Gear: Collapsible Cookware by Sea to Summit

This week in my Thursday Tuck & Tech post (where I’m making an inventory of the gear I use or would like to add to my collection) I’m looking at some of my essentially un-cast iron cookware.

…because apparently cast iron is too heavy to haul up onto a mountain on a four day backpacking trip.

Yet, we still gots-to-cook.

When I was in the Scouts in my youth our troop spent many weekends in the woods. Looking back we ate incredibly simply: oatmeal, sandwiches, hot dogs, and other things that could be boiled or suspended from a stick over a fire.

We had some go-to cookware that was worn and battered by years of use. It was a nesting-doll set of thin steel pots and pans that all wrapped up neatly into a pack a little smaller than a football, tucked into a mesh bag, and rattled around from the backs our packs as we hiked in and out. They were light(ish) and a simple way to get things cooked outdoors.

So, naturally, when I moved out and started buying my own camping gear, decades ago now, one of the first things added to my collection was that identical set of steel pots and pans. You go with what you know. And they followed me up more than one mountain in my twenties.

But they were pretty simple and underwhelming as far as modern backpacking technology.

We’ve since ramped up our adventure gear game and invested in a collection of much lighter, much more compact cooking pot… and matching cups, bowls, plates, and a pretty slick collapsible coffee strainer (which I’ll likely be writing about at a later date!)

This set has followed us up on a couple of long multi-day hikes. The pandemic put a cramp on our plans for 2020, but in the couple years since we built this collection I’ve had enough practice with it to give an honest evaluation.

The silicon design has a weight that is competitive with any metal pan, and while they’re not cheap, they’re not titanium-expensive either.

Our firefly stove was able to boil up a pot of cold filtered stream water in less than ten minutes (good heat retention!) though with the silicon sides not being flame friendly, I couldn’t run the stove at full blast else risk some side flames creeping up past the metal bottom plate.

One of the negatives is that it would have been nice to pick these up as a complete set instead of piece-by-piecing our set together (from three different camping shops.) Now that our set is relatively complete that was really a small thing that I won’t need to do again. I write that only because we opted not to buy the frying pan (which I assume would likely have been part of said set) as our go-to meals on multi-day hikes tend to be rehydrated food. A pot of boiled water and some bowls serve for nearly all our adventure meals. Yet, a reliable frying pan could probably inspire some backpacking-friendly ideas in those meal plans… especially for the cast iron guy.

Overall, this set can’t compare to camping with a cast iron dutch oven, but my back routinely thanks me for the lighter approach to our adventure cooking.

Note: this is a piece of gear that I have purchased privately and that I’ve owned for long enough to offer an opinion about. This post is not an endorsement (at least, it’s not a paid one.)

Recipe: Cast Iron Campfire Waffles

Even far from an electrical socket, when I wake up in the woods I still have a few morning rituals. I need my hot cup of coffee brewed in one of a variety of ways: steeped, perked, or filtered. I usually try to eat a piece of fruit to start my day off right. And then I set out to cook a hearty breakfast for myself and the family.

Recently, and thanks to an amazing find at one of our local camping shops, that hearty breakfast has included fresh campfire waffles.

Yes, waffles. Over the campfire.

The easiest way to do set yourself up for campfire waffle success is by prepping some of your ingredients at home first.

In a plastic zip bag at home mix:

2 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of sugar
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt

In a bowl at your campsite mix:

1 bag of dry ingredients (as above)
2 eggs
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups of milk

Also, pack some extra oil for cooking and for caring for your waffle iron.

My waffle iron needs about five minutes to heat up over a cooking fire after you’ve oiled it. Having a grate or other surface to rest your iron on is useful.

When the iron is smoking hot (yes… literally smoking) open the iron wide (using heat-proof mitts) and add 1/3 cup of your waffle batter to one center of the grill plate. Close. Flip (and I do a gentle whirl to spread the batter out inside.) And return to the heat.

Add a bit more oil to the iron between waffles.

Figuring out when the waffle is done cooking without that handy beep of an electric iron is as much an art as a skill. Added to the complexity is that you’re cooking over a fire with irregular temperatures. Look for less steam. Look for visible doneness at the edges. Get a feel for the time it takes and be prepared to over/undercook your first couple waffles.

Then… serve. Hot. Add fruit. Syrup. Whatever you like.

Gear: CRKT Tactical Folding Blade

I’ve had a couple trusty knives in my possession for nearly as long as I can remember. And this week in my Thursday Tuck & Tech post (where I’m making an inventory of the gear I use or would like to add to my collection) I’m digging into a blade I was given by my brother as a best-man gift for his wedding nearly twenty years ago.

The CRKT (Columbia River Knife & Tool) model SRT-HRE is a matte black, single blade, folding knife with a simple spring-arm lock in the hilt.

The reverse side features a simple pocket clip which adds about 50% to the depth profile, making this about 1 cm thick by 16 cm long open (9 cm long closed.)

What I Googled told me that the SRT-HRE code translates to: Special Response Team – High Risk Environment, and I couldn’t find this model for sale on the manufacturer website, so I’m going to assume it’s out of production. And, in light of the crazy insurrection-type action going on with our southernly neighbours this month, I’m going to add that I’ve only ever used this knife for peaceful, outdoorsy cutting which makes it more of a Average Guy Club – Low Risk Wandering knife, or AGC-LRW for short.

The top two-thirds of the blade is a curved, smooth edge while the bottom third is a serrated edge.

It’s light and strong, and feels good in the hand and I’ve used it for nearly two decades of general outdoor utility like cutting rope, feathering kindling, and cutting vegetation. I’ve also kept it handy while camping for food preparation and as a general purpose steak-knife. It’s not nearly long enough to fillet a fish, but it might serve in a pinch.

This is the kind of knife I toss into my pocket whenever I go camping, out for a long, woodsy walk or a photo expedition. You never know when you need to cut a bit of branch or pry something loose.

Note: this is a piece of gear I’ve owned for a while, and this post is not an endorsement (at least, it’s not a paid one.)