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Backpacker Magazine – September 2010

Camp Chef Makeover: Mr. Heavyweight

Packing the kitchen for a weekend away? We'll help you pare down.

by: Elizabeth Marglin

(Illustration by Kim Sielbeck)
(Illustration by Kim Sielbeck)

Matt Heselton, 23, Knoxville, TN

“Everything plus the kitchen sink” syndrome “For years, I’ve tried to make more and more complex dishes on the trail,” says Matt. “Unfortunately, my pack has gotten heavier and heavier. It often weighs 45 pounds for a weekend trip, with 20 pounds of that being food. By the time I get to camp, my feet are so sore and I’m so tired, I don’t even have enough energy to cook.”

Makeover by Kate Reid, director of Call of the Wild, a woman’s adventure travel company, who has prepared thousands of lightweight backcountry meals for clients around the globe. Philosophy: “Eating fresh, natural meals and camping in pristine, natural places go hand in hand. You just have to plan your menus strategically.”

Meal Rx We gave Matt a crash-course in shaving pack pounds by dehydrating produce, tweaking his menu and gear, and by revamping his famous (but heavy) ahi tuna recipe.

6 Tricks to Cut Food and Mess-Kit Weight

» Opt for fast-cook foods, like couscous or angel hair pasta, so you carry less fuel.
» Dehydrate foods at home, eliminating 90 percent of the water weight (or buy dried foods from
» Plan to make one-pot meals.
» Measure out exact amounts of food; aim for no more than two pounds per person per day.
» Remove extra packaging. Or place food in zip-top bags when possible.
» Use a lightweight stove (good bet: Snow Peak’s Litemax), cookware (GSI’s Pinnacle Dualist or titanium sets from Snow Peak or Evernew), and utensils (like Light My Fire’s Serving Spork, Sea to Summit’s Alpha Lite Cutlery, or Guyot Designs’ Squishy Bowl).

Food Dehydration 101
1. Invest in a dehydrator. We like the Excalibur and American Harvest’s Snackmaster.
2. Choose your edibles. Fruits, like apples, pears, bananas, and berries, are super easy. Next come veggies; most fresh ones just need to be washed, but some, like broccoli, need to be steamed before drying. With frozen vegetables, thaw first. For meats, the leaner, the better.
3. Wash and slice extra thin. Place evenly on the tray and load in.
4. Check the dehydrator’s instructions for “cooking” times. You want the sweet spot between chewy and crispy.
5. Experiment. Brushing veggies with soy sauce—or bananas with vanilla or maple syrup—adds a wallop of flavor.

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