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September 2005

Secrets of the Guides

Camp like a pro with 83 field-tested tips and techniques from experts who earn their paychecks in the backcountry.


Make better pizza

Before removing your pepperoni pie from a Dutch oven, add a teaspoon of water to the very edge of the pan – enough to vaporize the water but not enough to get the crust soggy. What you get: melted cheese in less than a minute.
Ashley Woods, The Women’s Wilderness Institute

Fry a fish at the right temperature
Throw a wooden match into an oiled skillet that has been heating for about 10 minutes. If the match spontaneously ignites, it means the oil is between 375° and 400°F – perfect for cooking a fish crisp on the outside, tender on the inside.
Wade Watson

Make no-mess hummus

Mix dried hummus right in the bag. Use a strong freezer zipper-lock, add water, and then mash the bag with your fingers.
Laura Tyson, The Women’s Wilderness Institute

Make a Whisperlite stove simmer
Using paper clips, wrap your windscreen in a tight circle, so it fits just over the stove (becoming the pot support). Roll down small sections of the screen every few inches, creating airflow. With the pot resting on the windscreen, the extra height above the flame lowers the cooking temperature.
Molly Loomis

Eat your greens
Prewash vegetables and store them in a plastic container. In cool weather, even lettuce will keep for up to 3 days.
Conan Bliss

Bring a dishwasher
A Tupperware bowl with a lid can hold leftovers and also makes cleaning easy: Fill with hot water, put the lid on, and shake.
Molly Loomis

Jump-start your stove
A cold canister stove can be sluggish when first lit. Before lighting it, use a candle to warm the gas cartridge. Hold the flame directly underneath the canister.
Joe Lentini

Use fail-safe storage bags

Zipper-locks are great for pasta and rice, but flour and powdered milk will gum up the seal. Pack these and similar foods in sturdy plastic bags tied with a knot.
Dave Anderson

I never leave home without…
Vegetable bouillon cubes

They’re lightweight, make a savory hot drink, and add welcome flavor to dishes like rice and instant mashed potatoes. Chicken or beef bouillon cubes work too, if you like a stronger flavor.
– Caroline Blair-Smith, Outward Bound

Add cream

Individual cream cheese packets add a nice texture and taste to sauces, soups, and other meals. In warm weather, the sealed single servings don’t spoil as quickly as the bigger packages do.
Molly Loomis

Protect eggs
Put a cardboard egg container in a plastic bag and close with a rubber band. Then wrap a piece of cardboard (cut to the length of the container) around the package and close with tape. Even if some eggs break, the mess stays in the bag. Unlike plastic containers, the cardboard can be used to start fires, so you don’t have to carry it the rest of the trip.
– Lynn O’Kane, Voyageur North Outfitters

Eat fat
Winter is no time to diet if you’re traveling in the backcountry. You need extra calories to stay warm and maintain energy. Try this fat-filled dish: Melt slices of processed cheese in instant mashed potatoes made with powdered milk. Add bacon.
Peter Amann

Add too much water
Prepare freeze-dried meals with extra water. If you drink the gravy like soup, it helps you stay hydrated while minimizing potential stomach trouble caused by eating under-hydrated foods. While you’re setting up camp, you can also presoak the meals to save on fuel and cooking time.
Lynn O’Kane

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