Camping and Meal Planning


It’s mid-February and the long months of winter have past since I last updated this blog. The weather department promised a hard winter with below normal temperatures and above average rain, and this time, they sure delivered.

Western Washington is still struggling out of winter’s shackles, and that means cabin fever is reaching a peak for most outdoor types. So what do you do when winter doesn’t want to seem to let go and cabin fever is driving you batty?


Late winter is a good time to start planning trips and getting an idea for some good camping meals. About now, a lot of backpackers are working their dehydrators in preparation for summer trips.

I know personally, when I plan a camping trip, I spend way too much money, buy way too much food, and throw way too much away when I get home. I also buy too much firewood. A campfire is nice, but does it need to be so big it can be seen from space?

So, I do need to plan my meals better. Here’s some tips I thought up.

  1. Plan real meals. Not just walking into the grocery store and grabbing hot dogs and canned beans, but plan meals as if you were at eating at home. The good part about car camping is that you can pre-cut and marinate things before the trip. For RVers, they have it even better. A full kitchen on the go.
  2. Be mindful of buying junk. Sure snacks are nice, but way too often its walking down the aisles and buying chips, donuts, Ho-Ho’s, way too much sugar. You don’t have to be a Food Network gourmet in the outdoors, but eat sensible, well thought-out meals. Especially if you’re going rafting, or hiking, a load of sugar isn’t going to give you energy for strenuous activity.
  3. Buy just what you need. Think of serving sizes and how big appetites are to minimize wasting food. But do bring enough to keep everyone fed.

With a thought to some basic meal planning, you can have simple, nutritious meals that “taste better outdoors.

Gear Review: Stoves

While we’re thinking up different camping recipes, we got to have a stove. I have a couple of stoves that I will be taking on my picnics, camping trips, and travel.

The Coleman two burner stove

Almost everyone has heard of this. Remember camping trips as a child, when you’d wake up on a chilly morning, and Mom was brewing coffee and making bacon and eggs on the Coleman two-burner camp stove? Instant camping memories right there.

Coffee brewing and bacon and eggs frying. Camping memories.
Coffee brewing and bacon and eggs frying. Camping memories.

There are times when I don’t want to drag out the Coleman stove however. But I still want something hot. My answer to this:

The integrated stove system

Jetboil made a big name for itself through it’s easy to use integrated stove system. It was simple and easy, but there are some things on the Jetboil that are just plain weird and Jetboil doesn’t fix it.

The lid on the Jetboil, once it’s on the cup, is hard to get off. Plus the handle on the cozie sleeve is a bit floppy. Floppy handle and a lid hard to get off, all while juggling a pot of boiling water. Plus, a flimsy cup on the bottom which only holds, one cup.


The answer, the MSR Windburner. The Windburner answers some of the oddities of the Jetboil. The cozie is held on by a plastic “jacket”, the handle is sturdier. The lid is solid plastic, not floppy, and can just rest on the cup while the water is boiling. The bottom cup on the 1.8 liter model is three cups, and very sturdy as to be actually useful. The Windburner uses the same radiant heat technology as MSR’s Reactor, the canister stove, integrated, snow-melting monster. I much prefer the Windburner’s heating element to the Jetboil’s spot flame.

When would I use an integrated stove system?

On a quick overnight camping trip, when I bring salads and cold fried chicken, and just want something to make some hot tea and hot water for washing up. Or it would be good for traveling, when constantly eating out would be a strain on the budget. Heat up some oatmeal, soup, coffee or tea, and you’re good to get back behind the wheel.

Jetboil, left. MSR Windburner, right.
Jetboil, left.
MSR Windburner, right.

I also have the Windburner’s accessory frying pan. It made a great Indonesian fried rice. It’s quick to heat up, has decent temperature control, and clean up was a breeze.

MSR Windburner frying pan


These are just some of the tools a good camp chef needs, but it’s the main tool. The camp stove.

Hello campers!

I remember a camping trip I took at Sequoia National Park in the late 80s. I took a one burner camp stove and a 50 quart Coleman cooler. I packed the usual beans, hotdogs, pop. How original huh? I ate ok, but it was dull.

There are better ways to cook outdoors, from Boy Scout hobo packets and bannock to all out gourmet. There’s also a lot more ways to cook, more shelf stable ingredients, more options for cooking appliances, and better ways to store cold foods.

Here’s a look at some of my past camping food.

A winter camp kitchen
A winter camp kitchen
Snoqualmie Pass
Chocolate pudding tarts, cooled in snow
Smap fried rice
Spam fried rice
Campfire beef fajitas
Campfire beef fajitas

Serve enough beans and franks, and you’ll lose your outdoor dinner guests. Serve, well-thought out, well-planned meals and you’ll always have a crowd at your picnic table.

The Queets rainforest, Olympic Peninsula
Too much beans?   The Queets rainforest, Olympic Peninsula