As I spend quite a lot of time out and about and so eat "in the field" a lot I've developed a few solutions to getting some food, or cups of tea, into me. Now, basically, I like my home comforts and the easy life so I usually only eat one or two meals out on the average stalking, fishing or walking day. In the end you can't beat coming home to the fire and a nice big steak on the pan :-)
I thought that some might be interested in what I do and it might stir people up to make some more suggestions as my tactics will not work for everyone. I currently have 3 approaches to making food, or even tea, when out:
Many people hate these, some people hate burning hexi, while others love them and I fall into the "love" category. To call this a stove is way OTT as it is basically a metal tub for containing your fire and a large metal cup. They were designed for use with heximine tabs. Now hexi is very handy as you can get a lot of heat from a small, light, solid tab about the size of a few squares of chocolate but the downside with it is that it can smell a bit nasty, though I've never had it taint or taste my food but some people say they've had this problem, and if used in a confined space the various combustion products can kill you. I've never stalked, fished or walked in a confined space.
However, you don't need to burn hexi in the Crusader and I alternate between burning hexi and chafing gel. Chafing gel is, basically, alcohol and is used in hotels for keeping buffet type food warm. It burns with virtually no smell, is easy to light, leaves very little ash or other residue and can be bought in catering sized 4kg containers for £10 - £15. I decant it into an empty 0.5 litre milk bottle for carrying in the field and it works well. Sometimes I use a combination of hexi and the chafing gel as the gel is much easier to light.
The "cup" for the Crusader is quite large and it will hold my loose leaf tea, in a plastic container, two lighters and enough hexi to keep me going for several days so this makes the whole thing self contained and it doesn't take up much space in the rucksack. Apart from water, which I take from the lochs, and milk this is all you need to make tea. As you can see in the photos below I have a lid for my Crusader cup and this is a useful addition.
The Crusader can also be used to make simple "boil in the bag" our soup type meals which basically just need to be heated up and I would also use it to heat milk for my breakfast when out stalking early in the morning as I like my cereal with warm milk. No point in not making the best of any situation.
The Crusader is robust and there is nothing to break or go wrong unless you were to actually set it on a rock and hit it with a sledge hammer. It certainly isn't perfect for every situation as like the Jetboil all it does is boil stuff but for simple things, and especially tea of which I am exceptionally fond, I think it is hard to beat.
The picture below shows the Crusader in action on a very remote Lewis trout loch. The pink stuff is the chafing gel. Below that is an image of it making tea on a rock on a very remarkable Lewis sea trout loch:
SELF HEATING FOOD
I think the military refer to these as MREs or "meals ready to eat" and I use the version made by a company called "Hot Pack" who do a wide range. The key for me is that these meals are "self heating" and so don't require you to boil water etc. to get them "cooked." The Hot Pack meals are tasty and very handy and they will keep for years so you can throw a few in the car and always have the option of some food. One big advantage for me is that you can throw one in the rucksack and be ready to go in 10 seconds so there is no need to gather up a stove, or fuel, or the bits to make a meal. Also with these meals all you carry is the food you will eat and so this reduces weight as there is no need for a stove, or a pot or all the other bits that come with many other solutions for eating in the field. The heating bits of the meal weigh next to nothing.
The down side is that if you put Lancashire Hotpot in your rucksack at the start of the day then that is what you will be having for lunch as you have no options to make adjustments etc. and also some people have had bad experiences with MREs in the past and so are not keen on going back to eating them. Also these meals are not "sustainable" in the sense that they are not really suitable for multi-day trips living out of a backpack just simply because at that point you need the flexibility that a stove would offer you. However, most stalking, fishing and walking trips don't even last a full day never mind several days and in my view if you want to travel light and take a good, warm and tasty lunch with you then give these a try:
MREs for Sale Online | Self Heating Meals from Hot Pack | Instant Hot Rations for Camping, Military, Outdoor, Army, mountaineers, anglers
The photo below shows me heating up a Hot Pack meal on a remote trout loch in the Hebrides. It is worth bearing in mind that the food does indeed get very hot with this system but, clearly, it makes sense to wrap it in a spare jacket and put it into the rucksack out of the wind to ensure best and fastest heating. Clearly if you leave it lying on the snow in a 30mph sub-zero wind it will not work so well!
A REAL STOVE
I have an MSR Dragonfly stove. This is what many might consider a "real" stove for making meals in the wild outdoors and it is certainly very efficient and effective. I tend to burn Coleman Fuel in mine as it is very clean, easy to prime and light and fairly cost effective for the moderate use my stove gets. Some people find that the Coleman Fuel at about £7 per bottle is expensive and this might be the case on a long trip but I would guess, depending on the meal, that I would get 10 - 20 meals per bottle so it seems like a price worth paying. The MSR Dragonfly has several advantages over some other stoves and the main one for me is that the flame is controllable. Many stoves of this type are either running flat out or off, there is no way to control the heat. If all you want to do is boil water than this is no problem but if you want to cook food without it sticking to the pan or burning or if you want to simmer some chili for 20 minutes then being able to control the heat is important. The other advantage with the Dragonfly is that it will burn nearly anything including diesel and a friend ran his on dry cleaning fluid as he had an endless supply of that!
The down side of a stove like this is that once you go down this route you have to carry quite a lot of "stuff." As well as the actual food you intend to cook you need the stove, fuel bottle, pump, fuel, pots or pans and so on. If you are near the car or on a multi-day trip with a big rucksack then this is all well and good but for a quick lunch out of the rucksack the self heating food has the edge as all you carry is the actual food you will eat.
On the other hand it is hard to beat coming back to the car, getting the pan on and having the smell of cooking bacon waft around the forest plus you can make more complex meals and your imagination is the limit.
The picture below shows my Dragonfly in action making my version of a sort of black eyed bean and chicken chili for lunch while out stalking. All the silver stuff around the stove is a wind break and to try and reflect some of the heat plus, as you can see, I'm using surplus mess tins to cook in.