Get someone else to do the food. -Simon Willis @SunartMedia (on #Camping strategies)
I’d been asked by Alex for three recipes but I’m going to offer instead what I’ll call “strategies” for great food when sea kayaking. There are three reasons for this.
Firstly, I don’t eat meat so half the readers wouldn’t be interested and there are loads of easily adaptable recipes online. Then there’s the translation issue. Here in Scotland we work in grams and don’t call courgettes “zuchini”. Faced with getting the calculator out, most of us just flip to an easier recipe. However, the third reason is the most pertinent for not providing any good camping recipes; I don’t know any. Which leads me directly to the first strategy I’d like to offer:
Seriously, this is an excellent strategy. When I suggested to my girlfriend Liz (we’re now married) that we hike the 2500 mile Pacific Crest Trail she said, “Only if we eat good food”. Back then I treated food as fuel and my younger, stronger body would run on just about anything. Immediately, I appointed Liz ‘Head of Food’ and she continues to fulfill this role whether we’re backpacking, hiking, or kayak camping.
The serious point is this – someone who really cares should plan the food. That way no-one is disappointed. If no-one cares, buy a bag of pasta, jars of pesto and live on the same food that saw Marcus Demuth circumnavigate Britain in record time.
Liz’s solution to keeping us well nourished on a five-month hike was to buy a home food dehydrator and make almost all our food in advance. I’ve written about this in detail on my blog but essentially it involves cooking a vast vat of tomato sauce then tweaking it with extras like beans and corn, before spreading it on the sheets of the dehydrator and turning it into what are called “leathers”.
It’s like tomato jerky which, when combined with oil, becomes a great sauce to add to dried pasta or rice. When we sea kayaked Arctic Norway we took all our food for three weeks because even if we found a store we couldn’t afford Norwegian prices. The dried packages of food, sealed in plastic bags, slipped perfectly into the kayak.
This is a brilliant strategy for kayak trips up to five nights in duration and was taught to me by Howard Jeffs. Take a thick, closed-cell foam sleeping mat and curl it into a tube around your cooking pan, holding it together with duct tape. Ideally it will fit inside a dry bag too. Cut and affix two circular foam ends to the tube. Cook all the one-pan meals you’ll need – stews, chillies whatever – and decant them to freezer bags.
Now here’s the clever bit. Put the bags into your cooking pan, shape them flat and put them in the freezer so you end up with a disc of frozen stew the correct size for the pan. Once you’ve frozen all the means for your trip (and you can leave spares in the freezer for impromptu trips) load them into the foam tube which will act as a cooler. Each morning, slide out a disc and pop it into your pan where it will defrost by dinner time.
Simon Willis runs SeaKayakPodcasts.com offering free interviews with the world’s most interesting kayakers. He is the creator of the Scottish Sea Kayak Trail and producer of the award winning series of coaching films Sea Kayak with Gordon Brown. He spends far too much time behind the computer and not enough time paddling.