msr microrocket What Do I need to Go Tenting? Pt. II
Essential Cooking Gear; Bringing Meals Young children Will Like to Eat
The beginner camper might imagine: Ah, the great outdoors! Sunshine, new air, pristine lakes, cloudless nights peppered using an unlimited variety of stars, occasional wildlife sightings, home-cooked campfire meals, getting a single with character... What may very well be superior? When you are unprepared, though, sometime in the course of or following the excellent camping excursion this dreamy soliloquy could convert right into a determined litany of sunburn, hay fever swimmer's ear, 2nd degree burns, bug bites & raccoon thievery.
So, how does a single prepare for a camping trip, especially with children or dogs in tow? Let's start with the basics, your equipment, the necessary cooking camping equipment that will keep you fed & have your children clamoring for mealtimes & praising the Cookie. (You!)
We own a camp stove and every year we drag it on up with us to the campsite where we camp with several other families and young couples. We never use it. Not once. I know some people will swear by the camp stove, but in my opinion, I prefer the camping grill so much more. No fuss, no cans of butane, just pop it into the campfire, (I prefer the cast iron ones, sure, the weight is unbelievable, but it's worth it when it comes to cleaning time,) and set your pots / pans / coffee maker right on top and that you are ready to go. This last year when we went grocery shopping together I found some disposable grill tops to place our sausages, msr microrocket campfireworld.org bacon, and other frying meats on top of the camp grill and everyone used it all weekend. Not bad for 79 cents. It keeps your grill top a bit cleaner, too.
Pots & Pans & French Presses, Oh, My!
What on earth is a French Press, you might ask yourself? Let me tell you, it is the most incredible coffee making invention in the world. Basically, you place your coffee scoops in the French Press, (6-7 scoops of coffee,) boil up some water, pour the boiling water over the coffee grounds and allow them to steep for 1-2 minutes, (you don't have to for anyone who is impatient, but it makes the coffee stronger,) then you reattach the top and press the coffee grounds down to the bottom. The top keeps the grounds in place and the canister is like a thermos with freshly brewed coffee in it. Two suggestions about the French Press... even if you're using it at home I suggest to get a plastic one particular. The glass ones break all to easily! Second, never EVER place your French Press on top of the tenting grill, even if it is all steel and glass, the glass could shatter, sending shards of glass into unsuspecting campers bodies. Not a good way to start the morning. The French Press sounds more complicated than it is, you really have to see a single in order to know what I am talking about, Google it and you'll see exactly how simple a French Press is, it's replaced the coffee maker in our house and travels so easily, it's compact, simple and makes a simply amazing cup of coffee, you'll get about six cups per press, do
In order to get that boiling hot water for your French Press you're going to require some pots and pans. There are some pretty neat tenting pans out there that have rubber enforced handles that bend into the pan when not in use for easier storage, but your pots and pans from residence will work just as well. Again, I like cast iron, it doesn't will need as much attention and if a pan is too light, (aluminum,) or Teflon coated, it could get ruined in the extreme heat of a campfire. A couple of pans for cooking and a couple of pots, one used specifically for boiling water only, and the other used for cooking is all you should need.
Think of it this way, what do you must BBQ? TONGS! You really need tongs when tenting over the cook fire. It seems so simple, but out of a few dozen people only a person remembered to bring them the 2nd year we went camping and the first? Forget about it, we did a lot of fork poking and pushing which led to some burns and ruined soot-encrusted food items. Bring your tongs!
Forks, spoons, knives. Nothing too fancy, they might get lost or some of your equipment might get taken by the voracious wildlife. There are some pretty cool tenting utensils that are made of a thick plastic and fold up, a spoon on a single end and a fork on the other. You will want at least 1 knife that is serrated for slicing vegetables, cutting meats, etc.
Junk plastic plates, cups and bowls from the dollar store. At least a single of each per person camping with you. Anymore than 1, however, and I've noticed dishes start to pile up and that is not cool! It attracts the wildlife, and you want to keep yourself real low under their radar, they're pests.
Two storage bins, one particular for your dirty cups, plates, utensils and one for rinsing them off. You should never use the near by lake or river to wash your dishes. This is unsanitary, (in my opinion,) and even the least harsh dish detergent will still kill the microorganisms that produce a balance in the lake. Foods scraps will further throw this balance off, so just don't do it. Dirty soap water should be taken 100 feet away from any waterway and disposed of immediately after straining meals particles. Bring a strainer for this, even the slightest scent of foodstuff will bring raccoons and other undesirables around.
I'm going to admit that when we've been camping in the past we have mostly used disposable cups, plates and even silverware. We don't use them any other time of the year, I guess that is how we justify ourselves, with kids, it's just so much easier. Next year I plan on taking more than 1 camping trip, however and I want to go as “green” as possible from here on out.
The Cooler and Ice
Hey, this is where you are going to keep your foodstuff & beers, so it's very important not to forget it! Block ice will melt slower than the traditional cubes, so it's a good idea to stock up on the property made block ice which will last you until you've gotten yourselves settled in and are ready to make your first town vacation. Town excursion, you say? Yes, you will go into town at least once through your camping trip. You'll have to have more beer, just one of the children will get an itchy rash, perhaps you'll even should go to a doctor if the truly unbelievable happens! If nothing else, you will need to have more ice. Ice melts. Fast. Where do I get block ice, you ask? Just one of my friends had this truly awesome idea: Take an empty milk carton, cut it in half, thoroughly wash and rinse it out. (Use hot water to wash and always rinse your plastics with cold water, lest you end up with soapy tasting meals / water.) Fill with water and place in freezer. Pop the ice block out & you're on your way to filling your cooler. Of course, you need to have room in your freezer for at least a few of these residence made ice block producing machines, so this might not work for you.
As far as the cooler msr microrocket goes, I only have a few words of advice, do not use a Styrofoam cooler. Sure, they are light-weight, but they rip into chunks like you wouldn't believe. Even if you just want to stick your beers in it to keep them separate from the camp food stuff, it isn't worth it, they don't seem to last even a day. Go in for the best you can afford. Make sure you'll have enough room for the foods you'll want to bring, plus ice, plus beer. A word to the wise on beers and sodas if you're bringing them tenting, only put a few beers in and a couple of sodas in at a time. Each time you take just one out, you'll restock with another, this way you'll save room in your cooler for the really important stuff: food!
Fun Tenting Foods for Youngsters & Adults
I'm a freak most the year about sugars, artificial colors, caffeine and junk food stuff. Now is not the time for it, nevertheless. You're here to have fun, so unless your child specifically needs a low-glucose diet or has other special dietary needs, forget about it! A couple of times a year it's not going to hurt to let your hair down and enjoy the junk, sugar & fun foods the young ones usually don't get the rest the year 'round.
This is going to give you the energy you need to have for high adventure during the day!
Fresh fruits are an excellent way to keep the young ones out of your hair while you might be cooking up the rest of the foodstuff. Little ones and cooking just don't mix, I found that out the hard way this previous camping trip, (look forward to my next article about Tenting & First Aid to hear the whole story,) tell them to grab an apple, a banana or some watermelon and go far, far away while you will be grilling up the rest of breakfast.
One of the few foods that don't transport well and will need refrigeration that I strongly suggest is: eggs. They are chock full of protein and if kept in a well-stocked, iced cooler, they keep fine. Make sure they're towards the top of the cooler, wrapped in a zip-lock baggy and you should be fine even if a couple of them do break. Depending on the size of your family a half dozen should do for a couple days worth of camping.
Sugar glazed or powdered donuts are fantastic speared through a stick and roasted on an open fire or stuck on the camp grill they are absolutely fantastic. 1 of my friends introduced our family to this yearly camping tradition and it's really incredible. You might want to consider roasting them on that 79 cent disposable grill top I mentioned previously to avoid getting your camping grill all gooey.
Precooked bacon has come a long way, baby. It's always crisp, travels well, and is an excellent compliment to eggs and donuts.
Another food stuff that goes fantastic with bacon, eggs & donuts is pancakes! There are some excellent “just add water” brands out there, personally, I really like Krusteaz Blueberry pancake mix. They are light and fluffy, you just add some water and that you are ready to go. If you dip banana slices into it you can fry those up for some fun kid finger foods, (once they've cooled,) you'll have to have a mixing bowl should you plan to bring Krusteaz along, as well as a liquid measuring cup & a dry measuring cup. They're delicious!
The trick is to make a little bit of each food stuff, this cuts down on waste and gives you a well-rounded breakfast that doesn't load up too much on any a person type of foods. The goal isn't necessarily nutrition as much as it is eating as many fun foods as you can stuff yourself silly with. Go ahead, enjoy! You're tenting.
For us, this is usually a pretty light affair, maybe some cut up carrots, (the prepackaged ones are really easy,) some sandwiches, maybe some hummus dip. It's a good time to get in some veggies, I guess it depends on what your young ones like. I find it's easier to deal with lunch meats that are in zip lock baggies than the usual prepackaged goods. Make sure you bring extra zip lock baggies. You'll use them for everything, they are wonderful to keep things separated. We usually try to keep things on the less cooked side for lunch, it's the hottest part of the day so we don't want to load up on hot food stuff. Mustard travels a lot improved than mayonnaise, so I recommend that more. Try to have everyone's plate set up so you can do things almost like an assembly line, it'll save you time and you won't have to wash up as much. Precut vegetables before you go camping, as well, and place your bread in a box so it doesn't get smooshed.
This is meat and potatoes time! We like a good hearty dinner and breakfast and tend to skimp on the lunch. You want a dinner that will fill the young children up enough so that when it's time for marshmallow roasting, S'mores and whatnots they don't over-do it. (Especially since bed time is right around the corner.) Anything you can grill is good. Some bratwursts, potatoes, corn, hell, a person of our friends makes shrimp scampi each year and it's easy and tastes incredible. As 1 of our friends little girls said about cheesy dogs, “Yes, they're pretty good, actually.” You'll want to bring at least a couple different kinds of buns, the regular hot dog buns and some grinder or torpedo style buns for the heartier meats. Again, you'll ought to bring mustard and ketchup, believe me, I survived through dry hot dogs the first year, they're improved with the works when you have the space in your cooler. You'll will need tinfoil to wrap veggies in, before you put them on the grill, they'll burn less. Dinner works best eaten in shifts, cooking one thing up, eating it, then cooking another. You'll save yourself a lot of headache if you just accept this fact, unless you're making casserole type dishes, you might be never going to sit down and eat a full meal from start to finish while camping.
The usual tenting fare, beef jerky is loaded with protein, sunflower seeds, (without the shells, spit out shells will attract wildlife, too,) refreshing fruits, veggies, hummus, marshmallows, graham crackers, donuts, a couple of chocolate bars. Cheese and crackers, dried trail mixes, (without chocolate, the chocolate melts and you end up with a gooey mess,) Cheerios and granola. The list is countless! Keep any chocolate bars in zip lock baggies in the cooler, again, chocolate melts, so you don't want that mess on your kid's hands. A really fun after dinner snack is to take a banana, peel only a person piece of the peel back, scoop some of it out and replace with marshmallow's and chocolate pieces. Wrap in tinfoil and heat it up until it's gooey. They're called banana boats. Absolutely delicious!
Food for the Dog
If you're just one of those pet owners who can't stand their pooch eating human foods it might be an idea to leave the dog in the care of someone else while you are camping. They will take in scraps while tenting, it's just going to happen, especially if you are camping with a lot of other people. Other than that, make sure to bring plenty of food, always have a full water bowl and bring along some snacks, too. Wet food dries out really quickly and can attract wildlife more than the dry food items, so I consider it's best to leave the wet food items at house.
These are just some ideas, of course, it's up to you and your family's preferences... Stay tuned for my next article: What Do I need to Go Camping III, First Aid Kits, What to Do When the Unimaginable Happens.