The proper equipment is essential to the successful outdoor kitchen.

One-burner stove: Central to your traveling kitchen is the small backpacker's stove. Consider these factors in selecting a stove: efficiency, dependability, weight and ease of operation. A number of books analyze these stoves according to standard criteria. Consult them to help you make a wise decision.*

Fuel for your stove: Carry Coleman fuel in a tightly sealed metal container.*

A small plastic funnel: This is indispensable in pouring fuel into your stove.

In camp: Respect the fragility of the woods. Instead of cooking on an open fire, use a one-burner stove to prepare your meals. With increasing numbers of people using our woods and wilderness areas, there is an incredible strain on these valuable resources. Many campsites no longer have enough available dead and dry wood for everyone to build a fire.

Water (transported in 5-gallon carriers,* 1-gallon plastic jugs or canteens): Before your journey, check with the park ranger or (consult a topographical map for the area) to be sure there is drinkable water at your campsite. Halazone tablets* are available with which to purify water if its drinkability is in question. If no water is available, it must be carried in.

The essential components of the outdoor cooking kitchen include the following skeletal list of necessities.

A five-piece mess kit (for each person on a two-person hike): This includes a 3/4-quart kettle with cover, a 7-inch dish, a 7-inch frying pan, and an 8-ounce plastic cup (which acts as a measuring cup when calibrated on the sides). To cook for more than two, consider using a family-size cooking kit. (Tape the wire handles on your pots with adhesive tape to save burned fingers in camp.)

A pot large enough to boil all needed water (a two-quart pot for a two-person hike).

A knife, fork and spoon set for each person.

A knife, such as a Swiss army knife.

A can opener (Army P-38s are small, lightweight and effective).

Matches (pack them in 35-mm plastic film cans to keep them dry).

Liquid soap (in a small plastic bottle). Use to wash both dishes and your hands. Never wash dishes in a stream; it polutes the water. After washing dishes, dump out the soapy water at least 20 feet away from any stream. Use biodegradable soap, not detergent, to do your washing up.

In your cook kit, pack: a plastic scrubbie, a dish rag, potholders, a washcloth, an egg flipper (remove the handle to reduce the weight), a corkscrew (for wine).

Herbs: Include a few of the following, packed in 35-mm film cans: salt, pepper, oregano, basil, mint, garlic powder, onion flakes, and thyme. They are lightweight and can make all the difference in a bland meal.

Drinks: Bring along lots of tea bags, coffee, cocoa and powdered drinks.

Non-food items: flashlight, basic first aid kit, an emergency kit (including wire, needle and thread, spare flashlight batteries, tape, matches wrapped in plastic), biodegradeable toilet paper, large plastic garbage bags (use as ponchos in a surprise rain storm or as coverings for your backpack).

Perks: A sip of bourbon or brandy at the top of a mountain after a difficult climb can be a real boost (carry in a 4-ounce plastic squeeze bottle); add creme de menthe in your after-dinner cocoa (carry a small cocktail-size bottle); for popcorn addicts, bring along the ready-to-pop popcorn that comes in its own container.

*Note: Food supplies (freeze-dried foods and dried eggs), equipment and related books are available at outdoor supply stores such as Hudson Bay Outfitters, Appalachain Outfitters and Herman's World of Sporting Goods. Some rental equipment is also available.