Cooking

More tips of shaving weight

scale_bigIn our last post we talked about getting weight down by looking at the pack you are carrying.  That is an important part of the process of getting your base weight down.. so now lets talk about ways that you can shave weight on the stuff you put in side.
1.  Make lists.  Make a spreadsheet or list of everything that you have.  Weigh every piece of gear.  Now, I am no gram weenie and the thought of looking that close at gear at first was just plain wrong, but then I noticed how quickly ounces add up.
2.  Prioritize your list of needs and wants.  What do you need and what do you just want to have out there.  Some folks think that they need something, but then learn that it really was just a want.  Look closely at your gear.  One thing that I do is after each outing I dump my pack, clean and dry everything and then lay it all out.  If I did not use a piece of gear I assess whether I want it in my pack or I need it my pack.  A first aid kit is a need even though it may never get used (hopefully).  I have found that in most cases if I did not use a piece of gear on one outing, I probably won’t use it on the next.
3.  Look at your seasonal gear.  I store my winter gear in a separate tub.  I pull it out when needed and put it back when the weather turns.  Don’t get in the habit of just keeping seasonal items in your pack.  Winter tent stakes or anchors are heavier than your regular stakes.  Gloves and other cold weather gear just adds un needed weight in the summer.
4.  Food.  Plan, Plan, Plan..  You can shave lots of weight in food.  The best part of food packing is that meal after meal your pack gets lighter.  Repackage your meals.  Do not take any boxes, cans, or heavy wrapping.  Zip lock bags work great and can reduce the size and weight of your meals.  Even if you use Mountain House of other Freeze dried meals.  Take them out of the original packaging.  Cook it in your pot instead of the bag.  Mountain House (and other brands) bags are heavy and bulky.
Plan your meals.  Just because you are in Scouts does not mean that you need to cook a 3 course meal every meal of the day.  Trail foods, Gorp, energy bars, breakfast bars, jerky, and peanut butter packets make a great trail lunch and will fit in 1 ziplock sandwich bag.  Eat hot meals in the morning and night, but repackage them and take out the stuff you are not going to eat anyway.
5.  Water.  Purification tablets like the Aquamira tablets or the Katadyn tablets work great and take up little or no space in your pack.  You don’t get the instant drink of water, but you do shave some significant weight.  Also, ditch the Nalgene bottle.  Go with a bladder or even an old Gatoraid bottle.  They both are lighter and now a days.. just as durable.
Just like everything when it comes to backpacking.. planning and preparation are the key to success.  You can shave weight instantly by being a better planner.  Have a critical eye and accept that you can live without that one piece of gear that was bright and shiny and just would not let you run out of REI without it.
Yep.. These are lessons that I learned the hard way.  I used to carry the kitchen sink because that is how I was taught.  But as gear gets lighter and my body gets older, its time for the old dogs to learn new tricks and lighten up the load.
Last thought on this.  After the last post, I received emails about shaving weight and some folks left comments.  I really appreciate the comments and tips and tricks you all use to shave weight and have a great time out in the woods.  What I do want to say, and I have said it before, that you need to hike your own hike.. you need to find what works for you and tinker with your set up.
When teaching the Scouts we give them the tips and tricks and then see what they come up with.  Some of them really take that critical eye and get their weight and volume down.  And those that do find they have a better time on the trail.  Their pack is not constantly kicking their butts and they are fresher when they get to camp.  Those that choose not to take a look at their gear..well, they do one of two things.  Struggle or suck it up.
Last tip.
Upgrade.  I know gear gets spendy.  Try to upgrade one item a year.  Your sleep system, your shelter, your pack, whatever.  If it’s not every year, set a goal and look at the one piece of gear that will give you the highest pay off in weight savings and volume reduction and get it when you can.  Then set a new goal for the next piece.  Spend a few hours at your favorite outfitter and test it all out.  Get in the sleeping bag, set up the tent, feel the weight and look it the item packed and set up.  See what will work for you and get what you like and what will best fit your kit.
Hike your own Hike and Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, High Adventure, planning, Skills, training | Leave a comment

Sunday Coffee -Medaglia D’oro

Well, I think this is going to be a pretty regular segment on the blog.  I am trying to do gear reviews also, and since I really like my coffee and am always in search of a good cup o’ joe for the trail, this is a good way to talk about gear and have some coffee while chatting to ya.
You may have noticed that I am putting out a few more videos than I have in the past, and the blog seems to be morphing into a Vlog… but I can assure you, while video is going to have it’s place in the blog, I am not converting it to a Vlog.  I have a lot of fun with the video’s and really enjoy sharing my gear addiction and camping hobby with you all.
So here is this weeks Sunday Coffee.  In November I asked the readers to send me suggestions for a good cup o’joe for the trail.  I got two emails suggesting some instant coffee’s.  The first one was Medaglia D’oro instant espresso coffee.  So this week we are brewing up a cup and letting you know how it is.
If you have a brand that you think I should try, let me know.  So thanks Tom for the suggestion on the Medalia D’oro coffee.. yeah.. it’s a good cup o’ joe.
Email me your suggestion to tbirdironchef@gmail.com or leave your suggestion in the comments section of this post.
Enjoy.
And Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, comments, Cooking, gear, Just fun, Skills | 4 Comments

Sunday Morning Coffee

Had an opportunity to get some gear hung out today, thought, I’d just get lazy and hang around in the hammock.
Yep, this is my Sunday…
Talking about gear and enjoying a good cup o’ joe.
Hey… I’m looking for some real good coffee for the trail.  Any suggestions?
Leave a comment or shoot an email.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, Camping, comments, Cooking, gear, Hammock, Just fun | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Thoughts on gear

As you are fully aware by now, I like gear.  I have had many discussions with parents of the Scouts in my Troop that my obsession with gear is rubbing off on their sons.  Half jokingly I often reply that it’s a good thing.  I say “Half jokingly” because I think that gear is an important part of the camping experience…  Well no duh right?
A long time ago in a Scouting world far far away I had a Scoutmaster that would talk about having the right gear for the type of camping that we were doing.  He would wax on about taking care of that gear so that when needed it would be there for you.  “If you take care of your gear, it will take care of you” he would say.  And I believe that.
Later in life as I started to get back into camping and backpacking, I began to toy with different types of gear.  Cook kits, stoves, backpacks, sleep systems, tents, hammocks, gizmo’s and gadgets that make camp life fun and easy.
It seems that the more you play with gear, the more you find your likes and dislikes, what works for you and what doesn’t.  In the backpacking community there is a saying online when offering advice, gear reviews, and opinions.  YMMV.  That’s.. Your mileage May Vary.  Meaning, to each his own and what works for me, may not work for you or you may get different results.
So back to our Scouts.  Now, I don’t want to break their bank, but I do want them to start learning what they like and what works for them.  I understand that I do have an influence on these young men and that when I come out with a new piece of gear or start playing with a new camp gadget, they tend to watch and learn.  I do want these guys to develop a habit of exploring what works for them.  I want them to try new things and not just gear that someone says is a must have a piece of equipment.  Developing that habit now will keep them interested in being outdoors and hiking.  It is a way that will test them and keep their minds thinking about different ways to accomplish different tasks.  I assume that my old Scoutmasters wanted me and my Troop mates to develop an appreciation for the outdoors and that is what I wish for my Scouts.  Gear is a big part of that.
When your gear fits, works, and is fun to use, you have a tendency to want to go out and use it.  A backpack that is ill-fitting and squeaks a lot is not something you want to take on the trail.  A comfortable pack will keep you on the trail longer.  If you are cold at night because you got a cheap Walmart sleeping bag rated for slumber parties, you won’t want to be in after your first miserable night.  Spending a little more up front though and getting a good sleeping bag makes for toasty comfortable nights of good sleep and you want to be out in it more.
It seems that I have turned a lot of our Scouts in to gear junkies.  And that may or may not be a good thing for their parents, but it’s a great thing in my opinion for the Scout (YMMV).
With the fast approaching Holidays coming up, I am encouraging our Scouts to get their list together.  Ask for a new pot set or stove.  Maybe that single person tent you have been eye balling or better yet, join the hammock way of a great nights sleep.  How about some new gaiters or winter boots?  New rain gear is aways in vogue here in Oregon.  Maybe it’s just a new spork that tops your Christmas list, either way this is the perfect time to add to your backpacking gear loft.
Thanksgiving a time to be with family and give thanks for all we have.  It’s also a great opportunity to corner Grandma and Grandpa and slip them a copy of your gear needs.  Or you can slip it into the Dinner conversation.  “Grandpa, can you pass the gravy?  You know, there is this pot set that I have been looking at that would be awesome for making biscuits and gravy while on our next camp out.”  You know, be subtile, but get your wish list in where ever you can.
The other side of the gear collection is what you can share.  As I collect new gear I have two bins.  One for the stuff that I really love and can’t part with and the other for the stuff that I have tried, didn’t really fall in love with, but there’s nothing wrong with it, just not my cup o’ tea.  That stuff usually ends up going home with one of the Scouts.  This last camp out and set of rain gear that my boys out grew a set of gaiters, and some odds and ends made their way into the packs of a few of our Scouts.  I don’t mind sharing (giving away) gear that I’m not using.  If it helps with meeting their gear fix needs than I really find it nice to be an enabler. 
So parents, understand that yes, I am trying to turn your son into a backpacking gear junky.  And yes, I am trying to develop in them the habit of discovery.  And yes, they are doing a great job in joining the cult of Backpacking gear guys.  You don’t have to worry about them wearing uniforms.. errr wait.. scratch that..  You won’t have to worry about them hanging out in gangs.. ahhh.. scratch that too… Ok.. yeah, they will be with their partol and they will be in uniform, but you will never have to worry about them wearing foil hats and chanting to the golden pogo stick.  They will be out in the woods having the time of their lives, comfortable, cooking great meals, singing songs, and exploring a world of adventure.  And all that great gear is going to help them in their journey!
Thanks for being patient and understanding.
Now I have to go play with my stove and put new guy lines on my tarp.. you know we have a camp out in January I need to prepare for.
Oh and my list of gear that I need…
A new wind screen for my cook kit.  An underquilt for my hammock.  Griz beak doors for the Tarp.  Oh, I can go on and on.. after all, if it’s gear, I want it.
Whats on your gear list for this Christmas.  Leave a comment and share you gear needs and wants.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, comments, Cooking, gear, Hammock, Just fun, Leave no trace, Skills, Winter Camping | Leave a comment

My Cook Kit

I was recently asked what I use when backpacking, or camping in general, for my cook kit.  So here it is.  It’s real simple and it works extremely well.  I am very happy with this set up having used many different cook kits, pots, pans, stoves etc.  This set up is by far my favorite and most used.  And yes, this cook kit set up is used all year long, even in the snow.
If you have questions and/or comments, please drop me an email or leave a comment here on the blog.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: blog, camp skills, Cooking, gear, Leave no trace, Skills | Tags: | 2 Comments

Gear Review

This weeks gear pick is one of my favorite pieces of gear.  The MSR Whisperlite Universal.
I bought my first Whisperlite, the Whisperlite International back in the mid ’80′s.  I drug it all over the place and got every penny out of that stove.  It is perhaps one of the best stoves ever made.  Durable, easy to use and maintain, and super efficient.
The MSR Whisperlite Universal is the new generation of the Whisperlite line.  It is lighter, its stability has been enhanced, and they added the feature of being able to burn canister fuel.
The MSR Whisperlite burns liquid fuels and canister fuel with a quick transition of fuel connector and fuel jet.  It does not take a tool box and a lot of know how to quickly change from one to the other.  I prefer the liquid fuel options over canister, but it is nice to know that I have the options.
The Whisperlite will burn White gas (Blazo), Unleaded, and Kerosene.  Burning Kerosene is messy and the least efficient, but it works.


Here are the specs:

Minimum Weight 11.5 oz / 326 g
Packed Weight 1 lbs 3.4 oz / 549 g
Burn time (white gas) per 600ml / 20 oz. of fuel Appx. 110 minutes
Burn time (MSR IsoPro) per 227-g / 8-oz. canister Appx. 75 minutes
Burn time (kerosene) per 600ml / 20 oz. of fuel Appx. 155 minutes
Boil time (white gas), 1 liter 3.5 minutes
Boil time (kerosene), 1 liter 4.4 minutes
Boil time (MSR IsoPro), 1 liter 3.75 minutes
Water boiled (white gas) per 100 ml of fuel 4.4 liters
Water boiled (white gas) per 1 oz. of fuel 1.3 liters
Water boiled (kerosene) per 100 ml of fuel 5.3 liters
Water boiled (kerosene) per 1 oz. of fuel 1.6 liters
Water boiled (MSR IsoPro) per 227-g canister 15 liters
Water boiled (MSR IsoPro) per 1 oz. of fuel 1.8 liters
Country of Origin Made in Seattle, USA

Like I have said, the MSR Whisperlite is my favorite stove.  It works great in all the weather conditions I have backpacked and camped in.  It is super efficient and packs well.  I have used it to simmer and boil.  It is a great stove.
Now let me address the liquid fuel question.  I have met Scouters that for some reason feel that liquid fuel is not allowed in Scouting.  Wrong.  Liquid fuel is not only allowed but recommended at the high adventure bases like Philmont.  The key is to teach the Scouts how to use them properly, but that is like anything else.  I find that the MSR Whisperlite is safer than a Jet Boil and a heck of a lot more useful, allowing the user to actually cook.
I am on my second MSR Whisperlite, having purchased the Universal before our trip to Philmont, my oldest son is now using my old Whisperlite and it is still working great.
I highly recommend this stove for all your camping cooking needs.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, camp skills, Cooking, gear | 2 Comments

Backpack cooking – Follow up

I received an email the other day asking some questions about the backpacking video that I recently put up on the blog.  They are great questions and so I thought I’d share the email and answers here.
Question:  What sort of Food Bag do you use? Is it insulated? Does that keep frozen foods cool enough to prevent bacterial growth over a summer weekend?
The food bag that I use is the Sea to Summit Trash Dry sack.  It is a 10 liter dry bag.  Total water proof and more importantly reduces the oders.  I repackage all my food into heavy-duty zip lock bags and then it all goes in the “inner bag” of the food bag.  It is not insulated.  In so far as frozen foods.  The foods that are frozen I put in the freezer and keep it there until Friday when we leave.  Typically it will stay cold and thaw in time for me to cook it.  I have never had a problem with bacterial growth.  The food stays cold enough.  Having said that though.. I live in Oregon.. and our temps don’t get to high until August.  I have used cold streams to store the food in also when I think there is a need to keep things cold.  Our water is never warm.  That is another nice feature of the bag.  It can be placed in water and everything stays dry.  I love the hooks on the side.  Makes it easy to hang.  This bag is endorsed by the Leave No Trace Organization.

Question:  Was that a metal spork you were using to stir up the meal? I had always been taught that metal utensils will damage the anti-stick coating in pots. I could see using a plastic spork, but I wanted your opinion if you thought this was important.
Yes that is a metal (Titanium) spork.  It is the REI Ti ware spork.  I have used that spork for years now.  And yes it will scratch the surface of a non stick pot if you are not careful.  I would not recommend this to Scouts that do not care for their gear, but it works for me.  I think it is worth teaching the Scouts to be careful.. even plastic utensils will begin to scratch if not careful.  I have an ASM that cringes every time I do that.. but my pots seem to not be worse for the wear.

Question:  What sort of lid lifter do you recommend for Scouts?  I have looked for something like this to purchase, but have not been able to find anything under a “lid lifter” search. 
I actually have an MSR pot lifter that came with the pot set.  Since I started using the Imusa mug to do most of my cooking however it have been dropped from the packing list.  Here are some of the types of lifters that I would suggest for the Scouts.  LINK.  Most if not all of our out fitters locally have them for purchase.  They range from about $4 to $15 dollars depending on the brand.  I have gotten so used to using the rag with the Imusa mug that it has become routine.  But pot lifters are a great idea.

Question:  What sort of coffee do you prefer? I take it you must bring along the instant packets if they fit in that little Nalgene bottle.
I have been using Maxwell house instant coffee lately.  I transfer it all into that Nalgene bottle so I only have to fill it about every 4 camp outs.  I like the Starbucks Via coffee also, but the Maxwell House International Cafe stuff is cheaper and tasty.  I don’t have to add anything also.  As much as you could argue that there is nothing better than fresh brewed coffee.. when I can roll over in the hammock and fire up my stove, boil water, and in minutes have some good tasting coffee.. I will take it.  Besides, when backpacking, sometimes less is better and a Nalgene full of flavor and a little pick me up, well, that’s all I need.  I think talking about coffee is like discussing religion or politics… everyone has an opinion.  I generally use the backpacker philosophy of “Hike your own Hike” when it comes to coffee.  everyone’s mileage will vary and everyone have their own taste.  As with all my gear, it is what I am comfortable carrying and using, I do not proclaim that how I do it is the best, but it all works for me.  Having said that though.. It is how I teach our Scouts, how they adopt it and use it is up to them.
I have often said that I am not a big fan of the Jet Boil.. and yet many of the Scouts of my Troop use it.. They Hike their own Hike.  We always reinforce this idea.  “Here are some ways to do it, some gear to do it with, and recommended skills that will help… now find your style, gear, and routine and hike your own hike”.

I hope this helps.  Sometimes I look back and see that I put something out… and of course it makes perfect sense to me.. it’s my stuff.   Glad you asked the questions.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, Just fun, Leave no trace, Skills | 1 Comment

Backpack Cooking

As most of you know I am Troop Guide for Wood Badge Course W1-492-11.  One of my Might Buffalo patrol members needed some help with his ticket.  One of his items is to introduce his Troop to the many different ways of preparing meals while camping.  So he called me up and asked if I could do a presentation on Backpack cooking.  Well, one thing led to another and we just could not get dates that worked for me, him, and his Troop.. So I thought.. the next best thing to being there is video.  So my son and I shot this video on Backpack cooking.  It was an excuse to get out a bunch of gear and a way that John could break in his new GoPro camera.
Hope you enjoy.. I did.. got to eat some good chow at the end!
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Categories: Backpacking, blog, camp skills, Camping, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Just fun, planning, Skills | 1 Comment

Esbit Alcohol Stove

OK.. I tried to get this post out yesterday.. not sure if it was the computer or the operator.. but lets try it again…

I have been playing with a new stove the last couple months.  Taken it out on the last three outings and I am in love with it.
The Esbit Alcohol Stove is designed like the Trangia stove out of Sweden.  The Esbit is from Germany and is built to last just like the Esbit chemical fuel tablet stove.  When I was an 11 year old Tenderfoot I got one of the chemical tablet stoves, as most of the guys in my Troop had them.  We lived in Holland at the time and it seemed to be the standard for our Troop.  I still have that stove.
So back in February I wanted to find one to show the Scouts of the Troop.  I found them and bought a new chemical fuel stove, and right next to it on the shelf sat the Esbit Alcohol Stove for $19.99.  I picked it up and thought for 20 bucks it’s worth a shot.
Let me tell you why I like this stove, but first.. let me tell you what I look for in a stove.
First, I like a stove that is easy to use.  To many buttons, knobs, pumps, or steps to operate frustrate me.
Next, I like a stove that is not too heavy.  I am not a gram weenie.. but something that is too heavy is usually bulky also.
Finally, I like a stove that uses different fuels or multi fuel stoves.
And so.. the esbit alcohol stove has caught my eye.  Let me throw some specs out at you.
The stove weighs in at 3.2 ounces or 92 grams for those of you that count them up.  The stove will burn denatured alcohol, solid fuel (chemical fuel) tablets, and white gas.  The Esbit is made of Brass and is 1.8 x 2.9 in or 4.6 x 7.4 cm.
The stove has a screw top with a rubber seal.  This is a great feature that allows you to keep fuel in the stove while its in your pack without leakage.  It has a simmer ring or flame regulator.  I love this feature.  It allows you to either go for a full boil or simmer for delicate cooking and frying.  This simmer ring has a nice fold away handle that works real well when on the stove.  When looking for the full boil, 1 ounce of fuel (Denatured Alcohol) will get water to a rolling boil in 5 minutes.  That was a time that I never thought I could get out of an alcohol stove.  I am not big on faster boiling or cooking.  The way I see it.. I’m camping, relax and enjoy it.  Which brings me to another feature of the stove that I love.  It makes no noise.  It is absolutely quiet.  Real nice to site around and chat with.
Alright… But the BSA has a ban on alcohol stoves.. right?  No.  the BSA has defined the prohibition like this; Prohibited chemical-fueled equipment—Equipment  that is handcrafted, homemade, modified, or installed  beyond the manufacturer’s stated design limitations or use.  Examples include alcohol-burning “can” stoves, smudge  pots, improperly installed heaters, and propane burners  with their regulators removed. ” – Chemical Fuels and Equipment publication.  Homemade stoves are banned.. but stoves like the Trangia or the Esbit are manufactured with the intent of being used as a stove.
The fuel on the other hand is where the question and where you will have to make a judgment call.  Denatured Alcohol is “Not Recommended”, but no where does it state it is prohibited.    So you have to be the judge.  Here is my take.  Let me be clear here.  This is MY take.  I understand that the BSA has to make decisions based on the lowest common denominator.  Denatured alcohol, while it may be toxic if swallowed, is non explosive and extremely stable.   The absolute worst thing that can happen if it spills is evaporation.  No gear is ruined, and it will be dry before you need it.
The danger comes in the color of the flame.  The flame when first lit is almost invisible.  This could lead to burns.  But in my opinion that rule goes for any stove.  Proper training and instruction is important when using this stove.  So what I am saying is that when Scouts in my Troop ask if they can use one of these, the answer will be yes to Scouts that I trust can handle it.  Scouts that have proven that they will operate it with care.  I suppose it is just like giving a Scout his Totin’ Chip.  Once they are trained and demonstrate proper use and care, they are allowed to carry and use a Knife, Saw, and Ax.  We trust them with other stoves, but only after training.  The Esbit Stove is much easier to use than most stove.  It is clean, small, and easy to maintain.  The only moving part is the simmer ring, which is not used when just boiling.
I love this stove and look forward to cooking many great meals on it.  I’ll report more as I use it.  Stay tuned.

 

Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Categories: Backpacking, blog, Cooking, gear, Just fun | 7 Comments

SMMPodcast # 103 – Talking with Bob

In this show I have a lengthy chat with a fellow Scoutmaster and great Friend Bob Pierce.    Join us as we talk a little bit about everything.  Jamboree, Dutch oven cooking, Troop Guides, JLT, Anuual planning, Parents and Philmont just to cover some of the bases.  It’s what happens Scoutmasters get together and shoot the breeze.  The show was recorded on location at the Annual rendezvous of the Order of the Arrow at Camp Meriwether, so the crashing of waves and other camp sounds fill the background of this nice talk with my buddy Bob.
Hope you enjoy the show.
Please leave some feedback, drop us an email, or leave a comment in the comments section.  Thanks for listening.
Have a Great Scouting Day! 

Direct Download


Categories: camp skills, Character, Cooking, gear, High Adventure, Jamboree, Journey to Excellence, Leadership, Order of the Arrow, Patrol Method, planning, podcast, stories, training, Webelos to Scout Transition | 2 Comments

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