Why We Ask Trekkers To Bring Their Own Cutlery

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.

Trekkers (1024 x 703)

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!

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Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy

Swathi Chatrapathy is the Chief Editor at Indiahikes. She heads the content team and runs a video series called Trek With Swathi. Before joining Indiahikes, she worked as a reporter and sub-editor at Deccan Chronicle. She holds a Masters in Digital Journalism and continues to contribute to publications such as Deccan Herald. Trekking, to her, is a sport that liberates that mind like nothing else can. Through her work at Indiahikes, she hopes to let more people experience this sense of liberation, by spreading information about trekking and by instilling the right spirit of trekking in them.Read Swathi's other articles. Watch Swathi's video series here.

13 thoughts on “Why We Ask Trekkers To Bring Their Own Cutlery

  1. Couldn’t agree more, we must all carry our own cutlery and be responsible for it. I agree with you 100%.

    Also carrying ones own cutlery allows creative ways to reduce weight, for example I only carry mugs and spoons.

  2. It is an excellent thought by Indiahikes for insisting trekkers to carry their own cutlery. I fully agree with all the reasons and benefits and there are no second thoughts that this is the way to go forward.

  3. All very reasonable and justifiable points to carry your own box on a trek. I have seen unnecessary aluminium foils and plastic bags handed over for everyday’s pack lunch which is ultimately dumped at the next campsite! Totally avoidable. Another reason to carry: it gives to poor chap (who is supposed to be cleaning it otherwise) some relief at the end of an already difficult day.

  4. its absolutely healthy to carry our own cutlery. I would suggest its better we carry steel cutlery. Like everyone, I too carried food-safe plastic box for my Harkidun trek in March 2017. In the freezing cold, its quite a task to wash the plastic/tupperware box and mug which gets sticky with oil and leaves behind food smell. Instead, steel cutlery is easy to wash.

  5. I think it is really enjoyable to wash your own cutlery on treks. I am a very slow eater and so usually the last person to wash my cutlery. I remember on one campsite on a winter trek to Sandakphu, the water from the barrel was frozen on the top. It was such a thrill and adrenaline rush to wash my tiffin using that water! It makes me even more independent and self-sufficient.
    Totally agree that steel is easier to wash than plastic.
    One of our trek leaders suggested we take the hot ginger water in our used tiffins and drink from that to automatically clean the tiffin. I thought that was good advice though some were grossed out.

  6. It brings the trekkers together and develops a bond. Washing dishes in that cold only adds to the experience! Cheers!!

  7. A second alternate is to carry own disposable paper dish or butter paper along with steel or plastic dish. For 5-8 days trek carrying a paper dish for each day will not be too much of load. Put paper dish or butter paper in the steel dish and eat. Dispose the paper dish at the end. It will not leave sticky oil in steel dish and will be easy to clean.

  8. I am a doctor. Hygiene wise carrying own cutlery healthwise is most optimum. Weight doesnt greatly matter. At the same time being the devils advocate i have travelled on rafting expeditions where the organisers carry the cutlery but make all wash cutlery themselves but facilitate it by having 3 containers of diluted iodine in various concentrations. That worked out very well for a group of 25 over a 10 day expedition

  9. I support go green initiative initiated by any organisation. I have been doing my bit in keeping my city that I live in and also various places that I visit. We can’t even imagine how immensely we are contributing, by carrying our own cutlery, to this initiative and keeping the beautiful mountains clean.
    Moreover trekking is not a luxurious vacation, most people go for trekking it to come out of their comfort zone and do something new which is fun and great learning.

  10. Very fair that in cold weather one person cannot clean up many vessels.

    Yet, how about very ancient way of serving food in Banana leaves, disposing biodegradable things won’t hamper environment, as well as these leaves would be not much in weight. Same way spoons and bowls are also available in market.

  11. I have heard of NGOs which provide plates made out of tree leaves. Perhaps Indiahikes can connect with any of them to provide an option to trekkers to purchase these plates. This will also limit the amount of dish detergent we are adding into the water sources as part of cleaning our plates !
    I will be more than happy to connect you guys with NGO; if need be.

  12. An absolute thing to keep with you when you trek somewhere. It prevents you falling sick by hygiene issues. You can have thermocol utensils to eat but as it’s non-biodegradable please do not throw it anywhere, instead make sure to bring it back with you.

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