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April 03, 2005

Cool gadget for making pizza, cakes, breads on the trail!

Our family does a lot of camping, and we're always on the lookout for cool gadgets and good vegetarian camp food. We recently stumbled upon a web site that offers both. How cool is that?

It all started when I saw a positive review of an Adventure Foods product in a recent issue of Backpacker magazine.

When I checked out their site, I was impressed with how many breakfast, cold prep, dinner, and dessert items Adventure Foods had to offer, many of which are vegetarian. Huevos rancheros, baked ziti, greek pasta salad with feta, blueberry pancakes, deep dish pizza...

Wait, pancakes? Pizza? On a camping trip?

Yes! Thanks to what sounds like a Ronco infomercial gadget, the BakePacker! Now, the site talks about the "heat pipe phenomenon" and it being a "self-contained heat exchanger" which may or may not be just infomercial-speak, I don't know. But when we read that we could make all this non-camp-food food in one pot with virtually no clean up, we were intrigued enough to buy one.

What the BakePacker looks like is a thick, round metal steamer (even though the makers insist that it's not a steamer) that sits inside your cook pot. The key to the no mess cooking is that the dry ingredients, spices, and water are mixed in a plastic bag (they recommend Reynolds oven bags or Glad freezer bags) which sits on top of the metal grid. You put some water in the bottom of the pot, loosely roll up the food bag, and let it cook on a medium boil. The food "bakes" inside the bag, and you have a flat platform, so you can bake breads, pizza dough, and biscuits, but also cook fish, rice - loads of stuff.

We gave it a try today just to see how it performs before we take it on a trip with us. The BakePacker comes with a small collection of recipes, but there are many pre-mixed foods at Adventure Foods that are especially for the BakePacker or have cooking instructions for the BakePacker as well as a convention pot. We tried Adventure Foods Mac & Cheese, and it was quite good! It really turned out like baked mac & cheese, although without the crispy crust - can't have everything. But no pot to clean! The portions were very large, no wimpy servings here! Most entrees come in 2-person or 4-person sizes. Our 2-person size yielded two huge plates of mac & cheese (more than we could eat for lunch).

Of course, mac & cheese wasn't really a test of this thing's capabilities, like pizza or chocolate cake would be, but I'm just getting used to the idea that we may be able to have those things on a camping trip, so I was setting the bar at a familiar level.

Some caveats to note. The cooking time is longer than regular camp food. Foods take about 15 minutes in the BakePacker, or a little longer for breads and cakes. The Adventure Foods packaging is a bit larger and somewhat more bulky than average camp food packaging. But a lot of this is due to the larger serving sizes and the fact that the noodles (or rice, etc.) is in a separate bag than the spices, dehydrated veggies, and what not. They get mixed together with the water right before cooking. This also means you've got a bit more trash to pack out, too. But a nice touch is that the noodles come in a BakePacker-ready bag, so you don't have to transfer or bring extra cooking bags.

All-in-all, I thought the BakePacker was a success and I'm looking forward to good food on our next outing!

Posted by rigd0003 at April 3, 2005 07:19 PM | Hiking n' Camping



Posted by: Cheryl Rigdon at April 3, 2005 09:51 PM

This thing looks cool! A few years ago I bought a new tent and camping cooking gadgets (including a nifty Whisperlite stove I had always wanted since my camp counselor days), thinking I would do a lot of camping. These items have yet to be used! Hopefully this will be the summer my new husband and I try them out!

Posted by: Jen at April 6, 2005 09:57 AM

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