Backcountry Cooking 101

Andy is our Leadership Program Coordinator. A long time volunteer and supporter, he started working at Outdoor Outreach in 2017.

Cooking is part of our daily life in the backcountry. It should be in the frontcountry too, but with all of the hustle and bustle, some of us forget that it is sort of a cornerstone of the day. You start with it, you usually end with it and it is how we fuel up for our objectives when we are out. Just like anything when we are headed outside, our kitchen set up and equipment, what we cook and how is really important!

A couple of considerations:

    1. Establish a kitchen. Make sure you are following LNT and public land manager guidelines on distances (we take serious precautions in grizzly bear country in Alaska) from camp and water. Find a flat spot with a good place to sit and be comfortable. Before cooking, have a vision! Lay out your ingredients
    2. Be familiar with your stove, ensure anything flammable is in working order and be prepared to turn it off. In case of emergency, remember that a fuel fire WILL NOT be put out with water. You will need your rattiest piece of gear close by to try to smother it should an emergency arise. I once nearly burnt down a backcountry hut but luckily had a canvas bag on hand to kill my stove when it malfunctioned.
    3. Burns are one of the most common injuries in the backcountry. When handling boiling water, use secure pliers, make sure you are not sitting in a way where you could spill on your legs.
    4. Institute a no fly zone. Cooking happens on the ground, unless you’re staying in a sweet backcountry hut or yurt. This means people are walking around, potentially right around your stove. Make sure folks know that there is no one allowed around or above your stove while you are on the helm.
    5. Keep it Leave no Trace! Make sure you are cooking on a durable surface so you don’t burn vegetation. If you do spill, guess what? You will need to pick everything up and either eat it or pack it out. I sometimes use chopsticks in the backcountry which work great for picking up individual grains of rice.
    6. Make it fun and be creative. Try new things and think outside the box. Keep your pack light but your belly full and happy.

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