When hitting a campground, one of the best things you can do for budget saving is cooking your own meals. Much like when you are at home, a typical meal at home is going to be far less expensive in the big picture than going out to eat frequently. When planning a budget trip, investing in a small camp stove will not only save you money in the long run but also assure that no matter how remote you are, you always can enjoy a warm meal.
On our trip, that warm meal was more than just that, it was fuel for our next day and the little bit of comfort much needed after long hikes.
Camp stoves come in all shapes and sizes. Your needs will dictate your selection as you accommodate for not only your type of journey but also how many you will be cooking for along the way. Larger stoves are available which feature two burners, great for larger groups or multiple pans, these run off of a butane or larger propane container. Smaller stoves, single burners, typically utilize smaller propane containers and can be packed tightly away in smaller packs.
When I was shopping for our needs, I settled on a smaller option as there were only 2 people in our party and thus we did not need an elaborate set up. Canisters of fuel for this model of Coleman stove were around $5.00 each and the stove itself was $17.95. A typical canister will last about an hour on high so I accommodated for several back up canisters but ended up not needing but a single canister as the stove gets hot quickly and cooks very rapidly.
Camp dishes are the next investment you will need to make when planning on cooking outdoors. While some will take their dishes from home, their thicker design make for slower cooking typically on these units. Instead a lightweight camp designed set up, which can be found online or at any sporting goods shop, seemed a better fit. Not only are these designed for the nature of the stove they are also quick to stow and smaller for packing when traveling. Dishes range in price points depending on need, but the ones I found were less than $10 for a skillet, small pan with lid, heating cup and pan which can be used as your dish.
Last but not least, one needs a cooking utensil. I found a multi-tool duo which was a spoon and knife on one unit and a fork and bottle opener on the other. This came in handy for serving and stirring as well as for other function around the campsite. The duo was priced at only $4.95 locally and was one of the more handy items in our pack.
Food options for cooking can vary, I do suggest finding items which have a higher protein content if you are expelling a lot of energy. If not hiking and needing pack weight to be lighter, you can include canned goods in your travels for this purpose or MRE (Meals Ready To Eat) are a lighter option for those needing to free up weight space. If you are fortunate enough to carry an ice chest then perhaps even eggs or bacon are a great morning option for you. Food is really more subject to your wants just remember that what you cook you will have limited space to do so.
All in all, campsite cooking was one of my favorite things about the journey. Sitting down and enjoying a meal with your friends after a busy day brings normalcy back to your adventure and was a huge factor in keeping the budget down. Groceries picked up along the way for the 12 day journey tallied less than $100 and there were plenty of things we ended up bringing home unused which can be used for later versus an average of $5 to $15 per meal we ate that was not prepared on campsite.
Avoid windy areas when attempting to cook, the wind will cause uneven cooking of food. If wind cannot be avoided attempt to create a wind block.
Find foods which don’t require a can opener. Packing a can opener is just one more item that will weigh you down. Instead find pop top cans.
Bring a lighter! As simple as it sounds, your camp stove is worthless unless it can be lit, so make sure to bring something to light the stove so you can begin your cooking adventures.
Do not leave your camp stove unattended. This seems pretty simple, but you would be surprised how many would walk away for a moment and then end up burning their food or worse. Always be present when cooking and remember stir often!