Is Cold Soaked Couscous And Tuna Really A Romantic Dinner?

I asked a Facebook group, “What’s the coldest weather you have cowboy camped in.” The answer was, “Minus 28 in an ice cave.”

And I was wondering if I could risk it at 30 degrees…

Most of us are mortal so we will never be found outside at 28 degrees below zero!

How do we get our backpacking fix when every outdoor option involves death by hypothermia?

Other than a trek in New Zealand (its summer there), here are a few options to fill our time.

Try New Recipes

What spouse would not be thrilled with a romantic candlelight dinner complete with cold soaked couscous and tuna!

Let’s use this time to step our food game up a notch. A little work on Google will reveal offerings like Andrew Skurka’s Peanut Noodles or Coconut Cashew Curry.

If you carry a stove and canister, you may find some stoveless options that will work for you when the weather warms up. I actually like cold soaked couscous and tuna!

Are there new ingredients you could add to your current recipes that will move them to the trail gourmet level?

And… where the heck can you get the precooked, dehydrated pinto beans that Jupiter likes?

Learn A New Skill

For instance, how does Erik Normark build a campfire on a frozen lake? Even more important, why would you ever want to camp on a frozen lake?

Fire on a lake

YouTube is our friend on this one!

Maybe you have thought about using a tarp on the trail instead of a tent. There are hundreds of videos on setting up a tarp on trail.

Maybe it’s time to forsake Guthook and learn how to read and triangulate your position on a topographical map. Even better than YouTube would be taking a class through a local outfitter if you have one near you!

How about building a soda can alcohol stove and learning how to use it? Just not in the kitchen trying new recipes!

Ask the question, “Will this work for me?” Then look for opportunities to test or practice on a local trail or in the great outback (yard)!

Practice Consistency

Spread a clean tarp on the floor (because your spouse will not want all your dirty stuff on the carpet).

Separate your gear into systems, cooking, sleep, clothing etc. Think through how you will use each system on the trail.

Pack, unpack, re-pack until you feel comfortable doing it before you have coffee!

Think through questions like, “Is this item quickly accessible if it is raining? Could I find this in the dark? Is this item in the wrong system?”

Practice until you can find something in your pack with your eyes closed!

While it seems like a silly exercise, those who have successfully completed a through hike have one thing in common, a simple system that can be replicated daily over an extended period of time.

Research A New Trail

I stumbled across one of my favorite trails while doing research on another trail.

Where are the trail heads? What is the water situation? If the trail is longer, what about resupply? What additional skill sets will I need to hike this trail?

Most trails have a wealth of information available to us online.

Facebook has a multitude of groups dealing with specific trails. I  have about five groups that I enjoy sharing and receiving information from.

Just watch out for fear mongering with social media! Don’t assume someone else’s experience, make your own!

Leave a comment below if you have ideas for hibernation days!

Where Do You Pack The Kitchen Sink?

Stove & Bowl

I recently posted on Facebook hiking groups asking what kind of content they would be most interested in reading or watching. There were two common responses, pack out information (what’s in your pack) and gear reviews.

One area we can significantly reduce our base weight, is cooking gear. I have two basic setups depending on the time of year or conditions we will face on the trail.


In summer months I carry a minimal setup. Breakfast is usually pop tarts, bacon jerky and Breakfast Essentials with instant coffee mixed in. Lunch and dinner consists of cold soaked or other no-cook options.

But there are occasions, like a cold morning, or a tired evening, where hot coffee or a warm bowl of Ramen would be morale building to say the least. This is my summer kit.

1. Zpacks Titanium Wing Stove for Esbit (0.4 oz) – see full review here.



2. Esbit Cubes (0.48 oz) – These cubes will provide two boils of two cups each. Hint: the leftover portion of the cubes make great fire starters.

3. Snow Peak Titanium Bowl (1.6 oz) – This bowl can be used to heat water or food and doubles as a coffee cup, just be sure to let it cool a little before that first sip!


4. Sea to Summit Titanium Spoon (0.4 oz) – Spork or Spoon, let the debate begin! My preference is a spoon because it works better for scraping the remnants out of a cold soak jar or bowl.

5. Talenti Cold Soak Jar (1.8 oz) – You cannot say you are a real ultralight backpacker without one! It also comes with free ice cream!

6. Bic Lighter (0.7 oz) – if I was serious about backpacking it would be a Bic Mini! Insert shame here…

This kit packs out at less than 8 ounces and is more than adequate for the summer months.


Months with an R’s in them require a more robust setup. Warm coffee on a 30-degree morning means the difference between hiking with friends or quickly being abandoned…

1. MSR Pocket Rocket (3.1 oz) – There are newer less expensive alternatives out there, but mine is 10 years old and has never failed me yet, so it comes along.

2. Small MSR Fuel Canister (8.1 oz) – One area we can quickly reduce weight is how much fuel we carry. A large fuel canister can weigh over two pounds and will be good for 30-50 boils. A minimal canister will weigh in at about 8 ounces and will be good for 10 boils, more than enough for a weekend hike and a significant weight savings!

3. Aluminum Cook Pot (3.8 oz) – A gift from my in-laws over 40 years ago, this pot is a comfort item for me. While it is overkill for the amount of water I need to boil, it can be set in a campfire to save fuel. It weighs in at a whopping 3.8 ounces… gasp! However, I am convinced that food tastes better from this pot!

4. Sea to Summit Collapsible Cup (3.2 oz) – To be transparent, I bought this because Dixie had one! It’s great for coffee, or scooping water from a shallow water source. Did I mention Dixie has one!

I may or may not toss in my cold soak jar. Some items cook better when they are cold soaked before heating.

My winter pack out weighs in at 1 pound 2 ounces.

What does your kitchen look like?

If you found this post helpful in any way, please leave a comment below or share it with someone who might need it!

Thanks for stopping by and we will see you on the trail!

Things You Can Learn While Floating Under A Tarp

It would be an understatement to say that every backpacking trip is a learning experience. My recent adventure on the Ozark Highlands Trail is no exception to the rule.

For some time now thanks to Jupiter, I have been enamored with tarp camping. My first love is cowboy camping (throwing your bag on the ground and sleeping under the stars). But when weather or privacy demands some degree of shelter, a tarp is my first choice.

One of my goals on our last hike was to perfect my tarp camping skills over a multiple day hike. The first night out was a dream come true. With a 1% chance of rain I was snuggled in my sleeping bag under a perfect A-Frame pitch. I watched the moon rise as I was lulled to sleep by the creek flowing a few yards away – a total win!

Hiking along the next day, I knew there would be a chance of storms that night. As I thought about how I would set up my tarp for the night, I decided on a Plow Point setup. From my research I believed this setup would provide the best protection from inclement weather.

We arrived at at our camp spot with the sound of thunder in the distance. I quickly set my tarp up and stored my gear under it. Within a few minutes a gentle rain began to fall. We settled into our shelters for a good night’s rest.

A short time later, the wind shifted and for the next 12 hours (other than monsoon) I struggle to find the words to describe the rain that fell. I literally thought God was breaking His promise to never flood the earth again… At least 3 inches of rain fell throughout the night.

The swirling winds and horizontal rains found quick refuge inside my tarp. Regardless of how I adjusted or tried to secure, the floods came in with a vengeance. We also discovered that we had camped in a slight recession which quickly turned into a mud puddle. We were all soaked by morning.

Not wanting to sleep in a wet sleeping bag with the temperature dipping below 30 that night, we were glad we had an option to get off trail at the 30-mile mark.

I returned home feeling slightly defeated and considering selling my tarp for spare parts. As the memory of a long night in the rain gave way to more pleasant memories, I soon began planning my next hike.

As I considered options for shelter, I kept coming back to the thought, “but I like tarp camping”.

I started out by saying, “every hike is a learning experience”. So, what did I learn from this hike?

First, every hike will not come with a 12-hour long thunderstorm. Rain, possibly, but a 12-hour Arkansas Cyclone, probably not.

Second, there are a dozen of ways to set up a tarp. A little work on a more secure, or fully enclosed setup next time would possibly save day.

Third, don’t let one bad experience stop you from doing something you enjoy.

A bad experience at Walmart has never kept me from going back. I had done multiple hikes successfully with my tarp. Why would I let one bad experience keep me from many more great nights in the moonlight?

Forth, never stop learning. The problem that night was not with the tarp, it was with the guy who set it up! 

I have already found several new setups that would have protected me more that rainy night.

We only fail when we cease trying!

What epic fails have you learned from on the trail?

Leave a comment below or share this post with someone who needs it!

See you on the trail – I’ll be the one under a tarp!