Rational Preparedness

How Camping Helped me Learn to Prep

Camping is a great way to learn about prepping by taking yourself out of the comfort of your home.  It gets you buying things, you would not otherwise buy and trying things you would not otherwise try.  Dissatisfied with some, you start to think of new things to try, to get better results.

Dutch Oven FoodI bought dutch ovens for camping and preparedness.  I like using them but I have learned that they are fuel intensive.  They also take a bit of work to use.  You have to spend time and fuel getting a coal bed suitable for cooking with a Dutch oven.  This means lighting a fire, then letting the fire burn down to coals and having small logs ready to add, when the coals get too low.   That means splitting small wood.  Be careful for it to not get too hot.   All this means babysitting the process for at least an hour, for each meal, just to get started on cooking.  The entire process could take several hours, if preparing a large piece of meat.  It could be much faster if just warming up canned foods.

I’ve gone camping without them, the last couple of times, because I just didn’t want to bother.  All that said, I’m glad to have the dutch ovens and would want to use them in a grid down scenario.  They would just not be the go to item to use with every meal.  I can prepare food to die for in them, that in a grid down, could be prepared no other way.  

I pulled up this Amazon link, to show you the Dutch oven in the picture and I’m laughing at the giant fire, the photographers have the oven sitting in, in one of the pictures, with some random charcoal briquettes on the top.  Don’t do that.  A fire that size is enough to turn your food into charcoal briquettes.  It’s actually bad marketing, in my opinion.  This is because people, who don’t know any better, might do what the picture shows and then decide they don’t like cooking over fires.  If you want to have a fire that size, you’d want to keep the dutch oven at least 4 if not 6 feet away from it.  Then pull coals from it to put under and/or on the oven.

Besides the funny picture, you can see size options.  I have a couple different sizes and matching fry pans, that I can use the lids on.  I’ve made bread in the fry pans, with the lids.  That was whole other trial and error process, that I experimented with, while camping.  First I made the bread in my oven, at home, then duplicated the process with charcoal, while camping.  I used the pans, instead of ovens because I read that the deep ovens don’t get hot enough on top to brown bread, when heating with charcoal.  They are better for moist cooking like a pot roast, or for things tall enough to use the extra space.

CandleLamp StoveI have a Butane stove.  I love it.  I’ve had it for years and it works great.   Lately I’m using it in the house, (it’s in indoor type stove) because a burner is out on my main stove.  You flick it on and it’s hot, in less than a second.  I also love that the fuel is self contained with no floppy bottles attached outside of it.  It’s my go-to way to get cooking heat when camping.  What I’ve learned though, is that the fuel supply for it is limited.  Unless I want to stockpile cans of butane, the stove would not last long in a grid down scenario.  I get about 16 hours of cooking out of a 4 pack of cans, which cost me just under $10 last time.  (I think they were way cheaper the time before).  I bought the stove at GFS but GFS does not have an online store to link to.  Here is an amazon link to a similar stove.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about buying a rocket stove.  I’ve long heard of rocket stoves.  I even attended an event, where a brick stove was built and demonstrated for children.  I’ve thought that having one would be nice.  It was on my list of things to think about, at some point.  A friend bought one, this winter.  So there it was again.  Given my other two methods of grid down cooking, the rocket stove has always been in the background but now I’m thinking more strongly about it.

What has me thinking about the rocket stove, is my last camping trip.  I was getting ready to go, and I noticed, I was down to one can of butane in the stove and one in reserve.  We were only camping for two days, so it should have been enough, and it was.  I had two dinners and two breakfasts to cook on the stove.  Then someone asked to borrow the stove.  I said yes, but I found myself explaining that I needed to make sure the fuel last the weekend, so that he would be mindful of it–which he was.

So, there I was, in the woods, thinking about running out of fuel.  I didn’t run out of fuel.  I was able to cook breakfast the next day and there was enough fuel for several uses, at home, even.  Yet, with this experience, I became mindful that I was not even prepared for a several day power outage, in my neighborhood, should a storm blow in.  I have an electric stove, that goes down with the power.  I bought more fuel but I’m still thinking I need something better.  I need something, I can use outside my condo and a dutch oven, is not it.  Granted, one time, I did use my dutch oven, with charcoal, out side my condo but storing charcoal is worse than storing butane.Dutch Oven Cooking

That reminds me, using my dutch oven, with charcoal, outside my condo, was also a learning experience.  I bought one of those large aluminum sheet pans from GFS, put charcoal on it and lit it.  It turns out that one of those pans will warp severely, when a pile of charcoal is burning on it.   I should have thought of this beforehand, but I didn’t.  Only experience taught me this. People don’t think of everything, even when it should be obvious.  It got the job done though and when the pile was knocked down, and the oven placed there, it went flat again.  I just don’t think that’s an ideal way to do it.  It did keep my driveway clean though.  Perhaps just having a different place to light the coals, would be good.

So the small lesson here is that I learned that my two methods of cooking in a grid down situation are not adequate.  I learned that I need to purchase a rocket stove.  I’m sure doing that will be a whole learning experience too.  I learned something more important than this though.  I leaned about the importance of practicing your preps, so that you can learn from it.  It’s been many camping trips before I figured this out.  I used the dutch ovens, many times.  It wasn’t until I got to feeling lazy that I realize the fuel and time intensity problem with Dutch Ovens.  I’m still glad I have them and the pans though.  They are far better for some things, like making bread.

I did an Amazon Search for “Rocket Stove.”  I can see that choosing a stove, is going to be an exercise in itself.  There are so many to pick from and prices range wildly.  There are tiny backpacking ones, giant ones with multiple burners.  Some come with Grilling attachments and some come with electronics for running an internal fan and charging your cell phone.  There is much to learn here.  This is something I’d like to explore, in the coming months.


  1. Lousander

    A Weber 14″ Smokey Joe bbq grill should solve your problem of having a spot for the Dutch Oven. Unless you stack the coals or raise the bottom grating, the coals won’t be touching the bottom of the pot. With one of these grills, you wouldn’t be restricted to charcoal either. You could use small pieces of wood too. And of course… it’s a grill!

    1. Joe (Post author)

      I looked that one up. I’ surprised at how inexpensive it is. Usually I hear Webber and fell a pain in my wallet area. That would make it possible to have tiny wood fires at my condo, without freaking out the neighbors. If I bought the one with the charcoal starter, I could put the wood in there, to get it started


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