“No soldier can fight,” the Duke of Marlborough once said, “unless he is properly fed on beef and beer.” Many four-wheelers will raise a toast to that statement. All chuckles aside, the point is well made: You can’t have a successful venture on an empty stomach.
A typical weekend camper probably doesn’t give much thought to food storage and preparation. Load up a propane stove or a charcoal grill, throw some grub in a cooler and canned goods in a box, and away you go. That process works well for most camping, especially in developed sites.
It’s a whole new world off-road, however. Experienced four-wheelers know they must prepare well for the trip. A fully functioning kitchen is a must. Without one, the trip could be a bust, regardless of the scenery and the climate.
The foundation of your kitchen is the camp box. Sometimes called a chuck box, the camp box contains many of the tools and non-perishable food items you’ll need. Compact and rugged, it fits neatly into your vehicle and withstands the rigors of off-road driving. When opened up, it offers just about everything you need to get started on your next meal. A camp box turns an ordinary vehicle in to a meals on wheels.
My camp box is as essential to my off-road driving as the spare tire. I purchased mine, but you can build your own. A quick internet search brings up links to numerous Web sites offering plans, including this one which offers a workbook for sale. http://www.blueskykitchen.com/Grubby_One.html
Pelican Box Many folks use Pelican™ cases for camp boxes. Check out their large selection at www.pelican.com.
Regardless of whether you build or buy, make sure your box offers a sturdy flat work surface. On some models you can use the top. Others have a pull out shelf. Still others allow you to flip the box on its side and use the door as a work surface.
Keep in mind that your camp box isn’t just for camping. If you’re every forced to evacuate, your camp box will become a very important survival tool.
What’s in a camp box?
A camp box is as unique as its user. Still, certain essentials are found in nearly all. Those include pots and pans, plates and silverware, cups or glasses, large knives and spoons, matches or a lighter, and even a corkscrew. Add in some non-perishable food items such as coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cooking oil, flour, salt and pepper. Make sure they’re in small packages or containers. Use a separate box for larger quantities.
As you can see in the accompanying photo, my camp box has a wide assortment of stuff in it. This assortment has worked well for me. Over time, you will find the right combination for your needs.
No need to get fancy with the dishes. In fact, many people use hand-me-downs or goodies they found at garage sales. You’re going off-road, for crying out loud. Do you really want to pack your best stuff?
How many pieces of each you need depends on the size of your family and amount of space. Many people pack for a group of four. Take a few moments to calculate your needs. You can always revise that later.
Next is a box of dry goods, condiments and related staples. These include paper towels or napkins, tin foil, cereal, and bulk quantities of various items in your camp box. Toss in a can or two of soup, tuna fish, and beef broth (if you like making soup). You may also want to include a roll of toilet paper and some handy wipes.
This box can be left in your garage. When needed, just toss it into your vehicle. Incidentally, I recommend you mark your cans with a purchase date, and rotate them every 12 months or so if not used. Canned goods actually last for years, but it’s a good idea to keep your stock relatively current. Opened boxes of cereal, crackers, and other dry food should be replaced. Bugs and critters will be in hog heaven at your expense.
A Pelican organizer for the lid is helpful. The final container includes your perishable food items. These, naturally, stay in your refrigerator or freezer until just before departure. Pack your cooler with sufficient ice or freezer packs to last for several hours. Plan your trip so that you can get new ice on occasion.
An unintended flare up or cooking fire is always a possibility, so when preparing for a trip, remember to inspect your fire extinguisher. Is it still properly charged? Any cracked or broken parts? For more on carrying for and using a fire extinguisher, see Store And Use Your Fire Extinguisher Properly
A properly designed camp box puts a small kitchen right at your fingertips wherever you are. The meal you prepare is so much more satisfying when you’re able to set up your camp kitchen quickly and effortlessly. If you don’t already have one, I suggest you add a camp box to your “honey-do” list.