June 15, 2013

Camping: Get Ready To Go - Food and Fires

The Fire pit and Food are perhaps the two favorite features of Camping.

The list for food and related items is a personal one. What I enjoy eating on a camping trip (and consequently, the tools I need to prepare and cook that food) is going to be different than what you might want on your trip. And too, the facilities and utilities that are available from one trip to another will make a difference in what you bring along. Keep this in mind as you read through this list. These are suggestions. Use it to make your own list that will suit you and your camping trip.

The Kitchen
Regardless of what we take, we always have a kitchen area.

A table is important. Bring one along, or ask about extra picnic tables.
In a pinch, a storage tub can be flipped over and used as a low table.

A tablecloth (and maybe an extra) to cover a campsite picnic table.
Tablecloth clips don't work very well. Bring tacks to hold it in place instead.

A lantern for the table.

You'll need a way to cook
- BBQ, Camp Stove, Charcoal Grill
   - if you have electricity - toaster, coffee pot, slow-cooker
and fuel to run said cooking 'appliances'
- BBQ lighter, Propane, Lighter fluid, Charcoal
Grill Brush/Scraper

Of course you can cook over an open fire too.

Cooler(s) - Or something to keep your food in. Even if you eat every meal at local restaurants, you'll still want one for drinks at camp. If you really enjoy camping, consider investing in an electric one.

Ice Packs - Lunchbox gel packs work well. Also consider ice cubes in baggies, ice in sour cream containers (and the like), frozen water bottles and juice boxes, and freeze any food you can before leaving. It will slowly thaw in the cooler.

Organizational tools
When you are camping with multiple friends, these come in real handy.

Keep all your paper items like plates, bowls, napkins, utensils in one container with a lid. This keeps everything from blowing around, protects from dust, and it's all together when it is time to eat.

Turn a vinyl shoe holder (the kind that hangs over a door) into a kitchen hanger. This is excellent for a camp kitchen. Thread a bungee cord through the top and hang it between a couple of trees. Now fill it with your cooking utensils, seasonings and other kitchen items. This keeps everything together and easy to find.

Add a second cord (or rope) above the holder with a roll of paper towel on it.
We had a big roll of plastic from house renovations so I taped a strip of  plastic on the back of mine. This strip flips forward over the top when we are not cooking (in case it rains). A garbage bag would work as well.

S-hooks hanging from a belt or tightly tied rope around a tree can be used to hang pots and pans and larger barbecue utensils.

On The Go Cleaning
Have one clean up area for everyone in camp. Do not put it in the kitchen area or you will have people using it (and in the way) as you try to cook. See the bottom of the Living Well post for Clean Up Center suggestions.

While cooking, keep paper towel, a spray bottle with vinegar (or anti-bacterial wipes), biodegradable dish soap and a tub of water on the go. This is for the person preparing food only. Be aware of  cross contamination as you cook. If you have multiple cutting pads, try and assign one for the different food groups and wipe them down often. When you are done with one, place it in the tub of water to be washed.

Food Preparation
You will not need all these items (possibly). Again, you know your family and your meal plans. Pack accordingly.

Cooking pots with lids - take along an extra for heating water. It will come in handy when it's time to do dishes. You can get great little camping pots that stack inside one another or with removable handles. Another option is old pots you no longer use at home. Retire them to the camping tub. Do not take your favorite set from home.
Skillet with a lid
Cookie Sheet
Cooking Grate (to set over a fire or coals)
Pot Holders and Oven Mitts
At least one real plate or platter that is not paper. Paper may be fine to eat on but it's not great for food prep. Stop at the dollar store and buy a small stack of clear platters with sides. These work great for marinating meats, serving foods, snack trays, fruit and veggie trays, etc.
Cooking utensils. Again, plastic doesn't work well in a fire trying to turn a steak. You want at least a couple real forks - a long bbq one is nice if you have it. Take a few good sized serving spoons, tongs and a good meat flipper.
A couple sharp knives. Make sure you have a serrated one for meats and a paring type for potato peeling. If they are the kind that come with their own holder, even better. If not, wrap each in it's own tin foil holder.
Bring along a strainer and a couple cutting boards/sheets. Again, the dollar store has little flat plastic mats for this that work great. Plus they pack easy and are much lighter than the heavier boards.

Other Kitchen Items
Can opener
Potato peeler
Cheese grater (or pre-grate the cheese before leaving and freeze it)
Wooden spoon(s)
Large mixing bowl or two for mixing ingredients or serving salad, potatoes, etc.
Measuring cups, measuring spoons
Coffee Cups
Campfire Coffee Perker if you're not bringing the coffee maker
An insulated thermos. Have a second pot of coffee brewing while the first stays hot. Take the coffee to go for a morning hike. Or bring soup along for lunch.
Ziploc Baggies in assorted sizes. These are great for all kinds of reasons. Food storage, obviously. But also to throw away scraps after a meal with little odor to attract wildlife. Store wet rags, bathing suits or towels in them for the drive home if they didn't make it to the drying line.  Use for collections like rocks, bugs, and plants. Fill with a snack for the kids. They are great for portion control.
Aluminum foil for cooking, leftovers and makeshift lids
Plastic Wrap
Garbage Bags. Bring extra! Also shopping bags for quick camp tidies, to catch vegetable peels, dirty clothes and more.

Paper plates
Paper bowls
Plastic cups for the kids
Large plastic cups for the adults
You can always opt for the real thing too. There are some cute plastic dish sets that are great for camping.
Napkins and Paper Towel -  bring extra - paper towels are nice for food prep and to wipe dishes before washing them - it makes the dishwater last longer.
Plastic utensils, or the real thing if you prefer
Real steak knives

Kitchen Clean Up
A few different containers with tight lids for leftovers.
Dish Tub for washing dishes; a second is nice for rinsing but not mandatory.
Dish soap - biodegradable preferably for camping
Dish towel(s) and Dish Cloth(es)
Scrubbie and/or steel wool

To finish off your kitchen needs, add the food you'll be enjoying while you camp.

The Fire Pit

This is absolutely my favorite part of camping. There is something wonderful about a beautiful summer night and a crackling fire. Besides being the center of the camp, a fire pit may be the only way you have to cook.
But first

Are fires allowed?
Check with the camp office.
Do not ignore fire bans.
If fires are permitted, the following items may help make the most of your Fire Pit.

Lighter, matches or a magnesium stick

Fire Starter - something to catch on fire quickly; it is used to start the kindling. Cotton balls or cotton makeup pads soaked in candle wax or petroleum jelly work great. Dryer lint is also a fantastic fire starter (which is why you need to keep your dryer and ducts clean). Many people use newspaper or cardboard. Stuff a couple empty toilet paper tubes with dryer lint for fantastic fire starters.

Twigs and Kindling - twigs can be found around the camp (assuming there are trees). You may need to buy kindling or chop your own from firewood.

Firewood - most campgrounds have wood to buy or use. Do not transport firewood across state or provincial lines please. This can spread harmful bugs like beetles.

Before building a fire, check the pit for a way to place your grill if you are using one. You may need to add a couple of stones to balance it off the ground and it's much easier to do when the pit is cold.

To build a fire, lay down just enough twigs to raise your firestarter off the ground and allow a little air to flow underneath it. Add some firestarter material. Top with twigs and then make a tee pee with kindling. Carefully lay three or four pieces of wood against these. Don't make the outside pieces too big or everything will just topple over and the outside pieces will have a hard time catching.
Once the fire 'tent' is built, start the lint on fire and watch your campfire grow.
Add the larger pieces once the fire is established and there are some coals bedded beneath it.

Nearby, keep water and shovel/garden trowel for safety

Marshmallow or wiener roasting sticks - There are some great ones that extend. Perfect to keep the little ones back from the flames while they roast their own. If you can't find them, don't let that stop you. I fondly remember peeling the bark from a twig after my Dad had cut an appropriate stick for me.

Ingredients for smores, popcorn or campfire cones.

And a songbook -to go along with
Guitars, Ukuleles, Shakers, Harmonicas and other musical instruments.

Now at this point, you are probably thinking I have listed everything you could possibly need on a camping trip. This is not the case. There are still all kinds of items that are needed or convenient so stop back tomorrow.

Until then...

This is the tenth post in my Camping Series. For the previous posts, see these links.

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