Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, and survival
and how they work together to provide wholesome family fun and great learning opportunities.
Many posts are intended to familiarize novice campers and RVers with RV systems and basic camping and survival
skills. But even experienced RVers and campers will enjoy the anecdotes and may even benefit from a new
perspective. Comments, questions, and suggestions are encouraged.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Camp Cookware

To keep the cost down when you're first getting started, you can usually just bring along some of your home cookware. The biggest downside is that it may get blackened, lost, damage the handles, or even melted using it on a campfire. As long as you take care to avoid melting down your aluminum pots in the campfire and are prepared for the extra cleaning, using your home cookware is an acceptable and economical solution, at least to begin with.

A more convenient option is to put together a set of cookware specifically for camping. If you camp in an RV, it can be stored in the cabinets, ready for immediate use. If you're a tent camper, store it in one or more plastic totes, chuck box, or portable camp kitchen you can bring along. Either way will make your outings more convenient. Having a set of cookware set aside especially for camping means you don't have to worry about getting your kitchenware blackened and you'll already have it ready to go for each outing. To keep the cost down, pick up some used pots, pans, and utensils at a garage sale, online auction or classified site, or thrift store -- or just recycle some old stuff you have at home. Thrift stores usually have an abundance of cookware.  For the most durable albeit heavier to transport option, look for cast iron cookware. It is practically indestructible and will easily withstand use directly in the campfire. It also distributes heat evenly for better cooking.  For greater convenience and less weight to pack around look for cook sets designed specifically for camping. The major components will stack to fit inside each other to they take up less space in your RV or camp box. New camp sets can be found starting at $12.00 - $30.00 a set so they're not terribly expensive. These are often made of light weight aluminum so you're better off using them in an RV or on a camp stove instead of in the campfire. Some, more expensive sets (think $100-$150), are stainless steel and will stand up to more intensive use and last longer. These camp cook sets are light weight and designed to take up as little room as possible, a real advantage when space is limited. Having sufficient space in our RV, we like to carry some cast iron cookware along with our camp cook set so we can sometimes take advantage of cooking directly on the campfire.  Some camp cook sets even include several (usually 4) place settings so you have cook ware and dinner ware all in one package.  And it is designed to all fit together in one pot for easy storage.

Dutch ovens and other cast iron cook ware are good choices for functionality and durability. You won't want to haul them around when you're hiking or backpacking unless you want to turn your hike into a high stress upper body workout, but they are excellent options for RVs and base camps. I like to think of dutch ovens as pioneer crock pots. You can simmer a meal for hours and have a full meal in one pan. Line them with aluminum foil to make clean up faster and easier. Cast iron skillets and griddles are ideal for cooking directly on the campfire. Remember you need to season cast iron before using it or after any aggressive cleaning or washing with detergents. Avoid cleaning cast iron with soap and detergents. Just rinse them out with hot water and wipe them clean. One of the best cleaners for cast iron is a wad of old newspaper. A final wipe with paper towels will ensure you can be confident it is clean. Cast iron griddles and grills are great for pancakes, bacon and eggs, hamburgers and steaks.

Cooking utensils. You'll need many of the same cooking utensils at camp that you use at home. For camp you may want larger or sturdier versions, especially if you plan to cook over an open campfire. Wooden spoons and stainless steel utensils are durable. Extra long handles are usually helpful. Plastic and other synthetic options are acceptable, but are less durable than steel. I also like speckleware or graniteware spoons and ladles. They have a kind of nostalgic appearance I find matches the camping ambiance well. They're also pretty easy to clean and they aren't likely to get mixed up with any home items you might have brought along. You may even find they make interesting conversation pieces, especially if they have any family history. Even if the ones you have weren't passed down, they may be LIKE ones your grandparents used to use and that can provide both pleasant memories for you and interesting anecdotes for your companions. Restaurant size and quality utensils are a good choice, but an be kind of pricey if you get them at a restaurant supply store. They are usually extra large (which comes in really handy when cooking over a campfire) and durable. They don't have to be expensive. I've seen some pretty nice looking stainless steel pieces a my local dollar store. I keep a set in my RV and a second set in my tent camping totes. My wife liked some of my camping utensils so well that she snagged them for the kitchen and I had to look for replacements.

What do you really need? Ultimately what you need is determined by what you plan to cook, what you'll be cooking on, and what you like to cook with. If all you ever intend to cook are hot dogs, you can get by with a couple of wire coat hangers. I like to keep a variety of pots and pans in my motorhome or camper and in my tent camping totes. Your basic cook set should include at least one frying pan and one pot. For greater convenience you'll probably want a couple of different sized frying pans and at least a couple of different sized pots. Those with metal or other heat resistance handles will withstand fire, but the handles will get hot so plan on using heavy gloves, pot holders or a wooden or metal pot lifter to move them about. A coffee pot is handy, even if you don't drink coffee. It is a good way to heat water for other hot beverages and for cleaning and medical use. You'll need some mixing and serving utensils. I like to bring along a couple of big spoons, at least one large meat fork, a couple of spatulas, and at least one ladle. You'll also need basic cutlery -- a paring knife and a medium sized butcher knife are probably sufficient for most needs but if you have room for a more complete set it may make some chores easier (like a bread knife for slicing bread). If you go for a complete set of cutlery, plan to store it in a wooden block to keep things organized and protect the sharp edges -- and protect your fingers from the sharp edges! You want them to stay sharp yet not be where you're going to get cut on them. Having them loose in a drawer or tub contributes to both dulling the edges and accidental injuries. In your RV you may want to secure the storage block to a counter top or inside a cabinet for additional safety. I use small bungee cords or velcro to anchor the block in my RV. You can glue the block inside your tent camping tub.  Clever idea I recently saw in the "Quick Tips" section of motorhome magazine (submitted by a subscriber) was to make a vertical storage block about 1" thick that attached to the inside wall of the pantry.  It kept all the knives safe and handy and when the door was closed, they were secured safely for travel and used hardly any space.

If you like to cook and plan any special meals you will probably want to include other favorite kitchen tools. You will want to be somewhat choosy so you don't weigh down your camp kit or your RV or camp totes with unnecessary items, but feel free to include whatever makes your food preparation easier or more fun. What is an unnecessary toy to one person may be essential to you. You can get by peeling vegetables with a paring knife but you way want to add a peeler. You can chop nuts and veggies with a knife, but a chopper is faster and easier -- and more fun to use. Whether you bring along the specialty tools depends on how much room you have, how often you use them, and how much you enjoy using them. You might need an angel food cake pan for special occasions, but it probably isn't necessary for your basic cook kit. A small square cake pan takes up little room and can be used for a variety of purposes.

Military surplus stores are often a good place to purchase camp cookware. Your choices may range from individual mess kits to super-sized army mess hall pots and pans. For individual and family camping you probably won't have a need for a huge stock pot, but if you're planning a family reunion or any other large get-together one or more might come in handy. You will usually find an assortment of cast iron cookware at military surplus stores. Military cookware is designed to be rugged and portable, both desirable characteristics for camp use. Of course you can buy camp cookware at camping and outdoor stores and department stores like Walmart, K-mart, and Target. And, as mentioned above, thrift stores are often a good place to find cookware you can adapt to camping without spending a lot of money.

Emergency/survival cookware. If you get stranded in camp you'll have your camp cookware in an emergency situation, but if you have problems out on the trail, you'll have to improvise. Obviously, primitive people survived without modern cookware, so how did they do it? Many types of food can be cooked on a stick over a campfire. But what if you need some hot water and don't have a pot to heat it in? If you have an OHV, you might be able to scavenge a headlight can to use for a cooking pot. Lacking any kind of suitable metal object, form a rough bowl out of clay or mud. Fill it with water, and drop hot rocks into it until the water reaches the desired temperature. Some foods can be cooked on hot rocks. Place smooth, flat, non-porous rocks into the coals of your campfire. Why non-porous?  Porous rocks absorb water and could explode when heated!  When they're hot enough that water sizzles when dropped on them, brush off the coals and place your food on the rocks to cook. This works pretty well for things like eggs and breads or even meat and fish. Some foods can be wrapped in large leaves for direct campfire cooking. You can carve your own eating utensils from wooden sticks to make knives, forks, and spoons. This may take some practice, so don't expect your first attempt to yield restaurant quality items. Even crude utensils will beat using your fingers. But in a survival situation, etiquette is not your priority -- "fingers were made before forks" is more than just a clever excuse for eating with your fingers. In an emergency situation, it becomes a rule of survival. A sharpened stick may suffice for many foods.  So, why would you even want to carve eating utensils? For one thing, it gives you something productive to do, helping to take your mind off your troubles and improve your attitude. Adding some level of productivity and normalcy can also make life easier and more comfortable, helping to avoid panic. In many survival situations, water is scarce so you may not have many options for cleaning your hands before or after eating. Having functional utensils avoids contaminating your food and helps keep your hands cleaner. Hey, even a sharp stick or a pair of sticks used like chopsticks is better than nothing. If you do find yourself in a survival situation, take stock of your resources and use them to best advantage. Survey your surroundings and look for natural resources or discarded materials that you may be able to use. Things that you would normally consider trash might become treasures. An old tin can might be used for a cook pot. Plastic trash bags could become water bags or rain ponchos or part of the roof of your shelter. Be creative!

Happy cooking!

1 comment:

  1. To keep the cost down when you're first getting started, you can usually just bring along your home cookware. The biggest downside is that it ... icampingcookware.blogspot.com

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