cold water so the menu gets limited somewhat.

3) Is there a trade-off between ready to eat foods that probably are heavier that de-hydrated foods plus the weight of the cooking gear and fuel. This may become a factor on longer trips.

steve hiker
2003-04-20, 17:07
I recommend you carefully choose, then try to live for a few weeks on the planned diet before you go. What immediately comes to mind are (1) mental rebellion at the bland diet, and (2) digestive rebellion. When I was younger I lived for 6 months on only uncooked foods plus milk, didn't have any digestive problems because of the variety of foods available but was hungry all the time. Wouldn't do it again.

Also, on the A.T. you can pig out on regular food in town stops. Is this part of your plan?

Finally, don't skimp too much on clothing. I live in south Louisiana and know what you mean about cold temps being a fantasy during the summer, but along the ridges of the Appalachians you may need more than shorts and a T-shirt even in the summer at times. And before and after mid-summer.

2003-04-20, 17:33
Not that I care for many of his suggestions, but didn't Ray Jardine and his wife do the AT without a stove?

Check out the middle paragraph on this (http://www.backpacker.com/article/0,2646,2451__5_7,00.html) page.

In short, "...they'll never do it that way again"

Bill Phillips
2003-04-20, 18:34
I get it Zero Day. If you just want to go hang out for a few days with minimum bother, don't worry about the weight trade off of dehydrated/ready-to-eat and stove/no-stove.

MREs are designed to be eaten cold when nessasary. During operations, troops are often under no heat source orders due to modern infrared imageing technology. They are available surplus and are relatively complete nutrition. These might be a good option to round out your no cook menu.

I called cooking a luxury with practical benefits. But the psychological value for most of use is significant and should not be underestimated. You might even notice a little defensive or testy behavior at the thought of doing without a hot meal.

2003-04-21, 22:21
Originally posted by GrizzlyBear
I've been considering attempting to cut down on the number of times I breathe during the day. I'm sure I don't need to do it so often.

As a scuba diver, I worked hard to do exactly that. :D The less air you breath, the longer you can stay underwater before your tank goes empty. You can't force yourself to breath less, you can only calm yourself. It is a very strange thing to try to control. Give it a try, you might like it.

[Sorry, I couldn't resist.]

2003-04-22, 00:51
WHY is a question i could ask about many things. for instance, why use a hammock? why go ultra-light? why hike in sneakers? guess my point is why not. as for not cooking on the trail, i haven't seen any objections here other than personal preference. i usually cook (or rather boil water), but sometimes not and don't really miss it. i did the 100 mi wilderness in maine without cooking and again, didn't miss it. no harm to my stomach or teeth.

all the above is premised on a big fat slab of meat in the next town!

2003-04-22, 09:07
Like most lightweight ideas, there is a time and place for it. If you are so inclined, then I suggest that the time is during the warm summer months. I think that something warm to eat is good during the spring and fall when it is apt to be cooler and damper.

I have met thru-hikers who have gone the stove less route.

2003-04-22, 10:12
Let's face it. Even if you had a stove, who wants a "hot meal" when it is 90F at sunset?

Besides GORP, snickers and powerbars, let's list several items you could eat without a stove.

Cold oatmeal
Cold Grits
Cereal of various types
Powdered potatos
Powdered eggs (never had them cold does this work??)
Raman pasta salad thingy that SGT Rock talks about


2003-04-22, 15:54
crackers, bagels, tortillas, other bread
dried fruit
yam leather

Bill Phillips
2003-04-22, 16:31
canned goods
someone is putting "canned" tuna in foil packets
sliced vegetables (carrots, bell pepper, etc...)
oatmeal cookies
dried salami/sausages
smoked fish mmmm...

2003-04-22, 19:01
I don't live in the USA but surely there are dead branches and stuff like that to make a fire with along your trails without the necessity of carrying a stove. A small bag of rice and some dried beans and coffee and sugar and "Bob's your uncle", you can live forever.


2003-04-22, 23:20
and something that goes with many things listed here, powdered milk. i drank a quart a day in 2000. still do!

1 package/1 quart
320 calories
48g carbs
32g protein
120% RDA calcium

2003-04-23, 10:02
Originally posted by caiman
I don't live in the USA but surely there are dead branches and stuff like that to make a fireThanks for the laugh this morning.
While it is true there are plenty of dead branches laying around most areas, who want to take the time to make a fire after hiking 15 miles? What if it has been raining for a week? Good luck getting the fire started. And, who wants to sit next to a fire during the summer months?

Might as well bring along your can stove and a bit of fuel. Certainly would be lighter and easier.

Zero Day
2003-04-24, 14:25
In case you didn't know "Bob's your uncle" is a way of saying "you're all set" or "you've got it made." It's a catch phrase dating back to 1887, when British Prime Minister Robert Cecil (a.k.a. Lord Salisbury) decided to appoint a certain Arthur Balfour to the prestigious and sensitive post of Chief Secretary for Ireland. Not lost on the British public was the fact that Lord Salisbury just happened to be better known to Arthur Balfour as "Uncle Bob." In the resulting furor over what was seen as an act of blatant nepotism, "Bob's your uncle" became a popular sarcastic comment applied to any situation where the outcome was preordained by favoritism. As the scandal faded in public memory, the phrase lost its edge and became just a synonym for "no problem."

2003-04-24, 15:59

I was born in Guyana to an English father and was sent to boarding school in England at the tender age of 10, but to be quite truthful I was not familiar with the history of "Bob,s your uncle", so thanks for the info. The phrase was a favourite of my father's ,so I guess the chip fell off the block.


2003-05-29, 23:10
This was a great thread to run into--I have been thinking what I will take with me on a grand canyon hike in a couple of weeks. Some things I have taken in the past are wasa bread and cream cheese and pre-cooked bacon. I am thinking that cold hot chocolate might be good. I like dry peaches and of course raisens. Chex mix is real salty and some of that spiceettes candy won't melt although it may be squishy. I am going to be out for 6 days so finding enough stuff to stay interesting and have some roughage is the challenge. I will do sun tea in lieu of coffee.

2003-05-30, 00:45
Personally, I prefer taking MREs on the trail. Can't beat a nice Jamaican spicy pork chop, or chili 'n' macaroni. The trash can be a bit of a hassle, but it packs tightly enough if you strip down the boxes and such before hand. I am sure I wouldn't enjoy them half as much if I spent any appreciable time in the field, eating them daily, but I've gone long enough stretches on C-C-A meal cycles (MRE breakfast, MRE lunch, hot Mermite dinner -- mmm) withgout getting tired of them.

Just too bad I can't take my tank hiking -- it was a great SUV, and you could cook anything on the engine block. 1500hp gas turbine engines put out a lot of ambient heat for a long time.

2003-06-04, 20:59
Ummm don't MREs have the agua in them already? The object here is light weight dry foods.

Bill Phillips
2003-06-04, 21:09
;) This thread is about cookless food, thus saving the weight of stove, fuel, etc... and generally simplifying when you don't care to cook.

2003-06-04, 21:39
GRIN Yeah--I've run into those kids with the canned goods. I am into pretty light hiking so something like an MRE won't be on my menu. Mary

2003-06-05, 00:29
MRE's, stripped of their outter casings, and removing food items that you wouldnt normally like, are FANTASTIC for lightweight hiking.

They are light, self contained, can be eatten on the move, and most importantly, VERY high in calories (so you can carry less).

I can comfortably carry 3 days worth of meals, surpassing my needed caloric intake, with less weight than an equal amount of freeze dried meals (and the stuff needed to cook/prepare them) and have a higher nutritional balance than an equal amount of trail meals based on Gorp and Candy bars.

:D It all boils down to what your goals on the trail are:D

2003-06-05, 09:24
For Maryphyl,

Re: Roughage

Finely sliced rehydrated cabbage and carrots plus a little olive oil, spice and a teaspoon or two of vinegar make a nice crunchy back country salad. I'm sure you can think of other veggies that would work. Your proposed canyon diet is certainly livable but perhaps a tad boring. Dried fruit cocktail reconstitutes nicely over night and perks up the old breakfast routine.



2003-06-05, 09:49
I agree--it is boring. I have been eating the same junk for years with few changes. My dehydrator is out in the kitchen right now--need to put something in it--I will try cabbage and shreded carrots. Thanks. Mary

2003-06-05, 21:10
Originally posted by maryphyl
Ummm don't MREs have the agua in them already? The object here is light weight dry foods.

Thread title is cookless food, not waterless food. An MRE can feed you for a day and weighs at most 24 oz., and that's without stripping out extra packaging and unwanted condiments (such as the toilet paper, Chiclets gum, coffee, creamer, sugar, and 1/8 oz. bottle of Tobasco).

If you wanted to have dehydrated food for breakfast and lunch, just packing an MRE main meal (~ 10 oz., maybe even less) and an MRE heater (~ 1 oz.) would still allow you to have a hot dinner sans stove.

2003-07-02, 21:30
I do much the same thing, But instead of cold oatmeal I use powerbars. I shop flea markets, you can find some deals if you look around. They don't seem to ever go bad. I share your desire to keep it simple, have fun!!!

2003-07-05, 15:07
Well, I am not what you would call a highly experienced ultralight backpacker (although I often went for weekend trips without a stove 25 years ago), I am a fairly experienced (but, slow) marathon runner (and marathon writer, as you are about to see). I am somewhat surprised that the stuff long distance runners have learned about aerobic metabolism isn't employed more effectively by long distance hikers. Anyone interested in this topic might do well well to read some books on running, "Lore of Running" being the heavyweight classic.

In a nutshell (ok, it's a very large nut): You can run either anaerobically (fast) or aerobically (slow). If you run fast your body will burn carbohydrates almost exclusively as fuel, produce lactic acid (equals burning pain in your muscles) which requires oxygen to clear. You will collapse after a few minutes. If you run slow or walk you can travel at below the anaerobic threshold. (Note: the "threshold pace" varies depending on your condition and you can train your body to increase the threshold pace.) All but the most poorly conditioned hiker will walk below the threshold pace except possibly while attempting to travel very fast over extreme terrain). During the first 10-20 minutes of aerobic travel, your body burns mostly carbohydrates, but then switches to burning stored body fat for the duration. Burning fat does not create lactic acid. The body stores fat all over the place in large quantities, but it stores only a limited amount of carb energy as glycogen within muscle tissue and in the liver.

Now, even the skinniest of us has quite sufficient stored body fat to complete a 26.2 mile marathon. Most of us could run for days on our ample stored body fat. Why can't we? Well, it appears that some carbohydrate fuel is required to keep the fat furnace going. Think of charcoal lighter fluid and charcoal briquets. The fire from the lighter fluid (the carbs used for the first 10-20 minutes) is required to get the briquets (fat) burning. Then think of a furnace pilot light. A small flame of carbohydrate fuel is required to keep the fat furnace burning. If you run out of carbs, you stop burning fat and, in running parlance, you "hit the wall" or "bonk."

Consequently, no ordinary mortal can run a marathon without taking in some carbohydrates along the way. Experienced marathon runners employ various strategies to do this. The most popular are gel packets of about 100g of carbohydrate each. Also used are energy bars, Sharkies (a sort of gummy shark product), energy drinks and a wide variety of "normal" foods. Ultramarathoners (runners who race distances beyond 26.2 miles) tend to be more likely to eat real food during a race. The longer the race, the more real food you see.

It is generally accepted that the body cannot rapidly absorb liquid containing more than 7% carbohydrate (the amount contained in Gatorade and similar products). A mistake I see many make is the "more is better" syndrome. If you take in too much carbohydrate (gatorade AND gels AND sharkies AND pretzels AND ...) you are likely to create an indigestible slurry in your stomach and bonk/dehydrate despite all your efforts.

Another mistake I see is failure to plan ahead. You can't wait until you are on the verge of collapse before taking in some carbohydrates. Assuming you start the race/hike well "carbohydrated" you should begin replenishing at about 45-60 minutes and continue with about 100g of carbs every additional 45-60 minutes. If you are walking rather than running, it should be easier to replenish and you might do well to take in half that amount twice as often.

Personally, I've had running success with three different strategies:
1. Full strength energy drink and nothing else.
2. Half-strength energy drink and a gel pack every 60-90 minutes.
3. Plain water, a gel pack every 45 minutes and electrolyte replacement tablets (such as Succeed!) depending on how hot it is.
Note: energy drinks and Sharkies contain electrolyte replacement. If you are using plain water, you'll need to get some sodium and potassium somewhere.

You can train your body to run more efficiently on fat. Your body contains special fat-burning cells called mytochondria and responds to long training runs and hikes by creating more mytochondria. Again, this simply increases the rate at which you can produce energy from stored body fat, allowing you to go further, faster without producing lactic acid.

A side note on protein: Marathon runners don't concern themselves with protein during the run (except that there are some studies which seem to suggest that carbohydrates are absorbed better when mixed with a small amount of protein, hence the awful tasting energy drinks with whey protein mixed in). Protein, however, is required to rebuild muscle tissue after a tough run or hike and is best taken within 20 minutes to an hour of finishing the activity.

How does this apply to hiking/backpacking? Well, for an average trip of 2-3 days in duration in normal summer conditions I can see no physiological reason why one would need to cook anything. Or, for that matter, eat anything but carbohydrates. If the trip is demanding enough to cause some muscle tissue breakdown, it would probably be a good idea to take in some protein soon after you stop for the evening. Uncooked protein is a little harder to come by, but various protein bars on the market or just some jerky should work fine. If you need fat replacement in a hike less than a week long, you are just too darned skinny. I wouldn't worry about fat replacement unless you are a thru-hiker and I wouldn't go without a stove if I were out for more than five days, but this is more a matter of comfort, convenience and avoiding hypothermia than anything to do with the body's nutrutional needs.

If you think this is all there is to say on this topic, you are wrong, but enough already.

Zero Day
2003-07-10, 23:01
I have experienced the same thing while biking. I am good for about one hour with only water, but if the ride is longer to prevent bonking I need some kind of energy drink for carbs.

Applied to hiking with the intent of reducing the weight carried. The idea is to live off my stored body fat (I have plenty).

Would I only need to pack enough carbs to “keep the fat fire burning”.

Would your body “recharge” at night so that the 1 hour no carb period would be reset each day?

If you trickle the carbs all day how many are required?

It looks like there is some risk of running out of gas completely and getting in an energy deficiency situation and passing out due to low blood sugar.

2003-07-11, 01:34
HuffnPuff-that was fascinating. I think as we become experienced hikers and learn to listen to our bodies we do much of what you recommend naturally. I hike in desert terrain--Grand Canyon--most of the time. I eat mostly carbs in small amounts with water at about one hour intervals. I seem to feel best this way. My caloric intake is way below what I would eat at home and yet I have plenty of energy. Your fat burning idea makes sence to me. Smiles, Mary

2003-07-11, 09:39
Originally posted by maryphyl
I think as we become experienced hikers and learn to listen to our bodies we do much of what you recommend naturally.
i agree with that and would add in the context of long distance hiking (lets say, more than 300 miles), our bodies have an amazing ability to adapt to daily exertion and calorie intake. just from my own experience, weight loss stopped at about 6 weeks on the AT, my average mileage became so consistant to where i knew how far i hiked strictly by time (only the worst terrain slowed me) and i ran out of energy at about the same time every day. my diet was very simple and consisted of gorp, cheese crackers, snickers, powdered milk (a liter a day), jerky (lots) and one hot meal a day of ramen or lipton noodles/rice. add to that town food every week or so. in the short term we can worry about carb intake, fat burning, etc, but in the long term, our bodies (and mind) take over.

2003-07-11, 10:21
First, let me just correct an error in my original post: wherever I referred to 100 GRAMS of carbohydrate, I really meant 100 CALORIES. Sorry about that. 100 calories of carbohydrate is about 25 grams.

Next, Zeroday's questions:

Applied to hiking with the intent of reducing the weight carried. The idea is to live off my stored body fat (I have plenty).

Would I only need to pack enough carbs to “keep the fat fire burning”.
Runners haven't got a lot of experience with multi-day events. They go home after the race, get horizontal, and eat/drink everything in sight. So, I don't really know the answer to your question. You'd have to experiment and it is easy to oversimplify. I think you need some fat (Essential Fatty Acids fournd in flax seed, fish and the like) to burn fat. But that's way beyond my area of knowledge. As to carrying "only" enough to keep the fire burning, see my answer to your "how many" question below.

Would your body “recharge” at night so that the 1 hour no carb period would be reset each day?

I don't know. Runners don't care about this because they rarely do multi-day events. (Note: there are some 24, 48, 72 hour and even 6 day races. The absolute all time world champion of this type of running is a guy name Yiannis Kouros who can run 7:30 miles for days. Yiannis doesn't stop to rest,though. I'm told he eats small quantities of carbs every 15 minutes -- hard candy, fruit and takes in a very small quantity of protein during a very long race.) My guess is that whether you "reset" after a night's rest is an individual thing, but most people probably do reset. My suggestion, though, would be to have an energy bar and some water next to your bed when you go to sleep and eat/drink in the morning before you even get up.

If you trickle the carbs all day how many are required?
[/B]The main variable in calorie expenditure per hour is the weight of the runner/hiker (including pack). Speed of travel is a factor, but not as much as you'd expect. I recently saw some material that suggested use of trekking poles increases calorie expenditure by quite a bit. I am guessing that, if true, that's probably because the pole user is going faster and involving muscles not otherwise used. There are a number of calorie calculators available online (use your search engine). I think you can find one at www.runnersworld.com (click on "calculators" on the home page). Remember to add in the weight of your pack. Basically, a 170 pound hiker would consume 700-900 calories per hour. If you are using poles and smoking along at about 3 miles/hour for 8 hours a day, you could burn as much as 7200 calories. That's a lotta bananas, ape man! That doesn't answer your question as to how many of these calories can be taken from your fat stores and how many need to be replaced daily. You might get a copy of "Lore of Running" by Dr. Tim Noakes and see if he takes a crack at this question. The problem is that I don't think your body can absorb anywhere near 7000 calories a day. While running/hiking you'll be lucky to absorb 100-150 calories per hour. This is going to vary some from one person to another. Your body will tell you by making you tired. Yiannis Kouros can cover 800-900 miles (or was it kilometers, I forget)in a six day race, but even Yiannis needs a "zero day" eventually. [/B]

It looks like there is some risk of running out of gas completely and getting in an energy deficiency situation and passing out due to low blood sugar.
[/B]Some risk, I suppose, but ordinarily you'll have lots of warning that you are in a hypoglycemic state. I read an interesting article in this month's "Marathon & Beyond" magazine by an old guy who set a world age-group record for distance covered in 24 hours and who struggled with hypoglycemia during the event. He had warnings of the impending problem long before losing consciousness. He noted that one of his shoulders began to droop as his blood sugar got too low. For him, this meant he had to slow down, not necessarily stop. The problem was that his body could not absorb carbs quick enough to keep him going fast for 24 hours. He couldn't solve the problem by eating more. My guess would be that, unless you have a metabolic disease or are trying to fast or something, you are not likely to lose conciousness due to hypoglycemia while hiking. Note: I am not a doctor. I just play one on the internet.[/B]

[/B]Enough already![/B]