in Camping / by Roofnest Team
Camping in the wilderness can seem like a complicated hassle, especially when it comes to cooking and food prep. How do you keep perishables cold, or ice for a cooler? Do I have room for pots and pans? It is concerns like this that mean many folks go camping, and eat nothing more than modified MREs and beef jerky.
Why don’t you skip the freeze dried garbage and instead build yourself a small camping pantry that will stay good for weeks and maybe even months without any cooling necessary. All you need is a few compact cooking utensils, a small camp stove, and a small collection of ingredients and you can make all manner of tasty meals with very little effort.
Thanks to backpackers, those crazy people that walk hundreds of miles into the woods for no reason wearing as little as possible, there are tons of great options for cookware that are small and compact. Our favorite is the Glacier Stainless Camper set from GSI Outdoors. It comes with two pots, a skillet, four plates, four bowls, and four insulated cups so you can cook for a whole family, but when you are down it packs down into a bag about the size of a basketball. It’s insane, well built, and we love it.
Also from GSI, we recommend picking up the Rakau Knife Set. This compact zip-up binder houses three knives, a cutting board, cleaning rag and a quick sharpener. With both of these sets from GSI, you have what amounts to a nearly full kitchen’s worth of cooking utensils.
Our other utensil staple is a pair of good tongs. Need to stir or plate spaghetti? Tongs. Need to flip frying spam? Tongs. Need to pluck out that acorn that fell into your pot of ramen? Tongs. They are the single most useful tool in our current kitchen arsenal.
Finally, you need some way to heat your pots and pans. While something small like a Jetboil will work in a pinch, any standard single burner camp stove from the likes of Coleman, or even a good campfire will get you going. Just pick your favorite stove and/or fuel type, and you are ready to start cooking.
All the pots and pans in the world mean nothing if you have nothing to cook. Now instead of planning out a schedule of meals, we much prefer to bring a staple collection of ingredients that all work well together, so we can make all sorts of dishes depending on what we are feeling that day.
So, here is a list of our must-have pantry staples that we always keep packed up and ready to go anytime we get the urge to head out into the wilderness.
Root vegetables are a key staple. Onions, shallots, and whole garlic all hold incredibly well when stored properly. Plus they are the key ingredients to taking any meal up an extra level. Canned goods are another way to keep a stock of versatile food if you make the right decisions. Don’t buy spaghetti sauce, instead grab canned tomatoes that can be great for a pasta sauce, or be used in something like a stew or a tinfoil bake.
Other great options for canned foods include sliced potatoes, “Baja” corn, or any sort of mixed vegetable medley. Finally, don’t forget about canned fruit. A can of sweet cherries can be great in a hand pie, and you can use the extra syrup to make cocktails. We love taking cans of pineapple along to make curry rice with.
Speaking of which, our next collection of must-have food ingredients are what we call our “base elements.” These are the start of most of our dishes in some way or another, and the other ingredients just amplify and improve. We suggest dried pasta, packages of ramen, pre-cooked rice, and canned meat like Spam or canned shredded chicken.
With pasta noodles, a can of tomatoes, some onions and some garlic, you can make one hell of a pasta dish. Fry up some spam with canned potatoes, shallots, and baja corn, and you have breakfast fit for a camping king. Just mix and match and see what amazing things you can come up with.
For our final section of the camping pantry, there are few basic staples that we always have packed and ready to go to make sure our campsite cooking goes off without a hitch, like a spice cabinet.
There are tons of great spice blends that already exist out there that can dramatically reduce the number of spices you need to take with you and get the job done. Our favorites include some sort of cajun spice blend (we’re big fans of Tony Chachere’s), a generic italian blend seasoning with things like rosemary, thyme and basil in it, and of course a salt and pepper blend shaker. WIth those three containers, you can make all manner of food.
If you really want to expand what you can cook, we also love taking a shaker of dried curry powder and some smoked paprika to really add some interesting complexity to our food.
Along with the spices, we also always carry a roll of heavy-duty foil and a can of spray oil. Bottles of oil leak and butter needs to be kept cold, so an aerosol spray oil is the way to keep the potential mess down while being incredibly easy to use.
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