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 trailcooking.com, 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.

Losing and Finding

I am not, historically, one who loses things, especially when I’m in the outdoors hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing. That changed when we joined Cub Scouts last year, though. On every big campout, I have left behind something major. The weird thing is that I’ve recovered — eventually — everything I’ve left behind.

At our first Cub Scouts campount (Fall Cub Adventure 2009), we left behind our camp chairs. Luckily, someone grabbed them, and I got them back a couple of weeks later. At last summer’s Withrow Springs State Park campout, I again left the chairs behind. I managed to get them back, though they were picked up by two different people, and it took me a while to finally get the second one back (totally my fault, though).

More importantly, I “lost” the pocketknife (a Benchmade Mini Griptillian with a combo blade) I’d carried for the last four or five years. I looked through all my camping gear at least three times, but it never turned up. I kept putting off replacing it, thinking it would turn up eventually. About three days before the next camping trip, I finally broke down and bought another knife, a nearly identical Mini Griptillian (this time with the plain edge). At the campout (Fall Family Camp 2010), I was setting up my tent when I saw there was something in the inside tent pocket: my pocket knife! (There was also a headlamp I didn’t realize I had lost, too.)

Well, the latest installment of the saga played out this morning. At this year’s Fall Cub Adventure, I lost my multi-tool (a Leatherman Wave). Again, I tore through all my camping gear and my truck — multiple times — but never found it. This morning, Daniel found it when looking for some YuGiOh cards in a bag we had taken to the campout. I remembered putting it in there as soon as he told me where he found it.

I need to get better organized with my stuff when camping. I know I need to take less stuff camping. I’ve been reading “Woodcraft and Camping” by George W. “Nessmuk” Sears recently. He was an early advocate for carrying less gear when camping, and I think it’s sinking in a little bit, especially after losing those two important tools recently.

Nessmuk had a great many insightful things to say in that slim volume (and I’ll be writing about more of them in the days and weeks ahead), but this one really hits home with me and some changes I’ve been making lately:

We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home; in towns and cities; in shops, offices, stores, banks anywhere that we may be placed—with the necessity always present of being on time and up to our work; of providing for the dependent ones; of keeping up, catching up, or getting left.

More to come. It’s good to be back.