Basic skills and tips can make camping a more rewarding experience…
Types of Campfires
Campfires can be constructed to direct flames upward or outward, and either provide quick heat or a slow-burning bed of coals for cooking or extended warmth. Hardwoods produce better coals (ash, birch oak, elm, sugar maples, etc.) while softwoods aspen, silver maple, etc. burn quickly producing little long-term heat or coals.
Sleeping Pads and Ground Insulation
What’s beneath your sleeping bag is as important as the insulation within it, especially when sleeping on cold ground. Sleeping pads are typically one of three types of support and insulating pads: the conventional “air mattress”, the hybrid mattress (often self-inflating that typically combines insulating fibers or foam within the air chambers; and thinner, but more dense closed cell pads.
Oftentimes these pads are used in combination with each other to provide both comfort and insulating warmth:
Y-Sticks – Lift Without Length!
Getting loft or height by using a guideline from a tent or tarp usually requires a nearby tree to tie off to or else a long length of guideline secured to a stake (and creating a long, ground or neck level “trip zone”.
Using a “Y” stick or pole enables you to keep tension on a tent flap or tarp line without that lengthy extension. Like the old time grooved clothesline pole, the Y stick enables you to elevate the line to a useful pulling angle without extending it far from the tent or tarp.
Layout Of A Cooking Campfire
The trick to cooking over a campfire is a sustainable bed of coals you can control; variable heat level within the fire ring; ample work space and “holding” areas for foods. A constant supply of hot/near boiling water (D) comes in handy for myriad uses before, during and after cooking.
Learn your firewoods, too: hardwoods such as birch, ash, elm, oak make long-lasting hot coals, while softwoods (spruce, cottonwood, silver maple) burn faster and don’t create many coals for sustained cooking.
Cooking / Baking with a Dutch Oven
Nothing is a more classic example of campfire cooking than a cauldron of steaming stew or a mess of biscuits baking over the fire. Nothing brings that experience home more than the classic Dutch Oven!
Typically made of cast iron, but also available in thick-sided aluminum, the Dutch Oven is perfect for one-pot meal recipes such as stews, soups, some casseroles – and especially for baked goods such as biscuits and some desserts.
The key to successful Dutch Oven cooking is producing and sustaining proper temperatures throughout the cooking process. You can guess-timate proper baking temperatures fairly accurately by using this simple formula based on the size of the pot:
Seasoning Cast Iron Cookware
1 – Preheat oven to 325°F.
2 – Prep the cast iron by washing it with warm, soapy water and a sponge or stiff brush.
3 – Rinse and thoroughly dry the skillet with a clean, dry cloth or paper towels. (can place in oven for about 10 minutes to thoroughly dry.
4 – Pour a little vegetable-based oil into the skillet (some prefer bacon grease)
5 – Use a new cloth or paper towel to rub the coat of oil around the entire skillet.
6 – Coat the outside — and bottom — of the skillet. You want a thin coat of oil around the entire piece.
7 – Place the skillet upside down on the oven’s center rack. Place a sheet of aluminum foil below the rack to catch any drips. Once oven is up to temperature, bake for an hour.
8 – Turn off the heat and allow to the skillet to cool completely (1-2 hours) before removing from oven.
NOTE: Do not use soap to clean after cooking, simply rinse with water or wipe surface clean. Periodic seasoning will maintain the cooking surface.