Camping Food (pt.3): Something Small & Tasty

On the heels of (pt.1), I wanted to follow-up with some small package items that are easier to carry along in your pack.

I got all of these over my Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop. They went for about $.13 cents each.

[you can see that the Walkers have already been out with me a couple of times and didn’t get consumed… I always take more than I need and enough to share in case anybody else has a sweet tooth, too].

Like the cookies in the larger packages from the original post, these are all “hard” baked cookies, and consequently have a longer shelf life. That’s a nice factor to consider if you’re buying things consume over an entire camping season. All are recommended.

Advertisements

“FftzzzzZap!”

 

Everybody Hate’s ‘Em….

Everybody brags about their’s!

 

 

 

 

 

“Who you gonna call….?”

 

 

 

Mini zzzZZapper !

PETA certified [People for the Electrical Termination of Annoyances]

My own personal choice is the MINI ZAPPER Electric Bug Eliminator from Yankee Trader. Yeah… mine comes from down at the Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop, SoSorry. No link. But only $3.99 for the mini & $5.99 for a full sized one.

[Plenty of others out there to choose from…]

The “Mini” is 16 inches long, that’s about four inches shorter than the full-size unit. Both of them run on two AA batteries… Not Included of course. And both of them seem to deliver the same 3200 V of  ‘skeeter blasting, blue light flashing,  ZzzZap!!-ing power.

I had grabbed one of the grey, full-sized units last summer. It does do exactly what it’s advertised to, and when I saw the mini version that would be a little easier to stick into my camping tote, I snatched it up last week. Doesn’t hurt to have an extra unit to pass around the fire circle.

My original was a great hit each time I took it out group camping last summer. Our first hammock hang was in late May, and last year, both the mosquito and the blackfly populations were vicious. Everybody wanted to borrow it…

I do not actually have any particular problem with bugs biting me. They are attracted to certain blood types, and to certain pheromones [Chemical trace scents that are unique to individuals]. My own whiffy package seems to be on the less desirable end of their scale. I get swarmed by the blackflies swirling in my face and crawling under  my collar just as badly as anybody else, but I don’t get bitten or have any sort of allergic reaction.  And the high-pitched buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz as a mosquito homes in on you as just as annoying to me as to others.

But, regardless of your own desirability to the bugs, these “zappers” are really great to have around the campfire during the worst of bug season. They are not only efficient but there’s a fairly high level of entertainment value as well.  There is just nothing like hearing the hummmm of a mosquito back behind your ear, pushing the button, swinging the racket alongside your head, and hearing the rewarding “fffzzzZAP!” as that particular little bugger bites the dust…. everyone else in the circle gets rewarded by seeing the sparkling flash blue light as the critter goes to meet its maker in a sizzling whiff of burned hair stink. With the blackflies especially, sometimes a single swing can take as many as five or eight to a crackling doom.

Now if we could just come up with something to take care of the ticks….

Good light and great customer service

We had a power outage just over a week ago, and when I got my new “emergency” light out of the bucket, it didn’t work. It left me far less than happy because it had only been received back around the first of August. I had tried it out, charged it up fully, and put away for emergencies… seemed like what it was for.

I contacted customer service of both the distributor and the manufacturer with my complaint. Within the first 24 hours I had a response. They asked for a video, so I showed them one of me pushing the button and the unit not turning on. They replacement was authorized that same day, shipped as two day priority, and arrived Friday. I thought that was pretty good turnaround for two companies based out of southern China. Fortunately they had a US distribution warehouse in LA.

Who & What:

 

<< the Photo is a link       [BW provide a really nice presentation… You get a lot more information there than I could possibly put on this post]

Mine came from BangGood and they were the ones who ended up making good on the replacement.

Two of the features that most appealed to me in this unit were that it could be used as a power bank for charging up electronics, and that it had a red light mode to preserve your night vision. That extra utility helped make it appealing, not only as an emergency light, but also as something to take hammocking. The power button is a large, ball-point pen style clicky on one end. It is water proof/ covered by a glow-in-the-dark rubberized cap. [In my experience, by the time it is full dark and you need the light, the glow-in-the-dark cap has glowed out during twilight and can no longer be seen. You can punch it right back up with a quick exposure to a pocket flashlight though]. The other end of the cylinder is a tightly fitting, screw down cap that covers the charging port and power bank outlets. The power button end has a nice stainless steel bale for clipping on a carabiner, or to run a piece of line through to suspend the light from a branch.

The only “cons” to the BW-LT5 is that it is a bit heavy at 4.5 ounces [128gm] and the light source is directional… just one side of the device illuminates. I think I would’ve preferred full 360° lighting myself. [EDIT: an additional minor downside to this unit is that the clicky switch has to be cycled through all five modes to turn the device off.]

The original unit failed in that it would flash the four blue light pulses which supposedly indicated a full charge. However it would only do this when plugged into a USB outlet, and even then would neither turn on as a the light or provide charge-out as a power bank. The new unit works flawlessly. The failure of the original is actually puzzling because these things are built as solidly as the proverbial brick outhouse. I really don’t anticipate the replacement unit also failing.

Despite the inconvenience of the original device having failed, at the current [BangGood] price of just under $13 US, I still think the Blitz Wolf LT-5 is an incredibly good deal.

[you can buy these units on Amazon but the cost is nearly $30, and since BangGood ships from youthe US anyway and obviously stands behind their products, buying from them seems to be a 90%/50% deal].

 

This is probably an appropriate place to throw in an update as well. All the way back in August 2014 I posted about receiving a damaged SingFire LED Solar Powered Camping Lantern

[you can read the original post here ]

It too had been intended as an emergency light in case of power outages. As I indicated at the time, after a bunch of hassle I was able to make it function, but it has never worked quite right. You sometimes have to jikky with the knob to get it to even turn on, and the variable illumination control is pretty variable in its performance.

This came from my original go-to Chinese outlet in Sham Shui Po, DX [or Deal Extreme].

I’m happy to say that they also stood by their product, and while it took a couple of months for a second delivery, they did replace the unit with a brand-new one that worked right out of the box and still functions perfectly. I was even allowed to keep the original because of the ridiculous cost of reverse shipping.

File_000 (18)

Both the original and the replacement can take on a full charge in about 4 to 6 hours out the sunlight. They seem to give a bit more than four hours when run at medium to high. I do not actually keep the four AA batteries in the units as backup power. My battery drawer is right here at hand if the solar charge should give out too quickly. The batteries add quite a bit of weight, and I’m always concerned that they might corrode from disuse and damage the light between emergencies.

As I noted originally, this lamp is far too large for backpacking but gives a very nice illumination in a campground site. I’m one of those people who absolutely loath it when one of my campground neighbors turns on their Coleman SuperNova Klieglight that casts harsh shadows at 100 yards. The SingFire Lantern is bright enough for most purposes, and still allows you to be a good neighbor. It gets a recommendation because the replacement unit works so nicely. The link above shows that it comes in the slightly changed form now, but the price point is still about what I paid…. under $20US. However, if you only want one of these lights, buy the BlitzWolf since it gives comparable illumination, is backpack friendly, and also doubles as a power bank.

Some Smalls…

Pretty self explanatory.

Got some nice little BIC™ sized lighters, but with long necks that make fire or stove starting much, much easier. Way easier to carry along, too.

Bright colors in case I drop ’em. I’ve got an orange one down in my cook kit already.

I have been using the black one for a couple of months now. It rides around in the pocket of my greatcoat for lighting my pipe, and it shows no sign yet of running out of gaz. From the makers of everyone’s favorite muck-about camp shoes… Crocks™.  I’ll probably grab another couple of bright colored ones in case they disappear.

Buck apiece down at the Dollar Tree.

 

Camping Food (pt.2): Little Packs for Breakfast

The other morning I went grocery shopping and I almost committed a capital shopping sin: I was about to go food shopping while hungry.  For me, this is a disaster. I’m almost certain to get home and discover I bought a 24 pack of pop tarts, Hot Pockets™, or some other ridiculous food that just “looked so good”. Buyer’s regret is almost inevitable.

Before I did any of the rest of my shopping, I picked up the package of Nature Valley Blueberry “Biscuits” that are mentioned in the first part of this series. I opened up the box, and ate three of the four biscuits in one pouch to take the edge off my appetite and save myself from stupidity. Ordinarily I would’ve purchased the green packaged NV “Oats ‘n Honey” crunchy bars, but they didn’t seem to be in stock. The biscuits turned out to be a nice alternative to also have on hand when I put together a weekend’s camping food. Sometimes stupidity has side benefits.

Well I got home, I opened up one of my packages of the Justin’s Maple Almond Butter, and tried it out on the fourth biscuit. I was little disappointed. The Almond butter itself is pretty good, but the maple flavor was quite lacking, and the biscuits themselves have a nutty enough flavor that the nut butter was pretty much wasted on them. As I mentioned in the other, earlier review, these are very dense and the “natural” blueberry flavor comes through well.

The Nature Valley “Biscuits come in at 230 cal for a four biscuit pouch; 80 cal come from oil.

My usual pairing for the “Oats ‘n Honey” bars is to crumble them up into a squeeze pouch of “Ready GO Greek” * shelfstable yogurt. The bars [2 to a pack] have 95 calories each, and a yogurt pouch adds a decent 130 cal. [as a comparison: the CliffBar™ and the NV Almond granola bar that I have on hand come in at 260 cal add 130 cal respectively, but they seem much sweeter and too sugary to me]   I really like this combo as an alternative to a pop tart or granola bar for a field breakfast. It is quick, delicious, and I will gladly do a spot of cleanup on my silicone bowl for the upgrade. When my hiking season is over I also do this pairing up right around the house to finish my supplies of the yogurt [however, it does seem to come dated at least a year out at time of purchase]…  the Oats ‘n Honey Bars are so dense that they seem to have a nearly indefinite shelflife. I’ve eaten them as much as two years after purchase, and they were perfectly fine.

When I have them, since they are also a somewhat come-and-go item over at the Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop, I will sometimes add eight or 10 of these strange little freeze-dried fruit balls. One of the nice things about them is that they come in a resealable zip top bag… as long as you squeeze most of the air back out they seal up very tightly and stay nice and crunchy for quite a long time.

If you will let the crushed up oat bars and the fruit balls soak in the yogurt for a few minutes, they will start to soften up… Too long and they get mushy.

Both of these and the Nature Valley “Biscuits” are also really good as a “munch while you march” snack.

However, you don’t want to add the fruit clusters to a trail mix unless you’re going to eat it all that same day. They will soften up from the moisture in the nuts and raisins.

 

 

* the link I found shows a much higher price, which makes them a lot less bang for your buck, but I picked up my Ready GO Greek yogurt as a four pack for only $2 over at the Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop… It is generally available there in a couple of other flavors as well.

 

 

Camping Food (pt.1): Something Sweet

Biscuits… Cookies…”Biscuits”?  Breakfast bars?    Whatevz…  I like them. I have a sweet tooth, and I indulge it. I’m a 1950s kid, raised in America’s heartland, so they will always be cookies to me. Biscuits are what you get at Carl Jr’s™ with a sausage patty inside.

Once I got past that “Sugar-coated Captain Choco Blasters” stage of childhood, I discovered I far preferred the somewhat less sickly sweet european-style cookies. The ones that the British dip in their tea and do call “biscuits”… and of those, the type I like the best are referred to as butter cookies. Relax, the good varieties taste nothing like those cheap Danish ones that came in a blue metal tin, and that your grandmother always had under the Christmas tree.

I wanted to talk about the “good ones” a little bit as they are perfect additions to take along camping and hiking. Because they are in general quite crisp, they don’t melt and crush nearly as badly as most American cookies tend to do. You can put a few in a zip lock baggie, and have every expectation of them still being intact when you get to wanting one.

The closest US product to a butter biscuit is probably the Pepperidge Farm™ “bordeaux” cookies. [These we’re always my mother’s favorites, and I’ve been eating them since the 1960s].

Together with the chocolate-coated HobNobs and the Biscoffs, they are almost always up on the refrigerator here at the Château.

That last box from Nature Valley is certainly the odd man out… Those are pretty much breakfast bars that they have now chosen to call “biscuits”, and are certainly not recognizable as biscuits by our usual American standards, however, they are a pretty good cookie.

 

I’m sure most people are at least a little familiar with Pepperidge Farm™ cookies. They cost a bit more then Keebler’s and Nabisco, but I think that they’re infinitely better. Their “bordeaux” cookies are a classic take on a butter cookie. They are perhaps cooked a little darker than some other butter cookies, but they have a crisp crunch that melts quickly on your tongue. It’s hard not to eat these like potato chips. There is a certain quality to them that reminds you of a very crisp graham cracker… but not at all the same flavor. The “bordeaux” are a much more adult taste.

The Nature Valley™ Biscuits [here in blueberry flavor] are found in the breakfast food aisle at the supermarket, but they eat far more like an American cookie. They have the same crispness and crunch as all these others. Interestingly, the blue stripe on the box has the very curious phrase, “Naturally flavored with other natural flavorings“. Seems like something out of the Department of Redundancy Department, but WtF? They are pretty good. The blueberry flavor comes across light but distinct and there are actual bits of dried blueberries in the matrix; they have a nice texture that probably derives from the fact that they are made of a combination of wheat flakes, oats, and barley… not your average cookie dough here. Maybe that is why they chose to refer to them as biscuits. I find the texture and flavor reminiscent of a mouth full of Wheaties™.

McVities is an old mainline British/Scottish baking firm established in the early part of the 19th-century. They make an incredibly wide and very wonderful selection of cookies. They were the the first to develop what is called a “jaffa cake” [this is a sponge cake ” cookie with a spoonful of marmalade [or other jam] on it and a chocolate-dipped top. It Is a dear familiar to any British child]. They have Ginger Nuts which are like a hardtack ginger cookie with a 50 year shelf life and an incredible snap of flavor.

I believe a lot of what makes the McVities cookies unique is their use of golden syrup, another British product, whose closest American relative is Karo syrup. Golden syrup however is actually derived from cane and I think is closer to molasses but without molasses’s heavy richness.

Of all the McVities offerings, my easy choice favorite is HobNobs. Introduced only in the 1980s, these are a combination of rolled oats and whole wheat with a milk-chocolate coating on one side that is reminiscent of Cadbury’s… It is the kind of chocolate that melts all over your fingers almost instantly [when you take some camping, the trick is to put pairs of them chocolate sides together… a lot less mess that way]. These have an interesting texture that comes across like really good whole grain bread that has been toasted crisp… but that has a bit of added sweetness… AND that chocolate covering. They are ridiculously good.

Biscoff” has apparently become something of a generic/varietal name. They seem to be made by a number of different companies, but are nearly identical no matter their source. I believe that the originals were actually made by the European company Lotus Foods. They have come to people’s attention over the last few years because they are given out of snacks on a number of airlines. Delta even has them branded with their own logo. If you look them up on the Internet there are a lot of different suggestions as to just what they taste like. Some people find a hint of cocoa, or ginger, others describe them as a browned butter cookie. One elegant review by Francis Lam in Salon magazine said they were cookies that “taste beautifully and comfortingly of warm spices, caramel, and wheat”[…if you already like Biscoff, you really have to go read this review].

The truth is that they apparently only rely on soy flour, oil [not butter], and cinnamon for their unique flavor. The rest of the ingredient list is not particularly complex. The bottom line, as you know if you have them, is that they are delicious. You can dunk them in your coffee, you can spread them with nut butters or jam, you can eat them plain, and Lam claims that if you put a little lime juice on them they taste just like key lime pie! That’s some pretty good mileage for any cookie.

I know that everybody has their own favorites of things to take along as little luxuries when they go camping. These are a few of mine.

[small] Random Acts of Kindness

Almost anyone who has occasion to go through any sizable inner city these days has seen the indigent folks with the cardboard signs… “Will work for food”… “Homeless veteran with PTSD- anything would help”.

What the signs will never tell you, of course, is that they are also quite possibly an alcoholic or an addict. It just goes hand-in-hand with both ending up in a hopeless situation, and preventing you from being able to escape or change. I speak from experience. I have been clean and sober for something over a quarter of a century now. No brag, just fact. While I did not end up in a burned-out tenement, or sleeping in the weeds, I did end up indigent and homeless, sleeping in the front seat of a pickup truck.

My bottom took me far enough down that I always look at people begging at stop light intersections with a “junkie’s eye”. For me at least, your contribution wasn’t going to buy food …it was going to take care of my Jones. A bag or a bottle…  so I will not give money to street people. I will feed them.

Whenever I find myself with more dollar store consumables that I can consume… which is pretty much constantly… I make up packages of those exact same things that I would take out hiking.

I keep a few in the car. These I can then pass out to the indigent, and needy at a stoplight. Jerky, crackers, cookies, breakfast bars… there is a decent caloric weight in each bag that can keep somebody going for a day at a time.

 

I pray that none of us ever has to deal with homelessness or dereliction, but if it did happen, think what a little kindness, and a little bag of food might mean to you

 

Tomorrow I need to go “down Babylon”, so I just made up four new packs out of my extra stuff for those I might encounter who can’t leave it behind as easily as I will.

 

 

[Random Info Tidbit: one of the other things that the indigent and homeless can always use is a new pair of socks… they have them at the dollar store, too]