Scouting Forums

Trail Cooking withOUT open Flame

We were just informed that we cannot have ANY open flames on our upcoming campout (see California Wildfires). We were going to work on the Cooking Merit Badge Requirement 6 Trail Cooking. Is there anything we can do INSTEAD of an Open flame to satisfy this requirement? I ask because I have several Senior Scouts (Girls) who are limited on their time left to get through ranks.

Thank you.

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This is the requirement you are looking at, correct?

Cooking merit badge
6. Trail and backpacking meals. Do the following:
d. While on a trail hike or backpacking trip, prepare and serve two meals and a snack from the menu planned for this requirement. At least one of those meals must be cooked over a fire, or an approved trail stove (with proper supervision).**

**Where local regulations do not allow you to build a fire, the counselor may adjust the requirement to meet the law. The meals in requirements 5 and 6 may be prepared for different trips and need not be prepared consecutively. Scouts working on this badge in summer camp should take into consideration foods that can be obtained at the camp commissary.

One option might be to use MRE heaters (or something similar). I would recommend having the Scouts test them out at home ahead of time.


Yeah I would say Self Heating MREs - usually a camp stove is NOT considered open Flame (Texas so we get fires) - would be worth calling parks department. The other aspect on this requirement - it does not have to be on a campout.

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I thought MREs did NOT count towards Trail COOKING. It would be great if it does for this situation. thanks

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I’m talking about using a flameless ration heater (similar to a MRE heater) to warm up food. Looking at the note that goes with the requirement, I think this would be a permissible adjustment if you are not allowed to use a backpacker-type trail stove.

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Cooking without fire:

  1. Solar oven (sunlight or heat lamp–yeah, an easy-bake oven works!)
  2. Foil dinner on the engine block
  3. heated MRE kits
  4. portable electric stovetop (run from a battery/power supply)
  5. portable induction stovetop

I suppose you could always fire your phaser on a rock… you do have a phaser, don’t you?


It looks like there is good advice here. As an MBC for cooking, I would advise that no matter what approach your scouts take, they should coordinate with their counselor to make sure the counselor understands the reasons and will accept the solution since it says the counselor “may” not “shall” adjust the requirement of local law prohibits building fires.

Personally, I would prefer scouts pursue an alternative “cooking” method vs just a “heating” method.

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Because the Cooking merit badge is not required for any particular rank (except Eagle Scout), then they might be able to wait until the burn ban is lifted and fulfill the requirements as written. (Fulfilling the requirements as written would be my preference, even though there is an option for the MBC to modify in this situation.)

Here is an example of flamelesss cooking by using a chemical (exothermic) reaction:
Gear Junkie: Cook Without Fire Using Water-Activated Packets That Look Like Tea Bags

Normally we wouldn’t be in a rush, however because I have 5 Senior Scouts (Girls) who have limited time in the troop (24 months max) I am trying to get in as much as I can (while dealing with the fact that they are HS seniors applying to colleges).
I ordered this from Amazon:

It looks pretty cook, AND it looks like it would be great in a Go Bag.
Thank you for your advice.

My thoughts: if you can cook without fire, you can cook with fire. Do it.

You can teach fire safety anywhere. Camp cooking requires a camp location.

Call the counselor for advice. This surely is not his/her first rodeo. Knowing how other scouts accomplished this before may result in better eats.

P.S. - Keep in mind that even solar/chemical heaters require attention to detail. Too little water (or worse, water that had been chemically purified) and can lead to combustion. Make sure the scouts understand the reaction that is involved and what does or does not go in it. It’s no different really than when we explain the typical fuel-oxygen-heat models. Prepare your scouts for what can go wrong.

Any body else ever start fires with lenses and/or mirrors? Needless to say, solar cookers need to be monitored. Aimed at those kebabs = yum! Aimed at that pile of tinder = move!

Electric? Well, there’s a reason the power company plans black-outs.

I’m not saying to avoid any of these. I am saying that your reply to the scouts needs to be, “Yes, but safely.”


My understand is that forest and wild fires have been started by solar rays being focused (refracted) by glass objects. Creating an open flame with glass is still using an open flame to start a fire.

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Ironically it IS the Counselors first rodeo. She JUST started out as the Cooking MB counselor, and its both of our first rodeo and I am a new minted SM and my wife the really newly minted MB counselor

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That’s a great response to almost any question a Scout has about an activity.

@NoahBlumofe thanks in advance to you and your wife for all you’ll do for the youth. I would suggest that you give other Cooking MB counselors in your area a call for their ideas.

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Does heating food (aka MRE or something like Mountain Home) really count? It’s basically putting water in food and heating vs. actual cooking. I ask in that my son only has this requirement left (trail cooking) and am not seeming to find a definitive answer.

as a cooking MBC I do accept it personally - though I usually also show them how to make their own MRE from stuff at supermarket - like making items from which is the best thing any camper can ever find


For those that might scuff at this - look at a Philmont meal bag for dinner - those are MREs. That is a good litmus test for Scouting requirements.