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Pack It In: Basecamp Cooking

Summer camping means fireside drinks, nights under the stars, and secluded backcountry hikes. It doesn’t have to mean giving up your favorite meals though, and whether you’re a foodie whipping up a gourmet meal or a kitchen novice who can barely make packaged ramen, the perfect basecamp cooking kit is easily within your grasp. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to surprise your girlfriend with a nice meal cooked in the great outdoors rather than breaking out the peanut butter sandwiches and gatorade?

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REI Camp Kitchen
Whether you’re unpacking your gear lakeside for a fish fry or grilling up a serious load of steaks for a backcountry feast, the REI Camp Kitchen has the real estate to store all your cooking needs for a long weekend. The bottom shelves store unused pots and pans – and that secret spice mix you carefully guard. The fold out side table is the perfect size for a two burner stove. When you’re cooking late into the night the upper pole will hang a lantern to keep everything visible. A durable aluminum finish stands up to a serious beating (and to three dogs repeatedly trying to snatch some meat). The only thing it won’t do is wash the dishes for you.

YETI Hopper 20
The Hopper soft cooler from Yeti is the perfect addition to any camp kitchen. At twenty liters, it will hold ten pounds of ice, a twelve pack of beer, and a couple of pre-made kebabs of your favorite meat ready for the grill. This soft sided cooler is built from the same Dryhide fabric that whitewater rafts are, and insulated with burly EVA foam. It’s not bear proof like their hard coolers are, but it will outlast anything else on the market. It’s also lightweight and will hold ice for up to two days. Let’s see your old styrofoam lined fishing cooler try and keep up.

MSR Flex 4 Cooking System
Featuring plates, cups, and pots for four people, the Flex 4 kit from MSR is as close to a serious gourmet cookware set as you will find (or need) for the backcountry. The larger pot is 5.3 Liters – perfect for unveiling your award winning chilli recipe – just be sure to pick your tent buddies well after a few bowls. The cups are insulated, which saved us from more than a couple of mishaps with scalding coffee on cold winter mornings. The plates have a tall lip around the edges that helped us keep our food out of the dirt, even after a few beers from the Yeti. Just be careful though, once you start using this kit you’ll be thinking up excuses to cook outdoors more often.

Hydrapak Stash Bottles
These collapsible water bottles from Hydrapak are the most indispensable camping gadgets we’ve ever used. When full they store twenty-five ounces of water (our choice is freshly filtered from a mountain stream), and when empty you can twist them up and collapse them for almost zero space in your pack. The material is naturally antifungal and dishwasher safe. We unscientifically tested this by leaving beer in them for a couple days to see if they’d retain any funky smells, and were pleasantly surprised by how well they clean up. These neat little bottles might be the first to dethrone the mighty Nalgene.

Vermont Smoke and Cure
When you’re whipping up a basecamp meal you can’t just settle for hot dogs roasted over a campfire. Or maybe you can. The Bacon Hotdogs, Smoked Pepperoni, and Uncured Bacon from Vermont Smoke and Cure are the perfect addition to any summer barbeque. All of their natural meats are sourced from antibiotic and hormone free farms, and the proof is in the flavor. We took a few packages of hotdogs to a local ski resort parking lot for a taste test, and couldn’t keep them coming off the grill fast enough. Smoked with natural Vermont maple syrup, apple wood, and maple brined bacon, these hotdogs are positively the best we’ve ever had.

Coleman Fyre Cadet
For the burgeoning backcountry chef, cooking on a small backpacking stove is a travesty. The Hyperflame line of stoves from Coleman are perfect for whipping up a full meal (our choice was sweet potato chilli and shrimp stir fry). With convenient burner controls and stainless steel construction, getting up and cooking is a breeze. Our Fyre Cadet model folded into a convenient briefcase when not in use, but other variants include portable grills and stoves with built in stands so you can customize you basecamp cooking kit to your needs. One thing is for sure though, with one of these Coleman stoves you’ll be the envy of other campsites for miles.

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