Freshly baked food is a hit in the outdoors. The means to this delicious end are many. I remember twisting dough onto a stick and roasting it over an open fire as a Boy Scout. With open fires, reflector ovens and Dutch Ovens have a great history. Fry bread and bannock cooked over open fires or stoves also have their place. However, when open fires and heavier cooking gear are no longer part of the picture, baking becomes more difficult.
The reward for solving this problem – fresh baked backpacked food – is so compelling that a number of light weight solutions have emerged. Continue reading →
Though hardly a kid any more, I still like to play with fire. I have cooked on wood, white gas, kerosene, butane, alcohol and Esbit tablets. I have owned a lot of stoves, used and built a bunch more. Making fire to heat and/or cook food is so central to backpacking that a large acreage of blogosphere is devoted to it. So here are my current and recent solutions, appropriately in a very long post.
I really like Caldera cones, made by Trail Designs. I like them so much that I build custom cone shaped windscreens to fit my favorite stove and pot combinations. The cone windscreen design protects the stove from wind, vastly improves heat transfer to the pot and provides a temperature protected environment for combustion. Cold weather performance loss is much less. And the cone shaped windscreen/pot support is stable – no more noodles spilled on the ground.
My kitchen goal is the ability to cook, including simmering and dry baking with a stove/windscreen setup that will stow inside the pot. Continue reading →
Ray Jardine is certainly one of the great evangelists for tarp tents. His designs are well thought out and usually feature “beaks”, dropped overhangs to provide rain protection. There are additionally many variations to pitching a rectangular tarp resulting in different shapes. I felt the need to mess around with some of these ideas.
Comfort light cooking fly
Recalling trying to cook between rain showers on a soggy outing, I decided to see what a light weight cooking shelter might look like. I wanted it to pitch with a single support, either a long stick or even a tree. I wanted to incorporate a Jardine type beak. And of course it needed to be light weight. The experiment also gave me the chance to practice creating something with sil-nylon without a full pattern. Continue reading →
Tent design and fabric technology have come along way from the waxed canvas pup tents of my boyhood. This entry shares my approach to and experience with “comfort light” shelters. There are many choices of very light solo and two person tents from major suppliers and a lot of cottage manufacturers. The lines blur when tents start to become only shelters, like tarps or even modified rain ponchos. Beyond that there are bivy sacks. Three tents that I have used in recent seasons illustrate a range of tent choices as well as my search for the illusive “great balance” between weight, function and cost.
I travel in a part of the world where rain and bugs happen. I like to have my stuff inside in these conditions and so prefer tents to bivy type solutions. Mountain tents, built to withstand really high winds and snow seem too heavy for general use. I have gravitated to solutions that are enhanced tarp tents, either modified or sewn from materials and a pattern. Continue reading →
I have been surprised at the difference between pack weights of 35 to 40 pounds and 25 pounds and under. It is a journey well worth taking. After my first long trip in decades, I felt the need to rework my gear to get to a much lighter base weight. I gathered a small library of books, notably Trail Life, Ray Jardine, 2009; Lighten Up!, Don Ladigin, 2005; and Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips, Mike Clelland, 2011. I continued to prowl the Internet for ultralight sites and forums. Gradually I added lighter versions of a lot of my equipment and found I could leave some items at home. Other posts cover the details of various systems, but this one summarizes the results.
My week-long trip in Hornstrandir, Iceland in 2010 was done with a base weight of about 26 lbs., plus some extra equipment to deal with the sub-arctic environment I was traveling in. Now my comparable base weight is about 16 lbs. I accomplished this as follows: Continue reading →