The Waiting – All about the gear

“You’re going to carry liquid fuel?”

The 20-year-old shop assistant appears incredulous, as if carrying liquid fuel was sacrilegious in camping and hiking circles.

When I entered the store, he was very excited to help me. Give him 5 stars for initial customer service. I tell him I have a list of items to look for. That makes him very excited.

But once I tell him my first item is a 500ml Trangia fuel bottle (to safely transport methylated spirits in my pannier), I get the above response.

I reply, “Well, yes. I’ve got a Trangia and don’t want to carry the fuel in a coke bottle or anything.”

“Oh, I’m a Jet Boil man myself.”

And so he should be. The store has a huge Jet Boil display. But I did heaps and heaps of research on backpacking stoves before deciding to go with an ethanol stove. And I’m pretty certain in that decision. The only reason I’m here is because they’ve got the fuel bottle for 40 percent off.

I wonder if the butane cannister people look down on the ethanol stove people like bikepackers look down on touring cyclists. I really did not expect there to be such division on how flame was produced.

My research tells me that ethanol stoves are the most environmentally friendly. They’re extremely quiet and very low maintenance. It’s easy to find fuel for them in grocery stores and lots of other places. Plus the fuel bottle fits better in my pannier than a fuel cannister(s). There are other pros, but those were the ones that sold me. I just hope Jet Boil Man punches those gas cannisters and then recycles them – they need to be depressurized before recycling and a lot of people don’t bother to do that (I know this from my previous job!).

My stove runs on this – you can find it at grocery stores. In America, I think this is called denatured alcohol.

STOVE PRACTICE – Suggestions Welcome!

And so… I’ve not been on the bike in the last 3 weeks. I’m in way too much pain. I can manage walking for about an hour, but most of the time I’ve been reclined in bed, trying to find some position that is mostly comfortable. At least for a little while. The 28th can’t come soon enough.

However, this has meant I’ve been able to practice a lot with my stove. I’ve never carried a stove before, and when I used to go backpacking with friends back in uni days, I helped carry the weight but let the stove owner do the cooking. Back in those days, all of my friends had MSR Whisperlite type stoves that also required carrying a fuel bottle. Those stoves seemed so fiddly and noisy that I didn’t really think I wanted that kind now.

My friends back at uni all had stoves of this style.

So I’ve never cooked with any stove on the road before. And the only reason I’ve purchased one now is because I think the weight disadvantage starts to even out at about 5 days of travel. And I really want to be able to head bush for 7-10 days without needing to resupply. Plus, now that West Nile, and all that came after, has screwed up my digestive system… I am limited in what I can eat and need to stick to nutritious foods. The stove just makes sense now.

That’s the long way to say… I’ve not used one of these before… so any tips, suggestions, recipes or any other ideas are VERY WELCOME.

Below I’ve detailed the set-up and some of the things I’ve cooked so far. At this point I am super impressed with the set-up and how easy it has been to cook good meals! I haven’t burned anything yet 😊 and everything has been really tasty. And that’s really tasty with no physical exertion – everything tastes better when you’ve ridden a bunch of kms and are very hungry! So I’m really happy with this investment.

SET-UP

Here is my whole stove set-up.

  • Firebox stove is 113 grams (you can also burn wood with this, if I were to run out of ethanol)
  • Trangia spirit burner is 108 grams
  • Titanium pot set (400 ml fry pan/lid and 800 ml pot) 168 grams
  • Silicone collapsible bowl 70g
Here are ingredients for the next experimental meal: red lentil pasta, carrot, onion, garlic, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, mushroom, herbs, tomato paste. And below is all my gear packaged up – minus the 500ml fuel bottle. The utensils are in a produce bag – I need to find a smaller one, though.

Here are all of my utensils – weight of all is around 150 grams minus the pliers (which I carry in my tool kit anyway to pull crap out of my tyres when I get a puncture).

  • Paring knife with cover
  • Small serving tongs (you can get these at Kmart 2 for $2)
  • Pliers

The tongs and pliers are used to pick up the simmer ring on the spirit burner with the pliers and then use the tongs to adjust the cover which adjusts how much flame there is.

  • Teaspoon – because you can measure any spice with this one size and also use to measure 3 teaspoons of water to add to the spirit burner so the metho doesn’t soot up the stove so much. This also means I can keep the stirring/eating spoon out of the spices.
  • Plastic spoon (I need to get a fork, too)
  • Lighter (I will take a cigarette lighter with me, but this is what I have at home right now.)
  • Plastic, flexi cutting board cut from a larger one (weighs nothing and I can put on the back of my pannier for a hard surface if a rock or log can’t be found).
Here’s the cooking gear slightly unpacked. The stove lives in that little case. On the left in pic you can see the flame guard and the stove folded up. Just above the red silicone collapsible bowl is the stove burner. You pour the fuel in and the ring with the black bit is used to control the flame.
What the stove looks like from the top once the burner is inserted in the stove. There are two other ways you can put the burner in so the flame is at different heights. The black circle pivots to give less flame and to fully close to snuff out the flame.
What the stove looks like from the side when assembled. The flame guard helps keep the wind off the flame but also keeps the pot handles from getting licked by flame. I’ve not needed to use pot mitts at all with this set-up. You can also burn wood in a variety of ways with the box. I’ve got the titanium version which is super light.

THE SPICE BAG

I’m not planning on carrying oil or other liquids, so Asian stir-fries are out unless someone has an idea for how I can do that without gluten free tamari, lemon juice, etc.

However, herbs and spices are light and take very little room. So the plan is to put the herbs in snack size ziplocs within a larger Ziploc.

Those will go in some snack size ziplocs. It’s amazing how many different cuisines use these four ingredients. I’ll carry a few others, plus some beef and chicken stock, as well.

You can do Indian, Morrocan and Mexican with different combos of paprika, cumin, coriander, turmeric, ginger, curry powder and garam masala. Here’s the combos I use at home that I think I can translate to the road.

Mexican – chili powder, garlic powder (or both fresh, they’re light), cumin, smoked paprika, ground cumin, black pepper, oregano, cinnamon

Moroccan – curry powder, coriander, ground ginger and cumin, black pepper

Jamaican – onion powder, thyme, salt, red pepper flakes or chili powder, black pepper, cinnamon (allspice but prob leave that out as I don’t use it for anything else)

Indian – garlic, coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili powder, black pepper, ginger (curry powder or garam masala depending on which curry I’m doing)

FIRST EXPERIMENTAL MEALS

I’ve been cooking with veggies and carbs that I think will travel well and that should be easy to source in most small town IGAs.  I think garlic, onion, chili peppers, carrot, broccoli, zucchini and cherry tomatoes in their container all seem quite transportable for at least a few days. I might get 2 days from mushrooms. I think one large carrot will do 4-6 meals and will travel the longest with the garlic and onion. I’m still experimenting with other veg and their amounts. (Any suggestions?)

The feature photo shows red lentils with carrot, garlic, onion, cinnamon, paprika, coriander, cumin and black pepper. This was really good and quite filling (though my appetite is very small right now).

One small tub of tomato paste will do a couple meals – perhaps on the first couple days out from a restock. I made a marinara type sauce in the pic below, but I think tomato paste would go well with red lentils in an Indian-style curry or to make a veggie stew with some beef stock.

This is the meal whose ingredients are in the top gear photo above. This was excellent, but I didn’t need quite as much as prepared. I think I’ll get 5 meals out of one pasta packet. I put in too much water this time to cook the pasta, so less water next time will mean less to drain off. Pulse pasta cooks quicker than regular pasta. I added the veggies after the pasta was pretty close to done. I could add the veg sooner next time.
I wanted to see how meat would go in the fry pan. Worked well – this is sliced kangaroo sausage. I don’t think I’ll carry much meat along, but good to know it cooks easily if I ever have some I’ve frozen in a camp kitchen on a resupply day that I would then cook on my first night out after it defrosted. The better option would be to do a big cook-up at the camp kitchen and then just freeze the cooked meat to then add at camp. The other stuff is broccoli and mushrooms – just to see how long it takes to steam veggies – not long. The other is asparagus with some chicken stock and poha – the chicken stock to flavour some cooking water. This all worked well and easily. I would likely chop things more finely so they’d cook faster next time.

I’m going to have a closer look at the available thai curry pastes and consider weight and ingredients, too.

I need to check out some of these sorts of options for Asian inspired meals. I’m not sure if I can eat the thickener in this one and the salt content is a fair bit higher than I’d like. But I need to spend some more time on this aisle checking out options.

It will be really easy to steam veggies with pre-soaked poha and a little bit of chicken stock for something super easy.

Poha – soaked overnight in a 1:1 ratio with water.

Never heard of poha? Neither had I until I went looking for dehydrated Minute rice. Oz does not have that. But it does have poha, which looks popular in Indian cooking (indeed, this came from the Indian section of the international aisle). Poha is dehydrated rice flakes.

Western cooking suggests using this as an alternative for oatmeal for those who can’t tolerate gluten. So I tried that – hoping it would be good cold with some honey, peanutbutter and bananas. It would be a bit like Bircher muesli and easy to do on the road. But it was pretty nasty. It was okay once heated, but pretty awful cold.

It’s edible warmed up, and if you can tolerate dairy, you could add milk and it might make it a little better. But not something I’ll do again. I don’t ever eat breakfast anyway, but hoped it would be something I could “cook” while riding to eat along the road. Nup.

The poha was fine though cooked with the asparagus. The texture will take a little getting used to, but for the uncooked weight, it is quite value for money and nutrition to add to veggies. I think soaking it for a couple hours instead of overnight would help the texture, too.

You can get brown rice poha which would be much better nutritionally and for glycemic index. However, it is hard to find even in a city of 30,000. So I don’t hold much hope for that on the road. Plus, the brown rice poha is sold as a health food, so it costs $5.00 for 500 grams. This white rice poha only cost $1.75 for the same amount.

Anybody cooked with poha on the road before?

FUEL USE

It looks like I can cook two meals and heat dishwater for those meals with 125 mls of fuel. So I think I should be able to get about 8 meals and washing up water carrying 500ml of fuel with me. That is excellent. I won’t use the stove except for one hot meal per day at most. And I won’t necessarily eat a hot meal every night. I’m quite happy with peanut butter and rice crackers or some salmon on rice crackers for some dinners. You could get a lot more meals out of that fuel if you were just rehydrating packet meals or doing instant soups – but I need to actually cook real food.

So I think the fuel situation is good. I think it will get me out for 7-10 days.

INGREDIENT WEIGHT and THOUGHTS

Now I just have to experiment with the weight of ingredients for that number of days. I can’t eat wheat, gluten or dairy anymore, so regular pasta, ramen and instant pasta packets are out.

The instant rice meals also generally have stuff in them that I can’t eat without digestive distress. The Continental instant rice meals (like Lipton or Rice a Roni in America) have only a few flavours to choose from here, and I can’t eat any of the ones I’ve looked at so far.

The poha is something I think I can get used to (but not as an oatmeal replacement!), but I likely will not be able to restock that very often. I don’t foresee it being available except in larger regional towns. I should be able to find rice noodles most places though, and these could substitute in that case.

Pulse pasta (there’s heaps of different ones) and red lentil-based curries with different spice combos will be quite do-able for days on end though, so I think I won’t starve and I should be able to get adequate nutrition. I will certainly be hanging for fresh veg when emerging from a week in the bush though!  But that’s no different to carrying cold/ready-to-eat meals anyway.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Everything right now is contingent on getting this f**** gastroscopy done and some sort of diagnosis and treatment happening. I’ve now been in pain for 6 months and it’s getting worse and worse as time goes on. So I need to resolve this before heading too far bush. I do now have a PLB, a solar panel and appropriate power bank so I can disappear for as many days as the food holds out.

I am heading up to Bathurst in mid-November with Nigel to see him do his race car thing again (pending COVID not screwing that up). If possible, I would really like to ride home from near there. That ride would probably be about seven days and would not require the stove, as I would be passing through towns every day or every other day to acquire food. We’ll see what the pain is like, but I’ve got a rough route idea for a ride home if that works out.

Going to see Nigel do this again in mid-November (covid-willing).

But, really, I can’t plan much until I can eat, sleep and just generally move without being in so much pain. So keep your fingers crossed the gastroscopy goes ahead on the 28th, they find something that is easily treatable, and treatment can start very quickly. I am so desperate to get out on the bike and feel like I am on holiday instead of sick leave!

Oh, I am so pissed off that I can’t be out the bike taking advantage of that!!
On high rotation at my place at the moment.

10 thoughts on “The Waiting – All about the gear

  • Ah, a new stove–now I get why you asked Chef G. for some camp recipes. Your set up looks great. In my backpacking days I used a liquid fuel stove for many of the same reasons you made that choice. Now, on bike tours, I carry the classic MSR Pocket Rocket because it’s so small and light and I can resupply with food every day and a new cannister every week. And basically, all I use it for anyway is boiling water for coffee, soups and freeze dried meals.

    I’m afraid I’d be in BIG trouble if I had such diet restrictions as you’ve got. I admire you for doing the research for healthier foods, and for your willingness to experiment with different veggies and spices. I’m sure you’ll come up with some campsite masterpieces.

    Finally, the first thing I noticed on the video you posted was the Greg Norton-like moustache on the bass player.

    • Ha! Yes, that Greg Norton moustache look-alike made the same impression on me the first time I saw a video of those guys. It’s appropriate, too, because the lead singer also fronts a punk band 🙂 I like how he brings the intensity and yelling of the punk music to his acoustic music, too.

      Yeah, you wouldn’t like the water boil times on the Trangia if you use a Pocket Rocket. For me though, I won’t bother taking the stove on trips where I come across food every couple days. I’d probably not use it very much, though I know you do the whole hot drinks thing, so it would be different for you. I’m not too sure about being able to find the cannisters over here in the tiny “towns” that only have a pub, general store and post office, but finding methylated spirits stands a better chance. So that was certainly a factor.

      And I am sure you would not be in big trouble with diet restrictions. You would just do what I’ve done. You’d just figure out what works. It sucks, but you would do it, because you want to ride and tour. Think of it like COVID. That kept you home for 18 months and not able to ride. And if being able to go ride after that time period meant you could not have certain foods, you would definitely have foregone them just because you were sick of home and wanted to tour. So it’s the same with this, except it’s my body that’s kept me home and off the road (in any meaningful way) for four years instead of a pandemic. And now that I’m getting more energy, I’ll do whatever it takes to get back out there on the road. I am absolutely certain you would do the same!

      • Thank you for your confidence in me. You’re absolutely right, I WOULD do the same.

        Also, forgot to update you on that guy I met on my tour who was walking around the world for the last six years.
        As you might expect, the dude didn’t take the most direct route home to New Jersey. No, he dropped down to Idaho and then over Lemhi Pass into Montana–a route you know well. He experienced a snowstorm.

        https://www.facebook.com/TheWorldWalk/

      • Ah, snow is quite a contrast the to the heat and smoke I saw on that pass. At least the approach on each side is protected – though the MT side does open out into open, desolate stuff. I see he went through Thompson Falls, too. He has nice clear sky pictures. When I went through there was active fire above the road just out of town and so smoky you couldn’t see anything. That’s the day I came feet away from dying. Glad he had a much better go of it!

  • I think the JetBoil has got the youngsters excited. Such a roar and boiling water in an instant. Bugger simmering and producing a meal that is more than pouring boiling water into a packet of suspect materials.

    It’s taken me a long time to appreciate the subtleties of simmering with the Trangia stove but now – well, it’s very satisfying to use it well. I am taking note of your ingredients – Sue gives the Stir Fry Shots a workout most weeks – tasty and simple. Poha I have never heard of and will look up in the supermarket.

    The 28th is getting closer. I really, really hope you don’t get hit by anything else that stuffs up “YOUR” turn. After that we really, really hope you get some answers as to what’s going on.

    Bathurst to home in November – come on Medics, make Emily well again. Bicycle touring is in her blood!! Her bicycle needs her and she needs her bicycle.

    • Thanks, Tony. Ha! I don’t think Jet Boil kid would care about the noise – he seemed like he would be camping with others… and alcohol…. But, I don’t think someone can do a PhD in Environmental Science and still use those disposable butane cannisters in good conscience! I think the guilt would overwhelm me. I am really impressed with the Trangia in that firebox set-up though – maybe it was a good thing there were no mini-Trangia sets when I was looking. Good to know Sue likes the Stir Fry shots. I will do a little more investigation on the thickeners and see if they are gluten free ones.

      I was hoping the weather would be getting warmer and nicer down there so Sue might reconsider going camping at the end of the month. But yesterday when I looked at the national radar, you could not even see Tassie for all the cloud and precip!

  • Hi Em! I have used different camping stoves over the years. I found the Trangia to be the best solution by far. Good choice! It’s uncomplicated, not sensitive to wind and stands firmly. There are a lot of recipes for one pot meals out there – it seems to be a trend these days. When I do a one-pot (at home because I like to keep it simple), I often don’t cook the pasta first and pour off the water, but cook the pasta with the veggies. Just have to experiment with how much liquid you need. But maybe that is what you meant, too. Good when you want to save fuel and water. You don’t quite get it “al dente”, but the pasta is soaking up all those good veggie flavors.

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the 28th.

    • Thanks, Suzanne! I hate soggy veggies, so I cooked the pasta most of the way before adding the veggies. But next time I think I can put the veg in sooner. Pulse pasta never does “al dente” anyway. I didn’t know how long it would take to cook, but now I know I can let the pasta cook for 4 minutes, add veggies, wait 3 minutes and all will be good!

  • Hi, Emily, and best wishes on the gatroscopy. It would be great for the medicos to identify what’s going on and how to fix it. My wife has a bit of frozen shoulder as we Americans call it and I discovered the fancier term is capsulitis, which I recall (correctly I hope) that you dealt it. That’s no fun at all.
    We got a puppy – half beagle, half horse, it seems – and took it to a puppy socialization class, where a guy a dog that was part australian something. He called the dog “Bogan.” I thought about telling him that was not a good name but decided it wasn’t my business. But really.
    Trying to get back on topic: I have an MSR stove that I bought I a moment of optimism. I have never used it so I can’t say how loud it is. I think it is the whisperlite model.
    Best of luck on the 28th.

    • Thanks, Chuck. Congratulations on the puppy! That will keep you on your toes. Yes, being called a bogan is certainly not a compliment. Bogan is a funny name but very appropriate though. If you think that “bogan” in its least offensive meaning is “unrefined”, then a socialization class is the perfect place for an unrefined dog!

      I hope my stove sees heaps of use. Never too late for you to take the MSR stove with you on a day ride to boil up some tea 🙂

      All the best to your wife. Yes, I had a frozen shoulder and that was the most excruciating pain I’ve ever been in. The pain builds slowly and then for 3-4 months you are soooo incapacitated and any movement beyond its frozen point is absolutely agonizing. No amount of physical therapy helped me. But the hydrodilation was worth every cent. It got me a lot of movement back quickly. I eventually got back about 85% of my reach. And then, the weirdest thing was that when I went off gluten because of the digestive problems it caused… my shoulder stopped hurting completely and I got almost all the rest of my movement back. That was a nice side effect. It’s now about 2 years from when it all started and I’ve got almost normal reach, can reach up behind my back but don’t have full external rotation. So all of my sympathies to your wife, it is truly an awful thing to deal with and seems like it will last forever when you are going through the frozen and painful stage.

      Hope you are staying safe there and getting out for some good fall colour leaf rides while they last.
      Emily

Leave a Reply