The Ideal Car Camper's Kitchen

The benefits of adventuring in the outdoors are too numerous to count, but one excellent reason for getting outside is burning calories, or, should we say replacing them. While it’s awesome to end an all-day epic hiking Mount Mansfield with a burger from Doc Ponds or toast a day climbing the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle with a pint from the MOAT, a lot of the time all you want to do is simply retreat to camp and relax. For those who prefer going back to the campground and avoiding the town, here’s what you need to create those all-so-important—and tasty—meals without leaving the comforts of camp.

20190725_EMS_Conway-3096_Camp_Cook

Plan and Prep Ahead of Time

Before getting into the gear and goodies of a great car camping kitchen, it’s important to stress the benefits of getting as much meal planning and prep as possible done at home. Knowing what you’re going to eat and doing food preparation in advance, such as slicing vegetables, cutting meats, and pre-cooking some items, is an easy way to streamline the process. Once everything is prepped, pack it into see-through Tupperware. This minimizes the tasks you’ll need to do at camp, reduces the amount of stuff you have to bring, and, most importantly, speeds up cook time, which is key after something like a long day on Cadillac Mountain’s South Ridge Trail.

Plastic Bins for Organization

The key to any camp kitchen is being able to find what you need when you need it. To keep things simple, we prefer to divide our gear between two rugged bins with secure tops. One bin is used to store non-food items like pots, pans, cutlery, and paper towels; the other bin is used for any food that doesn’t need to be kept cold along with other necessities such as cooking oil and spices.

Pro Tip: Choose a bin long enough to hold your stove lengthwise. For example, you’ll want a bin about 20 inches long if you’re cooking on the super-popular Eureka Spire Stove.

Hard-Shell Cooler

A cooler is key to creating a restaurant-quality meal at camp, not to mention keeping celebratory craft beers cold. Sure, you can get away with a cheap cooler—but a high-end cooler like the YETI Tundra 45 Hard Cooler is capable of keeping food and beverages cold for a long weekend away, and in some cases even longer. Take your cooler game to the next level with YETI ICE (available in 1 lb., 2 lb., and 4 lb.) and say goodbye to messy old-fashioned ice bags.

Pro tip: Because opening a cooler too often drastically reduces its effectiveness, consider bringing a second soft-sided cooler like the Mountainsmith Cooloir 24 Soft Cooler if you’re planning on frequenting the cooler for beverages of the hoppy variety.

Credit: Tim Peck
Credit: Tim Peck

Two Burners are Better than One

A two-burner stove has been a staple of car camping kitchens for decades and continues today. Relatively lightweight and packable, a high-quality two-burner like the Eureka Spire LX Camp Stove that’s capable of running off of disposable Coleman Propane Canisters as well as larger propane tanks offers great versatility and provides plenty of range space for making two dishes simultaneously—for example, bacon and eggs or spaghetti and meat sauce. When it comes time to go, the Eureka Spire LX Camp Stove folds up for easy transportation.

Canister Stove

If you’re a coffee or tea lover, consider bringing a canister stove in addition to your two-burner stove. The Jetboil Flash is capable of boiling 16 oz. of water in a stunningly fast 100 seconds, enabling a quick caffeine hit and freeing up a burner on the “big stove” for food—a valuable commodity, especially when you’re cooking for a large group.

Cast Iron Skillet

Cast iron is heavy and cumbersome, but it’s also easy to clean and wears like…well, iron. Cast iron skillets last forever if properly cared for, which is music to the ears of everyone from environmentalists to those who just like to buy things once. Another versatile kitchen piece, you can cook with a cast iron skillet on your stove or use it over an open flame for “real” campfire cooking. A large ten-inch cast iron skillet paired with a smaller eight-inch skillet is ideal for preparing two-dish meals.

20190725_EMS_Conway-5293_Camp_Cook

Pots

A pot is the perfect complement to the cast iron skillets, as it’s better suited for jobs such as cooking pasta and rice, or simply boiling water for instant mashed potatoes. The MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set nests within itself so it takes up minimum space and features a lid with an integrated strainer for maximum versatility. Thanks to their lightweight construction, these pots can do double duty and be hiked in on your next overnight on the Pemi Loop.

Water Storage

Sometimes you’re lucky and there’s a water spigot at your campsite, other times getting running water requires a short hike. A collapsible water storage bag like the 6L MSR DromLite Bag eliminates the need to go back and forth to get water for everything from cooking to drinking to cleaning.

Dishware and Cutlery

There are all sorts of clever dishware and cutlery—the Sea to Summit X-Seal and Go Collapsible Container and Kung Foon come immediately to mind—available for enjoying the delicacies created in your camp kitchen, but sometimes the simplest solution is the best. The GSI 1-Person Camp Dish Set comes with a lexan plate, bowl, and mug, along with a plastic fork, knife, and spoon set—essentially everything you need for eating at the campsite.

Pro Tip: Get a dedicated can opener and keep it with your camp cutlery. There is nothing more disheartening than getting ready to make burritos only to discover that you can’t open the can of beans.

Chef’s Tools

While just one spoon and a spatula will usually do, the GSI 3-Piece Ring Set delivers two spoons and a spatula. Combine it with a sharp knife and you’ll have everything you need for crafting killer camp cuisine.

Pro Tip: Add a GSI Compact Scraper or MSR Alpine Dish Brush/Scraper, based on the pots and pans you have, to your camp kitchen. It’s awesome for getting every last bit of food out of the pan and onto your plate, and it helps make cleaning up easy and each scraper is designed specifically to get into all the corners and crannies of the respective brand’s pots and pans.

20190725_EMS_Conway-3036-2_Camp_Cook

French Press

If your adventures are fueled as much by caffeine as stoke, a French press is a necessity. The GSI Glacier Stainless Commuter Javapress Mug combines a French press into a travel mug for an all-in-one way to get a caffeine high along with your mountain high.

Camp Sink

Washing dishes is a hassle at home, much less while camping. If you know the area you’re heading to doesn’t have a communal dish sink, a portable camp sink like the Sea to Summit The Kitchen Sink, 20L, helps make the job a little easier. It’s also worth noting that it helps get your dishes cleaner. Complement your sink with a biodegradable soap such as Sea to Summit Wilderness Wash and sponge for cleaning, along with a small pack towel (which can double as a pot holder in a pinch) for dish drying.

 

Are you a master of campsite culinary arts? Do you have a tip or key piece of gear for creating the ultimate car camping kitchen? Any favorite recipes? We want to hear it all—tell us in the comments below!


Video: Lunch With Chris Burkard

What meal does the star adventure photographer crave most when he’s on the road?


Video: The Omelette Guy of the AT

Welcome to the White Mountains, here are some eggs.


Three Ways to Spice Up Your Dehydrated Meals

Packing your backpack for a long trip is a game of ounces and priorities and striking a balance between utility and weight invariably results in some sacrifices. On some trips, this can mean going with a canister stove and a selection of pre-packaged, freeze-dried or dehydrated meals rather than liquid fuel and a spread of ingredients.

If fast and light is your game, then you already know that some of these meals are good and some are, well, good enough to get you by. You probably also know that packing in a little extra—be it a favorite hot sauce, or fresh veggie—can make all the difference. Here are a couple of suggestions on how to punch up those pre-packaged meals.

Credit: John Lepak
Credit: John Lepak

Good-to-Go Smoked Three Bean Chili

A solid, hearty chili is a great way to refuel after a long day on the trail and Good To-Go’s Smoked Three Bean Chili is tops. Good To-Go’s mission of creating good food with real ingredients is a familiar one in our daily, in-town lives, but is something of a revelation in the realm of lightweight backpacking food. Several of their meals, including this one, are also Gluten-free and Vegan. Obviously some of the recommended add-on ingredients below are neither. They’re easy to distinguish.

Servings: 1–2

Ingredients

  • Good-to-go Smoked Three Bean Chili
  • ½ c cotija cheese
  • ¼ c scallions, chopped
  • ¼ c cilantro, chopped
  • Picamás Salsa Brava Roja
  • 1 lime

Recipe

  1. Open the packaging and remove the oxygen absorber packet.
  2. Pour 600 ml of boiling water into the bag; stir, reseal, and let steep for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, assemble your other ingredients and cut your lime into quarters.
  4. After 20 minutes, open the packaging and stir again; add the juice of two lime quarters and distribute mixture into two portions.
  5. Crumble the cotija over each portion of chili and top with chopped scallions, cilantro, and the remaining two lime quarters.
  6. Add hot sauce to taste.

Tip: If you can get your hands-on some smoked venison or merkén (an indigenous Chilean super-condiment spice mix), throw some of that in there too. They’re harder ingredients to come by but can really get things going.

Credit: John Lepak
Credit: John Lepak

Mountain House Macaroni and Cheese

Mac and cheese is as comfort food as it gets. It’s delicious, it’s hearty and it’ll make you forget all about the aches and pains the mountain so generously shared with you over the course of the day. To get this classic on-the-go, look no further than Mountain House Macaroni and Cheese. Born from long-range patrol rations for the United States military, Mountain House has set the standard for packaged, lightweight, and easy-to-prepare freeze-dried meals for 50 years. The addition of Bajan hot sauce brings a little more depth (and fire) to the meal while the pancetta bumps up the protein.

Tip: Measure and prep ingredients at home and pack in in lightweight containers. It’ll spare you having to bring in a cutting surface or measuring tools and, with exact measurements, you won’t have any leftovers to pack out.

Servings: 2–3

Ingredients

  • Mountain House Macaroni and Cheese
  • ½ c good melting cheese, grated
  • 2 T pancetta, cooked and diced
  • 2 T Delish Bajan Hot Pepper Sauce

Recipe

  1. Open the packaging and remove the oxygen absorber packet.
  2. Pour 475 ml of boiling water into the bag; stir, reseal, and let steep for 10 minutes.
  3. After 10 minutes, open the packaging and add the cheese, pancetta and hot sauce; stir again and let sit for another 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Credit: John Lepak
Credit: John Lepak

Backpacker’s Pantry Chana Masala

You can really go wild and mix it up when it comes to what type of cuisine you want to bring into the backcountry these days. Pho, risotto, pad Thai—minus the crowds and the subway fare, it’s just like picking a spot for dinner in the city. Among their numerous and varied options, Backpacker’s Pantry Chana Masala stands out. In fact, in 2016, the Colorado-based company was recognized in Backpacker Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Awards for the dish. This little modification turns the chana masala into a hand-held entrée, cutting down on the dishes you’re going to have to wash afterwards.

Servings: 1–2

Ingredients

  • Backpacker’s Pantry Chana Masala
  • ¼ c plain yogurt
  • 2 T cilantro
  • 4 pieces naan bread

Recipe

  1. Open the packaging and remove the oxygen absorber packet.
  2. Pour 540 ml of boiling water into the bag; stir, reseal, and let steep for 15–20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile place the naan bread in or on your still hot cookware to warm.
  4. After 15–20 minutes, open the packaging and stir again; distribute mixture evenly onto your portions of naan bread.
  5. Top with chopped cilantro and plain yogurt, roll naan bread, and enjoy as you would a taco.

Have another idea for ways to spice-up your dehydrated meals? Share them in the comments!


Video: Backcountry Thanksgiving Dinner

Doing Thanksgiving in the backcountry this year? Start with this five star fire-roasted squash.


7 Hacks for Cold Weather Camping

Camping in the winter can either be fun or a complete disaster. Among the cold, wet weather, and heavy gear, a lot can go wrong. Fortunately, if you know how to do it, winter can also be one of the most fun times to camp. To prepare, take a look at these tips to make your winter camping trip the highlight of your season.

TK_EMS-Conway-7439

1. Bring extra water

It might seem like extra bottles of water are only necessary for those sweaty summer camping trips, but it’s all too easy to get dehydrated in the winter. Sweat evaporates more quickly in cold, dry air, and you could be left dangerously dehydrated, even if you don’t notice the moisture soaking into your shirt. So, bring extra water (or extra fuel to melt snow), and make sure to keep drinking, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

2. Use a foam pad

Sleep with two pads, including an extra foam one between your standard inflatable pad and the ground. Not only will this protect your inflatable pad, but R-values are additive, meaning you’re boosting the amount of insulation keeping you warm underneath. Don’t have a foam pad? A yoga mat will work, too.

TK_EMS-Conway-9106

3. Do your research

This is no time to be stingy: Invest in high-quality gear before heading into the elements. You don’t want to be stuck in frigid temperatures when you discover your jacket isn’t as insulated as you thought. Instead, read reviews, try all of your gear on, ask for recommendations, and take things out for a test-spin before you head out for real.

4. Hand warmers are your best friend

Hand warmers are versatile: Use them for their intended purpose—on your hands—and you can even put them in your boots and in your sleeping bag. They help dry out damp shoes and also bring relief to sore muscles after a long day of hiking in the snow. To keep your drink liquid and warm, place them around the outside of a cup or bottle. And, since batteries get finicky in cold weather, this wintertime essential could help there, too.

TK_EMS-Conway-8611

5. Pack a flint fire striker

It’s especially important to know how to start a fire in the snow. First, make sure the spot you choose is protected from the wind. Then, in case your matches or lighters get damp, pack a flint striker, too—they’re cheap and easy to bring along. Grab some tinder, and you’re good to go.

6. Keep your food warm

Use wooden utensils instead of metal ones, as the latter gets very cold. That chill could then get transferred to the food you’re cooking or into your hands every time you try to take a bite. To keep your coffee, hot chocolate, or beverage of choice warm, bring along a thermos. You can also store water bottles upside down. Ideally, they’ll freeze at the bottom first, so you can still drink from the top.

7. Eat fatty foods

Your body needs fuel to produce heat, and your metabolism processes fat more slowly than carbs. So, if the weather forecast is frigid, pack lots of fatty foods. Cheese, olive oil, and nuts are good options. Other good meals and snacks to fuel you through your winter camping trip include instant oatmeal, granola, dried fruit, instant soup, macaroni and cheese, and chili.

TK_EMS-Conway-9524


10 Energy-Packed Foods to Bring Hiking

You are what you eat, especially when you’re playing outdoors. Hard work while you’re hiking or backpacking requires lots of energy intake, so packing foods that are delicious, nutritious, and lightweight is key. Thankfully, finding tasty foods with plenty of calories, vitamins, protein, and healthy fats is easier than you think.

Shoot for foods that are made of wholesome, unprocessed ingredients in their natural state. The best will contain lots of energy and are ready to go, giving you more time to enjoy the wonders of mother nature, instead of the inside of your kitchen.

Pack around a pound and a half of food per day on short-mileage trips. For longer, more strenuous journeys, have closer to two pounds. You should aim for about one hundred calories per ounce of food, with a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fat for optimal energy production. These homemade and prepackaged options are a great balance to meet all of your nutrition needs.

1. Nuts

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 172

Fat: 15 g

Protein: 6 g

Carbohydrates: 6 g

Iron: 3% DV

Calcium: 3% DV

Vitamin A: 0% DV

Vitamin C: 1% DV

Nuts are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available. By packing just a few servings in your bag, you’ll gain lots of protein and healthy fats. These can be packed in their whole, unprocessed form, or in the form of nut butters to spread on crackers or fruit.

 

2. Jerky

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 116

Fat: 7 g

Protein: 9 g

Carbohydrates: 3.1 g

Iron: 8% DV

Calcium: 0% DV

Vitamin A: 0% DV

Vitamin C: 0% DV

You can make your own jerky with a dehydrator or purchase pre-made varieties. Turkey, goose, beef, and venison jerky are popular. It can be made out of virtually any type of meat. You can also use dried hard meats in casings, such as salami or summer sausage. These don’t have to be refrigerated and pack lots of protein for minimal weight. For vegetarians, soy jerky is also available, although this isn’t quite as high in calories.

 

3. Tuna packets

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 60

Fat: 3 g

Protein: 6 g

Carbohydrates: 0 g

Iron: 6% DV

Calcium: 0% DV

Vitamin A: 0% DV

Vitamin C: 0% DV

Canned tuna will add too much weight to your pack, but plastic-packaged tuna is high in calories, protein, and healthy fats, along with critical omega-3s. Some tuna products are packaged in olive oil or water, making it an even healthier choice. Just make sure to bring a disposable bag to hold trash items and keep your gear clean.

 

4. Dried fruit

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 78

Fat: 0 g

Protein: 1 g

Carbohydrates: 20 g

Iron: 1% DV

Calcium: 1% DV

Vitamin A: 1% DV

Vitamin C: 3% DV

Store-bought dried fruits tend to contain unhealthy and unnecessary added sugars that can make you groggy and lethargic. For the best and healthiest dried fruits, make your own at home with a dehydrator, or purchase unsweetened varieties of favorites, such as mango, pineapple, and papaya.

Dried fruit is more compact than fresh fruit and also lasts much longer on the trail. It will add crucial fiber, vitamins, and minerals to your diet, even though it contains relatively few calories compared to other foods.

 

5. Energy bars

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 135

Fat: 4.5 g

Protein: 10 g

Carbohydrates: 15 g

Iron: 10% DV

Calcium: 17% DV

Vitamin A: 15% DV

Vitamin C: 25% DV

Energy bars are a more processed food that pack easily, but they do tend to contain more chemicals than other trail foods. Several manufacturers offer high-protein energy bars that contain nearly a day’s worth of protein, but watch out for unhealthy added sugars. Nevertheless, these store and pack well and can be quickly eaten on the trail. Aim for granola or energy bars with at least 20 grams of protein per serving.

 

6. Cheese

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 113

Fat: 9 g

Protein: 7 g

Carbohydrates: 0.5 g

Iron: 1% DV

Calcium: 20% DV

Vitamin A: 5% DV

Vitamin C: 0% DV

Choose hard cheeses that don’t need to be refrigerated or can tolerate some warmth without changing form, such as sharp cheddar. At over 100 calories per serving, these add a substantial amount of fat, calcium, and magnesium, all of which are necessary for rebuilding sore muscles and joints while you’re on the trail.

 

7. Whole grains

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 124

Fat: 4 g

Protein: 6 g

Carbohydrates: 20 g

Iron: 6% DV

Calcium: 1% DV

Vitamin A: 0% DV

Vitamin C: 0% DV

Whole grains provide plenty of heart-healthy carbohydrates, and many are high in healthy vegetable fats. Grab some crackers and cereals instead of breads, as most breads contain excess water weight with fewer nutrients, thus making them an impractical addition to your pack. Tortillas, wheat crackers, granola, whole grain muesli, and Grape Nuts provide healthy options without taking up a lot of space.

 

8. Chocolate

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 150

Fat: 10 g

Protein: 2 g

Carbohydrates: 16 g

Iron: 0% DV

Calcium: 0% DV

Vitamin A: 0% DV

Vitamin C: 0% DV

Chocolate should be packed and eaten sparingly, but can provide a great boost of energy and a dash of phytonutrients and carbohydrates. Dark chocolate is the most nutrient dense and adds healthy fats and calories. It also serves as a nice treat at the end of a long day of trekking—an added bonus!

 

9. Seeds

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 165

Fat: 14 g

Protein: 6 g

Carbohydrates: 7 g

Iron: 0% DV

Calcium: 0% DV

Vitamin A: 0% DV

Vitamin C:0% DV

Like nuts, seeds can be eaten on their own or processed and purchased as butters. The best contain high levels of health fats and include sunflower, chia, pumpkin, and flax seeds.

 

10. Hummus

Per average 1-oz. serving:

Calories: 30

Fat: 1 g

Protein: 2 g

Carbohydrates: 4 g

Iron: 0% DV

Calcium: 2% DV

Vitamin A: 0% DV

Vitamin C: 0% DV

Hummus doesn’t last as long out of refrigeration as these other foods, but it makes a great option for wintertime hiking or adventuring. Chickpeas, the primary ingredient, are high in protein and healthy fats. Hummus is a nice, savory addition to your whole-wheat crackers or breads, and weighs next to nothing in your pack.


The New Hampshire Climber's Guide to Pizza

Whether I spend the day testing my mettle at Cathedral, getting in laps on Cannon, clipping bolts at Rumney, or wrestling pebbles at Pawtuckaway, I know I’m not making it all the way home without stopping to eat. But, what to eat? That’s usually an easy answer: pizza. 

In my humble opinion, it’s the perfect post-climbing food. It’s delicious, its various toppings can accommodate most palates, and it is relatively inexpensive. Those of us who climb in New Hampshire are lucky to have some fantastic pizza options in close proximity to most of our major crags. My girlfriend recently coined the term “sending slices,” because sometimes that warm slice in the near future is all the motivation you need to push through the crux.

18673261_1551271434897574_2601189907420612203_o

Pawtuckaway: Pizza by George

Perhaps the best pizza in New Hampshire is right down the street from what’s probably the state’s best bouldering spot. Pizza by George in Raymond is perfect for cooling down after a hard day battling Pawtuckaway’s coarse granite boulders and cracks. Offering gourmet pizza by the slice, this place is a must-visit. But, be warned: These slices are more filling than they look. Insider tip: Save some room for a pepperoni roll or two—they’re delicious.

Rumney: The Common Cafe

For years, I bemoaned having to leave Rumney to drive to Plymouth for a decent post-send slice. That’s no longer an issue, thanks to The Common Cafe. Located in Rumney Village right on the way to the crag, The Common Cafe and Tavern features generously sized pizzas and super-fresh toppings. My inner dirtbag also appreciates the free popcorn they give you while you wait for your food. No one-trick pony, The Common Cafe and Tavern is as good for a coffee and breakfast sandwich earlier in the day as it is for a pizza and pint at the end. 

Cannon: GH Pizza

Rock climbers spending time on Cannon—or anywhere in Franconia Notch—should certainly pop into the town of Woodstock and grab a pie at GH Pizza. The best thing I can say about GH is that there isn’t much to say. The place is totally unassuming.

More specifically, GH makes Greek-style pie, and has a classic pizza-place ambiance. Along with great food, it offers reasonable prices and fast service. For this last point, the hungry climber in me really appreciates this.

bkg3

Crawford Notch: Catalano’s Pizzeria

Climbers in the Crawford Notch area are hard-pressed to find a place to eat, much less one that’s great. Catalano’s Pizzeria in Twin Mountain offers incredibly good pizza at reasonable prices, which is quite a trick, as they seemingly have no competition.

Ice climbers leaving Frankenstein will love the “large” large pizzas that always appear extra big. Generally, Catalano’s pizza is always loaded with cheese, and they never skimp on toppings, helping you to replace all the calories you just burned. Insider tip: Stash their number in your phone and call ahead. Things move a little bit slower this far north.

10710367_10152497968163220_3971396536629014895_o

North Conway: Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Co.

In addition to being New England’s climbing hub, North Conway is also northern New Hampshire’s busiest tourist destination. Thus, the town has an abundance of places to eat, and there is no shortage of great spots to grab a slice.

With that being said, after a hard day climbing Cathedral classics and sweating it out on Whitehorse slabs, I head to the Moat Mountain Smokehouse & Brewing Co. to calm my nerves with a fresh-brewed pint (or two) and a wood-grilled pizza. Also at this North Conway staple, you are sure to be surrounded by your climbing brethren. Just be careful with what you say, though. You never know if the guy sitting next to you made his first ascension on the route you thought was “a little soft for the grade.”