• methylated spirits
    methylated spirits

Nicki Thomas learns the hard way about storing fuel for camp stoves.

“Many years ago, our family of four embarked on our very first multi-day hike. We had just been dropped by boat in the humid mangrove creeks of Hinchinbrook Island in north Queensland to follow the five-day Thorsborne Trail.

Our backpacks weighed a ton – at this fledgling stage in our hiking careers we hadn’t heard of Backcountry meals or dehydrated dinners so we each shared a range of potatoes, carrots, onions, apples, and even a chopping board.

Four people, five nights, our buckled knees suffered under the sheer enormity of food carried, and that was in the first minute leaving the boat ramp.

We also carried our trusty Trangia stove and two bottles of methylated spirits, hastily decanted into plastic water bottles to fit into our backpack side pockets.

After the first day’s hike we arrived with some relief into Nina Bay campsite. Dad and elder daughter began organising the tent and sleeping bags, whilst myself and younger daughter unloaded the kitchen supplies – a mighty task.

Vegetables duly chopped (yes, we did need that chopping board after all) and Trangia stove lit I added water to the vegetables, and with an instant KAPOWWWW! the pan sent a wall of flames shooting skyward like a circus flamethrower stunt. So, dear reader, you were right about the dodgy stove fuel storage plan.

After a good weep of relief that the only casualty was dinner, and not being partial to meths infused charcoal vegetables, we ate our emergency supplies and late in to the starry night came up with multiple means to organise dinner in the wilderness – in other words, a complete camp kitchen overhaul.

Fast forward to 2020 and I now plan hiking meals weeks in advance. I cook meals at home then dehydrate them. I buy soup sachets and add dehydrated mushrooms for a tasty post-hike treat. I prepare hearty trail mix, varied tubs of tea leaves and add spices to almost everything to add interest at the end of a hard day’s hiking.

I have discovered powdered coconut milk which makes porridge and hot choc taste creamy and rich. I bake dense cookies for energy. I enjoy organising my labelled, dated, zip lock bags ready to be packed. And when I’ve run out of cooking ideas Backcountry backs me up.

So, “What’s for dinner?” now might look like Spicy Tomato Bolognese with Italian herbs, and sweet potato mash (dehydrated it looks like orange crispy wafers, and fluffs up a treat by adding water) followed by cinnamon spiced hot coconut chocolate. Yum. Best of all, no chopping board, no buckled knees and no flame-throwing stunts!”

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