Backcountry Cafe: DIY Mashed Potatoes with All the Fixings

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Photos and Story by Laura Lancaster

We had just turned the corner on the final ridge of the day when my husband stopped.

“You’re sure there’s a lake?”

I checked the map again. It was a scorching day in late summer, and we were both hot and tired after a full day of backpacking in Northern California’s Russian Wilderness. We’d been skirting an impressive granite peak for the last hour, switchbacking around ridges and crossing steep talus fields. For the last five miles I’d been eyeing deep blue mountain lakes hundreds of feet below the trail. I desperately wanted to jump in, glacial melt be damned, but I had my eye on Paynes Lake. The map showed it 300 yards in front of us, and right on the trail. But the trail in front of us was continuing to edge around a steep slope, with nary a lake in sight. I was beginning to doubt Paynes existed at all.

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Apple & Sage Stuffing

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Recipe and photos by Tara Alan

If you’re anything like me, you never grow tired of the dressing (or stuffing!) your family makes at every winter holiday meal. Whether it’s concocted with cornbread or mushrooms, oysters or dried cranberries; whether it’s stuffed inside a bird or baked in a pan, it’s your favorite side dish, and you secretly wish you could have it more often. So why not tuck into a whole bowl of stuffing, and eschew the cranberry sauce and green beans? Well, now’s your chance!

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MSR Drink Lab: Five Delicious Hot Winter Camping Drinks to Ring in the New Year

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Just in time for New Year’s Eve, we’ve got five rich, savory and spicy hot drinks that’ll keep you toasty on cold nights and mornings in the backcountry. These recipes are our top five favorites as submitted by you to our MSR email request. Concoct one or all of these tasty—and unique—concoctions and keep warm and spirited at basecamp this winter season.

Cheers and Happy New Year from the MSR crew! Read More →

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3 Recipes to Warm You Up This Fall

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With the weather dipping into icy temps and the leaves covering the backcountry trails with fall color, we thought we’d share a few recipes and tips to keep you warm and energized on the trails this shoulder season. Try one of these delicious meals from Laurel Miller, Tara Alan, and Lindsey Kunz during your next outdoor adventure.

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Make Ahead Mac-N-Cheese

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Story and Photos by Tara Alan

Where I live, in the Green Mountains of Vermont, the first yellow, orange, and russet leaves are beginning to appear scattered upon the ground. Nights are becoming cool enough to wear a jacket, and the scent of wood smoke is apparent on the breeze. It’s clear that autumn is just around the corner!

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What better way to spend these glorious end-of-summer days than in the woods? And what better way to end them than with an evening of camping? On chill nights like these, I want a supper that’s warm and cheesy, quick and easy: macaroni and cheese.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s a spectrum of macaroni and cheese. On one end are those blue boxes containing a handful of elbow noodles and an accompanying “cheese” packet. The resulting dish is neon-orange, and of dubious nutritional value. On the opposite end of the spectrum there’s pasta with an unctuous cream sauce and pockets of oozing melted cheese under a burnished top. Think four cheeses melted together with bacon, chili flakes, and caramelized onions. Or how about mozzarella and ricotta with chunks of fresh tomato?

So, what do we do when we want the cozy, comforting dish of mac and cheese while on the trail? When we want the simplest of dinners, but we want it to have ingredients we recognize? When we want that delicious, cozy treat, but we don’t want to pack a ton of items to make it? We make it ahead of time and carry it along, of course!

Below, you’ll find my recipe for a version of macaroni and cheese that falls somewhere between the two extremes of the spectrum, closer to the ease of blue-box side. It’s a cinch to assemble and pack for the trail, and it’s quick to cook once you’re out there. It also makes a great base for improvisation. See my suggestions below the recipe for ways to jazz up your mac. Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Summer Desserts

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Story and photos by Laurel Miller

A creek-chilled beer (or beverage of your choice) is a just reward at the end of a long day on the trail, but what to do when you’re craving something sweet that doesn’t come from a bottle (and no, Gummi Bears don’t count)?

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Summer and early fall are the best times to bust out a backcountry dessert because at no other time is the array and diversity of seasonal fruits so abundant and appealing. Depending upon climate, space, and other logistical considerations, trail desserts can be as simple as fresh berries with store-bought biscotti, to grilled stonefruit with vanilla syrup, and mascarpone. In previous posts, I’ve provided details on how to curate and stock your backcountry kitchen, but the beauty of dessert is that it can be prepared at home, and doesn’t require special equipment or a strong back. And that, quite frankly, is pretty sweet. Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Tomato Pasta

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Though it was early September when my husband and I were cycling through the Po River Valley region of Italy, the summer sun still blazed, dry and scorching, lending a golden light to an already golden landscape.

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As well as being oppressively hot, the afternoon was also deathly quiet. We were used to this Italian riposo by now, that time between about two and four in the afternoon when shops closed, the buzz of activity at the local café dwindled, and the wooden shutters on everyone’s homes were shut tightly against that flaming sun. Read More →

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BUILDING YOUR BACKCOUNTRY KITCHEN, PART 2: THE ESSENTIAL INGREDIENTS

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Story and Photos by Laurel Miller

I grew up in a family that embraced the convenience of freeze-dried meals and deviled ham when it came to camping trips. It wasn’t until a college spring break trip to Baja’s Bahia Concepción that I discovered it’s possible to actually, you know, cook while camping. We’d procured some scallops from the bay. My friend Caroline, an avid cook, sautéed them with garlic and chili flakes, adding a splash of her beer and a squeeze of lime to finish. I was gobsmacked—left to my own devices, I’d been subsisting on canned frijoles refritos and tortillas. That pivotal moment not only inspired me to go to culinary school; it redefined what I thought of as camping fare. Today, there are certain ingredients that are staples in my home and backcountry kitchen. In a previous post, I addressed how to curate a camp kitchen. Here, I tell you how to stock it.

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Tip:  I love trying regional foods, and when I’m traveling domestically or abroad, I explore markets for staples like spices, cheese, bread, olives, dried or fresh fruit—anything adds to my portable pantry. Here’s to a summer season free of freeze-dried.

5 Essentials for the backcountry kitchen Read More →

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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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