Archive for May, 2010

Video: Testing Camp Stoves

In the article “The Language Of Camp Stoves” I spoke about what you should be looking at to purchase a new stove. In this video, I tested three Coleman stoves head-to-head to see if the difference in BTU output actually changed how long it took each stove to boil water.

For more information about camp stoves, or to purchase any of the stoves featured in the video, please visit EatStayPlay.com/Stove

Readers’ Opinions

  • What has been your favorite camp stove?
  • What would you suggest to stay away from?
  • What advice would you give to a fellow camper if she were going to buy a new camp stove?

Video Critique

This is this the second video filmed, edited, and produced by The Outdoor Princess Productions and I’d LOVE your feed back on it. What did you like? What would we do better? Is it long enough or too long? Anything you can tell me about it will really help!

Camp Cooking Utensil Checklist

Now that you’ve read up on camp stoves and have some basic fire-making ideas, I wanted to share with you my checklist for camping cooking utensils. I’m not covering what I recommend you take for food, but what I recommend that you take for supplies.

Like all checklists, this isn’t the be-all, end-all list. You need to be sure to bring the items that make YOUR life easier. And, by the same token, you can leave things at home that you never use.

The best way to use a checklist is to print it out and not only use it, but take it WITH you. Then, when you think of something that you wish you had, you can put it on the list right away. When you get home, evaluate what you took and decide if each item has its place.

I am not a huge fan of made-for-camping utensils. I prefer to use regular kitchen gadgets. Of course, when the EatStayPlay.com “Royal” family camps, we take a huge RV so space isn’t much of an issue. If I’m car or tent camping, then I do think about what can do double duty.

Don't skimp on the can opener -- get a quality one.

If you’re planning on using paper plates and bowls, and plastic eating utensils be sure to bring ENOUGH. I went on a camping trip with a friend who counted exactly how many meals we would eat and then only brought that many plastic forks. The problem was that no COOKING forks were brought. Needless to say we were out of forks about three meals early and had to go to town for more!

Plastic, washable plates and metal silverware is a plus since they hold up better and you can wash them if you run out. Of course, then you have to wash them!

I always recommend setting up a big plastic container with a snap-on lid for your kitchen supplies. It keeps everything clean and together. If at all possible, I recommend having this kitchen kit separate from your house’s kitchen. That means that you’re not robbing your kitchen drawers for a can opener; there’s a camping can opener that just stays in the kit.

The Queen Mother did this with her RV kitchen over the course of several years. During that time, she refined what camp cooking tools and utensils she wanted AND she didn’t break the bank as she acquired them!

We have a set that never leaves the RV.

  • Big spoon for stirring and or serving (you might want more than one!)
  • Bottle opener
  • Bottled water – both individual bottles and large jugs of potable water for cooking
  • Bowls (eating and mixing)
  • Can opener
  • Clothes pins (for closing bags of chips, holding down tablecloths, etc)
  • Coffee supplies (pot, filters, cups) and/or a tea kettle
  • Cold-drink cups
  • Collapsible dish drain
  • Containers for food storage that have lids
  • Corkscrew
  • Cutting board
  • Cutting knife for food prep
  • Cutting knives for eating (like steak knives)
  • Dish pan
  • Dish rags and towels
  • Dish soap
  • Forks, spoons, and knives
  • Heavy duty aluminum foil
  • Ice chests
  • Large pot with a lid
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Mugs
  • Napkins
  • Paper plates / cups (we always bring both paper and plastic plates and cups)
  • Paper towels
  • Plastic silverware
  • Plastic tablecloth
  • Potato Peeler
  • Potholders
  • Scrub pad
  • Skillet
  • Small pot with a lid
  • Strike-anywhere matches
  • Tea kettle
  • Thermos (so you can take the coffee with you!)
  • Tongs (plastic tips can melt!)
  • Trash bags
  • Utility lighter
  • Ziplock bags in a variety of sizes

I know this is a pretty big list. But, let me explain a few of my choices:

A big pot with a lid AND a smaller pot with a lid – there’s nothing worse than boiling water to wash dishes and not having enough hot water at a time. I recommend a BIG pot with a lid so you can heat quite a bit of water. Just remember, it will take longer to heat the water than it does at home!

The smaller pot is for cooking. If you can, get pots with two stubby handles on each side rather than one long handle. That way, they can nest inside of each other and save space!

The Queen Mother LOVES her coffeemaker!

Coffee pot AND a tea kettle – if you are serious about coffee, then I recommend this coffee maker from Coleman. It sits on a propane stove and does a fantastic job! If you’re like me though, I don’t want my water for tea or hot chocolate tasting like coffee so I bring a separate tea kettle.

That tea kettle can also be used to heat water for washing up.

Strike-anywhere matches AND a utility fire lighter – if matches get wet, you’re stuck. The utility lighter can get damp and still work. By the same token, a utility lighter can run out of fuel and matches can’t. The other reason I recommend both is the reach of the lighter is farther. My camp stove doesn’t have a self-ignition so I have to turn on the gas and then light it. I prefer NOT to do that with a match since I have singed my fingers before!

Plastic silverware AND real silverware – have you ever tried to eat steak with a plastic fork and knife? I bring both types since plastic is perfect for snacks and real flatware is better for meals.

Paper plates AND plastic plates – same reasoning as the silverware. Paper is perfect for snacks but I prefer a real plate when I’m eating a meal. Now, when I say plastic, I don’t mean plastic disposable, but plastic washable.

If you're going to use disposable, be sure to bring enough!

Some other things I like to take:

  • Colander (if you’re making pasta, this is a must!)
  • Griddle (pancakes just taste better when cooked outside)
  • Basting brush (we were making shrimp on the barbeque and had to make a basting brush out of pine needles!)
  • Fish basket
  • Marshmallow toasting forks

Give Me Your Feedback:

What are the must-have camp cooking tools that your family takes? What can you just not live without?

Want a .pdf download of this checklist?

Click here. You’ll need Adobe Acrobat to open the checklist.

5 Campfire Starting Tools

I know I said that this week’s article would be where I’d reveal the results of testing camp stoves with different BTU outputs. BUT, ESP Boss & I decided that it would be better for you to watch the video of our test! It is in production as we speak so look for it soon.

Kind of sticking with the theme, however, I wanted to share with you my tips and suggestions for campfires! To make life easy for you, I’m also including links after every product so you can buy one before your next camping trip!

Campfires are one of the best parts of a camping trip. However, I’ve found over the course of numerous camping trips and day trips that building and maintaining a safe campfire is not as easy as it seems. Even the most experienced camper can still pick up new ideas and tricks about fire making.

There are a variety of fire igniters and fire aids on the market. Which are the best for in-camp use, and what should you keep in your backpack for a potential emergency situation? Here are your answers!

Utility Fire Lighter

These are the adjustable lighters with a long reach. They have a trigger feature. The advantage is their long reach — you don’t have to have your fingers as close to the tinder as with the other methods. This is your best in-camp bet, because they’re safe, easy to use, and can be used in breezy conditions. They are not a good choice for your backpack for emergency situations.

  • Water resistance: High. We’ve left these out in the rain and they still work. Just don’t submerge in water.
  • Ease of use: High. Once you get the hang of turning these lighters on, they’re very easy to use.
  • Practicality: High. This isn’t something you want to carry in a backpack as an emergency fire starter since it isn’t compact and might leak. It’s a great fire starter in camp.
  • Over-all rating: High
  • Price: $6

Buy a utility fire lighter.

Strike-Anywhere Matches

Be sure to keep the matches in a water-proof container so that they’re dry when you need them. Ideally, you want to keep the box they come in for the striker strip, but you can light strike-anywhere matches on any rough surface. (That’s why they’re called strike-anywhere.) Matches can be hard to use because they burn so quickly, meaning you’d better have a good place to get your fire started (tinder) and the possibility of getting your fingers burned can be high.

Why not other use matches? Safety matches require the on-box striker strip to ignite, book matches are difficult to use in not-prefect conditions, and other types of matches can be brittle and easily broken.

Of course, matches aren’t really the best bet for either in-camp or emergency fire making. They won’t work if they get wet, require you to get up-close-and-personal with the tinder (increasing the probability of getting burnt) and they are nearly useless in breezy conditions.

  • Water resistance: Low. If you get the matches wet, they won’t work anymore. They can be made water resistant by a light coating of wax, but that will need to be done at home.
  • Ease of use: High. It’s easy to light a match, but it’s easy to go through them quickly.
  • Practicality: Medium. Cheap, easy, quick, light weight. Just make sure you have plenty. Because of low-water resistance, matches are not a great choice for a backpack.
  • Over-all rating: Medium
  • Price: $2.50 for 3 boxes of 250

Buy strike-anywhere matches.

StarterLogg®

This is a wood fire starter made of premium wax and kiln-dried hardwood sawdust and is completely non-toxic. The StarterLogg® will start your fire faster and easier than using newspaper and kindling, and it eliminates fire starting hassles, so you can start your fire safely and quickly. It’s a bit heavy to carry the full log in your backpack, but it can be broken into smaller pieces and a few pieces carried with you.

A StarterLogg® will burn cleanly, ignite quickly and burn hot enough to dry out damp wood. This is a fantastic aid for in-camp fire starting (especially with damp wood) and is great to chunk up and put in your backpack.

  • Water resistance: High. This is wax coated so water shouldn’t hurt it.
  • Ease of use: High. Just light it using your favorite fire igniter above
  • Practicality: High. Cheap, easy, quick, light weight. This is a great tool for in-camp and in the backpack.
  • Over-all rating: Medium
  • Price: $7.50 for 4

Buy a StarterLogg®

Butane Lighter

We just purchased a butane lighter made by DAC. It’s described as a refillable butane lighter for all outdoor activities. Windproof and water-resistant. Features a fuel level window, flame adjustment, and refill valve. It may look like a Zippo lighter, but for emergency fire starting, it’s a cut above, since it’s made of heavy-duty plastic body with a cap that is secured with a clamp.

  • Water resistance: High. It’s not water-proof, but water-resistant should be good enough for most outdoor adventures.
  • Ease of use: High. It works just like a regular lighter.
  • Practicality: High. Lightweight, easy to use, and refillable. It is good for camp or in your backpack.
  • Over-all rating: High
  • Price: $10

Buy a DAC butane lighter.

Magnesium starter

Just in case you’re ever on the TV show “Survivor.” No, really, this is a handy tool to have to start fires in emergency situations. One fire starter should provide hundreds of fires. It’s simple to use; just shave pieces of magnesium using a sharp knife. Place the shavings next to dry twigs, paper, etc. and scrape the sparking edge with a knife to ignite the magnesium. Be careful with this; magnesium can burn so hot it will burn under water.

  • Water resistance: High
  • Ease of use: Medium. (To get good at this, you’ll need practice. I recommend practicing with this during non-critical fire making time.)
  • Practicality: Medium. It’s light and can get wet, but you’ll need to practice to get proficient. Plus, you need another tool (a knife) to start the fire. With practice and a knife its good for the backpack, but a lot of work for an in-camp fire starter.
  • Over-all rating: Medium
  • Price: $7

Buy a magnesium starter.

What ISN’T recommended: gas, lighter fluid or other liquid fire starters. In all of these cases, it isn’t the liquid that’s burned, it’s the fumes. It is never a good idea to use gas or lighter fluid to start a fire since these items will ignite too quickly, burn very hot, and are extremely difficult to control.

Last October, I was camping with the EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family at Pine Grove Campground near Flagstaff Arizona. ESP Boss (he’s an experienced camper!) had a major brain fart and poured a bit of leftover gasoline from the generator onto the wood in the fire ring and then started the fire. WHOOSH! Let’s just say that he jumped back very quickly and wasn’t hurt, The Queen Mother yelled at him and then started to cry, and I made a mental note to remember to tell everybody I know to never, Never, NEVER use gas on a fire.

So, enjoy your campfire but stay safe and stay smart. If you’re not sure that a tip or tool is safe, don’t chance it — use something that you know will work and is safe.

Readers Weigh In:

What fire starters do you use? Have you ever tried to make your own fire starter out of newspaper, dryer lint, etc? How did it go?

The Language of Camp Stoves

It’s been my experience that families that are just getting started in camping sometimes have romantic ideas about cooking outdoors. Meals and eating are some of the most important parts of any camping trip and there’s nothing worse than a meal that flops. You go to bed tired and hungry and that can be enough to ruin a trip.

Cooking over an open fire is romantic, but not practical!

We all have those images in our head when we think about cooking over an open campfire. But, in reality, campfires are full of ash, can smell bad, be difficult to get started, and are not a reliable heat source for cooking since the temperature is very difficult to regulate. They’re great if you just want to heat up a hot dog or toast a marshmallow but cooking a whole meal over it? Probably not suitable for the novice camper.

Or even experienced campers!

You’ll want to invest in a good camp stove is that on many public lands fire restrictions will be in effect depending on drought conditions. That means that open fires might be prohibited! Imagine trying to cook dinner if you can’t light a fire! In Arizona, in the worst drought months, that restriction has been extended to include fires burning wood or charcoal.

These restrictions usually do not include any type of stove.

When ESP Boss and The Queen Mother took their first camping trip in 1969, they borrowed a Coleman white gas camping stove. Basically, they didn’t test it out (the thought never even occurred to them!) before they went. When they first tried to use the stove, they realized that the pressurizing gaskets had shrunk and the fuel tank couldn’t maintain pressure. So, they spent two days, and every time they wanted to cook a meal, ESP Boss was continuously pumping the fuel tank while The Queen Mother cooked.

This was very unsafe!

But, as The Queen Mother pointed out: they didn’t starve and are still married to this day!

If you’re going to purchase a camp stove here are some things you need to consider:

Fuel sources

Before you purchase a stove, you should review the various fuel sources. However, when you’re actually ready to buy that stove, make sure that it will work with the fuel you want to use! I’ll be covering the “Big Three” fuel sources: propane, white gas, and butane.

Propane
Propane is the stand-by for modern camping stoves. It’s easy to use and readily available. You can get the one-pound bottles that screw directly into the stove or larger bottles (like for a home barbeque) and connect it to the stove with a hose.

Lots of campers prefer propane since you just need to attach it to the stove and it’s ready to use. There are no additional steps that need to be completed before you can light the stove and make dinner!

White Gas
White gas or naphtha can also be called Coleman fuel. True Colman fuel is made and sold through Coleman as a specially refined process. White gas is a good fuel option when camping at high elevations or in very cold temperatures since it will burn steady and at an even temperature.

White gas can only be used in stoves that will take liquid fuel.

Butane
What campers term “butane” is actually a butane/propane mixture. It is usually a favorite fuel of backpackers since it is light weight, resealable, and connects to stoves easily. Butane/propane is affected by cold temperatures and might not work effectively. The canisters cannot be recycled.

Another consideration with fuel sources is how much fuel you’re planning on carrying with you on your trip. Some fuels are more expensive than others and some canisters are bigger than others. Remember that any liquid fuel stove will require pumping to maintain pressure in the fuel tank.

If you’ll be taking any other camping appliances with you besides a stove (lanterns, barbeque grills, etc) you probably want to make sure all your appliances run off the same fuel source.

Here’ a way to think about it: The Power Of Batteries but instead of batteries, it’ll be your stove fuel source!

Amount of Heat

BTU
BTU stands for “British thermal unit.” It is approximately the amount of energy needed to heat one pound of water one degree Fahrenheit.

Now, if you’re like me, that definition means very little in the practical sense. Stoves have a wide range of BTU outputs. In next week’s Pitch Your Tent article we will be running tests on stoves with different BTUs to help you decide how many BTUs YOU need for your next adventure.

Choosing A Stove

Camping stoves come in a range of sizes from tiny backpacking stoves little enough to be packed in a sock to three burner stoves with their own carrying cases. The biggest piece of advice I have for you it to think how you’ll be USING the stove.

When the EatStayPlay.com “Royal” Family goes camping, we rely on our two burner Coleman stove.

Our stove of choice!

We’ve recently acquired another stove that we’ll be running a head to head comparison with next week.

I went camping with a friend who brought along a single-burner backpacking stove that ran off of a butane/propane mixture. The problem was trying to cook for two people on an itty bitty stove. There was no way to cook our main dish AND boil water for hot chocolate.

Pick a stove that you know you’ll be comfortable using. You might want to consider things like:

  • Does it have a self-starting ignition (think about a gas stove in a home where you get the clicking noise and then the burner lights) or do you need to turn on the gas and ignite it with a match?
  • Does it have a wind screen? This is critical if you’re EVER camping in breezy conditions!
  • Will you be able to get fuel for it easily? How expensive is the fuel?
  • Can you find replacement parts?
  • Is it big enough (enough burners and enough BTU output) to cook a meal for your entire family?

Can you imagine trying to cook a meal for two on this tiny stove?

I don’t recommend purchasing a used camp stove since you don’t know if the prior owners took good care of it. If it was dropped, not maintained or been used with the wrong type of fuel it could be dangerous to operate.

ESP Boss had a Coleman stove that lasted for 20 years! He only had to replace it when he couldn’t get parts for it any longer.

Readers Weigh In:

This is the section where you can tell me about what type of stove YOU use when you go camping!

What type of fuel do you use in your stove? What tips do you have when purchasing a stove? Do you have any good stories about a camp cooking meal that flopped?

You can leave comments here and also post on the EatStayPlay.com Forum

And, if you’re looking for a stove, here’s a link to Cabela’s so you can take a look at what they offer!

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