Book Review: Cliff Jacobson’s Basic Illustrated Cooking in the Outdoors

As I posted earlier, I’m working on expanding my repertoire of outdoor cooking techniques and recipes this year. The Boy will be crossing over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts in the Spring, and I won’t have to cook for 80 people at a time on Cub Scout family campouts (we have a really large and active Cub Scout Pack).

When I camp with the Boy Scout Troop, I’ll be cooking with the adult patrol, and I’ll have the opportunity to cook small (or individual) meals. I’m greatly looking forward to that. I’m also working on learning some new small group recipes to teach to The Boy’s Webelos den (the Beaver Patrol — which is a completely unironic name chosen by 10-year-olds) some easy small-group recipes for their den campouts, the first of which is coming up soon.

In addition to the other outdoor cooking books I already own, I recently picked up a copy of Cliff Jacobson’s Basic Illustrated Cooking in the Outdoors (Falcon Guides, 2008). I’m a BIG fan of Cliff and his books (especially Expedition Canoeing which I also recently bought and will talk about here in this blog at some point) and his articles in Scouting magazine. Cliff Jacobson is a Distinguished Eagle Scout, experienced leader of wilderness trips, and a retired Environmental Science teacher. Clarke Green (of the excellent Scoutmaster Blog and Podcast) recently posted some video interviews that someone else did with Cliff fairly recently, and they are entertaining and enlightening.

I haven’t finished reading all the recipes yet, but the thing I like most about the book is that it’s full of advice about preparing meals in the outdoors. Yes, that would seem obvious, but many “outdoor cooking” books are mostly collections of recipes and have little experienced practical advice in them. Cliff’s book is FULL of that sort of information.

The book was published in 2008, so it’s pretty up-to-date, but there may be a few techniquest or pieces of gear in that have been superseded by better options. For example, I would think cozies made out of reflectix would be easier to make and more efficient than Cliff’s wool and batting design, but I could be wrong.

The book is focused on group cooking where you can carry a lot of supplies and gear, so it’s more focused on canoe trips (no surprise there, given Cliff’s background) or car camping. Many of the techniques can be adapted for backpacking use, though.

It’s well worth adding to your collection of outdoor cooking books.

A River Rat Is Born

The Boy finally got his chance to float the Buffalo National River on Saturday. While we’ve taken him down there to swim and explore and fish a few times, this was the first time for him to float, and he had a blast.

With all the rain the area’s gotten lately, there has been floatable (and MUCH higher than floatable) water on the upper Buffalo IN AUGUST for only the second time in 40 years, according to Buffalo Outdoor Center’s Mike Mills. We watch the river levels and the forecast all week and finally found a day that had good weather and good floating levels, and which our friends were free, too.

We floated from Steel Creek to Kyles Landing, along with several hundred of our closest friends. It was crowded but congenial on the river Saturday.

After watching a number of people tump over right at the put-in (there’s a tricky little hole right after you launch), Daniel was a little nervous, I think. We made it through that hole just fine, and floated down through the first pool. Our friends the Buttons, Rob and his two boys, turned over in the second rapid. Not sure what happened: one minute they were doing fine and the next they were in the water. We stopped and helped them get their boat out and continued on.

The weather was beautiful, in the 60s to start and it never got hotter than about 80. The water was nice and cool, too, but warm enough to swim in (intentionally or not).

We found good places to pull over and eat and swim. Daniel loves swimming in the river, but we already knew that. The upper Buffalo has the best scenery (though it’s all good scenery) with lots of towering bluffs right on the water.

We had a few close calls but didn’t turn over until about 250 yards above the takeout. We watched the Buttons go through a small rapid that swept a little to the left. I guess we got lazy and didn’t study it too hard because we were thinking about taking out, but by the time we realized we needed to paddle hard to miss a strainer on river left, we were being swept into it.

I grabbed onto the tree to pull us past it, but instead it tipped the boat upstream and the canoe filled with water and over we went. I went under and when I came up, I could see Daniel. He was upstream of the overturned (and floating) canoe, holding onto the boat, with his feet up and pointed downstream, just like he should be. I was a little disoriented and — to be honest — scared, but he was fine, and quickly I was, too.

There was a shallow gravel bar just below us, and the Buttons had stopped there, and they helped us run our salvage operation. We had tied everything into the boat, and it was all okay, if a little wet. The only damage was that river water got in our cooler and soaked some crackers and a few other food items, but we recovered everything.

We didn’t get to fish (too many boats on the river, really), but Daniel had a great time. He said his favorite parts were turning over and swimming. A river rat is born.

I’ve been wanting to take him on a float for a long time now, and I’m glad this unseaonable cool snap and rain we’ve had lately helped bring it together right before school started back.

My Review of The Ultimate Hang in Cool Tools


I recently had a review of a book published in the awesome Cool Tools blog that was started by Kevin Kelly and is current edited by Mark Frauenfelder (BoingBoing, Make: magazine, Gweek podcast, etc., etc.). Serious nerd achievement unlocked. Is there a patch for that?

I reviewed Derek Hansen’s The Ultimate Hang: an Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping, which is THE book to get you started on hammock camping. Read the review!

Camp Cooking

During the summer — the hottest, humidest, nastiest part of the summer — I get the jones to go camping. The Boy and I camp quite a bit with Scouts during the school year part of the year, usually about once every 4-6 weeks. But, during the hot part of the year, we don’t camp much (or at all). I hate camping in hot weather. I can’t sleep, I sweat too much. It’s not fun. BUT, I get the urge every year in August.

Instead of actually going camping though (which would usually be miserable this time of year), I tend to sort through all my gear, cleaning and repairing what needs work (and what doesn’t). I also tend to acquire more gear this time of year than any other, too, which isn’t always a good thing.

This year, my plan is to channel some of that energy into working up some camp recipes using my dehydrator (which I didn’t have this time last year and which is mostly just a fruit leather and jerky-making machine at our house). I also need to work on my cooking gear, which is pretty oddball at the moment. I can boil water and just-add-water one pot dishes, but that’s about it. I’d like to get a little more creative and branch out some. I’m thinking of adding a Banks Fry-Bake, which is used by NOLS, Outward Bound, and countless other outfitters.

I’d also like to do some more dutch oven cooking, though that will be restricted mainly to car camping (and cooking at home).

I’m going to start trying some recipes from great places I’ve found online, especially, which is an amazing resource. In addition to her book, which is available there, Sarah has all sorts of recipes and advice on cooking outdoors. Her blog on that site is fun and informative, too.

Anyway, I’m going to do some practicing for when camping kicks in this fall in September. I have two or three Cub Scout pack campouts, at least one campout with a Boy Scout troop (since The Boy is a Webelos Scout and is currently looking at troops), and I’m doing Wood Badge this fall, which includes two weekends of camping (though food will be provided for us on those weekends).

I’ll report back here on what was successful and what wasn’t.