View Full Version : Cooking for a crowd on the trail.

Lemni Skate
03-08-2011, 11:49
I am planning on leading a group of 8-10 on a hike this summer in Southern PA. Any advice on stoves, cookware, recipes, etc. for a group of this size? Mostly ages 11-17 with two or three adults.

Feral Bill
03-08-2011, 12:00
Two or three cook groups with a stable stove and pots for each.

03-08-2011, 14:16
What Bill said. I've done the same with scout groups. We've cooked for 10 with 2 pocket rocks and a couple of decent sized, inexpensive granite-wear type pots from WalMart. Maybe 2-quart sized pots? Having 3 stoves would have been easier, but we managed just fine on 2.

I think the real secret to this is planning the menus well. This is not the time to scramble fresh eggs or do anything too complicated. If the meals are cooked with basically boiling water, then any type of stove that will bring a sufficient quantity of water to boil in a reasonable amount of time will do the job. Splitting into 2, maybe 3 groups makes cooking and cleanup a manageable task.

03-08-2011, 14:44
I used to lead some LNT trainer courses with a similar age group and size. We split all "group gear" (which was a 8x10 kitchen tarp, large 15 qt pot, all food, utensils, single burner coleman stove, and propane canisters) between participants. Equal weight for each person was paramount for moral purposes. We split into two groups after camp was set up, one to set up kitchen and cook, while the other set up the perfect bear bag.

The following recipes worked great for our groups of 8 (2 instructors included) as easy one pot meals.


Best Mac and Cheese (serves ~8 teens)

5 boxes annies white cheddar mac and cheese
1 8oz pkg of cream cheese
Fresh cut veggies (spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, etc.)

Boil pasta to aldente, drain and add veggies to cook
Add cream cheese and some of the cheese packs from the boxes
Stir and serve.

Group burritos (serves ~8 teens)

2 med yellow onions
2 cloves garlic
2 peppers (green, yellow or red, who doesn't love color?)
Some spices from home packed in straws (cumin, salt and pepper, cilantro)
A bit of oil
2 16 oz cans of beans (I like pinto and black)
2 cups instant rice)
8 large tortillas
Cheese (if desired)

Cook instant rice, set aside in another dish (we used a frisbee, worked great!)
Have people cut veggies.
Heat oil in pot, toss in onions, green pepper, and garlic and stir fry until almost done.
Drain and toss in beans and spices. Combine rice into pot mix.
Heat until everyone's hungry.

Serve on tortillas with cheese. Add avocado if feeling suave...

Don't forget about dessert...

Candies, no bake cake, it all works!

Good luck on your trip.


03-08-2011, 16:20
Groups of 2-3 makes easier cooking but also keeps idle hands busy......

03-08-2011, 16:28
We found our church youth group loved the Knorr cheddar rice / broccoli mixes with the chunk chicken in packages (you can get them at wally world) thrown in. You also can't go wrong with beef summer sausage (someone said you can get them at Sams cheap) some cheddar and put them in pitas for lunches. Carry some PB for finicky ones. Breakfast - pop tarts, oatmeal packets, etc. I also packed a small frying pan and did pancakes, but for that trip, there was only four of us. But with a few stoves and divvying up the weight, you could probably do that for a meal.
You'd probably do better with a Whisperlite for a larger group, though I have cooked for several on a pocket rocket, but it uses alot of fuel.
Sounds like a blast! :)

Papa D
03-08-2011, 22:38
3 cooking groups - each with a stove - maybe a pocket rocket and a 2 liter titanium pot and their own spice bag - split up food by cook groups (#1,#2,#3) - there are a lot of good meals - here is a favorite:

Taco Rice (lipton sides)
Dehydrated Refried beans (fantastic foods or bulk)
Taco Bell Sauce (pirate big handfulls)
grated cheese (keeps fine for 3-4 days)
boil water, add rice, keep wet, add bean mix and adust
make burittos, add cheese and sauce

03-09-2011, 01:01
I would say that when I was in a similar type of group when I was a kid we had cook groups but each cook group rotated what day they carried, served and packed out all 3 meals to the entire group and I really enjoyed it.

Group gear is split up between all of the cook groups and they produce it to the cooking area when setting up camp. 2 Whisperlights (hard to tip with a high heat output for boiling lots of water, the extra weight can be easily split between group members), 2 decent size pots and a couple of extra ziplock bags (to place uncooked but prepared food like a sliced onion or extra sauce) should do the trick for a group that size.

I really liked this method because it made it so that each cook group had some responsibility beyond their cook group (no one wanted to be the cook group that let down everyone), it allows the cook group to transcend any existing cliques, and lets the non-cook groups sleep in for ~15 extra minutes and wake up to a warm breakfast.

Assign one parent to each cook group to generally supervise for safety and answer questions but let the kids screw up if they don't measure right or overcook something. The best part of this is that the parents get all of their meals cooked for them and they just sit back and make sure on one burns their eyebrows off.

03-09-2011, 01:13
Equal weight for each person was paramount for moral purposes.


I would disagree with the above. While everyone should have some responsibility for group gear, there should be some consideration for the strength of the group member. No reason to have the 11 year old 70 lb person carrying the same amount as a 17 year old 200 lb person. The person in charge of the tent stakes could be the 11 year old while the 17 year old could get the poles. The younger one might carry his/her "weight" in other ways like being in charge of following the recipes in cook group or making sure every single the tent stakes is accounted for.

The goal should be to create a team that works & hikes together as best as possible. IMO that goal should govern everything from frequency of rest breaks, excessive personal gear, and having the physically stronger members carrying more weight.

Lemni Skate
03-09-2011, 15:40
Thanks for the amazing advice. Especially splitting into cooking groups and the recipes.

We are going to have some auto support every couple of days (so they don't have to carry packs when they do their trail runs - this is a cross country team), but these kids can pack away some food to be so thin.

Any other ideas will be appreciated.

03-09-2011, 17:38
With teens and tweeners, get them involved in the pretrip planning - have a meeting where you set out examples of meals and have them cook them with you. Getting kids actually doing it often gets them excited - rather than just dumping them out in the woods and "hey, get cooking". If they get input on meal choices (voting for example) you will have happier campers as well.

Feral Bill
03-09-2011, 18:53
Cross country runners? Bring something to put some meat on their boney selves!

03-09-2011, 19:19
You'd probably do better with a Whisperlite for a larger group, though I have cooked for several on a pocket rocket, but it uses alot of fuel.
Sounds like a blast! :)
I agree for experienced adults, but for 11 to 17 years old, use canister stoves not liquid fuel stoves; there's just too much that can go wrong with flaming gasoline.

03-09-2011, 20:02
there's just too much that can go wrong with flaming gasoline.

Canister stoves have a higher center of gravity.

Assuming no catastrophic failure of the O-rings (which can happen to anyone), just make sure when lighting and priming to be in a (baseball) catcher's squat rather than sitting down.

Papa D
03-09-2011, 20:24
I don't carry my whisperlight on long backpacking trips too much because of weight but I have taught many a teenager to safely not cross thread a fuel bottle, pump, prime, light, and operate a whisperlight and other similar gas fuel stoves - I think you'd be fine with pocket rockets too and they are easier but the danger just exists for tipping. If you are cooking on the ground (away from a shelter) make sure no one moves ACROSS the cooking circle - only AROUND - and keep those big feet tucked backwards.

03-09-2011, 22:34
There are canister stoves that sit low - for example the MSR WindPro and there are others.
They are cooking stoves usually, rather than fast boiling stoves (like a Pocket Rocket for example). Easy to use and low maintenance.

03-11-2011, 11:21
We often hike in groups of eight to 12 people (Boy Scouts). Our system, which works very well for groups is as follows:

Two liquid fuel stoves (MSR Dragon Fly, Wisperlite, etc...). Liquid fuel is more economical than canister stoves when you consider energy per person. (solo, i use a canister stove)
Two 8 Qt pots with lids (Open Country inexpensvie aluminium)
Turkey bag
8 oz measuring cup (for dipping hot water)
Large serving spoon

We only boil water for cooking (never simer a meal of any sort).
We often use Mountain House meals in bulk cans (pack in zip lock before you depart and don't carry the can). We also use rahman and foil chicken.

Fire up both stoves (be careful these stoves can be dangerous). Use the water you need (plus about 1 liter for dish water) divided up between the two pots/stoves. This helps them to boil quicker as the 8 qt post are big and all that surface area causes boiling to take a long time (if you only use one stove/pot for all water).

Once the water is boiling, move it all to one pot and keep it boiling. Line the second pot with the turkey bag (off the stove of course), toss in your stuff to be hydrated (Mountain House food), then measure over the necessary amount of water. Stir and let stand till hydrated.


Pull turkey bag from pot (no scrubbing pot - yahoo). Put 1/2 of the remaining water in empty pot, add camp suds to one pot/water, do dishes (personal bowl/spoon). (no food particles left in bowls before washing them. Owners must eat all food in the bowl and lick clean - or get a friend to eat it).

Follow LNT with gray water and turkey bag.

Note, for breakfast we boil water in the same way for coco/instant coffee/instant oatmeal. Of course, we generally go cold breakfast (other than coffee/coco) so we don't have dishes to wash. Or, we go frezer bag for breakfast with oatmeal.

Hope this helps.

03-11-2011, 11:46
Cross country runners? Bring something to put some meat on their boney selves!
That was me in high school. LOL. More protein for these kids..:D

03-12-2011, 00:29
The "Companion Burner" is what you need to safely use to cook for a group. Make some nice pot supports with welded stainless steel mesh and you're all set.

Or, give each one a "Super Stove" to personalize their outdoor experience.;)



03-12-2011, 06:08
8 to 10 hikers can carry anything they want.theres enough shared gear weight saved to have 4 stoves and four courses. go nuts.