Most hikers use canister stoves when thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail these days. While they may be a little heavier than their canister-less companions, their convenience can’t be beat. Here’s a list of hiker favorites.
The SOTO WindMaster Stove is a true favorite of Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers. It’s a little on the price side, but includes simmer control, a push-button ignitor, and performs decently in the wind. It weighs 2.3oz.
The MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove is a solid option with a reasonable price tag, and is a favorite among the hiking community. It includes simmer control, but you’ll need a lighter to light it. It weighs 2.6oz.
The BRS Ultralight Stove is a good option if you’re on a budget (plus it’s one of the lightest canister stoves around). Keep in mind that cheaper stoves like this often burn less efficiently and have higher rates of malfunction. It weighs an incredible 0.9oz.
The MSR Universal Fuel Canister Stand will keep your cooking system stable on uneven ground. It attaches to the bottom of 4oz and 8oz canisters and will help save you from spills and burns.
The TOAKS Titanium Pot is a popular option on the Pacific Crest Trail. It holds 750ml, weighs 3.6oz, has folding (non-rubberized) handles, and internal measurement gradients. A 4oz canister will fit inside. Larger and smaller sizes are also available.
If you want a higher volume pot, then check out the MSR Titan Tea Kettle, which holds 830ml and weighs 4oz. It has measurement gradients, folding (non-rubberized) handles, an easy-grip lid handle, and a drip-free spout. An 8oz canister will fit inside.
The Evernew Pasta Pot is a great lightweight 700ml pot (3.4oz) with rubberized, folding handles, measurement gradients, and a lid that doubles as a pasta strainer. You can fit a 4oz canister inside. A 1000ml size is also available.
Cups and Utensils
The Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spork‘s long handle makes it great for eating directly from a freeze-dried meal bag without getting your hand dirty. At 0.4oz it’s also one of the lightest options available.
The Sea to Summit X-Bowl is a good option if you’re averse to eating out of your cooking pot. It’s collapsable, lightweight (2.8oz), and holds 650ml.
While not necessary, the Sea To Summit X-Cup is nice to have if you want to enjoy your tea or coffee while cooking breakfast on the trail. It’s collapsable, lightweight (1.6oz), and holds 250ml (8 fluid ounces).
You’ll need three main pieces of gear to feed yourself while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail:
And, you know, food. The gear list is straightforward, but options abound. Here’s what you need to know to choose the best cooking setup for you.
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of backcountry stoves: those that require fuel canisters (propane, white gase, etc.), and those that don’t (alcohol or Esbit burning stoves). Stoves that require fuel canisters are nearly always more powerful than those that don’t. They’ll usually boil water and cook your food much faster than stoves that don’t use canisters. Canister stoves have gotten much lighter in recent years, but keep in mind the weight of the canisters themselves when figuring out the weight of your cooking system.
Canisterless stove systems are much lighter, though less convenient, than canister stoves. Rarely do they weigh more than 3 ounces. Many weigh 1 ounce or less. That means that some canisterless stoves weigh less than the lighter used to light them. They are also incredibly inexpensive. You can make them yourself for pennies, or you can order them for a few dollars online.
Canisterless stoves typically burn either alchohol, Esbit fuel tablets, or wood.
Alcohol is the most common fuel burned by Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers. Alcohol burns cleanly, doesn’t give off much of an oder, is readily available, and inexpensive. Alcohol stoves consist of some kind of small aluminum container that holds the alcohol. The container has holes near the top to let the fumes escape. When lit, the stove burns like a normal gas-stove would at home if set on low. Alcohol can only be ground shipped.
Esbit is a kind of solid fuel that comes in tablets. Since Esbit is not a liquid the stove doesn’t have to be a shaped in a special way to ‘hold’ it. Esbit stoves consist of a thin peice of metal upon which to burn the tablet (so you don’t leave a mark on the ground), a pot stand and a wind screen. Cleverly designed Esbit stoves combine the potstand and windscreen into one, and use doubled-up aluminum foil as a platform on which to burn the Esbit. The costs of Esbit is about the same as alcohol, but it is not as readily available along the trail. Esbit tablets should be bought in bulk and sent in your resupply packages. When packaged, Esbit tablets are solid, stable, don’t give off fumes and aren’t combustable. For this reason they are less of a hassel than alcohol. Esbit, like alcohol, can only be ground shipped. Esbit is non-toxic, but it does give off an odor. It also leaves a residue on the bottom of your pot that must be scraped off on occasion. Try it out before you commit to it.
The most popular cookpots are made of either titanium or aluminum. Some hikers frown upon eating off of aluminum and opt for the (much) more expensive titanium pots. Steal pots should be avoided as they are very heavy and take longer to heat up. Titanium is lighter than steal, but also more expensive. Titanium pots weigh just slightly less than aluminum pots.
The most popular cook pot sizes are the 500ml and the 1000ml (1 liter) sizes. 500ml is common among solo hikers, while the 1000ml is more typical of people hiking in pairs and sharing a pot. Whatever you choose remember that cooking with a lid on your pot is much more efficient and will save you time and fuel.
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