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Camp Cooking – Where ‘s the Heat?

wchjune20151Camp Cooking – Where‘s the Heat?- As published in West Coast Horsemen, June 2015

Happy campers have happy stomachs. Cooking is to camping what peanut butter is to bread. One is just so much better with the other. When done well there are few meals that taste better than those cooked while camping. After a day spent riding far from the worries of home there’s nothing better than a good meal. But how to prepare said meal fit for kings? Camp cooking uses a different set of rules and gear than what we might normally use at home. Let’s explore a few options in the world of heat generating devices and even a few of my favorite camp recipes.

camp fireOpen Fires. A campfire is one of the centerpieces of any camp. In fact to many of us it’s not camping unless there’s a campfire to circle round while telling tall tales of trail rides past and future. Unfortunately open fires are often prohibited during the summer when the risk of wild fires is high. As such we’ll focus on some of the camp stoves that are available that can keep us fed when open fires are out of the picture.

Camping vs backpacking stoves.

Stoves come in a myriad of flavors and two very important considerations are weight and space.  If you’re camping at the trailhead (or have a spare pack mule) you can more easily haul a beast of a stove that can nearly replace the kitchen range back at home. If you are more restricted in terms of how much weight your animal can haul and how much free space you have, a backpacking stove may be your best bet. Backpacking stoves are designed to be lightweight and very efficient. Often the compromises involved mean that this type of stove can be rather delicate and limited in versatility. Many backpacking stoves are best for boiling the water used to reconstitute freeze dried camping meals.

Another concern is what type of fuel your stove operates on. From twigs and sticks to pressurized gases to alcohol and white gas, there are many different types of stove fuels. Deciding which is best for you is the hard part. In my opinion pressurized gas canisters are an LNT nightmare. Color me a tree hugging greenie, but I find that white gas and alcohol stoves are more earth friendly, with fewer empty canisters to recycle or throw away. An added bonus with liquid fuel stoves it is also very easy to carry only the amount of fuel that is required

colemanColeman 2 Burner. This is the classic green and red camping stove that many of us remember from our youth. Indeed the hiss of pressurized white gas feeding the burners is the sound of breakfast on the way. Mine has been a faithful companion for years, frying bacon, simmering beans, and boiling gallons of water for the best camp coffee one can imagine. The only downside to the Coleman is its heft. Weighing in at over ten pounds it stays with the trailer on most trips. If I had the extra pack stock this would be the stove that would accompany me into the backcountry.

Cowboy Coffee

2 TBL ground coffee per 8 oz H2O – A fine grind releases more flavor and sinks to the bottom faster – Bring water only to a boil then remove from the stove and let the boil drop off (20-30 seconds) – Add the coffee and stir to mix – Let sit for two minutes – Stir again – let sit another two minutes – Sprinkle a small amount of cool water into the pot to help settle the grounds – Enjoy

trangiaTrangia. This Swedish made marvel is my new go to camp stove for my backcountry adventures. It has no moving parts that can fail, an included camp kitchen and burns alcohol, a clean environmentally friendly fuel. The Trangia has earned the reputation as the most reliable backpacking type stove in the world. While the heart of a Trangia system is the alcohol burner the genius of the system is that it is a complete cooking system consisting of a base, windscreen, two pots, and a lid/skillet. Just assemble the nesting pots and you’re ready to prepare a full meal.

All in One Breakfast

Eggs – Sausage – Potato – Onion – Cheese. Cut sausage, onion, and potato into small pieces. Cook sausage and onion. Cook potato in sausage drippings. Beat eggs together and add to potatoes. When almost cooked, add sausage and cheese. Ready when cheese is melted.

msrMSR Whisperlite. Running on the same white gas as the Coleman the MSR offers similar reliability in its simple design and construction. Small and even easily repaired in the backcountry, the Whisperlite is a regular companion on my backcountry trips where the hiss of the stove means that hot coffee is on the way in short order. Notice that I said “coffee” not “dinner”. While the flame can be adjusted the MSR’s strong point is boiling water for coffee or adding to dehydrated meals. Compact, lightweight, and easy to operate the Whisperlite is a design that has been proven over the past 20 plus years as a reliable backcountry stove.

Ham and Pea Ramen Noodles

2 packages Ramen noodles – ½ cup dried peas – parmesan cheese – 1 cup cooked ham – salt and pepper Add all ingredients to pot of boiling water.

bemcoBemco Backpacker Oven. With a camp oven you can enjoy the cakes, muffins, cookies, pizza and more, that are the cornerstone of home cooking; while in the backcountry. Using either of the heat sources we already mentioned you can enjoy real baked goods during your adventures. I’ve used mine to make brownies while packing into the middle of the Olympics. It is a an extra pound plus of weight to haul but if eating well, really well, is on your list of priorities it can be well worth it.


1 cup flour -1 tsp. baking powder – 1/4 tsp. salt – 1/4 cup dry milk powder – 1 tbsp. shortening. Combine the mix at home and store in a heavy-duty freezer bag. At camp add water to bag to create a thick batter. Bake in oven.

bioliteBioLite CampStove. Cook and charge your electronic devices with this high tech wood burning camp stove. The concept is great on many fronts. Use the twigs and sticks at camp instead of packing fuel and charge your phone while making dinner. It’s not perfect and requires a lot of tending of the fire and would take hours to fully charge a phone. But that being said, it’s a nifty gadget that will impress the technophiles in your group.

Rocky Road Pudding

1 box instant pudding – 2/3 cup powered milk – ¼ marshmallows – ¼ cup walnuts. Combine mix at home. At camp add cold water.

There are many types and style of camp stoves to choose from. I‘ve only listed those that I’ve had personal experience with and enjoyed using. At the end of the day no matter what gear you chose the mountains will be awesome, the sunsets grand, and the memories exceptional.

As always for more information on this and other topics of interest to trail riders and equine campers visit the largest horse trail and camp directory in the world and the only one that verifies its data with the land managers!