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Because of the need to save bulk and weight, cooking on interior camping trips involves unique equipment, supplies and techniques. Conventional foods contain too much heavy water and often need refrigeration along with sophisticated preparations. And, sometimes campfires aren't an option due to extreme dampness, winds or official fire bans.

Welcome to the world of camp cooking!



White Gas Stoves:

These stoves run on white gas or naptha ... a highly refined form of gasoline. Most of these stoves come with a hose and a valve fixture that attaches to separate refillable metal fuel bottles, precluding the need to pour fuel while on the trip. A manual pump ensures vapour pressure for the burner, while a fuel-air-mix control aids start-up.

Photo: This is a style that uses a fuel tank permanently attached under the burner assembly. Once this tank runs out, it has to be refilled manually.

An evolution of this stove is the multi-fuel stove. More frequently used in other countries, it will work with a broad range of fuels ... white gas, unleaded gas, kerosene or dry-cleaning fluid. However, each time it's used it has to be put through a priming-burn procedure. Also, it tends to be less precise and quite noisy.

Liquified Gas Stoves:

These stoves run on a blend of butane and propane that burns efficiently under a range of temperatures. They run off pressurized metal fuel cans manufactured with a standard threaded self-sealing valves. A flow-control gas valve is built into the stove's assembly.

Photo: This stove has four extended pot supports which, when packed, fold in and collapse flat producing a very compact unit. Its screwed onto a 225g tank which serves doubles duty as the stove's base.

Its a good idea to put these stoves on a solid flat base. Bare ground can be soft or uneven, risking upsets and scalds due to the tanks' small diameters.

In the case of wind, a stable base and wind-deflector can be put together from appropriate rock slabs and/or camp supplies.

Gas Stove Wind Breaks

A common means of reducing the effect of wind upon the efficiency of gas stoves is to erect a low stone wall upwind, to serve as a wind break. Placing one's stove on a stable flat rock within a campsite's large stone firepit (after confirming that the pit has no traces of combustion or residual heat) is an alternative way of sheltering it from the wind.

However, certain precautions should be exercised in creating a wind break. Don't use flamable materials (such as wood or your lifejacket) to break the wind. Don't closely surround the stove with heat-reflective materials such as rock or metal. Gas stoves and their burners are designed to be operated under open and unconfined conditions. Sheltering one's stove with a confining rock or metal wind shield, in anticipation of increasing its efficiency, could reflect unanticipated amounts of heat back on the stove's nozzle, valve and fuel tank ... resulting in potentially dangerous conditions.

Campfire Grill:

Someone once designed a heavy wrought-iron campfire grill and each Algonquin interior campsite is usually equipped with one of them. Part of one is visible in the above photos. They're 16 inches square and come in two heights .. either 12 or 24 inches. They originated when firewood was considered an unlimited resource. Now, they serve best as a fireside seat or food preparation table.

These days, most campfire cooks incorporate an old fridge or barbque grill into the stones across the back of the firepit. There's often a number of these smaller grills left behind at campsites because they become too dirty and bent to repack. If you're worried your site won't have one, snap one up at a yard sale and take it along ... 12 by 20 inches is usually adequate.

When preparing your campfire and grill, there's a few points worth noting.

  • Pull out the rocks at the upwind end of the firepit and scrape out the ashes down to ground level, safely disposing of them.

  • Rebuild the pit's sides closer together so that they and its rear can support the grill with just sufficient width for a pair of cooking pots.

  • Make sure the grill is no more than 10 inches above the ground.

  • Then lay down a 2 inch rock floor in the firepit.

  • This will seal off ground moisture and reflect heat upward, both increasing the fire's efficiency.

  • A top row of rocks serve to secure the grill and to focus flames on the bases of the pots.

  • A flat rock across the front serves both as an ash barrier and as a place to keep food warm.

By rebuilding a large circular firepit in this fashion, you can reduce firewood consumption by up to 75%.

Pots, Pans and Utensils:

This section is an open-ended list of other cooking equipment typically used by an interior camper. Submit additions to the list by emailing AlgonquinAdventures.com.

  • Two cooking pots .. one large enough for boiling a litre or so of water .. another one sufficient for brewing the morning coffee. The reason for two pots is a combination of redundancy and efficiency. The most popular kind are stainless steel, nestling within each other, the larger coming with a lid that reverses into a frying pan and all sharing a separate plier-style clamping handle. Space remains within the nestled pans for many smaller items. The entire lidded group is usually secured together, either by a strap or tote bag.

  • Food storage containers ... sufficiently substantial both for carrying in backpacks and for hoisting up a rope ... like armour ... only as strong as its weakest link. While containers swing on a rope 10 feet above a hungry bear, their strength and security can still be compromised by a horde of deer mice poised to scurry down that very rope! The subject of food containment will always be a challenging one for campers and animals alike.

  • Food storage ropes are best made of strong narrow braided nylon rope such as found in modern parachute cord. Minimum lengths of 40 and 20 feet should be carried, equipped with a permanent metal snap on each end to provide easy and sure connections. The objective is to hoist the food bag to a point at least 10 feet off the ground and 7 feet from any adjacent trunk or overhead branch. If a suitable long branch exists high up, both lengths can be joined to achieve the full reach. If no such branches exist, two shorter ones on opposing trees can be used in conjunction with the two separate ropes. This method raises the two ropes over separate branches, joins their ends together with the food bag and securely raises them all to a centrally suspended point that meets the same distance criteria.

  • Durable plastic mug for coffe, soup and other drinks.

  • Durable plastic bowl, large enough for cereal, stew or ambitious camp fare.

  • Cheap flatware from an economy store .. fork, desert and tea spoon .. thin enough to curve around between the nestled pots.

  • Folding camp knife (always present on the belt) serving any cutting needs.

  • Collapsible vinyl sink for washing dishes and carrying water to douse the campfire.

  • Small plastic bottle of biodegradable dish soap.

  • Scouring pad for cleaning stubborn food, kept in a tied plastic bag to reduce food smells.

  • Dish cloth, transported in a tied plastic bag to reduce food odours.

  • Dish towl and a length (10') of string to hang it up to dry.

  • Cigarette lighter for lighting the campfire or stove, should its self-lighting feature wearout.

  • Waterproof matches, should the lighter run out of fuel or get lost.