MSR Backcountry Cafe: Building Your Backcountry Kitchen

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Story and photos by Laurel Miller

Even if you’re content to subsist primarily on reconstituted meals in the backcountry, there’s always room for improvement (it’s amazing what a dash of soy sauce or dollop of peanut butter can do, for example). If you genuinely enjoy the challenge of creating healthy, delicious fare while out in the back of beyond, having a well-stocked portable kitchen will serve you well.

The first consideration, of course, is keeping your kitchen kit lightweight and compact. I’m a fan of stashing things in labeled Tupperware containers, which necessitates organization and renders your supplies durable and (mostly) waterproof. If you’re going to be on the river or in a clime with high humidity or rainfall, stashing your kit in a dry bag is a good extra precautionary step.

Of course, you can buy handy kitchen kits with specialized camping utensils, so my advice is to purchase one, and then add to it. Why bother? Because, just as with a first-aid kit, you’ll want to personalize it to your needs.IMG_2781

The following are tips on storing, stashing, and stocking your backcountry kitchen. I’m not going to address cookware, as what you carry depends upon the type of trip, destination, and your personal preference/weight-bearing capabilities. Read More →

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Take It With You: The 25-Year Journey of My MSR Titan Pot

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Video and words by Dave Anderson

To participate in most outdoor activities you need some type of equipment. The gear could be as simple as a pair of trail running shoes or as complex as a carbon fiber mountain bike. The more the equipment helps you enjoy the experience the more you become attached to that piece of outdoor gear. As a result of this sentimental bond of shared experiences, a mountaineer’s ice axe or kayaker’s paddle might be kept around long after its utilitarian function has been played out.

This past fall, while waiting out the rain and snow on a climbing expedition in the Siguniang Range of Western China, I brewed up pot of tea. I stared at the slightly dented MSR Titan pot and tried to remember when I purchased it. I spent the rest of the morning lost in reflection about all the amazing places the pot and I had travelled together during the last twenty-five years. When I returned, I made this video and shared it with MSR.

Dave Anderson is a filmmaker, photographer, writer and explorer based wherever his van, Magic, is parked. Anderson has been climbing for 33 years and has established new routes in 10 countries on five contents. His 2013 ascent of Dayantianwo in the Siguniang Range of Western China was nominated for Poilet d’Or. When not shivering during an unplanned bivy or editing his latest video in Magic, Anderson can be found leading climbing and trekking adventures in Asia with his partner Szu-ting Yi through their company LittlePo Adventures.

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Lentil Stew

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A life of travel and adventure on the open road sounds downright romantic, but in truth, it is usually far from glamorous. At least, that was my experience when my husband Tyler and I decided to spend two years on the seats of our touring bicycles.

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Sure, there were days when the sun was shining and a gentle tailwind urged us onward, through quaint towns filled with kind, curious people. Read More →

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MSR BACKCOUNTRY CAFÉ: PENNE WITH TUNA, CAPERS, & GREEN OLIVES

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Story And Photos By Laurel Miller

It’s a well-documented fact amongst my family and friend that I’ll eat anything, as long as it makes for a good story or I’m getting paid (aka “working”). I’ve eaten everything from dog to witchetty grubs in the name of travel and research, and frankly, I don’t understand why people make such a big deal about the Donner Party’s diet.

I draw the line, however, at freeze-dried backpacker meals. I was a seriously picky eater as a kid, and the two lingering scars are the aforementioned- what I like to refer to as “crap in a bag-” and airline food. I know people who actually think both are tasty; as someone who’s eaten man’s best friend, I’m certainly not in a position to judge.

I used to consider a jar of peanut butter and loaf of bread adequate camping fare, but these days, if I’m doing anything outdoorsy that requires cooking, I prefer to think up healthy, inexpensive meals that feel indulgent, but add little in weight or bulk to my pack.

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This beyond-easy pasta is a good example. The tuna adds protein and Omega-3 fatty acids; the key to the success of this dish is using a high-quality brand of albacore or yellowfin (often labeled “premium or premium white meat”). You want fish that’s not only mild and sustainably-caught (longlining is the most common method), but solid-packed, which will yield a better final dish, texturally. The olive oil acts as a preservative, as well as yields a richer texture. Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Rotisserie Chicken Fingers

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Story and Photos by Tara Alan

As much as I love the invigorating excitement of trying new flavors as I travel, sometimes what I really want are the familiar and comforting dishes of home.  It doesn’t matter where I am, or how long I’ve been on the road, I’m bound to get homesick for good ol’ American food once in a while. When my husband Tyler and I were cycling through France, three months into a two-year bicycle tour, we experienced just that.

Creperie

Nevermind the fact that we were in one of the most gourmet countries in the world, home to escargot and fois gras and a dizzyingly delicious array of artisanal charcuterie.  Nevermind the fact we could eat crusty loaves of bread any time we wished, could gorge ourselves on delicious smelly cheeses, and could delight in the sheer bliss of a buttery, shatteringly flaky croissant. Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Easy Appetizers for the Exhausted

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Story and Photos by Laurel Miller

American gastronomy has been responsible for some memorably mediocre finger foods (or canapés, hors d’ouevres, or appetizers, if you’re so inclined). Despite this, we’re all familiar with the ubiquitous cheese ball, spinach dip (served in a hollowed out loaf of sourdough) pigs in a blanket, and, if you’re of a certain age, rumaki.

Having inhaled my share of spinach dip in this life, I’m not trying to be an asshole. But it is possible, even in the backcountry, to create starters that are easy, on-trend, and free of processed ingredients. The point of appetizers, as the name suggests, is to stimulate the appetite. Providing a balance of flavors and textures is the key to making them work, as are good-quality ingredients (which don’t require much in the way of prep to make an impact). Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Trail Treats, Part 2 – The Parking Lot

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Story and Photos by Laurel Miller

Some of us eat to live, others live to eat (admittedly, it’s a First World luxury to be able to make such a distinction). If you’re of the latter persuasion, it’s hard to dispute the psychological and satiety benefits of high-fat/protein/complex carbohydrate post-exercise snacks that go the extra mile.

Want to ensure a surplus of stoke at the end of your next outing? Take some inspiration from the below list, and make the traditional parking lot scarf-session just as memorable as the rest of your trip. Obviously, you’ll need to menu-plan and store or pack accordingly, depending upon climate and duration of trip. If you’re feeling especially motivated, fire up a grill if there’s one available at the trailhead, or use your camp stove.

  • Toss freshly made or packaged popcorn with grated Parmigiano Reggiano, smoked paprika, and sea salt. Tip: Hot popcorn is also wonderful with a sweet-salty mix; try combining salt with Muscovado sugar, which will get slightly melty.
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  • Serve sliced apples with honeycomb, aged Cheddar, and cured ham or prosciutto. Pair with an apple brandy like Calvados or Reisetbauer, or a great domestic version like Clear Creek Distillery’s.  Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Soba Noodles With Wilted Greens & Spicy Peanut Sauce

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Photo: Laurel Miller

Raise your hand if you’ve ever prepared Top Ramen on a camping trip. Raise both hands if you’ve ever been so famished that you’ve eaten them uncooked.

We’ve all been there. And with all due respect to the ubiquitous fried noodles, there are other, healthier options available—ones that won’t crumble to dust in your pack or add a heaping dose of MSG to your dinner. If you’re willing to allow for the additional prep and cooking time, you can throw together a pot of soba noodles dressed with a fiery peanut sauce in just 10 minutes.

dried soba noodles: kattebelletje, Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/97249369@N00/5108020979/

dried soba noodles: kattebelletje, Flickr

These slender Japanese noodles are named after their main ingredient, buckwheat, which is a fruit seed related to rhubarb, rather than a cereal grain. Buckwheat is a good choice after an intense workout, as it’s high in fiber, magnesium, potassium, and iron, and contains all nine essential amino acids, as well as the bioflavonoid rutin. Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Basics of Dehydrating food

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In this episode of Tim and Christine Conners’ Camp Cooking TV, they dive into the basics of dehydrating food for the trail. They cover the reasons for dehydrating your food and explain how to prepare some of your favorite foods for the trail. If you want to lighten your pack and make great tasting food on the trail, dehydrating your food is a great technique.

For more of Camp Cooking’s mouth-watering camp recipes be sure to  check out Tim and Christine Conners’ bestselling series of books. You can find more information on their website, http://www.lipsmackincampin.com.

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Bacon and Beyond

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Photo: David Katz

Story By Laurel Miller

Bacon makes everything better. This is hardly news. What causes some confusion, however, is how best to pack your meaty treats into the backcountry. Food safety, while perhaps not of highest concern to those of us who live the dirtbag lifestyle, is still important. Raw or cured/aged/preserved protein products such as meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs can cause serious food-borne illness, so choosing the right products and packing them properly is key before heading out on an adventure.

I spoke with David Katz, chef, salumi-maker, and owner of Napa’s Salumeria Sub Rosa, about what safety precautions hikers should follow when taking cured meat products on the trail. Despite the fact that frontiersmen have been packing bacon for centuries, “If it’s not a shelf-stable product, unlike most salami (or the ubiquitous Summer Sausage), prosciutto, and other dry-cured meats, which are ready-to-eat (RTE), cook the heck out of it,” Katz advises. Read More →

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