Category Archives: Camping & Food

Recipes for the Gourmet Camper

Ever been starving-hungry on a backpacking trip and stuck with a bowl full of mushy yuck? Yeah, that sucks. In order to avoid such a fate, check out the Learnist board I just created: Recipes for the Gourmet Camper.”

recipes for the gourmet camper

When you’re roughing it on a camping trip, you don’t have to skimp on mealtime pleasure. This collection of gourmet recipes will keep all of your campers happyclick here to continue exploring

Life-long Love and Good Snacks

A lot of things contribute to a good outdoor adventure, but two big things–LIFE-LONG LOVE and GOOD SNACKS help.

Life-long Love. By life-long love, I mean committing to something for the longterm. I’ve been thinking about that one a lot on my Skiing Triple Digits quest. I mean, this is only one season in my life. Sure, skiing a lot is the idea now, but I still want to be skiing when I’m a (really) old lady!

Snacks. Everything tastes better in the backcountry, especially when you’re starving and dehydrated, right? I’ve been trying not to get to the starving and dehydrated phase, though occasionally it still happens. My favorite backcountry skiing snacks include nuts (cashew and almonds mixed together) and nutty bars. Real food options are the best, and I like mixed nuts because they don’t seem to freeze as quickly as other things (like Cliff Bars).

I created the following Learnist boards to help inspire my life-long love of skiing and to help me get some better snack ideas. Leave comments to share your own! Click on the links (not the images) to access the boards:

“How to Ski for Your Entire Life”

Ski for Your Entire Life

“Energy-Packed Snacks for Winter Athletes”

Snacks for Winter Athletes

Bliss or Bliss-less in a Bivouac Sack?

Sleeping in a bivouac sack in bad weather is never quite as comfy as sleeping in a tent, but I like to carry a light backpack, so despite camping in skies that looked like this…

1-chamonix skies

…I once chose only to carry a very lightweight bivouac sack for a few nights out above Chamonix in the French Alps. My backpacking companions, however, chose more wisely:

2-alpine tents

My sister carried the one-person tent pictured on the above left, and her two friends chose to carry the burly two-person mountain tent on the right. I plopped down my bivouac sac between them, hoping that their tents would provide extra shelter from the elements, but I woke up–flooded out–in the middle of the night when rain streamed off of their shelters and straight on top of me! This is how I felt the next morning:

3-alpine blahs

But, I wasn’t deterred. And I planned for a better shelter the next night. First, I set up my bivouac further away from their tents, and I also stretched a tarp across my trekking poles to deflect rain.

4-traci macnamara alpine bivy

However, I knew the comforts of that two-person tent (even with three people!), and as soon as the rain started falling, I jumped inside:

5-two or three person tent

On this trip, I had two bliss-less nights in a bivouac sack, but these lightweight shelters truly are amazing–in an emergency situation, on a rainless summer night, or anytime you don’t want to slog around with a heavy tent. But despite the benefits of going ultra-lightweight, I’d recommend a model with a pole or a moldable wire support to keep the material away from your face and to create a way for rain to slide off of the sack’s exterior while you sleep (more) soundly inside.

Want to know more about bivouac sacks and different bivy sack designs?
Read my article on the About.com Survival Skills website:

“Survival Shelter Overview: Bivouac Sacks”

Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.

Tokai Forest Tepee Remains

I was hiking in Tokai Forest, Cape Town-area, South Africa, when I came across a cluster of several unfinished tepee-style shelters that were using tree trunks as their central support:

tepee 2

I found this one to be a pretty nice job at a makeshift shelter, or at least at the beginnings of one. There’s a lot of logging going on in the area, and I wondered if workers might have been trying to make a camp for the night so that they wouldn’t have to travel each day to and from work. It looks like this structure has a planned door where the large poles extend and open outwards. It would be nice to create a tunnel-like entrance here and cover it with foliage.

tepee entrance

When I noticed that the grass bed here was still green, I wondered how long this one had been abandoned…or if it were simply a work in progress. Here’s a (bit of a blurry) close-up of the ground insulation, which is a good idea for warmth and comfort:

tepee bed

An emergency blanket, a tent fly, or any other outer insulating material would help finish off these tepee-style shelters and make them a workable short-term shelter. But a troop of baboons also live in Tokai Forest, so leaving food inside wouldn’t be a good idea…

Want to know more about how to make your own survival shelter like this one?
Read my article on the About.com Survival Skills website:

“How to Build a Tepee-Style Survival Shelter”

Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.

The Braai Way: Cooking With Coals

I spent the recent South African Women’s Day holiday weekend at a river house a few hours away from Cape Town and discovered what might possibly be the nicest braai–or barbecue–setup I’ve yet seen:

1-braai

The entire braai functions like an outdoor kitchen stove with a large open area for a fire; it’s all set into a brick wall with a chimney. No charcoal briquettes or gas here. We lit a nice roaring wood fire and waited. And waited. And waited. Once we had a bed of red-orange coals, we separated the burning logs from the coals in order to cook a traditional African poike (or potjie) pot meal.

2-braai coals

Keeping the wood fuel burning separately in this braai enabled us to use the coals we already had while we burned more fuel to create more coals that we could eventually add beneath the pot:

3-braai pot

Another nice feature in this braai was the swivel stick for the pot that allowed us to suspend this heavy cast iron pot over the coals and then swivel it out of the fire to check our progress.

4-braai pot extended

A poike pot is a traditional meal that involves slow-cooking many different things all together in one pot. Think: witches’ brew. The name of the meal comes from the word “potjiekos,” which means “small pot meal.” Sometimes people choose to simmer the pot all day long.

5-braai pot steaming

We created a pot that would feed 10 people, and its contents included chicken, carrots, celery, beans, cilantro, spinach, tomatoes, spices, and pretty much any other leftover vegetables we had in the fridge.

6-braai pot open

We eventually served the meal over a bed of rice, but one of the nice things about cooking in this way was that we could enjoy the company of family and friends while we waited…

7-enjoying the braai
…and waited. Cooking over coals in a cast iron pot isn’t a microwave-quick process. But the just rewards will be enjoyed soon enough as a juicy, evenly-cooked meal.

Want to know more about survival camping and cooking with coals?
Read my article on the About.com Survival Skills website:

“Cooking With Coals”

Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.

Even Better: An Adjustable Backcountry Spit

When I lived in Chamonix, France, I loved going to the market each weekend. I’d get all of the usual market-type things: fruit, veggies, fresh bread, local goat cheese. But I’d also wait in a long line to get something special: rotisserie chicken.

In a survival situation, I wouldn’t expect to eat one of my favorite roasted chicken meals, but it’s actually quite simple to construct a spit for backcountry camping. And it’s also possible to make a spit adjustable for different kinds of meats…rabbit vs. big game leg, for instance. Check out this video for some tips on making a spit adjustable:

And if you’d like to learn how to make a backcountry spit in the first place, read my article on the About.com Survival Skills website:
“How to Make a Spit for Campfire Cooking”

Seaside Camping: Some Beaches are Better than Others

If you’re out there in the middle of nowhere, walking along a beach (sounds nice!), and you need to camp out unexpectedly in an emergency situation (not-so-nice!), you need to know how to choose a seaside campsite and build a basic beach shelter. All of the beaches pictured here are stunning, beautiful places…but some would be better than others for an emergency campsite.

Too rocky and crazy (but crazy beautiful!):

rocky shore

Nice choice, but camp far enough away from the shore to avoid high tide:

nice beach

Pretty rocky, but the grass looks soft, and it would make good shelter insulation:

rocky shore 2

Also a nice beach for camping…

beach camping

I took these photographs on a recent trip to Cape Town, South Africa. If you’d like to know more about survival camping and beach shelters, see my article on the About.com Survival Skills website:

“Seaside Camping: Basic Shelter and Site Selection”
Perhaps you’ve only planned for a casual seaside day hike, but someone in your party has become injured or sick. Or maybe you’re out alone on a remote beach hike, and you’ve become lost. When you’re unable to call for assistance or get home before dark, seaside survival skills and your ability to improvise can help you endure a potentially frightening or dangerous experience…click here to continue reading

Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.