Many trekkers question the practice of carrying their own cutlery on treks. I noticed that a few trekkers have written down in their feedback that we should provide them with plates, spoons and mugs rather than ask them to carry it. But they don’t realise the massive difference they make carrying their own cutlery.
Many years ago, at Indiahikes, we used to provide all trekkers with cutlery.
Over time we noticed many trekkers complaining of tummy troubles. Often they would have a bad case of loose motion or diarrhea. Many a time, they’d have to exit the trek halfway because of it.
Naturally, we were worried. We wanted to solve this issue asap.
The first thing we looked into was water. Was the water fit for consumption? Then came food. Was it food poisoning? Our kitchens were made extra hygienic. That still didn’t solve the problem.
Then we thought perhaps we should stop giving them plates and mugs and ask them to carry their own cutlery.
And suddenly, the instances of stomach issues dropped overnight! It was dramatic i tell you! There were hardly any more complaints about stomach issues after that.
For us, there were strong learnings to take away from this instance.
1. Hygiene is a huge compromise when trekkers are provided with cutlery
Let me explain.
If we provide you with cutlery, it also means that a single staff member will be cleaning everyone’s cutlery. With freezing water, not enough light at night, perhaps rain and snow, it isn’t easy to clean wash dishes. From my experience, by the time I have cleaned one lunchbox, my hand is numb. And we are talking about 30 people’s cutlery here. No matter how earnest the staff member is, he’s never going to be able to remove every morsel or all the grease.
When you do your own dishes, you make it a point to clean it well because well, you eat out of it.
2. Infections spread fast through unhygienic dishes
This stems from my previous point. If one plate isn’t cleaned well enough, it naturally grows bacteria on it. And when the dishes are washed with the same scrub, the bacteria spreads from one dish to another. Since all the cutlery looks the same, a trekker would just pick any plate and eat out of it – thereby susceptible to infections.
3. Trekkers carrying their own cutlery massively reduces the production of waste
On long days of trekking, trekkers are provided with packed lunch. If trekkers didn’t bring their own cutlery, we would have to resort to packaged food, perhaps aluminium foils or disposables. The very thought of it makes me cringe.
Through our Green Trails initiative, we try to reduce consumption of resources as much as possible. And we noticed that this was very resource-efficient.
So that’s why we ask trekkers to carry their own cutlery.
Now I see trekkers’ happy faces as they eat from their own colourful cutlery. Some even go as far as personalising their cutlery. I remember a girl who went to Chandrashila had printed a picture of Chandrashila on her mug.
Not to mention, it brings out a very unusual closeness amongst trekkers. I’ve seen three or four trekkers eating out of the same dish and playfully arguing about whose turn it is to wash the dish. No matter how little a thing it is, it does bring out a great deal of camaraderie! 🙂
A few tips for you:
- Carry an airtight box that doesn’t leak
- A steel box is much easier to wash than plastic
- Carry a spoon that fits inside your lunch box so your spoon doesn’t get lost
- Avoid porcelain mugs as they break easily. Use an aluminium, steel or enamel mug
- You could skip carrying a plate and use your lunch box always, but a plate is easier to clean
- While cleaning, make sure you wash the scrub after washing your dish before the next person uses it
If you have any cutlery-related stories to share, or perhaps some tips you’d like to add, drop them in the comments below!