Monday, July 14, 2014

Suffer now than regret later - the task of packing your meal.

I was tossed a topic to talk about and the subject was FOOD. I jumped at it, after all I love to eat, wilderness or not wilderness.

It falls at such a perfect timing that I am in my last three week window of planning for an upcoming backpacking trip. I'll be heading out with some of my usual hiking suspects to traverse the sierra nevada from the West to the East via the High Sierra Trail route and we've allowed ourselves 7 days to finish it, so that would mean about 21 meals plus extras. Yes, extra! My family has successfully instilled in us, growing up, what I like to call, The Hunger Fear.

Eating is a family tradition. Family get together always involve food, from the joyous birth of a new member of the family to the celebration of life of someone who has passed, my family will have a table spread out with all kinds of food - not just snacks, but actual meals!

To avoid that "Hunger Fear", my family has always been known to pack, cook, prepare extra amounts of food for any occasion, whatsoever. "At the end of the day, it is better to have left overs than get short of anything.", were my Nanay's (our grandma) words she has passed on to us.

But this is backpacking, extra weight is deemed like a sacrilege in the backpacking community. One will get stoned to virtual death in any public intarweb forum. Religious ultralight practioners will throw themselves into the fire before they'd even consider packing in any extra weight. So, how do I go about packing enough meals for a trip without abandoning my family's mantra.

Over the past few trips a few suffer-now-than-regret-later tasks to ensure a hunger-free trip have been developed and discovered.

Menu Planning 

As any "Suzy Homemaker" knows, just a week's worth of menu planning is tedious but a suffer-now-than-regret-later task. Having a meal planned for each day of your trip will make it easy to not over pack. And be able to gauge how much extra snacks and meals can you still bring.

And meal failures do occur even at the home front, but there will always be the "take out from down the street" to save us. However, in camping in a remote area, one does not have that fall back option. So every meal that is planned, should be tried and taste-tested before it can get the stamp of approval and earn a space in the bear canister.


You know those shelf stable GoPinic meals you can carry anywhere? Yeah, strip that box open, examine the contents. Those individually packaged nuts, cookies and such? Strip those too and shove them all in one snack size ziplock. That just saved precious space on a trash bag that will be packed out. When you're gone for days with no town access, trash space is precious, too. Examine carefully all of what will be packed and get rid of any unnecessary packaging. It'll also save precious weight.

Can't find a pro-pak version of your favorite freeze-dried meal? A day as close enough to the trip as possible, poke a needle through your free-dried meal packaging to let the air out and tape over the hole after. That should make it easier to shove inside the bear canister or bag.

Foil pack versions.

Got that Chicken Alfredo thoughts in your tummy? Found the powder to make the sauce, pasta can be packed.. but unrefrigerated chicken? The foil-packed chicken chunks would be the answer to this. Remember to test out your menu at home first! Packaged chicken may not be for everyone. Tuna and salmon can also be found in foil packs, not just cans. And Spam! This processed food is a guilty pleasure, especially for breakfast.. or also lunch.. maybe even dinner. Ha! Happiness was off the roof that day I found those Spam singles in foil packs.

Mini groceries.

Find a local DYI gift basket store. They're the perfect spot to find mini/solo versions of a lot of things, from summer sausages, cheese, chocolate bars, cookies and even liquor and wine bottles. My local Cost Plus World Market is my gem for these things. Grateful that I will always have cheese stashed during multi-day trips and they'll last!

Want to read more about outdoors and food? Check out the Sierra Trading Post Social Hub: Food for the Outdoors: #Trailtime Favorites and see other posts on the much loved topic. Still can't get enough? Join some happy, food loving, outdoorsy chatty people on twitter on Thursday 7/17 at 3 p.m. PST by following the #Trailtime tag!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

BioLite CampStove

Ever since I've first heard about this wondrous stove that can let you cook your food and charge your devices, I have wanted it. Add the fact that they originally make the HomeStove to donate and bring fuel and energy to developing areas, and by purchasing their CampStove™ models help fund that good deed, it added to that "want".

So I researched about it along with information as to where I can procure such a device. I'm usually hesitant of purchasing gear and gadgets that involved big $$$ via online shopping. I would need to physically see it, hold it, feel it.. and maybe even give it a little caress to hear it speak to me before I throw all my money at it.

I was thankful to find out that my local REI store carries it. So, off I went to see if we were meant to be together. My "want" changed into "need", as soon as my eyes set on its catchy orange color and a picture of a phone charging in its packing. However there were 2 factors keeping me from flying to the registers, after studying it: its weight and it's main fuel, the twigs! Go figure, why would I still want it, right? It is called a wood burning stove! Derp moment.

I backpack more often than I car camp, and with weighing slightly more than 2 lbs, there goes the weight issue. And where we usually end up cooking & pitching up tents, camp fires are restricted, which usually also means including word burning stoves. So, snapping back to reality and priorities, I reluctantly left the store empty handed.

A year, almost 2, later, I received one for Christmas! I didn't get to try it out immediately upon receiving it, but finally did during our volunteer clean up in Sequoia National Park when we decided to make it into a car camping trip, as well. Putting it together was a cinch. Attach here to there.. unfold legs.. set up on a flat sturdy area.. put twigs.. light up fire starter.. yadda yadda. What they forgot to mention, and so I'm putting it on here.. is to gather lots and lots and lots of twigs of all sizes (have I said lots, yet?) before ever starting. Otherwise you'd be going for several twig runs while hurrying to come back to your stove to not let the fire burn out, 'cause the flames sure do eat those little twigs fast! Think, Garfield with lasagna.


We mostly heated water with it for our drinks, we didn't really cook that trip (we had free lunch and packed dinner from the volunteer event). But judging from the looks of how it works, it is practically similar to cooking in an open fire; it'll make your pot turn black. This reminded me of my childhood days cooking on one of those iron/steel charcoal/wood burning stoves, as some Filipino dishes are best made on a clay pot atop an open fire. Although with the BioLite Camp Stove, I'm a bit unsure how one will be able to cook a full meal with it since the fuel container is not that big and the twigs get burned faster. We were constantly adding more and more twigs to it as we continue to feed.


It works! We were able to fully charge Kari's iPhone 4. to give gauge, (And sorry, I only took note of the time & percentage once during the whole time it was charging) in 15 minutes, the BioLite Camp Stove was able to charge the phone by 8%.

What's my take?

Although, I wouldn't take this with me backpacking on multi-day trips because of its weight, this is still good for car camping trips for us. Plus, this is also perfect as a backup power if a long power outage ever occurs at home base (preppers anyone?). It sure was useful to some New Yorkers on the aftermath of hurricane Sandy.