Cooking Outdoors

Good Dish Washing in Camp

My older scouts have learned the value of good dish washing in camp. But when scouts first cross over into the troop, it can be a challenge. At home, they probably just load their dirty dishes into an automatic dishwasher so this concept of hand washing dishes may be completely foreign to them.

I can’t count the number of times over the years I have told scouts to wash their dishes in hot soapy water and yet, I still catch them washing their dishes underneath a community spigot with cold water and no soap. Washing dishes in this manner will take longer, wastes a lot of water, creates an unsanitary area around the water spigot, and simply will not get the dishes clean or sanitized, creating health issues for campers down the trail.

I’ve even seen young campers just stack their dirty dishes, pots and pans back into their chuck box. I’m not sure if they just don’t realize they will have to wash them before they can use them again or they believe the chuck box works like their dishwasher at home and will just magically clean them. If we don’t catch it, sometimes the dirty dishes ride back home in their chuck box, which gets unloaded from the trailer and stored in the shed. When the chuck box is opened on the next campout, all manner of molds and germs have grown (see gross image below). We’ve had to throw away things like the wooden spoon below because we’ll never get them clean enough to be used safely. It’s a hard lesson sometimes.

Washing dishes in camp does not have to be hard nor does it need to take a long time. Here are some simple tips for good dish washing that will help you stay healthy and minimize the impact on the environment.

Equipment

  • I have an adjustable table that I can raise to counter height. I use it in my cook shelter as a prep and serving place. If you don’t have a table, you could use the end of a picnic table.
  • A set of three plastic dish pans. Use tubs that are large enough to accommodate what you will need to wash, but are not so big that you have to boil gallons of water to fill them.
  • Large pot with a lid or a large kettle for boiling water.
  • Dishwashing soap (I prefer Dawn for its grease cutting abilities and it’s easy on the environment).
  • Scrub brush, nylon scrubby pad, scrapers, etc.
  • Small bottle of bleach or steramine tablets.
  • Mesh bags and/or collapsible drain rack.
  • Cheesecloth.
  • Heavy duty trash bags.
  • Rope for a clothesline.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Heat Your Water
Before you actually serve the meal, start a kettle or large pot of water on the fire or the stove. By the time you are done eating, the water will probably be boiling.

Set Up Your Wash Station
Clear one of your prep tables or the end of a picnic table and set out your dish pans and drying rack (if you’re using one). This is way more comfortable and preferable than setting your wash tubs on the ground and squatting while you wash your dishes (yes, I’ve seen my scouts do that).

Divide your boiling water between the wash tub (first dish pan) and the rinse tub (second dish pan). Top off each of these pans with just enough cold water to take the sting off. Keep the water as hot as you can stand it. To the wash tub, add a few drops of soap, and mix in. Fill your third dish pan with cold water and add just 2 steramine tablets or a little (and I mean a little) liquid bleach. You only need 1 teaspoon of liquid bleach per gallon of water. I usually start a second batch of water just in case my wash and/or rinse water becomes too dirty and I need fresh water. By the time you want to refresh the water, it will probably be ready.

Prep Your Dishes for Washing
Each camper is responsible for taking their napkin and wiping their dishes clean, getting off as much food residue as possible. With hungry campers and good food, this is usually not a problem. I’ve even watched scouts literally lick their plates clean. For the cook, there is no higher complement than that. Pre-cleaning your dishes as well as your pots and pans will keep your dish water cleaner, longer. Wipe or dust off any soot on your pots and pans.

Triage
Organize your dishes, pots and pans so that you are washing the cleanest dishes first and the dirtiest dishes last. Always save your greasy pots and pans for last. You can always make a fresh hot soapy wash and rinse.

Hot Soapy Wash
Everything gets a good scrubbing in the hot, soapy water. Run your fingers over surfaces to make sure there is nothing stuck on. Pots and pans that are greasy need to be tested before they are rinsed. Rub a finger inside the pot and if there’s still grease, you will need to wash it with soapy water a second time. Drain and/or shake off as much soapy water as possible so as not to contaminate your rinse water.

Hot Water Rinse
After all the soapy water has been drained off the dishes, submerge them in the rinse water. If you can’t completely submerge them, use a cup, bowl or your cupped hand to pour rinse water over the dishes. It is important to rinse off all the soap because soap residue on your dishes can give you diarrhea.

Sanitizing Soak
In the third dish pan, submerge dishes in the sanitizing solution for a full minute to sanitize them. From here they are loaded into mesh bags and hung on a clothesline or arranged in a drying rack to air dry.

Air Dry
Air drying is best. It is very effective and you are not using roll after roll of paper towels. You can also dry dishes using dish towels, but once the dish towels become soaked, it is difficult to get anything dry with them. You can hang them on a clothesline, but unless you have sun light and/or a good breeze, it can take a while to dry them. In addition, they need to be dry by the end of the day so they can be taken down and placed in one of your totes; otherwise, they will pick up condensation over night and be damp in the morning. If you are using dish towels to dry your dinner dishes, odds are the towels will not be dry before you go to bed. The two best methods for air drying are hanging dishes in mesh bags or arranging them in a drying rack.

Rinse Dishpans and Dispose of Gray Water
Now that all the dishes are clean and work surfaces have been wiped down, take a piece of cheesecloth and strain your wash water into a gray water sump. This is usually located at the community spigot. The food particles caught in the cheesecloth can be thrown into the trash. Using your rinse water, rinse out the wash tub. Finally, pour your sanitizing water from the third dish pan into the rinse pan and let it stand for a minute, then pour it into the wash dish pan and let it stand for a minute before pouring into the sump. If a sump is not available, you will need to carry your dish pans at least 75 steps from any streams, lakes, campsites, or trails. Fling the water with a long sweeping throw to spread it over a large area. Choose a sunny area, if possible, so it will evaporate quickly, causing minimal impact.

Dispose/Secure Your Trash
After dinner or after the evening cracker barrel, secure and walk your trash to the camp trash dumpster. You want to avoid leaving it in your campsite overnight because it will attract critters and they will easily tear open the bag and scatter trash as they rummage through it looking for food.

Summary
Start water to boil.
Set up dish washing station.
Pre-clean your dishes.
Wash cleanest to dirtiest.
Hot soapy wash.
Hot clean rinse.
Cold sanitizing soak.
Air dry in mesh bags or a rack.
Dispose of gray water.
Secure trash.

If you follow these steps, washing dishes should go quickly and easily, and they will be safe to use for your next meal.

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Planning Your Camping Menu

I don’t know about your households, but the dreaded question in my household is always: “What shall we make for dinner?” It’s almost always answered with, “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” or plenty of shrugs. Eventually, we figure it out, but sometimes I feel as if pulling teeth would be easier.

Creating a camping menu can be just as challenging at times. Here are 12 things that will help you plan a great camping menu and influence what you make.

Food Pyramid
First and foremost, you always want to plan a menu that is healthy and nutritious. When we’re camping, we’re working and playing hard. Our bodies need good fuel to keep us going; fuel like proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.

Weather
Check the 10 day forecast for the area you are going to be camping in. Is it going to be warm, sunny, cold, rainy, snowy? Weather can help you decide if you’re going to go with a hot and hearty menu or a fresh and cold menu.

Activity Level
What kinds of activities will you be doing while camping? Will you be working on a service project, playing hard, or just lounging around the campsite? Will you be hiking during the day, and need a portable lunch and snacks?

Food Restrictions
Does anyone you are cooking for have any food allergies or food restrictions? You’ll want to accommodate them as best you can. For some folks, it might simply be an intolerance and a small amount of their restricted food is okay. For others, even a little could be life threatening.

Resources
What equipment do you have in your camp kitchen to cook with? You probably have a propane stove. Do you have a box oven or a Dutch oven? Can you cook or heat anything in foil packets? What can you cook with besides your propane stove? More resources means more menu options.

Age/Ability of Cooks
Who’s going to be cooking? Adults and/or youth? Are they experienced or not so much? Plan a menu that fits their level of cooking skills and experience.

Budget
What is your budget for the weekend? Do you have a hot dog kinda budget or a steak and shrimp kinda budget? Even if your budget is on the tight side, you can still do a lot and feed your campers well with a good menu plan.

Minimizing Food Waste
Plan your menu so that you’ll have minimal leftovers, which are difficult to manage in a camp setting and are often just thrown away.

Minimizing Packaging Waste
Be mindful of your packaging waste. Plan your menu and prep your ingredients so that you’re filling bellies and not filling garbage cans.

Minimizing Clean Up
Plan your menu and prep your ingredients so that you’re not having to do a lot of clean up after each meal. Too much prep in camp means more dirty bowls and utensils.

Balance Easy Meals With Challenging Meals
Plan an easy dinner on your first night because you’ll also be needing to set up camp. Likewise, plan an easy breakfast on your last day because you’ll be needing to break down camp and head home. In between, choose a couple of meals where you go big. We like to do a big breakfast Saturday morning and a big dinner Saturday night. This is where we challenge ourselves with more complicated meals because we’ve got more time to execute. At the very least, plan at least one meal that will blow the doors off your campers! They will love you for it!

Requirements
Finally, for my scouts, are you cooking to meet a requirement for rank or for a badge? If so, be sure to review those requirements and plan your menu to ensure you fulfill them.

All this may seem like a lot to think about, but when you actually sit down to plan your menu, you’ll be surprised how quickly menu planning can go and you can rest assured that you and your fellow campers will eat well.

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Avoid the Danger Zone

The best camping trip in the world can be ruined by a bad case of foodborne illness. Symptoms might include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, loss of appetite, fatigue, and other problems brought on by salmonella, E. coli, listeria or some other nasty bug.

To make sure you and your fellow campers avoid these potentially serious tummy troubles, which result in more than 100,000 hospitalizations each year, here are some tips on how to transport, cook, and store food on campouts.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, we need to watch out for the “Danger Zone” when it comes to serving perishables like meat, poultry, eggs, and seafood. When food is stored below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, the cold inhibits the growth of bacteria and other pathogens. When food is cooked above 140 degrees, heat does the same. Between 40 and 140 degrees; however, bacteria can grow quickly, so make sure your food doesn’t stay in the Danger Zone too long.

Food problems can start before you ever make it camp. Be sure to transport perishables in the air-conditioned part of the car, since car trunks can get pretty warm on sunny days. Don’t pack meat in the same coolers as vegetables, because if juices from meat or poultry leak into uncooked vegetables, the veggies will be contaminated. Likewise, don’t put cold drinks in with perishables, since the drink cooler will be opened frequently. The more it’s opened, the faster ice or ice packs will thaw.

Make sure a meat thermometer is a standard piece of equipment in your chuckbox. Cook ground meat (beef, pork, veal or lamb) or meat mixtures until the thermometer reaches 160 degrees. For poultry, it’s 165 degrees. For other fresh meats, you’re safe at 145 degrees.

Finally, remember that food, cold or hot, should not be kept outside a cooler for more than two hours if the outside temperature is below 90 degrees. Above 90, it’s one hour.

As we ramp up for camping season and start planning those marvelous meals, we want you and those you are cooking for to be safe.

Get outside and cook something amazing because food tastes better outside!

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Camp Kitchen Setups

When we camp, we eat well. I wouldn’t call it gourmet, but it’s healthy (most of the time), balanced, nutritious, and very satisfying. And, we’re constantly trying to change things up. We each have our go-to recipes and our specialties, but we’re always on the hunt for something different. Just like we change our camping locations between beach, mountains, lake, etc., and we change our activities between biking, fishing, canoeing, etc., so we change up our camp menus. It’s all in the spirit of keeping it interesting. None of us like to settle for the same old stuff. All it takes is a little planning, a little culinary ambition, and a good camp kitchen setup, and you, too, can cook like a chef and eat like a king or a queen.

Here’s what I recommend for a good camp kitchen setup:

Chuck Box

You need all your cooking essentials organized and stored in one place. A chuck box can be as simple and economical as a large plastic tote or as complex as a hand-crafted wooden box (DIY tutorials are widely available online). Ideally, your chuck box has compartments or smaller containers for your smaller cooking utensils. It should include all the basic things you need from pots and bowls to knives and vegetable peelers. I always pack heavy-duty aluminum foil for making foil packets. It’s fun to lay out a selection of proteins, veggies, spices, and sauces and everyone assembles their own dinner and cooks it over a fire or coals. For a complete list of what my chuck box includes, see my blog post, “Think Inside the Box Part 1-Your Camp Kitchen.”

Stove

A reliable stove system is central to every serious camp kitchen. Depending on the amount of packing space in your vehicle, you can decide to go with a compact two-burner system that runs on a one-pound propane canister or you can equip yourself with a larger and more powerful two- or three-burner system that runs on a standard 20-pound propane tank. Generally, you just want to make sure that each burner on the stove you select puts out at least 10,000 BTU/hr, which is the average output of a household stove burner. A number of the larger models that run on standard 20-pound propane tanks will crank out an impressive 30,000 BTU/hr per burner, providing you with an immense range of culinary ability. Many models can also be accessorized with grill boxes and griddles, which make serving up a stack of pancakes or juicy T-bone steaks a simple task.

Cooler

One or two quality hard-shell coolers will insulate and protect your food from being crushed in a fully packed vehicle. For safe food handling, it’s important that your iced-cooler keep your foods at or below 40°F. If you can, do your prep work before leaving home. Label your sealed bags of pre-chopped veggies and meats specific to each meal, which allows you to start cooking with minimal prep time. If you plan on packing lots of canned and bottled beverages, consider bringing a second beverage-specific cooler. Beverage coolers are opened and closed frequently, which allows chilled air to quickly escape. If your food is stored in a separate cooler that is opened less frequently, your temperature-sensitive foods will stay chilled for a longer period of time. For more cooler packing tips, see my blog posts, “Chillin’ With Your Cooler” and “Think Inside the Box Part 3-Your Camp Refrigerator.”

Food Tote

Just like a cooler, a hard-sided plastic tote will protect your food from being crushed in a fully packed vehicle. It will also protect your food from sun and rain and help keep critters out in the middle of the night. Even if you are just making hamburgers, no one wants a bun that’s been flattened like a pancake. For more Food Tote tips, see my blog post, “Think Inside the Box Part 2-Your Camp Pantry.”

Table

Even if you do the bulk of your prep work at home, you will still need a place to assemble and prepare your meals. A sturdy camp table is a must-have for your camp kitchen. Not only does it provide valuable work space, but you can also use it like a buffet table.

Shelter

We usually pack a pop up for a cook shelter. It provides shade when it’s sunny and protection from the rain when it is not, which is most of the time! I like to string a small clothesline along one side for washing cloths and drying towels. Sometimes I attach a tarp to one side and stake out the tarp to provide added shade for my coolers.

Extras

In my opinion, an outdoor kitchen wouldn’t be complete without at least one cast iron Dutch oven. From casseroles to cakes, a Dutch oven will allow you to bake just about anything you can bake in your oven at home. A Dutch oven gives you the versatility to prepare a much wider range of dishes. Its rugged durability and its ability to evenly distribute heat, allowing you to cover it with charcoal briquettes, position it in hot coals near an open fire, or place it on the stove top, make it a valuable component of your camp kitchen. For more information about what you need to support your Dutch ovens, see my blog post, “The Right Tool for the Right Job.”

So, there you have it. A good camp kitchen setup will go along way toward making every camping trip a successful one.

What’s in your Chuck box?

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Teach Them While They’re Young

9-year-old Alex sautéing onions for Chicken Mini Pies.

Back in the old days (and by that I mean only a few generations ago), it took a lot of work to get a meal on the table and children, by necessity, had to help out. Our great-grandmothers didn’t have fancy shmancy mixers and food processors and bread machines. Their local grocery stores didn’t have aisle upon aisle of packaged processed foods nor could they just go online and order a meal in a box delivered to the homestead by Pony Express. Bread had to be kneaded, fruits and vegetables had to be chopped, and meats had to be prepared all by hand. So, the more hands you had helping, the faster a meal could be prepared.

While children were in the kitchen helping, they were learning valuable life skills. In addition to learning how to cook, how to tend a fire, and how to use knives, children learned organization, leadership, and planning skills. They learned responsibility. And, when children help in the food preparation, they are more likely to eat it, which meant fewer picky eaters.

But somewhere along the way, we stopped including and instructing our children in meal preparation and now we have adults who don’t know how to cook unless it comes out of a box or from the freezer or uses a microwave. I know whole families who eat out three to five times a week. I know kids who believe the only kind of macaroni and cheese is the orange kind that comes out of a blue box.

I understand that we’re all very busy and sometimes it is just easier and faster to do it ourselves. We tell our children, “You run along and play and I’ll get dinner on the table.” I get that. Been there, done that. However, this needs to be the exception and not the rule. We need to get our children into the kitchen on a regular basis whether it’s at home or in camp so they can learn and practice these valuable life skills.

On my Resources page is an Outdoor Cooking Skill Progression, and while it is geared for outdoor cooking it could be easily adapted to the home kitchen.

6-year-old Alex is starting a batch of chocolate chip cookies while his 8-year-old sister Amelia watches.

Even a small child can sit at a table and tear lettuce for a salad or add already measured ingredients to a bowl or assemble sandwiches. As they get into elementary school, teach them knife safety and knife skills. Start them cutting soft foods and progress them up to harder foods. Teach them fire safety and start them at the stove simply heating up a can of soup or making their beloved orange macaroni and cheese from the blue box. When they develop some hand-eye coordination, teach them the fine art of pancake flipping.

Things won’t be done perfectly, and spills and messes may happen. Clean up may take a little longer sometimes. But the skills they are learning will last them their whole life and you’ll be creating fond memories of your time together in the kitchen.

Some of our family’s best memories are in the kitchen cooking together. We started out bumping butts and stepping on each other’s toes as we moved around the kitchen. Today, if you were to observe me and my daughter in our morning routine of making coffee, taking vitamins, and assembling lunches, it would look like a finely choreographed dance as we just instinctively move around each other. Occasionally, we still collide and it usually causes a giggle or two or sometimes results in a mess on the floor, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Someday, when I am old and gray and can no longer hold a knife steady in my hand, I know that I will be well fed by my son and my daughter who both know their way around a kitchen.

Thank you Sonya, who commented on a recent post and inspired me to write this one. Keep up the good fight, girl. Good cooking skills are life skills and important ones to have.

Teach them while they are young and someday they will thank you or, better yet, they will prepare an amazing meal for you.

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From left is cousin Bobby Lynn, Alex, and Amelia at Lake Wenatchee State Park.

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Gourmet Camp Cooking

Throughout the year, our Boy Scout troop holds fundraisers. The more fundraising we can do, the fewer out-of-pocket expenses there are for our scouts and our scout families, and we never want money to be the reason why a boy doesn’t scout.

One of the events we do is an auction and one of the live auction items every year is what we call the Scoutmaster Dinner. The dinner is hosted at the home of one of our volunteers and the dinner is completely prepared and served to guests by our troop’s scoutmasters. Over the years, we have had some pretty amazing dinners because some of our scoutmasters, including yours truly, are darned good cooks.

This year, we decided to make it an entirely camp-cooked meal. We wanted to show that you can make a gourmet meal in camp so we pulled out all the stops. Our menu was filet mignon, lobster mac and cheese, grilled vegetables, garden salad, fresh baked breads, and for dessert Scoutmaster Murray made an orange soda orange liquor dump cake and I made death by chocolate. For beverages, we had a peach sangria and lemonade.

I was very busy so I didn’t get all the pictures I had hoped to. I believe at one point we had six Dutch ovens going! You could make this meal using a griddle or a grill, Dutch ovens, box ovens, and foil packets. It’s very doable in camp. Everything tasted amazing.

Bacon-Wrapped Filet Mignon

Fresh Baked Bread

Lobster Mac & Cheese

Orange Soda & Orange Liquor Dump Cake

Death by Chocolate

Peach Sangria and Lemonade

It was a great evening with good friends, good conversation, lots of laughter and an amazing meal. So, don’t be afraid to cook something fancy in camp. It might take a little more effort, but you won’t regret it.

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Think Outside the Box: Pre-Packaged Foods

I like to cook fresh and from scratch as much as possible. I feel it gives me more control over the ingredients and allows more flexibility when working with allergies and other dietary restrictions.

However, for my younger cooks, I understand that going with pre-packaged foods can make it easier for them to get a meal onto the picnic table when we are camping. And, unlike me, they come to camp to play and not to cook. Pre-packaged foods are great ways to cut corners and allow you to get a meal on the picnic table much faster.

Using things like refrigerated biscuits, bread, and pizza dough are great shortcuts.

Pre-packaged pasta dishes and rice dishes are self-contained entrees and/or side dishes. In addition, many of these work well for backpacking because they are dehydrated and, for the most part, just need water.

But just because it comes out of a box or a pouch doesn’t mean you are limited to the contents of the container. You need to think outside the box or the pouch.

For example, let’s take the classic boxed macaroni and cheese. You could make the macaroni and cheese according to the directions on the box, but why stop there? You could add a protein to it like diced ham or hot dog, bacon, cooked diced chicken, cooked ground beef or sausage. You could add fresh vegetables to it like a diced white or yellow onion, a diced red or green bell pepper, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini. By doing this, you add bulk to the dish so it will feed more, you add freshness and more nutrition, and you have a full blown main dish.

There is a pre-packaged Spanish rice side dish that we like. You could make your favorite brand of Spanish rice according to the directions on the package, but then you could add cooked chicken or beef, a can of black beans, corn, diced green chilies, and some cheese. You could serve it in a bowl, on a plate over a pile of tortilla chips, or rolled up in a tortilla burrito-style. Top it with some shredded lettuce, guacamole, and/or some sour cream and you have a great, simple meal.

Pre-packaged foods can make great bases to start from. Instead of pasta sauce from scratch, start with a jar of your favorite sauce and add fresh herbs and vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and onion.

So, the next time you’re looking to make cooking in camp a little easier or if you need to get a meal on the table a little faster, start with a pre-packaged food, but don’t just settle for what’s in the box or the pouch. Add to it, add some protein, add some freshness in the way of fresh herbs and vegetables, and you’ll take what might have been just okay to a whole new level.

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Curses, Foiled Again!

To line or not to line your Dutch oven. That is the question.

Some folks are staunchly opposed to lining their Dutch ovens. Others, not so much. I fall into the latter camp. I’m not afraid to cook directly in my Dutch ovens. I do it frequently, but if I’m just baking something or it’s a dump in and bake, or I’m baking something that will be sticky, gooey or otherwise hard to clean, then I go ahead and foil-line for easy clean up.

I don’t foil-line if I need to sear off a piece of meat before adding other ingredients and baking. I don’t foil-line if what I’m making will require a lot of stirring because that will just shred my foil lining and I don’t want to eat aluminum foil. My multi-vitamin supplies me with all the minerals I need, thank you very much.

When you do want a lining in your Dutch oven, there are a couple of ways to do it.

Preformed Foil Liners

You can purchase preformed foil liners. They are sized to fit standard Dutch ovens (10”, 12”, and 14”), so if you have multiple sizes of Dutch ovens, you’ll need to purchase multiple sizes of liners to match. There are a couple of different brands and they range in price, depending on size and quantity that you buy, but expect to pay $1-$3 per liner.

Parchment Liners

A friend of mine uses parchment liners when she’s baking in her Dutch ovens and she’s very happy with them. There are a couple different brands and they are sold in a universal 20-inch diameter size and come 8 to a pack for about $12, which makes them about $1.50 each. You can also make your own with a roll of baking parchment paper. If you make your own, you can cut them to the diameter that you need; however, the widest I found was only 15” wide.

Aluminum Foil

I prefer to foil-line with aluminum foil. No reason, it’s just how I was taught and what I’ve always done. I buy the extra-wide, heavy-duty aluminum foil. I tear off what I think I will need and gently fold and form it to the inside of my oven. I use the backs of my hands; otherwise, I risk my fingers poking through and ruining my foil. After I have it all formed and pressed against the sides, I tear off the extra foil or fold it inside the oven.

A rookie mistake I often see with foil-lining is folding the excess foil over the edge of the oven. This prevents the oven from sealing tightly, which is what Dutch ovens are meant to do.

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Why We Do Not Feed the Bears…or Other Critters

Now that the weather is finally warming up, we’re spending more time outside, which means more encounters with critters that should be simply left alone.

But it’s hard, I get that. When you see a cute little chipmunk or bird sitting on the edge of the picnic table, it’s hard not to reach out with a potato chip in your fingers and see if it will approach and eat from your hand.

As fun and exciting as this sounds, we shouldn’t feed the wildlife, and it doesn’t matter how tame or friendly or cute they are. Here’s why you shouldn’t.

Wild animals needs to stay wild. When animals are fed they become used to people. They become tame, they lose their wildness, and that can make them vulnerable.

Most wild animals already have access to the food that they need to stay alive. They don’t really need us feeding them. And, let’s face it, a lot of what we feed them (junk food) is not good for them.

Fed wildlife lose the ability to find food on their own. If it’s easy for an animal to eat picnic area and campsite trash then what’s the point in even finding food on their own?

Sometimes areas with abundant food trash attract animals and increase population rates. This can increase the spread of disease among animals and disrupt the whole natural ebb and flow of life.

Animals that are normally passive can become aggressive once they are accustomed to foraging out of the garbage or out of our hands.

It’s just a bad idea to get up close and personal with animals that can carry diseases like rabies.

Before you toss a few nuts at a chipmunk, please take a moment and consider the implications and long-term effects on the animal and the delicate ecosystem it lives in, and that we are just visiting.

I understand that maybe you’re just trying to be kind. But we can be kind in other ways by leaving the outdoors better than how we found it. We can clean up trash. We can work to restore rivers and streams. We can make their habitats a better place for them to live in and for us to visit.

Let’s leave the wildlife alone no matter how cute they are and keep our snacks to ourselves.

The only wildlife we should be feeding is our kids!

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Spring is Sproinging

Monday was the first day of spring! Are you ready to go camping? Not quite or not sure? Now is a good time to get into the attic, the basement, the garage, the RV, or where ever you store your camping gear and do an assessment.

What needs to be repaired or replaced? Was there anything last year that wasn’t working, but you didn’t have the time or the budget to fix it? Are there any improvements you’d like to make for this year?

A good night’s rest is important.

Are you sleeping as comfortably or as warm as you’d like to? Maybe you need a new cot or a new pad or a new sleeping bag. Maybe all you need is a new set of polypropylene to wear or to sleep in. Speaking of clothing…. How’s that pair of boots feeling? Time for a new pair of hiking boots? In the camp kitchen, I tend to spend a lot of time on my feet so good footwear is important. I also have weak ankles and uneven ground is a recipe for a sprain so having high top boots with good ankle support is important to me.

How’s your camp kitchen looking?

Is your camp kitchen in good shape? Last year, what prevented you from upping your outdoor cooking game? Do you need more workspace? Perhaps you need a new work table. I have a couple tables that have adjustable legs so I can raise them up to a counter height, which my back really likes. I highly recommend them.

Experiment

Would you like to try something new this year? A new activity or a new way of cooking outdoors? If you’ve never cooked in a Dutch oven or a box oven but have wanted to, then let’s set a goal for this year and do it!

Reserve Early, Reserve Often

Now is also a good time to get on the internet and make reservations. Some popular campgrounds fill fast and are difficult to get into. For some of the really popular ones, you should be making reservations 9 months to a year in advance; so while you’re thinking about it, go ahead and make reservations for spring 2018.

Convert Some Non-Campers

Do you have any friends or family members who have never camped or don’t camp much? Maybe they just don’t know how to do it comfortably, so they don’t realize how much fun it can be. Invite them with you and help them up their camping game.

If you like this blog and don’t want to miss a single post, subscribe to Chuck Wagoneer by clicking on the Follow Us button in the upper right corner and follow us on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest updates and more stuff!

Categories: Cooking Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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