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Camp-Out Cooking

netting one
netting one

As the final camping/glamping post (for awhile), listed below are a few items recommended to be on your camp-out cooking grocery list along with some tips and a select few ‘recipes’ that are practically fail-safe. Here’s a quick reference to all the posts in the Camping series:

See the hard work below? It’s not always possible to 1) do this safely – this guy’s a pro, or 2) have an open fire due to drought/burn bans.  If you can’t have a fire, memorize this word: resourceful.

During the winter I roast hot dogs at home over my gas cooktop. So the trip’s not bust just because of a burn ban.

hard work

Wyoming Campsite

Wyoming Campsite

I made a comment in the post A Little Dirt Won’t Hurt that is not really accurate.  To be diplomatic, instead of stating that camping and cooking don’t mix (which is my opinion), the correct statement would be that I camp to get away from every-day activities, cooking being one of them.

If you spend a lot of time cooking in camp, you can’t do these activities:

Fishing but not really

Fishing but not really

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Preparing to arm wrestle – psyching out the opponent

serious napping

serious napping

not so serious napping

not so serious napping

posing

posing

sending a campmate to timeout

sending a campmate to timeout

gazing

gazing

pretending you're a circus performer on stilts

pretending you’re a circus performer on stilts

So if you don’t want to be staked (pun intended HA!) to the kitchen machine, take heed:

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A Little Dirt Won’t Hurt

No I didn't

-20 F. Film shatters. Digital rebels.

By the time the fire got its lick of the sugary ooze it was too late to save it.  The entire glob let go, the creamy interior flashing briefly as it separated from the blackened gossamer crust crashing one then the other into a gooey splat. Cum-candy gone wrong. Not the happy ending I’d anticipated. Humpty Dumpty’s poem always breaks in at this, the first marshmallow to hit the skids.  Since it looks like a bird took a crap, the Humpty Dumpty trigger is obviously a mis-wire somewhere in the psyche.  It screws up the camping vibe until a waft of molten sugar belch reaches my nose freeing my brain from the HD song long enough to refocus on the sloppy technique that caused the mishap.

Backyard Fire Pit

Campfire Cooking

All that passionate effort, the perfectly timed tiny puffs aimed to put the fire out but not dislodge the softening bolster pillow mass;

salty beads of sweat banding together into a trickle down my forehead as my hand and the stick turn,

dip and contort in order to keep the object intact, the anticipation of the ritual touch to the lips

ooh too hot twirl a few times then back for the final plunge, and now, the indistinguishable charred remains could just as well be calf nuts on the crackling coals.

Camp Cookery

Camp Cooking Essentials

All for what you ask?  Another go of course.  Losing one or three or ten is part of the ritual.

The whippet of green branch is even better prepared now that the tip’s coated with a sticky clump.  It’s like giving someone your hand as they slip from a 10 story window ledge – it’s hopeless but it makes you both feel better in the moment.

The next marshmallow victim has something to cling to as you begin another intricate dance. That’s how it goes roasting marshmallows – casualties are high but the payoff memorably delicious.

A lot of dancing takes place in camp cooking.  Unlike Fred and Ginger, the results are cluggy, less than perfectly orchestrated processes that aren’t much to look at, generally requiring resourcefulness and a willingness to be happy with something under or over-cooked, sometimes even unrecognizable.

Camp Kitchen

camp kitchen

One needs to be willing to oohh and ahhh over anything cooked over an open fire regardless how shitty it turns out.

That may be what camping is all about,,,,

being happy and grateful for your own mediocrity and learning to deal with it.

Which is why camping and cooking in my opinion don’t go together.  Those of us that cook at home need on-staff camp therapists because it’s hard to handle the fact you can poach a perfect egg in your home kitchen but even your scrambled eggs out here would bounce from the nearest pavement [20 miles away].  High tech with one of those heat seeking digital read out guns?  It’ll be accurate. But a smidgen either side of that spot might be 100 degrees different.  Good luck with that.

Uigher Woman Carrying Water

Uigher Woman Carrying Water – Lots of dishes = you doing this

You can buy a camp-cook recipe book but you’ll find a lot of things skewered (the veges will wind up in the fire next to the marshmallows and it’s damn messy handling the food without running water), delicate food items packaged into neat little bundles of aluminum foil to be thrown onto a fire you have no idea the temperature of, to be timed at 15.5 minutes but oh wait you left your wrist watch at home (the proper thing to do by the way), and things like muffins and eggs cooked in an orange shell.  Don’t know about you but when I cook in a less than stable environment I prefer to see the food as its cooking/smoldering/burning.

And I don’t cook in camp things I wouldn’t make at home like anything in a friggin’ orange shell.

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Camping Etiquette

If you’re 15 miles deep in the backcountry sharing space with coyotes and bears, you can get away with brandishing your flashlight at every snap of twigs, zipping and unzipping your tent enough times to replace the exercise of counting sheep, using that chainsaw you hauled in with abandon (never seen one in the backcountry but if you’re man enough to carry it in…). But if you’re camping in a campground, you’ll need some manners.

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We began this series with these posts: So You Want To Be a Glamour Camper? & Glamour Camping: What To Pack.  But a series on camping wouldn’t be complete without a discussion about etiquette.

We camp to get away from it all. The problem with that yearning is that during high season most campgrounds are crowded. So you either need to toughen up and camp during the off-season (meaning you’ll need to deal with colder weather), or utilize a few things you’re Dad tried to teach you about life in the great outdoors.

Even for those who consider themselves a seasoned camper or outdoors person, the leap to knowing how to play well with others when your playground is a campground isn’t always a given.

I assure you however that it is possible to happily co-exist in nature when the most you’ve got separating you from your neighbor is a few feet and a tent wall.

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First things first: Get along with your camp mates

Getting along with your neighbors must be preceded by getting along with your camp mate(s). Camping is not an activity that can be performed solely from the lawn chair. There’s a time for that, but most people do not need that time pointed out. It’s the “participating” part for which they need a gentle nudge.

• Discuss ahead of time duties and who’s going to do what. Do a blind draw and plan to switch jobs mid-trip so that what appears to be the draw for an easy job doesn’t create hard feelings for the entire stay. Besides it makes everyone appreciate what the other jobs entail.

• Everyone should be prepared to volunteer to take on unforeseen chores (guaranteed to be some).

• If you’re the cook, cook like you’ll be doing the clean-up instead of utilizing every pot, pan, and utensil to make your job easier/quicker. If you’re doing clean-up, clean-up like you’ll be cooking the next meal.

• Clean and pick up after yourself. Too basic? Camp with others a few times then share some sob stories about how many people lack the grasp of this basic concept. Get out a hanky – there’ll be plenty of stories.

• If you’re an inexperienced camper, don’t wait to be asked to do something. When meals/clean-up are in process, campfires are being prepared, camp being erected or broken down, hover and be enthusiastic to help and learn.

• Only go camping with people you know and like – another obvious and oft-overlooked basic that deserves to be mentioned.

Getting along with your campground neighbors

About those neighbors…

The tent wall I spoke of previously? They’re thin. As in NON-EXISTENT. Don’t be lulled into thinking that tent protects you from anything other than a bit of weather. In the dark, quiet of a campground even a whisper carries. And if you’re camping anywhere near water, be prepared for the world to hear your every utterance.  People get behind tent walls and become the child in a box in the living room floor thinking they’re hiding, all the while giggling and begging you to find them.

• After dark make an effort to keep your flashlight pointed at the ground. That beam of light is even more unwelcome than loud, late conversation. Especially if you’re circumventing walking to the public latrine.

• Pets. Not everyone loves them. Respect that.

• Know the rules of the campground. Follow them.

• Leave the area spotless by picking everything up, including the small stuff. It’s the small stuff that’s harder for others to remove and causes the most unsightliness over time.

• Think about others. Treat them the way you want to be treated.

• Check out the Leave No Trace website. The principles associated with this environmental edict sum it up: Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife, Be Considerate of Other Visitors.

Don’t be deterred by the fact camping requires a bit of thoughtfulness and civility! My husband and I camp frequently in the late summer and fall in a fairly crowded campground. Most campers are there for the very same reason, are respectful, know the rules and follow them. Regretful instances of pitching our tent are rare. The guy with the chain saw for firewood or the family that zips and unzips their tent enough times to replace the exercise of counting sheep are few and far between.

Most campgrounds have a ranger or campsite volunteers that can be found after-hours if you need them (be familiar with your campground). I’d recommend doing that over directly approaching an offensive camper. Short of finding a ranger, chances are if you’re offended, others nearby are as well. A group effort to quiet a rowdy camp is the diplomatic choice should you be faced with such.

Other camping related posts in this series:

Glamour Camping Tips & Tricks

What to Pack for Glamour Camp

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Glamour Camping: What to Pack

More and more baby boomers are retiring and heading back to nature after decades of material excess. But we‘re no longer interested in crawling in and out of a small tent, sleeping on the ground, scrounging up a meal over a 3 inch burner, and deploying the grunge look for that week in the wilderness.

Camping has an irresistible nostalgic allure, is a very affordable means of travel and unfortunately, still has many women digging in their 3-inch heels against it. Baby boomer or not, female or male, this article is for all of you who want to camp, but can’t (or don’t want to) hack the roughing-it part.

The first article in this series: So You Want To Be a Glamour Camper covered camping tips and tricks to help ensure you get a good night’s sleep while camping (including discussion about what tent to buy – so start with that post and add this information to it).

Eventually though you have to step outside the tent. Listed below are the things you should bring along to make that experience as pleasant as a good night’s sleep.

Other camping related posts in this series:

Camping Etiquette

Glamour Camping Tips & Tricks

DSC01915

Someone has to take pictures while everyone else is setting up.

DSC02067

a shower. a cocktail. in that order. she's laughing at the portable seat. or maybe just LIFE. It's pretty sweet in the great outdoors.

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Looking for the good stuff.the glamour camp dog. gotta have one.

IMG_4265 copy

Glamour Camp decor

Next week, Campground Etiquette. Week after that: Camp-out RECIPES! and a basic food list.

The Glamour Camper’s Packing List

  • A 10 ft x 10 ft EZ Up (pop up) canopy. It’s a $140 roof for your campsite. Place it over your picnic table area for taking meals out of the sun, cooking, playing card games, etc. They’ll make your camping area look like a Saharan caravan. They come in a heavy duty carrying case, and are a breeze to erect and store. Tip: you can find them at Academy or similar sporting goods’ stores for less than online. But the EZ Up online site is helpful for seeing what’s available. The website is below.
  • Two burner camp stove. These run the gamut from the basic table top model to fancier ones that are free-standing. For our general camping trips we still use the table top model placed on the end of a picnic table; plenty of propane bottles for the stove; striker to light the stove.
  • One cast iron skillet or non stick skillet.
  • A pan for heating water.
  • A camp coffee pot.
  • Coffee (the only food item I’ve listed and the only one I won’t live without).
  • Insulated cups for coffee, tea or soup.
  • Utensils.
  • Heating pads/gloves.
  • Kitchen towels.
  • Paper towels.
  • Salt & Pepper (Grinders makes a pair of small, plastic shakers perfect for camping – buy them at the grocery store).
  • Dr. Bronner’s liquid peppermint soap (comes in other scents but the peppermint smells so clean). It’s concentrated so a little goes a long way even in cold water. You can use it for everything, even bathing, and it’s easy on the environment (biodegradable).
  • Scrub pad for clean-up. Spray cleaner, plastic tub for transport of dishes.
  • Foil.
  • Spray oil.
  • One cookie sheet (multi-purpose).
  • One multi-tool. No household should be without one of these, much less a camp site! Otherwise: bottle opener, screw driver, scissors, knife, pliers, tweezers, toothpicks, file, wire cutter.
  • Cork screw, bottle stopper.
  • Camp lantern.
  • BATTERIES.
  • Toilet paper and handi-wipes. Put them in an open weave mesh cinch sack and tack them to a tree.
  • Bag chairs for everyone. Preferably with the drink holders in the arm.
  • A large rubber mat for your tent’s exterior door mat. You can find these at kitchen supply stores.
  • Small camp/bag/lawn chair to be kept outside your tent door for putting on shoes, etc.
  • A small card table. Metal works great here since it’s easy to clean, the weather won’t affect it, and they’re lightweight. This table is indispensable in the camp cooking area or as a place to sit the kids to work on a puzzle, play games, or take their meals.
  • Marine cooler with plenty of block ice; ice pick. Makes a great bench.
  • Separate cooler for drinks and food.
  • Vinyl tablecloths to cover the picnic table and the small extra table for the camp kitchen.
    You know when it rains or there’s been heavy dew and you have to sit at the picnic table? To alleviate this issue I pack a couple of what I call “gardener’s knee squares”. They’re a square piece of closed cell foam, fit most behinds perfectly, serve as a shield from the dampness, and provide some cushioning!
  • An assortment of bungee cords (different lengths), large “S” hooks, clothes’ pins, various sized carabineers, etc. for an plethora of needs. The clothes pins can be used to close food packages, a use I overlooked for years.
  • Plenty of nylon parachute cord. Besides making a great clothes line, it’ll come in handy numerous other unfathomable ways.
  • Throw in a few nails. They come in handy for tacking the trash sack to a tree or making a place to hang the mesh bag for TP and handiwipes.
  • A package of wood wedges for leveling things in the tent and around camp. Makes life oh so much more pleasant.
  • Several packages of Extra large Wet-ones for tent bathing, kitchen clean-up, etc.
  • Hand pump of sanitizer to keep in camp kitchen.
  • A small hand ax. Many campgrounds provide fire rings and while you can purchase firewood and bring it with you, it’s fun to take a little walk in the woods and gather it yourself (watch out for poison ivy, snakes, etc. – know what the dangers are in your area). Make sure your campground allows this. And I’m not talking about felling any trees. Rather picking up fallen limbs, sticks, etc. P.S. don’t bother with green wood.
  • Fire starters. There are several types available. My favorites are “Magic Fire Starters”. You can get them at Cabelas.com.
  • Once you establish whether or not you can have a camp fire which will be dependent on the camp grounds and weather conditions, choose the appropriate “paper” ware. If I know we’ll have a campfire, I prefer paper cups, plates, etc. and then carefully burn them in the fire ring. If not, then you’re stuck with plastic, but with those you can wash and re-use them to an extent.
  • A black Sharpie for marking drinking glasses, etc. Attach it to a cord and keep it in the camp kitchen. Anyone removing it and not replacing it gets a pop of the dish towel.
  • I’m getting greener and so purchased a Lexan fork/spoon/knife set that I wash and re-use for every meal.
  • A large heavy duty trash sack. I’m in the market this year for a folding trash can (in which I’ll put the trash sack instead of tacking it to a tree). Actually they’re sold as pool side accessories, but they work great for camping and fold down to take up only a tiny amount of room when storing. Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, among others sell them.
  • Being outside all day chaps my lips. They sting at night, which experience has taught me interferes with my sleep, as in miserably interferes with it. SO I bought a long lanyard and attached to it a tube of Eco Lips “Face Stick” a small stick of 30 SPF sunscreen that can be used on face or lips (website information below), a tube of Burt’s Bees replenishing lip balm for nighttime use, and a whistle. The whistle is great for calling kids (my son is grown now but I’ve got just under 20 nieces and nephews), calling out in the wilderness if you need help or to find other’s in your party, etc. I get up every morning and put the lanyard and headlamp around my neck. I never have to look for sunscreen or chapstick and I never get caught at night without some light to guide my way back to the tent.

Whew!

Once you’ve got these things assembled, you’ll need a way to organize and transport. I recommend the large, clear storage boxes now available everywhere. The lids snap down with handles on both ends.

An Oh-so-important final suggestion:

Last summer after many camping outings, my husband and I sat down to eat the wonderful one skillet breakfast he’d prepared of eggs, sausage, peppers, hash browns, and cheese only to discover I forgot to pack forks or spoons. When it comes to camping, improvisational skills are vital! We ate our meal by alternating the spatula he’d used to cook the meal. The thing was so big we could only use the corner of it – a very memorable meal!

*** My last suggestion is this: Make a list and put it in the permanent camp box. Add to it as needed. Then follow it.

Here’s a list of websites that will get your camp stocked in no time.

Cabelas
Sierra Trading Post
Campmor
Eco Lips
Burt’s Bees
REI
EZ Up Direct

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps

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Not on the list, but an oh-so-nice detail.

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one of the reasons we go

I’d hate for you to think I ONLY Glamour camp. Not so. Here’s proof.

A blister to beat all blisters

Coming out. A blister the size of Texas hobbled me the last 12 miles of hiking. Made for great stories later.

The Only Girl. 6 days of grueling backpacking.Some of the best flyfishing in the world.  An icy cold beer to welcome us back to civilization!

The celebrated end of a not-so-glamorous backpacking/camping trip. Backountry. Wind River Mountain Range, Wyoming. Only girl.

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So You Want To Be a Glamour Camper?

Glamour Camping

Definitely NOT me. But my long-term tent is like this, as in it's the same size. This is Judy, the glamour camping Queen. But I did take the pic. She gives me something to strive for. Or not.

As a long-time camper I’ve morphed over the years from a pup tent with a ¼ inch mat to cushion my body against the ground to a more luxurious camping experience. Once or twice a year the one-man tent and the mat still come out for a backpacking foray to fish for wild trout in backcountry streams, albeit the mat has grown to a ¾ inch thick cushion. Once a year for a 10-12 day stay my husband and I pull out all the stops and glamour camp “glamp” in a remote part of Wyoming.  All the other times which approximate ten to fifteen 2-3 night stays, fall somewhere in between on the comfort scale.

Wyoming Glamour Camp

Two weeks in the wilderness for two couples. Not exactly roughing it!

The single piece of equipment that sets apart the long glamping trip from all the other camp-outs, is the tent.  For the Wyoming annual outing we purchased a 10 ft. x 18 ft. tent, large enough to enter from either end standing upright all the way through. We dubbed it the B.A.T. as in Big Ass Tent.  The initial cost was $300. We’ve used it 4 times, which breaks down into a lodging cost of about $8 per night ($300 / 40 nights).  The effort expended to set it up precludes using it for shorter trips.

Camping Tablescape

Wyoming wildflower centerpiece.

flyfishing on the North Platte, Wyoming

One Mile Upstream from Camp - North Platte River, Wyoming

Before we get to the good part, here are other camping related posts you might like:

Camping  Etiquette

Glamour Camping: What to Pack

Now back to the good part.  Assuming you want to pursue camping outings in the range of say 2-5 nights, you don’t want to do the crawl around on your hands and knees routine, and you’re starting from ground zero or your equipment is outdated, here’s a list of basic items I recommend you consider.  Since a good night’s sleep is so critical, this article will cover the basics for that. In my opinion once you have that down, everything else is a piece of cake.  And short of that if you’ve got plenty of rest, you can handle the other potential mishaps that are inherent to interaction with the great outdoors.

  • A tent in the range of 9 ft. x 12 ft. with a large “D” opening on the side (not end) will provide a moderate amount of space and be quick to set up.  You’ll want to ensure there’s a gear loft and gear pockets in it for storage. Tents have come a long way in the ease to set-up department. Color codings on the tent poles, amenities such as gear lofts and pockets, and various ventilation extras will surprise you if you’ve not seen a new tent in the last 5 years.  A new tent purchase comes with everything you need to set it up (rain fly, stakes, instructions, poles, guy wires, etc.), with the exception of a ground cloth.  However, I recommend purchasing a separate set of heavy-duty tent stakes in lieu of those that are included. You’ll need to purchase a ground cloth, which does NOT come with the tent.  The ground cloth should be a heavy duty plastic tarp, about the same size as the footprint of the tent (bigger is better here because you can tuck under the excess – too small and you’ll still have a wet tent floor which is what you’re attempting to prevent). This is laid on the ground first; erecting the tent over it and then tucking any visible ground cloth in under the tent once the tent is completely staked (do not stake the ground cloth to the tent!). The ground cloth is critical to keeping the floor of the tent dry in rainy weather, or even heavy dew.  If the tarp is larger than the tent and you leave the ground cloth showing it’ll gather water which will seep in between the floor of the tent and the ground cloth, and you’ll have a wet floor.  Misery will be the result.  A rain fly keeps the top dry, a ground cloth the bottom. Both are critical.
  • A hammer for pounding in stakes should be thrown permanently into the tent bag.
  • Bedding has also come a LONG way. Several years ago we began searching for a way to get the bed off the floor of the tent and discovered they now make frames that stand about the same height from the floor as a normal bed. The frame we purchased from Cabela’s has a pocket into which you insert an inflatable mattress so you never have to worry about sliding off the frame. Tip: partially inflate the mattress then insert into the pocket before topping it off. We purchased a Queen size Coleman inflatable mattress and the Queen sized stand and now camp with a bed that sleeps almost as well as any bed you could hope for.  Another wonderful advantage of the frame is the storage underneath.  We shove tons of stuff that won’t be needed until the tear-down under the bed and out of sight.  The frame folds neatly into its own container for storage.

The 9×12 tent I spoke of previously holds a Queen sized bed with plenty of walk around room.

Tip:  inflatable mattresses expand and contract with temperatures.  To keep the bed comfortable, take the time to add some air at the end of a cool day.  But be careful! If the temperature swings are broad, overfilling can potentially result in a busted seam during the days rising temps.

  • Look for a mattress that comes with a BATTERY powered inflating unit (Coleman includes these with their beds) since there won’t be an electrical outlet in your tent!  Purchase plenty of appropriate batteries for the unit.   DON’T FORGET THE BATTERIES.

Perform a test run of setting up the bed/frame/mattress at home just to make sure everything works.

  • Since we sleep on a Queen sized bed at home, sheets are not a factor. I’ll grab a set of my nicest sheets (cotton, not flannel  — unless you plan to sleep in the raw, flannel works like Velcro and every turn will be work) and the appropriate blankets from the closet just prior to a trip. Take more blankets than you think you’ll need. Even though you’ll be in a tent, 3-season tents typically mean part of the “ceiling” is mesh.  The rain fly will keep you dry, but you’re sleeping in the great outdoors. You can always remove cover but if you don’t bring it, you can’t add it.  Note: A down blanket is great for camping; light weight and lots of loft and warmth = sweet dreams.
  • An inflatable mattress repair kit should be thrown permanently into the bed container.
  • I sleep with my head elevated so I bring pillows from home.
  • A small LED headlamp is indispensible in camp and I wear one around my neck during the day so that at nightfall I’m not searching for it. And since we’re talking about sleeping comfort, that sweet little headlamp means you can read in bed for a bit before drifting off to the sound of crickets or frogs or owls or nightingales or loons or all of the above.

Oh yes, KIDS!  Assuming they’re old enough for a separate tent (and I have been with all the above recommendations for you), a basic tent with army cots and blankets (again this means you have some storage space beneath the cot) or sleeping bags/pad will have them thinking they’re in heaven.  Hang a small headlamp around their neck, put some flashlights in their tent, and nighttime entertainment will never be an issue.

Come back next week and I’ll cover basic equipment for the rest of the camp site and additional tips to make camp-outs something you’ll daydream about.

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The Grand Climb

 

Tammie DooleyAbout SRT... I’m a traveler, writer and photographer for whom the open road frequently summons. Adventurous solo road trips are a staple for me, and a curiosity. So I created this website to share them and inspire you to step out and give them a try. Welcome!

A soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone – Wolfgang Von Goethe

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