What does the ‘outdoor chef’ truly need? What is essential gear? While it depends on the individual and their style of camping/gear, some tools are applicable to most everyone (unless of course you eat a steady cold diet…..). It’s easy to over buy (and over carry) gear, something I can attest to.
Top Five Essential Items Every Outdoor Chef Needs:
- A dependable stove. I cannot stress this one enough: buy the best stove you can. That doesn’t mean it’ll be the most expensive. Simple. Hard working. Doesn’t break down in the backcountry. Doesn’t need to be babied along. Stoves come and go, some though are classics. What do I use? For years my go-to stove has been a Snowpeak Giga. I vary what Snowpeak fuel I use depending on the season (they make winter grade canisters).
- A well made long-handled spoon. The longer the handle, the less chances of you burning yourself while cooking. And if eat out of freezer bags, or commercial freeze-dried meal bags, the longer the spoon, the less likely you will have food covered knuckles. I have many long-handled spoons, one fave is a bamboo. However, for many, the new GSI Outdoor Essential spoon might be a great choice. They also make the perennial “pouch spoon” which is less than $2 and you can find them at REI. Some like metal, a classic Vargo Ti spoon will last you probably forever.
- A lighter that won’t fail. Something to consider an essential item – even if your stove has a fancy piezo lighter built-in. They can, and will fail at some point. Your stove is useless if you cannot light it. Yet, the solution is very inexpensive. A simple Bic brand lighter will last a very long time, and are workhorses. It’s gotten a bit harder to find lighters with smoking dying back. Buy a pack, stash the extras in your emergency kits. Tuck it in your cooking pot, in a snack size zip lock bag. Keeps the lighter clean and also any chance of lighter fluid out of your pot.
- A clean prep surface. How many times have you sat down in the wilds and realized you have nowhere to put your food? Worse, is when you are prepping a block of cheese, or an avocado. Is your choice a dusty campsite? A Juniper bush? Your filthy pant leg? Here are a few solutions: Precut parchment paper sheets, folded neatly into quarters. They weigh nearly nothing. Or a very lightweight ‘disposable’ cutting board, often found in grocery stores, sold in multi packs. They can be reused many, many times. Another fun solution is take a favorite map, and have it laminated. It will fit down into your water bladder holder in your backpack.
- Storage. An odd one, no? Yet a supply of various sized zip lock bags are handy to have. Pack 1 or 2 of all sizes: snack, sandwich, quart and gallon. A gallon freezer bag can be used to gather water in a creek or lake quickly. A quart freezer bag allows you to fold (cuff) the bag in half quickly, and have an instant serving bowl if you need a “plate” for a second person, while the other eats out of the cooking pot. Snack and sandwich bags let you tidy up your snack bag, or can hold items you don’t want getting into other food items. Gallon bags also make excellent garbage bags……