Tag Archives: budget

Camp Cooking

cookingonfire
Lassen Camping – Photo by Mike Rother

Cooking Meals while Camping

Eating while away from home often means expensive dinners out. But eating well, usually means cooking it yourself. If budget travel is key, then you will need at bare minimum – a cooler, otherwise known as an “ice chest” for perishable food.

hikerA heat source for cooking food is another item to consider; unless  you plan to eat sandwiches, wraps, bars and snacks all weekend. Juice fast anyone?

If you want to do any amount of physical activity outside, then you may want a decent meal or two to nourish your tired body afterwards. This is where the ‘free heat source’ (campfire) comes in handy.

metal campfire ring
Metal campfire rings are commonplace inside developed campgrounds.

This page covers an overview of eating and cooking outdoors, more suited to tent campers or car campers traveling. No camp cooking recipes; sorry, the web is full of them.

campfireCampfires require only free firewood (for heat) and the groceries (to cook), so they are the cheapest choice for meals; Free campfire permits are needed, along with water buckets and a shovel, and of course, campfire restrictions should always be followed.

Coleman camp stoves or smaller units are ideal for car campers, tent campers and van-lifers. Butane or propane fuel can get expensive if this is your only cooking method, so take that into consideration.

RVMotorhome campers have it easy – with full kitchens and appliances, but propane fuel could be costly depending on how many meals you prepare. Propane fridges are most common. RV refrigerators are often one of the first things to fail, so keep that in mind when purchasing an older camper on wheels.

Everything – and the kitchen sink. RVs, camper trailers and some camper vans have it made for cooking. They literally have a mini kitchen to do most of their food prep and cooking (indoors, away from wind, dust, bugs). Or they can easily bounce back and forth between the campfire grilling and the indoor kitchen.

woodstove2000

Cabin rentals w/ wood burning stoves, some specially designed for cooking are a rare find on vacation. These beauties are unique, antique and some still fully functional as a cooking appliance. It’s a slower longer process to cook, but it is entertaining and rewarding. Wood-burning stoves use small hardwood pieces, known as ‘stove wood’. Bring some, or ask about it when reserving the cabin.

tailgatekitchen
Tailgate can be Kitchen counter spot

Otherwise, car campers must rely on make-shift kitchen setups:

  • first, flat ground helps immensely.
  • developed parks and campgrounds usually offer pavement, cement and flat areas for people to congregate and dine.
  • boulder coves near rock outcroppings usually make good picnic spots/camps

camp stoves, BQQ grill or campfire
ground tarp, table or tailgate

cement_table
indestructible – the USFS cement picnic table

define kitchen area, light up work area & clean prep surfaces; wash basin areas get sloppy, so keep it off the table top

crowded table

tablestv

Prep @ home before the trip:

freeze large juice bottles for cooler ice / block ice last much longer than small ice cubes. If you must have ice cubes for your drinks, take a smaller bag. If it melts too fast, buy another one in route.

pre-chop vegetables; package fruit chunks

Pack &  pre-cook:

precooking certain foods
(that would normally take lots of time and fuel, or mess)
rice, pasta noodles, steel cut oatmeal, homemade chili, cakes, bread, sausages, bacon

XtremeCooler58qt

ICE CHEST

2 coolers may be needed. depending on the situation, eating habits and amount of travelerssunshine

One large ice chest for storage, located in the back w/ a blanket on top to block it from the direct sunlight.

Smaller, portable ice chest up front, near the driving compartment for easy access to snacks, trail mix, sandwiches, beverages. Picnics will be easy with a small cooler. Freezing plastic water bottles days ahead, for block ice without the soggy mess.

sandwich

JUST HEAT UP

If you want to do more exploring and less cooking, then plan your meals dining out (at home, online), well in advance. Fast food drive-thrus should always be avoided. Budget at least $10 per meal and expect to pay more in smaller towns. Pack lots of snack bars, beverages and easy to fix meals. Sandwiches are great for day time, cuz you’ll be out sightseeing. Night time you can have a camp fire to cook on, or break out the camp stove or grill.

Left overs are super quick to heat and serve. Pancakes, bacon, quiche, casseroles, enchiladas, stir fried rice, pre-chop salads. Save the salad dressing and top salad just before eating. Other easy prep meals include: scrambled eggs, hamburgers, hot dogs, chili, soups, tacos, or if all else fails, the dreaded MRE. Pre-packaged backpackers meals in foil pouches have come a long way, but are often expensive and always look so unappealing, like mush.

We’ve seen the city-boy bachelors show up to camp (after midnight)  w/ a cooler packed full of beer and Subway sandwiches. Chips and nuts were their only side dishes. Needless to say, but the second day they we’re done w/ their food and wanting ours. BBQ ribs?

condiments
Condiment packets take up less space than full size containers and they don’t need to be stored in the ice chest

EASY COOK MEALS
one burner stove
one steel pot / one pan
cutting board
ziplock bags
utensils

Baja Kitchen

check

CAMP COOK
2 burner camp stove w/ fuel
skillet & lid
medium size pots and pans
spices
utensils
camp lantern
BBQ grill?

skillet
CAMPFIRE CHEF
cast iron
dutch oven cooking
campfire grill
tripod
foil  &  ziplock bags
fireproof oven mit / gloves
extra long tongs
sturdy table

castirondutchoven
Cast Iron is the preferred cookware for campfire cooking.

shop for campfire cooking

campsite

wood saws and camp tools

Campfire Cooking Advice: 

Start the campfire before sunset, so it has time to burn down the wood to make adequate coals.

Cook over glowing hot coals rather than the flames of burning wood. Use flat rocks and/or metal grills for positioning cast iron cookware.

campfireWait until the campfire becomes hot coals to do the cooking. Rearrange the glowing coals and rocks for optimal cooking spots.

You’ll need plenty of small wood – to keep feeding the fire and pushing the coals in place. Direct flames on cookware means black soot and often burnt chicken. Flames are okay for some food – like roasting wieners or shish kabobs, but generally it is the coals that offer the most even heat source.

dutchoven

Dutch oven (pictured above) is often the first cast iron campers purchase. Positioned over the campfire, it becomes a mini oven for heating up left over food dishes. You can heat them w/ a camp stove as well. Start with a smaller size and buy larger ones as needed.

Cast iron skillets are very handy for cooking up meat or fish dishes. Re-heating left overs, cooking eggs, pancakes and bacon.

Aluminum foil and a roll of paper towels will come in handy. Ziplock bags help with leftovers. Metal spatula and tongs are ideal when cooking over campfires. Choose a can opener w/ a bottle opener built into it. Bring a corkscrew if you are packing a bottle of wine.

Washing up all dishes and pots immediately after a meal is best practice; Before bedtime is mandatory. No food or beverage smells should be found overnight around camp. Tie and pack garbage away (inside a vehicle), or dispose of in trash cans – before retiring for the night.

Remember: No toothpaste or snacks allowed inside the tent. Keep a clean camp to prevent unwanted visitors (wild animals).

Do not Wash Dishes
in the Creek or LAKE

A bucket is a required item for tending a campfire, so use that to fetch water – and wash dishes way away from all waterways, restrooms and sleeping areas. Use bio-degradable soap!

camp

Use the metal bear boxes, when provided. These may be required for proper food storage in bear country.

bearboxes
Steel bear boxes help to protect your food from wild animals. It is best to use them when provided. Sharing boxes with neighboring campers is common.

Bears are after your food (not you).

tentNfire

see also –
Camping w/ Bears
Bear Bells & Canisters

Avoid the Crowds

How to Avoid Tourist Crowds when Traveling California

We are sure you’ll agree: Too much of life is spent sitting in traffic jams and waiting in line. Check out the traffic page. This page is created as a warning – CALIFORNIA IS CROWDED.

bus loads

“Hell is other people.” – Jean-Paul Sartre

Bus loads of senior citizens travel in luxury motor-coaches to casinos; Airport shuttles bring sightseers to local attractions on full day excursions; Mountain bikers head to the trailheads by way of a personal automobile, a sport utility or pickup truck; 4x4s caravan to their meeting spot, in route to the trail destination. People on their daily commute to and from work, school, play. California has loads of traffic, tourism and terrain, with a massive freeway system, plus some awesome state highways. Popular destinations tend to get crowded at certain times of the year.

California Road Trips & Peak Travel Seasons

California population may be ever growing, but they’re not building any more Yosemite Parks. The migratory path westward started w/ the historic gold rush – the trend has literally lasted over 200 years!

Make sure you plan your trip & book your lodging or campgrounds well in advance. In this west coast world of tourism, 3-6 months is not unheard of. The more popular the locale, the more people want that perfect weather month and the further in advance you should reserve. Remember a good portion of these mountains destinations are closed half the year for winter snow.

There’s nothing worse than planning a trip, only to fight traffic on your way outta town, stand in long lines & see way too many tourists running about. Enjoying nature shouldn’t have to include thousands of other people. Try these helpful tips for avoiding the crowds. Get more solitude & relaxation out of your vacation. Check our Fairs, Festivals, & Events list to know when certain towns & areas will be busiest.

california maps

With California population near 40 million people it’s a wonder we don’t kill each other faster. Slow down on the freeways and enjoy the back roads with Total Escape. Statistics show: One outta 8 Americans lives in California!

This staggering large population is ever growing and expanding. College students, retirees, world-travelers and young families flock here, bring relatives and friends to migrate west… ever since the gold mining boom of 1849.

Still we are cranking out babies and building more communities in California. Add a huge tourism industry that brings in millions of outta state folks for conventions & outdoor vacations.
4x4 roads

Although Cali is a huge regional paradise to explore, it is amazing that locals can find any secret refuge for weekends or week-long fishing trips. With vast deserts, mountains and countryside, half the golden state land could be easily considered public land, park, wildlife refuge or neighborhood open space preserve. Total Escape has this back roads thing covered. Getting you out in the boonies to relax, in nature, is exactly what this site is for.

more nature, less people

desert campgroundTry out new areas! If you’ve never heard of it, chances are most people haven’t either. Go ahead, explore a little. California is a really big state.

California’s Busy Season

Summer is definitely the tourist season in California. All the out-of-staters coming in to see the amazing Golden State: the recreation & the sights it has to offer. Summertime is the busiest time to visit the well-known areas such as:

National Parks
State Parks & Beaches
National Forests
Coastal Towns
Mountain Regions
Lakes in California

Best time to plan trips to avoid summer crowds is –

Before Memorial Day (last weekend in May)
After Labor Day (first weekend in Sept.)

Plan your trip to overnight in the National Forest lands adjacent to a National Park . You can still enjoy nature and scenic attractions without having to sleep with the masses in the expensive campgrounds, which take camping reservations a year in advance.

Plenty of secluded primitive camping & small campgrounds are available in the NFS. California State Parks are very abundant too, often less crowded during the week days and non holiday weekends.

Winter can be the busiest time to visit these areas:

snowdesert towns (with spa resorts)
mountain resorts (with skiing)

Off Seasons

Catalina Island
Off Season = November and April

Grand Canyon
Off season = November and April

North Rim Grand Cyn
Closes for winter. October – April

South Rim Grand Cyn
Open all year. Off season = November and March

Sierra Nevada Mountains
Off season = November – March

Sequoia NP – Open all year long
Kings Canyon NP – Open all year long

West side Sierra foothills
Hwy 168 – Shaver Lake
Hwy 108 – Sonora Pass
Hwy 4 – Ebbets Pass
Off season = November – March

Gold Country – Hwy 49
Off season = January – March

Eastern Sierra
US Hwy 395 – Mammoth
Off season = November – April

best time yosemite

Yosemite NP
Yosemite Valley – Open all year long. Parking limited.
Off season = November and March

Christmas in Yosemite Valley via Amtrak train is spectacular way to see the park in its full winter wonderland bliss.

High-country / Tuolumne Meadows
Hwy 120 – Tioga Pass
Closes in the winter months: November – May

traffictown

book a lodge

Better Book It – Below is a list of some super popular California destinations that have pretty limited accommodations. Tight quarters, limited capacity. Total Escape recommends you book early if you wanna spot at one of these prime places, especially in summer or winter months.

Big Bear Lake
Big Sur Coast
Cambria
Carmel
Catalina Island
Gold Country
Joshua Tree
Kings Canyon NP
La Jolla, San Diego
Lake Tahoe
Mammoth Lakes
Monterey
Mill Valley, Mount Tamalpais
Palm Springs
Point Reyes
San Francisco
Sequoia NP
Yosemite Valley

rivercamps
Mokelumne River, Central Sierra

 

We all have things that annoy us. Campers Beware