MSR Backcountry Cafe: Building Your Backcountry Kitchen

Posted by & filed under Soul.

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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MSR® Tent Tech: 3 Ways to Field Repair a Rip in Your Tent’s Rainfly

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Fabric patch

All MSR® tents are designed with long-term durability in mind, but anything can happen in the backcountry. Even a small rip in your rainfly can expose your tent to the elements, and a little tear can quickly migrate and become a bigger problem. Repairing it in the field can be your best bet, preferably before it starts to rain. Here are three solutions recommended by MSR engineers and designers who have field-tested tents to their limits.MSR Fabric Repair Kit

Solution #1: Use the MSR® Fabric Repair Kit
Our first choice for quick, easy and permanent tent repairs in the field are self-adhesive fabric repair patches like the ones included in the MSR Fabric Repair Kit. Simply clean and dry the torn or damaged fabric area, place a patch on both sides of the tear, and you’re done. Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Quinoa Magic

Posted by & filed under Soul.

Story and photos by Ben Kunz

High in the Andean regions of Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru grows an amazing plant known as quinoa. And what better time to eat quinoa than 2013, the “International Year of Quinoa” as declared by the United Nations!
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Quinoa contains all the amino acids necessary for our nutritional needs and thus is one of the rare plant-based foods that is a complete protein. It’s a great choice for vegetarians and vegans, not to mention that it’s gluten-free!

Quinoa can be found in most conventional supermarkets (often in the health or organic section) and in natural food stores. A cost-savings tip: buying quinoa in bulk often leads to significant savings on this wonder food.
quinoaPeru
For a reasonably sized backcountry meal for two:
Add one cup rinsed quinoa to two cups water, bring to a boil and let cook on lower heat. It will take several minutes for the seeds to become translucent and the germ of the seed to separate. While the quinoa is cooking and before it separates, add cumin, salt, raisins and almonds. Once the quinoa has separated, let it sit and soak up any remaining water.

Ingredients:
• 1 cup of quinoa
• Pinch of salt, or more if you need to replenish salts from heavy exercise!
• 1 tbsp of cumin
• ½ cup of raisins
• ¼ cup of almonds (chopped or whole)
• Optional: add cilantro as garnish to enhance flavor and appearance

This versatile recipe can be augmented with tofu, chicken or tuna for a protein-rich backcountry meal!

ingredients

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Plane camping on the Kenai

Posted by & filed under Trip.

a_Tordrillo Mountain Range

Story and photos by Holly Walker

“There’s a lot of air up here!”, I exclaimed, the seemingly endless Capps Glacier and everything beyond it making me as excited as a little schoolgirl. The Anchorage mountaineers stared at me as I sat in their kitchen tent and I realized how silly I must have sounded. I was comparing Alaska to the Lower 48 and was enjoying the lack of cars, busy roads and crammed airspace.

b_Tordrillo Mountain Range from the Super Cub

My pilot friend Jake Soplando and I had just landed on the Capps Glacier in the Tordrillo Range in his personal Piper Super Cub airplane. Moments ago we were soaring above the snow as it sparkled in the alpenglow, watching the enormous peaks and hundreds of crevasses light up with a soft pink hue.

“Jake, what are you and your plane doing over the next few weeks?” I asked.

He had to fly back to the civilization of Willow and install a new engine into his two-seated, single-engine monoplane before heading to the Kenai Peninsula to test it out.

“That sounds awesome!” I said.

“Guess it’s a good thing it has two seats.”

I told him I would be ready to take-off from the Lake Hood airport in Anchorage in two weeks.  I still had some ski mountaineering objectives to tick off my list before the next adventure.

c_Ski mountaineering in the Chugach Range

Winter weather suddenly hit the Chugach Range leaving us tent bound for days in minus 10 degrees Fahrenheit with intense snowfall hammering our tent. The sun finally returned and I was happy to invite myself plane-camping with Jake. We loaded the Cub with camping gear and food for six days; I had packed a small backpack with a change of clothes, a beanie, toothbrush, notebook and my camera.

d_Jake flying above Turnagain Arm

The Super Cub flew steady in the calm winds above the Turnagain Arm, a rare weather pattern for the Cook Inlet. As we passed over Girdwood I waved at the skiers on the slopes of Alyeska Resort. We jogged the corner and continued following along the Seward Highway inland onto the Kenai Peninsula.

r_Kenai Lake heading to Seward

As we passed over Kenai Lake, I was in true awe of the vastness and extent of the snow-covered mountain ranges. Our next stop was the Soldotna Airport for a pit stop – refueling the plane and emptying our bladders. We then continued our flight westward toward the coast of the Kenai. From there I spotted the active stratovolcano Mount Redoubt (10,197 ft.) in the Aleutian Range. I made a note for future mountaineering endeavors in Alaska. n_Super Cub and tent plane camping at Tustumena

 

That night we slept next to the water in Anchor Point and watched the late sunset over Cook Inlet, Mount Iliamna, Mount Redoubt and all the other peaks in between. The following morning we continued flying down to Kachemak Bay and Homer Spit. Looking across at Neptune Bay, I asked Jake if we could leave the highway and return to the adventure and find some bush. It was then that I saw Jake’s bush pilot ways resurface. We were on our way to someplace off the beaten track, a place no trucks could access, only boats, planes or people willing to trek really, really far.

k_Super Cub with Tustumena Glacier and peaks in background

We flew northeast and arrived above the huge Tustumena Glacier. Jake eyed a landing zone on the small beach pebbles along the Tustumena Lake. After proper scoping he landed smoothly, the massive tundra tires under the Super Cub easily rolling over the rough surface. We quickly staked the tent and separated all of our food and posted it far away from camp – we were now in grizzly bear territory. City life vanished from my memory, I was now plane camping in the grand wilderness of AK.

We decided to save a hike up the Tustumena Glacier for the next day and headed toward a small river feeding into the lake with fly fishing rod in hand. When I cast the fly directly into the water Jake asked if I had ever fly fished before and I sheepishly admitted it was my first time. After a few lessons and seemingly endless casting, I wasn’t getting far with my new hobby. We decided to call it quits and hike around the lake to an old wooden cabin in the Sitka spruce trees.

The cabin had belonged to Hal Waugh, the famous bear hunter who received the first ever Alaskan master guide license. Waugh wrote several books with stories of Kodiak brown bears that weighed over 1500 lbs. As Jake continued to tell me legends of the area, I looked down on the beach and spotted tracks. Big ones. A grizzly bear had wandered up the beach not far from us. I then understood Waugh’s reasoning for often sleeping in boats.
l_Grizzly bear paw prints on shore of Tustumena Lake

 

We strolled down the beach of Tustumena Lake. I was about to pull out my camera to capture the beauty of two swans swimming elegantly along the shore, instead I pulled out my notebook and tore two sheets – one for each of us.

Sitting there and folding the paper, we tried to remember what our fathers had taught us about making little boats. I was in no rush to continue flying to Seward in two days, to see the ferries and lots of people. Nor was I looking forward to returning to Anchorage – with more people and more streets –  before coming back to the Lower 48. Now all of that would only seem crowded.

Though our boats were different in design – one from the big city and one from the bush – we were confident in their construction. The little vessels floated off west into the setting sun, the cool wind from the glacier gently pushing them faster.

I smiled at all of it, even all the air I couldn’t see.

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For more similar remote plane camping adventures, check out http://www.talriverair.com/

 

Skier and writer Holly Walker lives in Whistler when she is not traveling in search of perfect pow turns. Sponsors include Backcountry.com, Clif Bar, Eddie Bauer, K2, Dalbello, Smith Optics, and POW Gloves.

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The Sprinter Experience: Living in a Van Down by the River…er Crag

Posted by & filed under Soul, Trip.

“Sarge,” our sprinter van, lures in curious parties wherever we go—Adam Ondra gets pumped checking it out!

Photos and Story By Ben Kunz

When Daimler Benz merged with Chrysler way back in 1998, it wasn’t even a blip on my radar, nothing that I needed to worry or care about! But within a year, I started seeing the Sprinter Van, Mercedes gift to North American mid-sized cargo carriers. When I first saw this hardcore Euro-styled van, I did some research and quickly did the math on these genius homes on wheels. Read More →

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MSR Backcountry Cafe: Poached Eggs & Polenta

Posted by & filed under Other, Soul.

eggs3

Poaching is one of the best methods for cooking eggs in the backcountry. There’s little chance of burning the eggs, you don’t need to carry oil or butter, and the pan is easy to clean at the end of the process.

Start with a large pot of clean water. While the stove heats the water, prepare the following:

  • One pour over filter with an ounce of coarsely ground coffee.
  • One bowl with about half cup of instant polenta or grits. Keep another bowl or plate nearby to cover the bowl.
  •  Four large eggs.
  •  Large spoon for poaching the eggs.

When the water reaches the “fish eyes” state just before boiling, pour it through the coffee filter. Continue until the mug is full and the coffee is steeping.

Put the pot back on the stove and turn up the heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add some to the polenta. It should take close to one cup to cook the polenta thoroughly. Cover the polenta and let it sit while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Let the stove rest while you clean and refill the coffee filter. When you’re ready, bring the water back to the “fish eyes” state and pour it over the filter. Let this cup steep for a couple minutes.

eggs1

Ideally, you should have just enough water left to cover an egg. Add or remove water as necessary, then put the pot back on the stove and bring it to a simmer. Make sure the stove is at a steady simmer, temperature management is the key to poaching eggs successfully.

At this point some people add vinegar to keep the eggs together. If a small bottle of vinegar isn’t part of your backcountry packing plan don’t worry – you’ll do fine without it.

Crack an egg on the side of the pan, trapping it with the large spoon. Lower it carefully into the water, holding the whites together with the spoon. Add a second egg using the same technique. Spoon simmering water over the eggs until they reach the desired hardness. Depending on your preference, you can get anything from firm eggs that cut with a fork to liquid yolks that melt into the polenta.

Divide the polenta into two portions and serve two eggs over each. The second cup of coffee should be ready at this point.

Gear:

  • One 2 liter pot
  • One pour over coffee filter
  • One large spoon
  • Two deep bowls
  • Two eating utensils

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Ultimate Guide to Camp Coffee with Tim and Christine Connors

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This week Tim and Christine Connors help you to make the perfect cup of coffee in this episode of Lipsmackin’ Campin. Try one of these tips next time you’re out in the backcountry!

You can find more mouth-watering camp recipes, and invaluable information for making your next camp trip a culinary success. Just check out Tim and Christine Conners’ bestselling series of books.For more information, visit Lipsmackincampin.com!

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MSR Backcountry Café: French Press Coffee

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MSR French Press

A French press can produce rich, strong coffee that will supercharge your day in the backcountry. Collapsible presses allow you to use your cooking pot for a brewing vessel, saving weight and space in your pack. Best of all, good French press coffee is simple: get the grind and water temperature correct and you’re likely to have a great cup, or three.

The Coffee: You’ll need about one ounce of coffee per finished cup. It should be course-ground and stored in an air-tight container. With French Press coffee, an even grind is important – use a burr grinder rather than the blade type. Normal drip coffee will work if you can’t find the proper grind; our presses are designed to work with generic drip grounds too.

The Water: Backcountry water makes great coffee! Use clear, filtered water from a stream or lake. Make sure it is free of tannins and other natural flavors that can taint your finished cup.

  • Start heating your water in the pot. Use a little more than one liter of water to make three cups of coffee. If it’s cold, add a little extra for warming the cups.
  • Measure around 4.5 tablespoons of ground coffee and set it aside.
  • Take the water off just before it reaches boiling. This stage is often called “fish eyes” because of the small bubbles forming at the bottom of the pot.
  • If it’s cold out, pour a little hot water into your coffee cup to warm it before the brewing process. Dump this water before you serve the finished coffee.
  • Stir the coffee grounds into the hot water. Use a long spoon that reaches near the bottom of the pot.
  • Cover the pot with the press and lid. Allow the coffee to steep for a minimum of four minutes. If you’re camping in cold weather, use a fleece jacket or towel to insulate the press while it steeps. (Be careful not to melt synthetics on the hot pot!)
  • Press the coffee and pour it in your cups. Don’t leave excess coffee sitting in the press for too long, it will quickly become bitter.

MSR French Press

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