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  1. #1
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    Default Cooking at a shelter: OK or not?

    Newb question here. What is the predominant attitude toward cooking at a shelter? I can't find a discussion of this anywhere. Is it something everyone does, or is it frowned on as a way to attract pests?

    I plan to cook supper and then hike another half hour or so before stopping to camp for the night. If it's suppertime and a shelter is not nearby, how far off the trail should I go to cook?

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    At least get out of the way a bit so hikers can by you. But other than that find a spot and cook. No need to get off the trail by any certain distance.

  3. #3
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    It is pretty much universal, shelters are for cooking. Most of the new shelters, or those that have been re-modeled have covered cooking areas, or a covered picnic table to cook at. Even the folks who tent around the shelter generally cook at the shelter for socializing and convenience. It is generally frowned on to cook inside the shelter proper, though that was the practice in bad weather for many years.

    Not sure there is an accepted distance off the trail to cook, most folks just find a pleasant spot. It's never a good idea to cook or rest right on the trail, or partially blocking it, but it has happened, depending on the terrain.

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    Really depends on the situation, how crowded it is, and whether you can do your cooking in a tightly limited space. If it's just one or two or three of you in a six-person shelter, it's generally not a problem. If the shelter is at or beyond capacity, no. Better to cook outdoors if weather permits.

    Do clean up after yourself, and I mean, to the last crumb, the last smidgen of spilled food. That's really the #1 problem with cooking in shelters -- the spilled food, spilled fuel, crumbs, trash, burn rings from stoves, etc. Best done out of the shelter, weather permitting.

  5. #5
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    For those of us who like and use shelters, this can be a mixed bag. There are some shelter sites that offer "cooking pavilions" that are separate from the actual shelter. This helps to keep the food odors at a distance from the shelter (in theory, this reduces the number/frequency of wild pests visiting the shelter looking for food), and since they usually have a roof, you stay dry while cooking. In the absence of a pavilion, there may (or may not) be a picnic table at the site. Cooking here will serve the same purpose. Also, fuel-spill damage here is easier to repair than inside of a shelter. But that being said, I don't know of a lot of people who will brave a rainstorm "just to cook outside of the shelter" if no other roof is available. By the time most of us get where we are going, it's late in the day, we're tired, and we tend to just "get the job done" the easiest way possible". Just remember that it IS possible to draw in bears, raccoons, mice and other critters who are attracted by the aroma of food. As for cooking along the trail, just find someplace with good ambience (!) that's not right in the middle of the footpath, and enjoy!
    Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass - it's about learning how to dance in the rain!

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    I've never slept at a shelter but I have stopped at them to use the picnic tables for cooking. Isn't that why they call them picnic tables?

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Odd Man Out View Post
    I've never slept at a shelter but I have stopped at them to use the picnic tables for cooking. Isn't that why they call them picnic tables?
    Your logic is irrefutable

  8. #8
    Registered User egilbe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Odd Man Out View Post
    I've never slept at a shelter but I have stopped at them to use the picnic tables for cooking. Isn't that why they call them picnic tables?
    That works until you get to Maine. No picnic tables at shelters.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by rosst View Post
    Newb question here. What is the predominant attitude toward cooking at a shelter? I can't find a discussion of this anywhere. Is it something everyone does, or is it frowned on as a way to attract pests?
    something most do. just cook at the shelter

  10. #10

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    I think the thing to do is to respect others in terms of not cooking in a spot that is in the way; don't make a mess (or clean it up if you do). I personally prefer that hikers do not cook INSIDE a shelter unless the weather outside is really nasty.
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  11. #11
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    Don't know about the bulk of the shelters along the AT... but in GSMNP, they have signs asking people to not cook or eat in the "sleeping" area of the shelter.
    (With perhaps one exception, all the GSMNP shelters now have some additional cover area that either extends out in front of the sleeping area or to the side.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by rosst View Post
    Newb question here. What is the predominant attitude toward cooking at a shelter? I can't find a discussion of this anywhere. Is it something everyone does, or is it frowned on as a way to attract pests?

    I plan to cook supper and then hike another half hour or so before stopping to camp for the night. If it's suppertime and a shelter is not nearby, how far off the trail should I go to cook?

    Far as Im concerned, its the #1 thing shelters are for.

    If you want to sleep where others cook and eat, well at least you should understand why mice are running all over you.

  13. #13
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    All of the shelters I came across had an area for cooking. It could be a little shelf on the side of the shelter, a picnic table, or a around a fire pit with large stones for stoves. I've never seen anyone cooking in the sleeping area though, and I don't think that's a great idea for obvious reasons. Even Cold Spring had a small ledge on the left side.

  14. #14
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    Thank you everyone for this excellent information!

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  16. #16
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    Yes it's fine. Even if you decide not to, keep in mind that the previous 10,000 shelter visitors cooked there...
    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

  17. #17

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    Just like most everything else on the trail, if you do it thoughtfully with consideration of others on the trail, there shouldn't be any problem. Don't cook in the middle of the sleeping floor, clean up any spills and don't leave your cook system unattended, don't build a fire if the wind direction is taking the smoke into the shelter, those sort of things.

  18. #18
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    was in for lunch - the caretaker at an AMC campsite wanted no cooking/ eating at the shelter - I am sure he got over it soon after I left

  19. #19
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    Although I see lots of people cooking in the shelters according to the ridge runners/trail maintenance folks you really are not supposed to. I don't use shelters for sleeping or cooking because that's my preference.
    Happy Lifetime Sectioner!

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