Utensils

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I just got a nice, matching/nesting, titanium eating utensils set.  As with so much of my stuff, it came out of Hong Kong. While it was discounted over buying the same set here from a US vendor, it was no where near my 90%-for-50% criteria… more like 25% off regular pricings.

Apparently, back in September when I unexpectedly broke camp at 3AM and vamoosed, due to a drunken/coked-up screaming match in the next campsite, I must have left behind my SnowPeak spork, and a light-weight, WallyWorld ABS fork and knife that were all clipped together.  I had especially liked that spork, and I would frequently use it right here at home because it was a great tool for breaking up stews and the like. Good size, good “heft”, fun to eat with… just a nice piece of gear. Because of the loss, I was in the market for a new set of eating utensils. When I saw these at a reasonably good price, I decided to treat myself to the expense, and added them to that 11/11 deals cart. They finally came on Friday.

These are KEITH brand,and are available stateside, but nearly identical sets are also available from other well-known vendors. These sets actually do differ slightly in features, design and execution, unlike much of the camping stuff that seems to be just a change in the logos. I liked the KEITH because it was more sturdily made, and included a nice, microfiber pouch for toting the set around. I hate having stuff jangling noisily in my pack.

In the center of the second photo you can see the long-handled spoon. [I use it to replace the military issue [brown] MRE spoon at top-right. MRE pouches are quite deep, and that longer handle makes eating right from the bags much easier] The point here being the spoon is just stamped out of a thin piece of titanium with a ridge down the handle to add strength. Despite the great material, it makes it “seem” flimsy. I was disappointed with its feel in my hand once I put it to use. Several of the other available cutlery sets were made in the same manner, and I did not want to repeat the disappointment.

The KEITHs are of a thicker gauge metal and have a much better “hand”. The fork, and especially the tines, are a bit shorter than I would truly like, but the spoon is nice and deep, and the knife has some rugged serration for cutting. The set looks to be pretty good at the price. I gave $16.45 US shipped.

 

Just a quick run-down of the other pieces in the second photo: across the center is a US military issue field fork that also came Friday as a gift from one of the guys over on the MRE Info Forums [sadly, it is the match to a large field spoon, also USDOD issue, that has gone missing… they would have made a good pair for base-camping] /the set of breakdown SS chopsticks, also originally from China, are handy for cooking chores, and I just have always loved eating with chopsticks/the titanium double-ended spork and the green ABS one live in my range-bag and lunch box respectively and the little Buck neck-knife is my camp-cooking slicer and steak knife.

It should be obvious to anyone who has read this blog with any regularity, that I LOVE to eat. And I love to eat well in the woods. It is a way of enjoying your end-of-day time and taking care of yourself that makes the outdoor experience more rewarding. I don’t go camping to be miserable and eat bad food. Having some really nice utensils along is one of the luxuries I allow myself. With this kit, I have enough choice to pick and choose variously appropriate combos to go out on various trips, but I suspect the new titanium set and the long MRE spoon are going to be my “go-to”s from now on.

Verdict: this KEITH matching utensil set is dite pricy, but probably worth it as an infrequently-to-be-bought luxury item.

Filling In On the Small Stuff…

Out on the lake last weekend we did try to get by primarily on the MRE military meals. I took along a pair of enchilada dinners, together with one of those Old El Paso $$store bowls that I showed in a previous post.

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Each of the US MRE meals comes with an FRH, or flameless ration heater. The idea with them is that you add a small amount of water to the FRH pouch, slide the meal pouch inside, seal the ziplock and it creates heat by a chemical reaction from a set of strips inside the unit. When they work, you can hear them sizzle. Ours didn’t sizzle. At all. The pouches of enchiladas barely warmed through. Fortunately, I was cooking the beans and rice in a pot over the alcohol stove. They got really good and hot. So we poured them over the top of the enchiladas, and broke a handful of Fritos over the top of everything. With the jalapeno squeeze-cheese and the salsa that came with each meal pouch, it wasn’t a bad dinner. Good and filling at the very least. Oh, and because we could take along a cooler, I had thrown in a container of sour cream mixed with cilantro paste… It doesn’t take long to figure out that it’s the little things you add in that make the difference between an MRE being just “food”, and being pretty good. [Just plain Montréal Steak Seasoning can make all the difference. I pour it into 3 inch-long sections of plastic straws that I then seal the ends of with a pair of pliers and a BIC lighter… works slick! You can also find individual packets of Mrs.Dash’s down at lot of the dollar stores]

I was very happy with the little ALOCS stove setup. I’ll try to put together a post on the various stove combos I have put together, but this one is certainly the best for more than one person. While it was not particularly important on this canoe trip, I’m very pleased with how small and compactly the whole thing fits together, while still providing a tremendous amount of utility. Additionally, that windscreen I had made works really well. There was never any fear of the flame blowing out, despite the fact that it was actually pretty windy. We could set up, and have a hot beverage in about six or eight minutes. Not exactly a microwave, but…

However, the FRHs failed us again at breakfast. We had MRE maple sausage patties, hash browns and spiced apple slices… all fairly lukewarm, but the breakfast coffee was especially good. Peets!  A nice surprise. Again, because we were not concerned with having to pack everything on our own backs, TOG had gone ahead and tossed in a French press coffeemaker in his bag. T’sruly excellent forethought on his part. I boiled up 16 ounces of water on the alcohol stove, poured through the press, and we had two great cups of coffee. I suspect we will probably make it a regular part of the gear. That coffee was just too too good. So good in fact that you could drink it black… no need for the packets of creamer. Some things, you find out you just have to suck up the weight, and go with the enjoyment.

 

Upptacamp

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“Upptacamp” is a word brought into popular usage up here in Maine by a regional comedian named Bob Marley.

It is as much about a state of mind as it is about anyplace, and it certainly is not about any place in particular. There is no one Upptacamp. Every person, every family, every hunting or fishing group, every pair of buddies, everybody has their own.

I took this photo on the way upptacamp a couple of falls ago. It is the view from “Height of Land” looking out over Lake Mooselookmeguntic. Upptacamp for us is off the right-hand edge of the photo, about as far away as the other side of the mountains in the distance. 30 miles as the crow flies, 50 by the road.

I’m getting pretty excited by the idea of actually getting out to go camping. The pack frame that I am going to be testing is confirmed to be on the way. I should have it on Tuesday or Wednesday. I got a great deal on a used U.S. Army bivy bag that is Gore-Tex and will eliminate the need for a tent. I got an equally great deal on a superlightweight sleeping bag. Both of them ran me less than $60, and both of them have also arrived. I had already pretty much worked out my cooking gear, and almost everything else I need is stuff that I already have or that I’ve cobbled together.

Ed, or TOG has even agreed to try out MREs. A couple of those military rations each [together with a few add-ins to make them more palatable and add that gourmet touch], some gorp, and some snack food, and price of chow for two guys for three meals comes in at almost no-cost at all. We are usually all up on a sirloin steak or two, mushrooms, a full dozen eggs, pound of bacon, pound of burger, burger buns, sticks of butter, cartons of soda, and giant bags of chips… Oh, and a couple full-sized Cadbury chocolate bars. Runs us out the store at $30 bucks [or more] apiece. …That was the cost of the bivy bag.

Hopefully breakfast on Sunday might just bring TOG around to understanding my fondness for the MRE’s… on deck are pork sausage patties in maple gravy, hash browns with bacon, spiced apple slices and a cinnamon bun… all mil-spec. We’ll kick it up by taking along some Starbucks Via coffee pouches.

Saturday night may not be so thrilling. There are already a couple of enchilada dinners up at the cabin. They are more like tamale dinners. They are not the best MREs, but they’re certainly not the worst. That is reserved for what was called Country Captain chicken… Most people make the sign of the sign of the evil-eye when they speak about that one. But the refritos that come with the meal aren’t bad at all, and we’ll carry along one of those munch-sized bags of actual Fritos. Once you stir in the jalapeno squeeze-cheese and add the salsa package that comes in the meal and then crunch the real Fritos on top… Well… It reaches edible.

Anyway, my living room is scattered with boxes, bags and stuff bags of gear that I’m sorting through. Hopefully I will return from next weekend with a bunch of photos and material for a few posts on the actual experience of CAMPING! The weather will be the final arbitrator on that. Right now it’s about 50-50.

But we get to go Upptacamp. Rainy days upptacamp are why God made Kindles, bunkbeds and covered porches… You just can’t have a bad experience when you are Upptacamp.