Cooking your own food on the road is always a balance between how much cooking gear do you carry versus how much weight and space is available. To minimize the weight involved with carrying a lot of cooking utensils I plan to use breakfast and dinner meals prepared in a pouch.
Pouch cooking, for those not familiar with the term, involves individual meals prepared using dried food items stored in some type of pouch. You can make your own using a quart freezer bag as a pouch, or some companies, such as Mountain House, sell a wide variety of very tasty prepared pouch meals. There is significant weight savings with pouch cooking because the the water contained in ‘regular’ meals is eliminated. The meal is prepared by adding either room temperature or boiling water to the pouch, stirring for a few minutes, waiting 5-10 minutes for the food to ‘hydrate’, and then eating the meal directly out of the pouch. Pouch meals and ideas will be covered in another post. The question right now is, ‘How do I boil water for food and tea while keeping the weight down to something manageable?’
I use a Snow Peak Giga auto Power stove (3.7 ounces), a Snow Peak windscreen (2 ounces), an MSR gas canister base (1.2 ounces), and a Snow Peak TI 1400 cooking pot (4.4 ounces). This system is used to boil 3.5 cups of water: 2 cups for the food pouch and 1.5 cups for hot tea. The stove/lighter have been very reliable, and the windscreen seems to work well in all but the windiest conditions. The fold-out handles on the pot stay cool to the touch and are easy to grasp.
This system, with the stove turned on high, consistently uses 0.4 ounces of fuel to bring 3.5 cups of cold (500) water to a boil. This is not a rolling boil, but there is a strong stream of bubbles rising up from the bottom of the pot. Incidentally, pouch cooking will typically work with 1800 water; 2120 is not necessary. A mid-sized 8.11 ounce net weight fuel canister will provide 20 meals with a cup of tea. Understanding the number of meals helps provide a guideline on whether or not the fuel will run out between towns. Cold fuel canisters are not always efficient so warming them up (inside the sleeping bag or jacket) on very cold days can extend the useful life.
In addition to the cooking items mentioned above, I also carry a small BIC lighter (0.8 ounces) as a backup for lighting the stove, a GI P51 can opener (0.3 ounces), and a small Scotch Brite pad (0.3 ounces). All of the cooking items can be stored in the Snow Peak pot. I did have to bend the end of the long foot on the MSR canister base about 45 degrees so it would fit inside the pot. I use a Optimus TI Long Spoon (0.5 ounces) to stir the food and eat from the pouch and a Snow Peak TI 450 cup for hot tea.
Everything fits nicely inside the mesh bag that came with the Snow Peak cooking pot. The total weight, including a full fuel canister, is 29.3 ounces. Weight is not the only issue on a bicycle tour; there is only so much space available. The mesh bag, as shown, is 5″ in diameter and 9″ tall. The spoon and cup could easily be removed and stored somewhere else if the height is an issue.
There are ultra-lite bikers that will look at my cooking ‘kit’ and shake their heads at the total weight, and there are gourmet bikers that will do likewise because so many necessities are missing. I have attempted to strike a happy balance between the weight/space restrictions and tasty nutritious food. For me, this works.