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SPAM SPAM SPAM

It’s summer time, you’re ready for the beach, no doubt you’ve packed your sandals, T-shirt, shorts, beach ball and a cool bag for snacks. That’s what we did, expect all of our’s were branded by SPAM. I’m not joking.

Our choice of beach accessories isn’t however driven by hipster irony but by SPAM’s marketing department who are attempting to break into the camping market. Historically, this isn’t such as bad idea given that SPAM was the main staple for millions of allied troops in the second world war who were given it as part of their ration packs. Russia’s Nikita Kruschev once said that “Without SPAM, we wouldn’t have been able to feed the army”.

For camper and soldier alike, SPAM at least on paper, has a number of benefits; it’s hermetically sealed, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, it’s versatile and it contains lots of protein, all perfect for long car trips or post nuclear survival.

Despite all this, SPAM, which is apparently derived from “shoulder of pork and ham” has been the punchline of many jokes across the years from Monty Python to VIZ. It’s easy to see why too, in SPAM’s “SPAM : The Cook Book”, there are twenty pages of SPAM facts and propaganda before you reach the actual recipes. Perhaps my favourite is the SPAM caesar salad. It’s a chicken caesar salad but with SPAM instead of chicken. Other recipes include saffron, sherry and Gruyere. Presumably if you’re spending money on “the most expensive spice in the world”, then perhaps there are better meat accompaniments than SPAM. It’s hard to decide whether this is tongue in cheek or not. The author, Marguerite Patten is either a comedy genius or in need of urgent mental health treatment.

Regardless, at Outdoor Enthusiasts, we don’t judge, we test. Then judge, actually. So without further ado here are the results of eating a week of SPAMtastic (not my words) recipe ideas :

Deep SPAM pizza : It’s a pizza, with SPAM. Apparently variations include mushrooms or green pepper slices with more SPAM. We however went for the traditional deep SPAM, with, you guessed it, cheese and SPAM. The page also tells us that the ladies who were employed to sing SPAM songs, were known as the SPAMMETTES. Just don’t look that up in the VIZ profanisaurus for goodness sake.

SPAM Pate : Actually, this one is pretty good and I can see it being used on a camping trip. Very few ingredients though presumably most campers will be leaving out the sherry. It’s easy to knock up after a hard day’s walking and tastes much better than you might think.

Pennywise Paella : Another sensible suggestion actually. To make this, all you need is the SPAM and a bit of rice plus whatever veg you can lay your hands on. Perfect for multi day trips away from shops. This page tells me that saffron is the most expensive spice in the words and comes from the crocus. Unlike SPAM which is the cheapest meat in the world and comes from pigs shoulders. Not eyelids where I originally thought. Credit where credit is due.

Pork Stir Fry: After a nearly a week of eating SPAM based camping foods I have almost totally overcome my aversion to the “meat”. Again, SPAM stir fry is another sensible camp meal that could use dried noodles, a packet sauce and of course the trusty SPAM.

Hawaiian Pork : Apparently, the Hawaiians are keener on SPAM than any other nation. There are no statistics to back this up but there you have it. The stir fry is like a vegetable stir fry, but with SPAM.

OK, It was a working week of SPAM based meals. Five days of SPAM based nutrition is enough for any body, it’s not 1948 after all. On balance, the SPAM products are good for multi day hikes where shops aren’t available, but then, so are RTE meals, which are often tastier and lighter, if not more expensive. For the budget hiker SPAM is a sensible staple which will not spoil in a ruck sack and not take up too much room, but as a dinner table ingredient?

Perhaps that’s just down to personal taste, but I personally, will be changing the settings on my SPAM filter.

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Cooking Equipment for Backpacking

photograph of a hand holding a titanium spork
Image via Wikipedia

We had an email recently from a reader about taking cooking equipment for backpacking in Europe. After a little research here are some tips and ideas.

Lightweight

Lightweight equipment is key, plastic plates and cups help, including foldable ones such as Orikaso Solo Set. Take a small burner that runs off liquid or gas, take a spork which is a spoon and a fork all in one. For a sharp knife use a pen knife, you should have one if your kit already.

Durable

Your bag will take some bashing, from dropping on the floor after a long walk, being thrown about by baggage handlers so your equipment needs to be tough to take the punishment. Packing items in clothes and towels can help to protect but if your equipment is tough you need to worry where it’s placed in your backpack. There’s a middle ground between weight and toughness, often the lighter the product the more likely it is to break. A happy medium seems to be titanium plates, sforks and pans, which maintain toughness but won’t weigh you down.

Washing

You’ll need to wash your kit, take a small bottle of washing up liquid (check out the ecover washing up liquid) and some sort of sloth / scrubbing brush. If your outside they should dry off quickly so no need for a tea towel.

Do you really need it?

If your planning on staying in hostels many have cooking facilities for you to use. Research on the internet or call ahead to work out what they have. There’s nothing worse than carrying a piece of kit and not using it at all.

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Newly designed Polar Bottles have better “squeezability”

Product Architects has modified the design of its patented Polar Bottles so that they are lighter, brighter and easier to squeeze.

The Polar Bottles feature an insulating layer between two walls of plastic. This construction is key to providing the bottles with the ability to keep liquids cooler for longer. Indeed, the bottles are said to be able to to keep liquids cool twice as long as regular water bottles.

As part of the modification process, the company made changes to the bottle’s grip shape and thinned the two walls so that the inner plastic layer is now 13% thinner and the outer layer is reduced by 15%. These changes, the company claims, make the bottles easier to grab and squeeze – an important feature for people navigating the road or trail and wanting to reach for a quick sip.

Production of the older and thicker design has now been discontinued.

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Download a free backcountry cookbook by Mountain Hardwear

For those looking to try out some new culinary delights on the trails, Mountain Hardwear has created their own backcountry cookbook which contains recipes compiled by athletes and staff from Mountain Hardwear.

The cookbook contains some unique recipes for outdoor enthusiasts to try out on the trails, including the Rock-Daddy’s Backpack Dinner for 2, the Backcountry Hash Brown Casserole and Grease Bombs.

However, the best part of the cookbook is that it is completely free! All you have to do is go to the Mountain Hardwear website and download and print a copy of the backcountry cookbook.

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Ecover Washing-Up Liquid

Following on from the Outdoors Show we’ve still got some products to review and the next is the Ecover Washing-Up Liquid. We grabbed two sample bottles to have a look later on and we’ve been pleasantly surprised.  As per the name, Ecover Washing-Up Liquid is a eco friendly product which allows you to wash up in the wild without having to worry about the waste.

Ecover Washing-Up Liquid

The product is made from plant ingredients to give it’s smell, it’s kind to your skin and leaves behind not chemicals. What is left behind is biodegradability, this means it doesn’t affect any plant life and also can be used to clean a septic tank. I’m guessing it would be also great for cleaning out fish tanks.

The eco friendliness then continues in the bottle, made out of polyethylene; cap of polypropylene and polyethylene both are 100% recyclable. Larger bottlers are great for the home but we’ll felt these little sample bottles of 100ml were great for a short camping trip.

As well as washing up liquid Ecover also make cleaners, car wash liquid, shower gel etc … all eco friendly.  Head over to the great ecover section at ethical superstore for more information and to buy.

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BioLite Stove – A New Way to Cook

The BioLite Stove is a really cool new invention giving you another option to cook your food while camping. The main unique selling point is the stove requires no gas or liquid fuel, you burn twigs, leaves and anything you find on your travels.

The stove is supported by an electrical fan which adds oxygen to the fire, that fan is powered by the heat generated. A few leaves and a starting block can help to get fire going and thus the fan heating. You can then change the amount of oxygen being supplied to the fire to turn up and down the heat.

Other benefits of this stove include the ability to take the stove on a plane as their is no gas, feet to stand the stove up securely and the ability to fold up the stove up for easy storage.

Currently the stove is in testing status with a patent pending, it could be in the shops this spring / summer. More details about the BioLite Stove including a great little video over at biolitestove.com. We’ll be keeping our eyes out for a release date and would love to get out hands on a unit to test!

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3 popular water filtration bottles

One of the most important things to remember when you’re on an outdoor adventure is that you must keep yourself hydrated, especially when trekking in hotter climates. In order to do this, you must have access to safe drinking water. If you are hiking up mountains or trekking through the jungle, there is no guarantee that you will have access to safe drinking water. You could consider carrying a hydration pack which can contain a significant amount of water but this can be heavy and become a burden on your back.

Another option is to take a water filtration bottle. These bottles are able to filter dirty water so that it is safe to drink. It also means that you don’t have to carry so much water with you relieving you from additional weight. There are a variety of water filtration bottles on the market and they are priced from around £30 to £120. We’ve compiled three of the most popular water filtration bottles.

1. Lifesaver bottle – The Lifesaver bottle claims to be the world’s first all in one ultra filtration water bottle. One of the more expensive water filtration bottles retailing at around £116, it removes bacteria, viruses, cysts, parasites, fungi and all other water-borne pathogens making the water safe to drink. Furthermore, it does not use any chemical treatment. To filter water, all you do is pour the contaminated water into the bottle, pump and then drink. It has a capacity for 750 ml and has a service life of 4,000 litres.

2. Aquapure Traveller – The Aquapure Traveller is a great value water filtration bottle retailing at around £30. It is able to produce safe drinking water from taps, stand pipes, rivers and mountain streams worldwide by removing pathogens, chemicals, heavy metals, faecal matter, and bad tastes and odours. All you have to do is fill the bottle with contaminated water, shake it, and after 15 mins, the water should be safe enough to drink. The bottle is capable of filtering 350 litres of contaminated water.

You can get the Aquapure Traveller from Ethical Supper Store.

3. Travel Tap – Retailing at around £35, the Travel Tap also a great value water filtration bottle. It has a replaceable maintainable purification filter cartridge which can filter up to 1600 litres of contaminated water. Weighing just 152g (an empty bottle), it is ideal for trekkers, hikers, backpackers, or even families going on holiday where there are dubious water supplies. The Travel Tap has a capacity of 650 ml.

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BioLite: an electricity generating camping stove

Originally developed for use in the developing world, BioLite is a portable low emission, wood burning cooking stove which converts heat from the fire into electricity to power small gadgets. Its dual function is perfect for campers and hikers who can’t bear to be apart from their beloved gadgets. On a more practical level, it is ideal for longer camping trips or for travellers going to remote areas around the world.

The stove can be fired up by burning biomass fuels such as wood and pine cones which should be available in abundance in camping areas. A thermoelectric generator is activated by the excess heat generated from the fire which spins a fan which provides oxygen to keep the fire going. It is also key to generating electricity. No petroleum or batteries are required saving you some space in your backpack as you won’t need to carry fuel around but, more importantly, the stove offers an eco-friendly way of cooking outdoors. The electricity generated can be stored and gadgets can be plugged into a USB port in the side of the unit to power them up.

The stove is said to be able to boil a pan of water faster than traditional camping stoves. According to BioLite, the stove cuts wood consumption in half, reduces smoke emissions by 95% and nearly eliminates black carbon.

As well as being efficient, the stove is light in weight, at just 10 ounces, making it perfect for backpackers.

The stove is expected to launch in the US and will retail around $80.

A demonstration of how the BioLite stove works can be seen in the video below.

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Look What We Found – Food Packets

look what we foundAt the 2010 Outdoors Show one of the stalls with lots of attention was the Look What We Found stall. It was a small stand but every time I passed was packed with people taking samples. Look What We Found make cooked food in packed, not like super noodles or quick pasta but really hearty food.

So why promote at the Outdoors Show? The packets require no refrigeration which means they keep in your bag for days. There a 12 month shelf life from the day the food is made, so if your on a long trip you’ll be able to take plenty of packs.

The food is contained in a foil bag which means it’s clean and quick to open, no need for a can opener. To cook you can boil the bag or place the contents into a pan to cook. This means your cutting down carrying a can opener and time to prepare. The content is pre-cooked already so all you’re doing is warming up and no need to worry about eating uncooked meat.

In total there are 35 options, which include full means, soups and sauces. Full meals include:

  • Fellside Beef Chilli Con Carne
  • Fellside Beef Casserole
  • Herdwick Mutton Stew
  • Traditional Pork & Herb Sausage Casserole

There are also smaller snack pots with the same flavors.

What really impressed me was the wide range of uses, there is camping but also having as a meal at work, at night, for students, for people unable to cook. We were lucky enough to sample the pork and herb sausage casserole which was delicious.

Prices range from £1.99 t0 £2.99. There’s discount for buying in large quantities. I would fully suggest buying one pack to sample then going back for more.

For more information head over to www.lookwhatwefound.co.uk

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Knork: a knife and fork in one

The knork is part of the hybrid cutlery family and has the capabilities of both a knife and fork in a single utensil. It is perfect for taking on a camping trip as it saves you from carrying both a knife and fork but,more importantly, it saves you washing up extra cutlery! Also, it leaves you with a spare hand.

The knork is not as well  known as the spork (a spoon and fork in one) but Chicago Town has just launched a nationwide campaign offering a free knork when you purchase its pizzas.

Here’s a video of someone demonstrating how to use a knork to eat a Chicago Town pizza.