As I immerse myself in planning for this hike, I realize every day how many decisions there are to make. Every one will affect what my hike looks like, what my life looks like on a day-to-day basis for half a year! That’s a lot of days. And sometimes, it is overwhelming to think about, because what I bring or don’t bring with me could very easily make or break my trip.
The decision I’m pondering these days is whether or not to cook meals. This is a no-brainer for most hikers. The comfort of a warm meal after a cold day of hiking, or even just the ‘normality’ of cooking dinner every night, is important to maintain sanity in a grueling, often miserable, challenging experience. Of course, I’m not most hikers. I pride myself on my tendency to swim against the current.
There are a few things to take into consideration when making this choice. If I decide not to cook food, what am I going to eat? Am I really going to be happy living on trail mix, cold oatmeal and coffee, pitas and peanut butter? Will I feel like I’m missing out if I don’t have those hot meals, soup and tea?
Of course, the fact that I rarely eat hot food even now, when I’m not living off what I can carry, is something to take into account. I go days without eating hot food, even in the middle of the winter. So is it really worth the time and effort of cooking, when that’s not something that I would even take the time to do in my regular day-to-day life, when I’m not hiking?
The weight of carrying a stove won’t make much of a difference, as cold foods generally weigh more than foods that you can cook. Things like powdered soup, instant mashed potatoes, etc. weigh next to nothing, so the added weight of the stove and fuel is not really any more than the food that I would have to carry if I don’t cook.
It should come as no surprise that the decision I landed on was, “somewhere in between”. I’m going to bring my tin can stove with me to start, and enough of my homemade tablets to last a few weeks, if I were cooking two meals a day. Of course, I’m not planning to cook two meals a day. I’m not planning to cook at all. Especially at the beginning of our hike, though, it’s going to be cold. And because of how cold it will be, I may wish that my coffee is hot, or that I had some soup with my dinner at the end of a long rainy day of hiking in wet shoes.
If, after the first two or three weeks, I find that I am cooking more than I anticipated, then I will buy or make more tablets. If, on the other hand, I find that I am not missing hot food, and cold coffee is fine (note – I do prefer my coffee cold, generally speaking), then I will get rid of my stove and tablets, and that’s one less thing that I’ll have to carry, and more importantly, less work that I’ll have to do.