Backpacking is a fun way of going places and staying places that not a lot of people get to visit or see and a great way to get exersize. Eating right to keep your strength up and your body healthy is incredibly important while you are out exploring the wilds. I have a lot of people asking which stoves and cookware they should use and that is a really good question. All of this is depending on a few factors, so remember to ask yourself a few questions when your shopping for the perfect gear:
1. How many people are you going to be cooking for?
2. How many miles will you be walking in a day?
3. How much room are you going to have for fuel and the stove?
4. How many days are you going to be out there?
All of these are incredibly imperative to know, and it is hard to to just give the same answer every time you go out. Some times I go with friends and other times I go by myself, some times I go 15 miles a day and others I go 5. If I go on the shorter walking trips I don't mind carrying an extra pound or 2, depending on the terrain. If I go on the longer trips, I make sure I am in a group of people and we can all take different parts and pieces so the load is not so heavy and the less weight on longer walking trips is incredibly helpful and makes for a more enjoyable time.
Lets start out with how many people you are going with and this will lead into the other questions. Everyone should always carry your own plates, utensils and cups. I make sure I use Nalgene bottles to carry my water in, they have a rule on the side so you can see how many ounces you have in it, and that way I do not need to bring a measuring cup. That helps create extra space and takes weight off of the back. Some sets come with pots, bowls, mugs and utensils and have extra space that you can hide your fuel in. Now when carrying these sets make sure you evenly distribute weight between you and the other person. They may not weigh much, but they do take up space and that is a valuable commodity when camping. Have the other person carry more of the food or the cleaning supplies for cooking.
Stoves and fuel are the next thing you want to think about. there are so many different types out there, it is going to be up to what you are comfortable using. Some folks want wood fires. For this you can do many different things. You can bring a grate with you if you have a lot of room, you can bring small camping stoves that the chimneys are just big enough to set a pot on without it falling through, or there are some larger stoves that burn wood and create electricity for charging small electronics.
Other stoves use Isopro canisters where the stoves screw right on top and are very lightweight. These are going to be more compact and the canisters will fit inside most nesting cook sets. When you are camping in the winter with these you need to make sure you take the canister in to your sleeping bag with you as it will freeze and you will have to warm it back up to get it started. There are also ones who take white gas or camp gas that are also lightweight and that you don't have to worry about the fuel freezing. These allow you to not have to find wood for fuel which would be helpful if you are going to a desert or a prairie where not many trees grow. They both have many different styles of stove tops that you can choose from. However you have to make sure you bring enough fuel with you for either of these stove methods so it does take up a little more space in your pack.
There are many other types of stoves like ones that take wax cubes and only burn for 12 minutes(enough to get water boiling ) and some that use sterno. It is all what you feel comfortable in using and carrying with you out there.
Food on the other hand is going to take up either little or a lot of space depending on how long you are out there and how much you are walking each day. You can either put together and package your own meals, you can buy the prepackaged meals by backpackers pantry and mountain house or bring food that does not need refrigeration. Honestly I like to bring a mixture of all of these. Some easy things to buy at the store is anything in a cans or jars as in soups, vegetables, tuna, chipped beef, or pringles which are easy to make, however, you do have to clean out the containers and bring them back out with you. That makes for easy meals but a lot of trash you have to haul with you.
I also bring noodles and those gravy packets you can pick up in any grocery store and just add water to. That helps broaden your spectrum on the food you can eat and the plastic bags can be used for storing garbage in to eliminate smells (if they zip closed) to help not attract animals to you and they do not take up much space when empty. Now the prepackaged backpackers meals are also great because they have MEAT in them. I get bored very easily with meatless meals and eggs and meat will spoil before the end of the first day you are out when you bring it fresh, so being able to have chicken and noodles, chili mac and beef, jaimcan barbecued chicken, Colorado omelets, beef stew and others is the real treat. These are super easy to make, you just boil water and add it to the package. You can eat it straight out of the package or put it in a bowl or on a plate if you are sharing, and most of those have 2 to 2 and a half servings per bag.
Don't forget the snacks! Those are the easiest to pack. Nuts like almonds have a lot of protein in them and are good for you. Raisins and crazins and other dried fruit is great to carry around and won't go bad. Beef jerky and sausages are a great snack that won't go bad with good packaging. Granola bars, trail bars and cereal bars are great and the cereal bars sometimes have that milk like substance that gives you calcium that help your bones. Just make sure you have a good variety of fruits to carbohydrates while you are out there.