My cook stove system is one area of gear that I was really happy with on the Pacific Crest Trail due to how well it worked for me. Getting to camp and sitting down at the end of a long hiking day to cook a meal became a much welcomed ritual. In this post I will review the backpacking stove system I used while hiking the PCT.
For a stove I took the MSR Pocket Rocket. It is lightweight, simple to use, and pretty durable, all features you want in a backpacking stove. Even after daily use for nearly half a year mine still functioned well after, and I continue using it to this day.
With a variable temperature control, it is easy to turn the heat up to boil water quickly, and then turn it down to simmer. This is something lacking in a JetBoil. In my opinion the efficiency of a JetBoil isn’t needed on a thru-hike. They are also heavier, more expensive, and difficult to eat out of.
The stove is super easy to start with the flick of a lighter. I didn’t find it necessary to bring a separate windscreen. If I was ever trying to cook in a gusty area, I just positioned my body/gear to block the incoming wind. I never had any problems with getting my stove going, even when making hot chocolate up high in a Sierra pass.
One utility that a stove has which isn’t mentioned often is its ability to easily start a fire. If you are struggling to get a fire going because the wood is damp, just turn your stove on and torch the hell out of the wood. While I don’t generally recommend starting fires in the backcountry, this is super useful in a survival situation.
The stove runs off of standard isopropane/butane fuel canisters. The type you can get at any decently stocked outfitter. There are many different brands of these floating around. I didn’t see much of a difference between their performance, so I usually got whatever was the cheapest. A small 4oz container typically lasted me 7-10 days of PCT hiking. I preferred using the medium 8oz size because it lasted twice as long, and I didn’t have to worry about buying a new one every other town. The larger diameter of the medium canister also made for a more stable base.
If you are planning on hiking the PCT, don’t worry too much about fuel canister logistics, as there aren’t many places that don’t sell them. Typically the only reason a resupply point wouldn’t have fuel canisters is if they were sold out (Damn you heard!). Worst case scenario you can always go no-cook for a couple days.
For a cook pot I used the MSR Titan Kettle. On a typical day I would boil water in then dump a Knorr Rice Side in for dinner. The Titan also works well as a drinking cup for coffee, hot chocolate, or any other backcountry beverage you wish to consume. Beware that the small metal handles on it can get hot. I would generally take it off of the stove using a handkerchief. It would be nice if the handles were made of a less temperature conductive material. The pot is large enough that you can put a medium sized fuel canister in it, or store your stove inside.
As a utensil I took a Sea To Summit Alpha Light Spork. They are super lightweight, and function well as both a spoon and fork. You could also get the pure spoon one, as most backpacking meals are just mush anyways. The long handled version of this utensil is a must. That way it can reach the bottom of a Mountain House or similar large food pouch without getting lost. The handle can also be used as a butter knife to spread things. Pre-trail I used one of those Light My Fire fork/spoon/knife combo utensils, they are cheaper than the titanium Sea to Summit, but they suck. The fork couldn’t stab things, the spoon was too large, the knife was useless, and it was awkward to hold.
I found the titanium of the pot and spork easy to clean (except for that one time I tried melting cheese in my dinner). All that is needed to clean the pot is a little water and a little scraping with your utensil. If the pot ever got really dirty I would put some sand in it and scrub it out.
That pretty much sums up how I feel about my backpacking stove cook system. I loved it so much that it is one area of my gear I do not plan on upgrading. To learn more about what food I ate on the PCT, check out my Eating on the PCT post.
What cook system do you use while backpacking? Or are you one of those no-cook types? Let me know in the comments.