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!