I started out cooking actual meals, which was time consuming and required a lot of clean up. Its not practical to pack out waste from food prep cleanup(like waste water), and I started to realize it was not in good ethic to do so. So I started with the mentality
boil don't cook. I've gone ahead and invested in a MSR WindBoiler(similar to the jetboil). This is usually my setup. The windboiler and freeze dried foods or instant oat meal/porridge.
I typically eat nuts, jerky, and energy bars all day long, and usually only eat a hot meal for dinner and sometimes breakfast.
For me its really more about comfort. I have gone on trips where all I ate required no heating. I can only do this for an overnight trip. I feel heated food is definitely not required. Though I feel its really useful, and can actually ward off hypothermia. When you say "temperate climate" thats rather vague. Here in the Rockies you can expect to travel from a 70 degree F climate to snowy 30 degree F climate in the same day during summer months. To me having a source of heat is especially useful in these kinds of conditions. A warm meal, cup of tea, or cocoa help warm you up even if you don't particularly care for them. I've been so cold on winter trips that I literally just drank warm water. I've also used my stove to heat water and poured that in my hydration bladder and slipped that in my sleeping bag to help me stay warm.
On the flip side eating energy bars, jerky, nuts, dry fruit, etc is relatively weight efficient. With freeze dried meals you still have to carry a stove and the water to reconstitute them. You can treat water while your in the backcountry but you still have to carry that water a decent distance if there's no water source where you're camping.
As far as energy density, freeze dried foods have more energy per gram than energy bars most of the time.
Comparing 1g of freeze dried food to 1g of nutrition bar(of different varieties):
- Clif Bar(Peanut Butter): 3.8calories per gram
- Probar(Peanut Butter Chocolate): 3.4calories per gram
- Probar(Peanut Butter Bar): 4.5calories per gram
- Mountain House(Mac & Cheese): 5calories per gram
- Mountain House(Lasagna): 4.8calories per gram
Enegry bar avg: 3.6cal/g
Freeze Dried avg: 4.9cal/g
Given this is just a list of food I have on hand(I like peanut butter). So if you look into it more I'm sure you can find energy bars or other non-cooking/heating options which provide similar energy density. Futher more you would save the weight of not having a stove. Also if you look at the protein content of each of these options, the freeze dried foods are far superior. However there are lots of jerkys out there which are packed with protein.
You should also consider the fact that freeze dried food was invented for 3 reasons:
- It doesn't spoil for years.
- It retains almost all of its original nutrients, where as dehydration does not even come close.
- Its very light weight, typically even more so than dry or dehydrate foods which still have some water weight.
My opinion is if you're going to do short 1-3 night trips you can definitely do it without heating or cooking a single thing. If you plan to go on an extended trip or thru-hike then I'd say having a stove is very useful beyond a means of food prep. All in all you can't go wrong if you just bring both.