Thursday, December 12, 2013

This is how we do it...

I am referring to cooking  and bringing  your food to the backcountry. Backcountry stoves and fuel are light, reliable and support the "Leave No Trace" ethic. In many backcountry areas (especially here in Idaho), open fires are prohibited due to the forest fire danger or the scarcity of available firewood, so a stove is your only option if you want something warm or hot.

For most backpackers, your main decision will be between the two categories: Canister fuel vs. Liquid fuel. Here is a look at the canister stove option (I like the best)

Canister Stoves

Pros                                                                      Cons

Easy to use                                                         Fuel, per ounce, is more expensive
Compact and lightweight                                     Poor cold-weather performance*
No Fuel spill risk                                                 Heat output drops as canister empties
Fast maximum heat output                                  Difficult to find outside the US
Good flame control (simmering)                          Upright models susceptible to tipping
Burns cleanly (no soot)

A Closer Look: Canister Stoves

Canisters run on pre-pressurized gases: Isobutane (primary) and propane. Isobutane burns hot and clean, and in colder conditions it outperforms conventional butane . The canister self seals when the stove is detached, eliminating the possibility of fuel spills.

Fuel canisters connect to stoves in 2 ways:

Upright: The stove screws into the top of the fuel canisters. This is the smallest, lightest option. Downsides? Taller profile stoves tend to tip over: smaller stoves don't hold big pots and pans very well.
 Low-profile: the burner sits on its own base and a fuel hose connects it to the canister. Canisters can be inverted to improve cold-weather performance; large pot supports pot stability. Cons? Its a bit heaver and bulkier.

The biggest drawback is that upright canisters depressurize in the cold (32 deg. F or lower) leading to weak flame or no flame. Normal pressure resumes when the canister temperature is increased.
Tip: In cold weather, keep the canister warm by putting it in your sleeping bag at night or hiking with it in your jacket pocket. Also, you could place a hand warmer or a bit of foam underneath it when cooking.

Food Transport Options

  • Refrigeration is something you left at home. Thus fresh foods are good for about a day except maybe some vegetables and most fruits.

  • Canned foods sometimes can find a way into your pack if the trip is short and you are craving those canned foods. We like throwing in cans of tuna and chicken and salmon, all of which you can probably find also in a foil pack. We use them in pasta and rice dishes. Skip cans that are in that 15 oz. range and forget about glass, you are just asking for trouble there.

  • Dry foods (pasta, instant rice, soup mixes and drink mixes) are light, take up minimal room inside a pack and offer some excellent alternatives.

  • Freeze Dried / Dehydrated foods have improved considerably in taste, texture and appearance in recent years. However you would probably not find any Freeze Dried. MRE or C-Ration in my camp. Been there done that , forget about it, I am not a fan but you might be. I would use these as more emergency meals.

  • Spices can be crucial to boosting the appeal of backcountry food. Consider bringing your own spice kit which could include pepper, garlic powder or salt, basil, cayenne pepper, lemon pepper, cumin, crushed red pepper, cinnamon or whatever you enjoy from your home kitchen.

  • Flavored beverages can be taste mighty refreshing after a few days of nothing but water. Powdered drink mixes are a nice mid trip treat.

  • Backpacking cooler- I use those thermal bags you buy on the grocery store that keeps things hot or cold. sometimes freezer bagging great white bean chicken chili in a freezer bag (frozen solid) and put it in the thermal bag and store in the middle of your pack can keep it frozen all day long. Most backcountry ventures are in the mountain where temps typically don't get above 70 degrees in during  the day and get somewhere south of 35 at night.

You need to be creative and you need to be careful how you store your foods considering your audience in the backcountry. Consider using bear bags or canisters and keep your food at least 200 ft. away from where you sleep. Remember, haul it all out!

Climb High and eat well outdoors!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

GSI, provides outdoor cooks with superior tools

When cooking for large groups in the backcountry, you need to be able to count on your cookware, stoves and fuel.

The World leader in outdoor cookware is GSI Outdoors. They use cutting edge technology and have created the "Pinnacle Base Camper. The Pinnacle set is absolutely the best thing I have used and seen on the market. The Pinnacle can take the punishment of a weekend cooking for 12 and continue to perform like new!

The Pinnacle series uses Teflon with Radiance technology which has been tested and approved expressly for camp-ware use. Their secret lies in a specifically formulated topcoat engineered to enhance heat dispersion (which is one of biggest concerns of any backpacking cook) and virtually eliminate hot spots. It has a heavy penchant for scratch resistance and is safe for most metal utensils.

If I could sum it up in non technical jargon, GSI's stuff is simply the best on the planet. I have had the opportunity to cook outdoors all over world over the last 3 decades using various cookware and fuel source from Sterno in the 70's , Diesel in the military, open fire, white gas and ISO Butane. The cookware used ranged from rugged cast iron to cheap aluminum and even tin foil.

The Pinnacle Base Camper set includes 1= 5ltr pot that can cook enough pasta for 10 people, 3ltr pot, frying pan and strainer lids for the pots, cutting board and a welded sink!  If you cook for large group outdoors, go out and pick a Pinnacle up, your family and crew will thank you continually as you prepare food fit for royalty outdoors!

Also, grab your copy of "In the Wild Chef" and prepare a world class menu for your backcountry pals!

Climb High and Eat Well Outdoors!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gourmet Backpacking

So you are going backpacking and you want to do something different in the food department. I hear that statement a lot, right before people end up buying my book.

You don’t have to settle for freeze dried food just because you are trying to lighten your backpack weight. Listen; it's important that you be well nourished out in the backcountry.

We mostly prepare our recipes ahead of time using ziploc freezer bags and making a copy of the recipe and stuffing it in one of those bags that has the dried goods. There are a lot of times when my gang and I “peakbag”. Then we are either trailhead camping or hauling on our backs on the trail.

So often we will make an elaborate meal and “freezer bag it”, like a chili or a stew, freeze it solid and put it in a thermal bag to stay frozen until we reach our destination.

Pasta sauce it another good candidate for this, bring your dry pasta and ta-da, you have a great dinner.

Here is good starchy carb filler (a light as a freeze dried meal) that will get you up and back down the mountain.

Risotto with Leeks and Wild Mushrooms

  • 1/2 cup Arborio or Carnaroli rice
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • 1 small leek (6 to 8 ounces)
  • 1-1/2 ounces dried or dehydrated mushrooms (porcini, shiitake, morel, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper

Home Preparation:
Package the rice in a small sandwich-sized Ziploc bag with the mushrooms and bouillon cube. Wash the leek and trim off the top of the green section; slice the remaining lighter colored section into thin, ring-shaped sections. Wash the leeks once more and drain thoroughly on paper towels. Place the leeks in a separate small bag.
Wrap the grated Parmesan cheese into a small packet with wax paper or plastic wrap. Place this packet along with the Ziploc bags of leeks into the original bag of rice and mushrooms. I like to include a small copy of the recipe in the bag for reference on liquid amounts.

At Camp:
Remove the separate packages from the bag of rice and mushrooms. Heat a small sauce pot (1-1/2 to 2 quarts) with oil or butter and add the rice, mushrooms and bouillon cube. Break the bouillon cube up and stir the rice; add 1/2 cup of the water and simmer, stirring constantly until the rice and mushrooms have absorbed most of the liquid.

Add the leeks and more water. Cook until you’ve achieved the desired texture. If the rice is still too “al dente” (chewy), add additional water as needed, up to 1/2 cup. Finish the risotto with the grated Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Serving Size
Serves 2

Eat well outdoors!



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Valentine Day Dreaming

I have been married nearly 27 years. My wife, my champion and the mother of my children doesn’t  really like to go camping or hiking. Most of the rest of my family and friends do like the great outdoors.

Stories of getting your special valentine a blender or some candy she doesn’t really like, fills my head.
I am a romantic; everybody knows that who knows me. I have been guilty of the above acts but recover well because I can turn on the charm or she just forgives me because she is sweet.

I have something planned this year that is pretty cool.  I would like to get outside in some nice deep well consolidated snow, where I could set up a great winter camp. I would carry 3 sleeping bags to keep her warm; packing everything on my back like the Sherpa I am.

Capping it off,  I would be making her heart shaped pancakes with butter infused maple syrup wrapped around sausage links for breakfast. Making certain she had a large mocha injected with peppermint schnapps.

Where I'd certainly loose her interest.... I would want to put on the cross country skis and go for a long jaunt. We would come back to camp build a nice warm fire and whip up some Shrimp Tacos and some Lemon Zip for dessert. I would clean everything and blend up some White Russian’s and dance to Saturday Night Fever all night long.

Rock On!