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Home cooking around the campfire

June 11, 2010
By ANDY NELSON-ZALESKI Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - When planning a camping or backpacking trip, you'll need basic items such as a tent, sleeping bag, lantern or flashlight, first-aid kit and a camping stove. Which leads to the most important element of camping or backpacking - food.

Food is a crucial element because most people, it seems, burn extra calories while out in the woods. To replenish these lost calories, eating foods high in protein is important. But don't limit the selection to tasteless or boring foods. That's why food preparation is such a key to any successful outdoor activity.

"You work really hard backpacking and burn a lot of calories. The worst thing to do is have a meal that you don't enjoy and is not any fun," said Bill Thompson, who is co-owner of DownWind Sports in Marquette.

Article Photos

The use of different colored stuff sacks reduces the confusion when packing meals such as breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Journal photo by Andy Nelson-Zaleski)

When Thompson backpacks, he said he tends to travel shorter distances, giveing him plenty of time to set up at the campsite and start preparing a really good meal. He said, he plans his meals out the same way he would at home.

"First you need to figure out what you would like to eat," he said. From there, shop for the items on your list at the local store. Then bring the items home and start repackaging.

"If you plan on making pancakes for one the meals, it isn't a great idea to pack the box." he said. Repackage the items into individual plastic bags and label them, helping save space and providing a visual identifier.

"If it isn't something I am familiar with, I will cut out the directions and include them in the bag," said Thompson.

After the meals are bagged, Thompson divides them and categorizes them into five categories: breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert and drinks. He then puts each of the five categories into their own different separate sacks.

"If I am backpacking and it is dinner time I know which color stuff sack to pull out and have exactly what I need right there," he said.

In addition to planning meals, Thompson sets up a menu plan for his trip. Each day, he assigns a certain food to prepare for each meal.

"I might make spaghetti one night, chili the next night and pizza the following," he said.

Another thing he does is ration planning, by packing flour and yeast.

"With these two combinations (menu and ration planning) I can make anything I want," he said.

An advantage of ration planning is that the menu plan can be changed at anytime. For example, if spaghetti is planned for one of the meals, garlic bread can be made to accompany it, he explained. The lone disadvantage is the weight but Thompson said he is willing to make that sacrifice for good eating.

Once enough meals are planned for the length of the trip, next comes the means by which to cook. This usually is done on a single burner stove.

"You can make anything on this stove that you can make at home," Thompson said, noting that the stove is not only lightweight but it is very simple to use.

Cookware is the next investment and is just as important as the stove.

"The cookware will either make or break your meal," he said.

Thompson uses a regular, non-stick pan, to make soups, casseroles, spaghetti, or anything else, but recommends a pan called the Banks FryBake pan.

"This pan is worth its weight in gold," he said. "You can make virtually anything in this pan. What really makes this pan so special is the lid."

He explained that the lid is indented at the top which allows you to cook on both the top and bottom. The indentation can be stacked with matchstick-sized twigs and then lit. Essentially this creates an oven- like effect allowing the cook to bake breads, pizzas and pies.

"You would be amazed in the morning when cooking cinnamon rolls how many people come over and look to see what the smell is," Thompson said.

Andy Nelson-Zaleski can be reached at 906-228-2500 ext. 256. His e-mail address is



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