David Strikes Again: Tramp Camping, Stoves, Eats
David has spent time as a professional guide and domestique. His knowledge on camping, hiking, and bike camping are extensive. Enjoy.
Here at Yellow Haus, we love tramping. We love riding bikes, hiking, climbing, pretending to fish, and living and sleeping outside. Living outside means eating outside,and unless you really dig the dust, the goo and the candy bars masquerading as ADVENTURE FOOD, you gotta cook.
Lots of our newbie friends worry most about eating and hygiene as obstacles to enjoying even a Riv type S24O (Sub 24hr Overnight). This doesn’t have to be, as just a tiny pot and burner will afford both. Moreover, one need not fuss with dirty fires or dirty dishes. I said you gotta cook or eat goo. I didn’t say that you gotta cook in the field. You’re still going to want hot water so you’re still going to want a small stove and mess kit.
Confused yet? Hang in there and I’ll show you some easy ways to eat and stay clean whether you’re biking overnight or hiking the Range Trail.
Let’s get hygiene out of the way first. Wash your hands. Use Dr. Bronner's or any nice to nature equivalent. Do it often, with just a dab of soap and some water. If you’re still walking around in The Real World squirting alcohol into your hands every time you touch something, cut it out. You only really need to do that after relieving yourself when you are away from plumbing. Really. Cut it out. Hot water with a splash of the Good Doctor’s Peppermint and a bandana feels great if you can’t bathe by swimming, and hotel-like after a swim. Brush your teeth with what you use at home, do it the N.O.L.S. way. Do your bathing well away from ANY water and away from where you and your friends will be milling around in the dark. NO SOAP, BIODEGRADABLE OR NOT, NO MATTER HOW ORGANIC, SHOULD EVER ENTER ANY WATER BY ANY MEANS FROM YOU. PERIOD. IT KILLS THE FISH. Please, wash and rinse yourself and all your things with water that you carry away from your water source and your camp.
OK, if you are like my partner, Maureen, you’re gonna want at least a one liter pot and some way to heat it. She loves to heat up a pot before bed. She’ll brew a pot for a hot drink as she gets sleepy so that she can go to bed warm. The rest of that pot of hot water is guarded jealously. Generally, she’ll splash a little aromatic soap in there and soak her face,her neck and her arms with compress after compress till her tea is drunk and she is almost asleep. She wakes herself up with almost the identical ritual in the morning. She needs a stove to feel clean in the woods. She could do that with a stick fire, but probably wouldn’t and therefore would enjoy the experience less.
Let’s get on with the cooking and let’s also hang with how Maureen does stuff, she’s fairly new to tramping but is already fully actualized. I am old with lots of old, abandonable ways of doing this stuff. She is new with new ways that work now. For instance, we have a closet full of gas powered stoves from the last century that scare the crap out of both of us and stink. I took pains to be expert with gasoline stoves. It was a right of passage in my youth to make an XGK purr. And I could. And who cares. Mo uses an open burner alcohol stove with ease and I think, could make one out of a beer can if pressed to do so.
The truth is, she and I almost never need to cook, cook. We really only need to boil water for even a weeklong hike with some planning, and an easy overnight by bicycle with less planning. For example, on most of our S24O’s, we eat something home cooked, carried afield and accompanied by snacks and cold drinks. I always want coffee and a post prandial Turkish Bath. Mo has her gig . In the morning, right alongside the familiar ways to wake up, like coffee and instant oatmeal, you may be surprised to see boil-in-the-pouch Indian fare. So good. So easy. There’s nothing to clean up if you eat it right out of the pouch.
Longer trips for us mean carrying cheese, cured meat, tinned fish, tortillas, tea, instant (yup) coffee, seaweed, bullion, nut butter, man the list of ready-to-eat easy-to-carry good food just goes on. I didn't even mention fresh raw fruits and veggies. We don’t bother messing around with freeze dried food or even the noodle pouchy stuff from the grocery store. Udon, cooked and vacuum packed is as close as we get.
Because of our easy style, we don’t need a stove that boils a quart of water in two minutes flat under gale forces at negative temperatures. Rather, we prefer a slow, quiet and safe stove that you can hunker down around without funky fumes and half empty canisters to deal with. We like alcohol stoves for this reason. On longer trips of three or more days we use an integrated stove, cookset and stormcooker made by Trangia. We use the smallest hard anodized set. When we’re going light or overnight we use a two part stove windscreen combo made by Vargo. We use their Decagon stove and aluminum windscreen. We each have our own billy pot and cup.
I’d like to talk a little bit about what we burn. We burn Everclear and we burn wood. I stopped using gasoline and isobutane a long time ago and won’t harp on why, but if you’re headed this way there are some things you should know. Denatured alcohol is ethyl alcohol made undrinkable with various denaturing agents. In New York State, benzyne and other dangerous hydrocarbons are commonly, legally used to denature alcohol. That’s why we use Everclear. It’s safe to spill it on yourself, your food and your tinware, just be careful with the matches! It’s pretty expensive, like twice or more than any other fuel discussed, but this is a luxury, right? Parse it out. Find clever ways to maximize, chart, measure, whatever if that makes it worth the cost for you. If you were left without a choice, you’d stay warm around a burning tire. Believe me. You shouldn’t do that when you can choose not to.
So that’s it really. When you buy your cooking gear, jump online and check out the manufacturers website. Trangia, esbit/Light My Fire and Vargo have great, informative sites with lots of useful info and helpful videos (We carry Esbit and Vargo in the shop and can get Trangia). Then go outside and practice :-)
Have fun out there and raise a glass to Yellow Haus! Salute!