High Adventure Canoe Trip 4 – The Kitchen

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On our high adventure canoe trip each crew packs and cooks food for a group of five to nine Scouts. Our menu is a combination of freeze dried and grocery store food that keeps the cost reasonable while providing good nutrition and good eating.

After making adjustments to our menus and the kit we assembled to prepare it over two or three years we developed a pretty well tuned approach. Our cooking gear packs down into two basic packages – a cook box that we fondly call ‘Tidy Cats’ and a bag of cook pots.

Tidy cats? That’s right, believe it or not. Our latter-day wanigan (an old Ojibwa word for a gear chest) is a miracle of recycling. For a couple of years we used a three gallon plastic bucket to contain our cooking gear until I walked by the neighbors recycling bin one day and found a rectangular plastic container that holds kitty litter (Tidy Cats brand) and had one of those eureka moments. The size and shape of the container fits quite nicely in a portage pack and the price was right.


Tidy Cats holds

  • cup, bowl and spoon for each of crew member
  • 1 gallon plastic pitcher (the bowls and spoons are packed in the pitcher)
  • a small gas stove,
  • heavy insulated welding gloves (pot holders and working in and around the fire)
  • utensil roll,
  • dish washing kit (soap, scrubby and brush),
  • Aquamira water treatment (a back up for our water  filter),
  • matches, fire starters (cotton balls and petroleum jelly) and any other small stuff that can’t find a home elsewhere.

The tidy cats container also makes a great camp stool and water bucket.


We built our cook kit from components purchased at a restaurant supply store. Specialty pots and pans for camping are thin, a little small for larger groups and twice as expensive as commercial cookware.  We carry an eight quart aluminum stock pot (distributes heat much better than a thin-walled camping pot), a ten inch aluminum sauté pan, the medium sized aluminum pot from the familiar nested set of pots just about every Scout Troop owns and a heavy-duty aluminum pie plate that acts a lid for both the stock pot and the frying pan.

The pots nest into a drawstring pot bag that keeps them from getting soot on everything else in the pack. The frying pan travels on its own (it slips neatly into the inevitable open space on the side or front of a pack).

Our frying pan and pie tin makes a great dutch oven. We bake brownies, cakes, biscuits, and even bread by placing the frying pan in a bed of coals and putting coals on the pie tin lid.

One of the more useful things we carry is a set of 16″ Heavy Duty Utility Tongs. These are used for handling food and coals; they come in very handy.

We cook on the ingenious Littlbug wood stove that disassemble into four pieces, rides in its own pouch that gets tucked in next to the pot bag. The Littlbug fires up quickly and cooks a full meal with about ¼ the firewood you’d need for a traditional fire. It really shines in wet weather; once the stove is going damp fuel can be leaned up against it to dry. We can usually boil our stockpot in ten or fifteen minutes on the Littlbug.

Cooking over a fire is more ecologically sound than cooking over gas. A simple stove like the Littlbug burns much, much more efficiently and safely than an open fire.

We do carry a compact canister backpacking stove for really wet conditions, boiling water for coffee every morning and cooking breakfast when we want to get out of camp early. Two large canisters of fuel are usually more than enough to see us through the week but if there’s a fire ban or a lot of wet weather forecast we’ll carry a couple more.

This article is forth in a series discussing our high adventure canoe trips; part one is an overview of the trip,  part two discusses personal gear and clothing, part three describes the details of portaging.

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