Saturday, May 19, 2018

Backcountry kitchen

This is a really basic kit that I take backpacking and on the motorbike as it's lightweight, compact, and reliable. Although I love good food and cooking, when camping/traveling I tend to eat really simply and then hit up local options when possible to meet local. Cooking properly (and all the gear it takes) can feel like a chore when I'm tired, so I usually stick to one hot dish and eat the rest cold.

Everything is cooked/eaten from the pot or a cup (not shown), and all cooking revolves around boiling water: whether for porridge, instant coffee, freeze-dried meals, or soup. In winter I use a larger pot for melting snow to create drinking water and fill an insulated Nalgene bottle that I drop in the foot of my sleeping bag to warm my toes.

This is a Whisperlite International that I've cooked on now for 25+ years without issue other than the odd cleaning. White gas (naphtha) has the highest energy density of readily available fuels and is what I generally burn, but the stove can also burn kerosene with a quick change of the jet. The red 1L and 325mL MSR fuel bottles provide enough fuel to cook for a long weekend in the summer.

To the left of the stove are the folded aluminum heat shields that go over and around the stove. They look pretty rough but they've also held up well for 25 years.

Sometimes you just want a cloth and scrub pad to clean up food mess. A 3M scrub pad is handy when  there's no clean sand available. The microfiber cloth lets you dry stuff before you put it away, to help resist mould/bacteria growth on days when you aren't cooking. I also wrap the stove in the cloth before stowing it in the pot, so it doesn't rattle in transport.

Water filter
My wife and I survived a six-month trek through West Africa and the Middle East in large part thanks to a Katadyn water filter. Potable water was often a real challenge to obtain, and was stored in all manner of unsanitary conditions ranging from a trough or pail shared with farm animals, to an open well next to raw sewage on the ground, to used motor oil containers.

The Katadyn Hiker Pro is a lighter, less industrial version of the filter we carried on that trip, but it's still capable of removing common parasites such as giardiasis which can cause debilitating GI infections. It won't remove lead or other dissolved contaminants, so drinking water from used motor oil containers remains out of the question.

Swiss Army Knife
What more can be said about this quintessential tool? This is the standard camping model, which includes a large and small blade, can and bottle openers, corkscrew, awl, tiny screwdriver, saw, and tweezers/toothpick. All items have proven invaluable at one time or another.

This one's polycarbonate and fairly indestructible. No need for a fork.

Flint and steel
Back-up for when the lighter and matches fail.

Stow bags
Everything but the fuel bottles and water filter fits neatly into one bag, with the small bits and stove inside the pot and the aluminum heat shield under the pot. I keep the bottle separate (and stowed vertically) to be able to monitor them for leaks. The water filter is in my day pack for easy access.

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