You’ve learned all the necessary skills for exploring the backcountry safely and responsibly – and the laundry list is huge; navigation, vehicle recovery, driving or riding skills, and vehicle maintenance.
But have you thought about feeding yourself while you’re off the grid?
Cooking and provisioning are a crucial part of overland travel and opens up a whole host of other skills that you need to learn to survive – and thrive – in the backcountry.
Maybe you’re a dehydrated meal type of adventurer (no judgment), or maybe you’re an aficionado of epicurean delights on your overland trips. Whatever the case, there are a few indispensable items that will elevate your backcountry cooking experience when you’re out on the trail.
Take it from me, 12v refrigeration is the single addition to your vehicle that will transform your backcountry cooking experience from “good” to “amazing.” In the past, I was firmly a “cooler / ice chest guy”, but long trips off-grid changed all of that. It was difficult chasing down ice – not to mention making sure your food didn’t get waterlogged when the ice melted. With a 12v fridge, keeping your meats, cheeses, veggies, and drinks cool is super-easy.
Any 12v fridge is going to put in the work for you, but I like the offerings from Dometic – especially their CFX55 IM, the world’s first single zone powered cooler with a built-in ice compartment. Want ice for your camp cocktails?
I know you do.
Ice is created on the patented rapid freeze plate and will produce two small silicone trays of ice in a matter of hours – all while refrigerating your food!
The CFX 55 IM’s 53-liter capacity can hold provisions at the correct temperature indefinitely and can be powered by AC, DC, or Solar.
The CFX 55IM retails for $1099.00
Fresh food is best, but what do you do with all of the auxiliary items like; oil, rice, pasta, canned tomatoes, sauces, and sriracha? If you’ve ever tried to pack it all in a reusable shopping bag, you’ll feel the shared pain of crushed hamburger buns, dented cans, broken pasta, and spilled sauces.
A single place to store all of those items to avoid spillage is critical – especially when you’re on a rocky trail or driving down washboard sections. The Wolf Pack from Front Runner Outfitters is the solution I use to make sure my spices, dry-goods, canned foods, and other miscellaneous items stay in one place.
Developed after the South African military ammo can, these boxes have a low center-of-gravity and can easily be strapped down using bungees and d-rings. Front Runner has optional high-top lids available too that allow you to store even more items – especially tall bottles with ease.
The Wolf Pack is $39.95 each. Wolf Pack Hi-Lids are $12.95 each
READ MORE: OVERLAND VEHICLE STORAGE
If you’ve been following along, you now have a way to keep your food cold and you have a place for dry-goods. You also need a way to prepare your food for cooking. I recommend a good knife (or three), a cutting board, and bowls to prep your meals.
I’ve used my Snow Peak Cutting Board and Knife Set for ten years. This will check off two items from your list and get you one of the best meal prep knives I’ve ever used – and I have Sabatier chef’s knives that I use at home. The stainless steel chef knife rarely needs sharpening and has a carbon handle to ensure tight grip while chopping. The wooden knife case folds into a full size cutting board and is plenty big enough for most prep jobs.
The Snow Peak Cutting Board and Knife Set retails for $55.95
While your prep bowls can be as simple as a nestable backpacking kit for motorcycle travel, I use larger (collapsible or nestable) bowls in my Land Cruiser. The larger sizes are especially good for cooking for groups or just getting creative with your backcountry cooking.
The X-Seal & Go from Sea-To-Summit is a collapsible bowl that features airtight seals. These are great from pre-preparation for backcountry cooking, or just eating your cereal in the morning.
The X-Seal & Go are available in four different sizes and many different colors ranging from $14.95 – $23.95.
You don’t have to get too granular here. A simple two-burner stove for vehicle travel or a nice single burner trail stove for moto travel should get you through most backcountry meals. I’ve been using an old Coleman stove for many years with very little need for maintenance. I am in the market for a new stove and I’m specifically looking for a two-burner where I can actually control the heat. With camp stoves, either your stove is off or it is set to “jet afterburner” – which isn’t great if you like to simmer anything.
The lightweight and compact Kovea Slim Twin stove is propane-powered and sports a thin profile that stores easily in most overland rigs. It features two 10,500-BTU burners with fully-adjustable flame control. The stove has an integrated 3-sided windscreen and a removable lid that allows you to use any size pot or pan.
Kovea’s Slim Twin Stove retails for $129.95.
OPEN FIRE COOKING:
There’s really not much better than a meal cooked over an open fire, whether that’s a perfect rib-eye steak or a hunk of tofu, the open fire imparts amazing smokiness to anything you cook. Plus, cooking over a campfire is the quintessential choice when you’re out in the backcountry.
I just picked up the Wolf & Grizzly collapsible grill for use in the backcountry. The foldable frame and rollable grill surface pack down into a small bag that is easy to carry and doesn’t take up a ton of space. There are three height adjustments to help you get your food off the flames.
The Wolf & Grizzly Grill retails for $114.95.
READ MORE: HOW TO COOK OVER AN OPEN FIRE
The cookware I use on the trail isn’t available anymore, but I would look for anything that is nestable and / or stackable to cut down on space requirements. I prefer full-size pots and pans for use in my Land Cruiser – cooking on small one burner stoves with tiny titanium pots is for backpacking or moto travel. When I’m out in my rig, I want to cook like I do at home.
The 11-piece stainless steel Stanley Even-Heat Camp Pro cookset nests together to save space, but is large enough to create amazing camp meals for yourself or a bunch of friends. The set includes a 4.75-qt. 18/8 stainless-steel stock pot, 1.8-qt. 18/8 stainless-steel sauce pan, vented lids, 8.5-in. frying pan, collapsible cutting board, spatula with 2-piece handle, spoon with 2-piece handle, trivets, and locking bungee.
Stanley’s Even-Heat Camp Pro Cookset retails for $140.00.
My final suggestion is to build your camp kitchen slowly …
You don’t need to rush out and drop hundreds of dollars on kitchen gear. Buy the critical things first – a stove, a pan, utensils and plates to eat whatever culinary creation you come up with. Find items that work for you, sell or give away the things that don’t. In no time you’ll have a collection of camp kitchen gadgets that work for the way you like to travel.
Happy backcountry cooking!
AUTHOR: ANTHONY SICOLA
Anthony is the Director of Sales for Overland Expo and travels extensively with his wife Astrid and his dog Sir Digby in his 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser, nicknamed Hank the Tank. Follow his adventures on Instagram @overlandnomads
Header image: Wolf & Grizzly