Wow that previous camping post has gone gangbusters! 😳 Apparently there are some avid campers out there.
With that in mind, I thought I’d do a short post on all the gear we usually take, because y’all know I love inventory lists. 😂 No joke I do write a handwritten list of items to take, and then review them upon return to see what was good/bad about each item. Is it a bit overkill? Probably- but it also means we optimise our gear each time for the season. Also it’s probably just a residual habit from my Ph. D days. Always be optimising.
The tent setup
The tent we use is a Sibley 300 ProTech– it’s perfect for us in terms of size. It fits two sleeping mats comfortably, and has room for our woodstove and other miscellaneous items depending on what we’re doing (e.g. cooking stuff while I’m preparing meals, backpacks full of clothing while we get ready for bed or are getting up). It’s 100% cotton canvas, so it’s relatively safe to have a woodstove burning inside. We like this one in particular because there’s no centre pole that gets in the way. Also the floor is much more heavy duty than the other canvas tents available in the range, so it’s just nice to know it won’t easily get cut up.
We also made some additional short guy poles to prop the guy lines up and pull the tent more taut. You can purchase these online from any camping shop, but given my partner’s handiness, he just made some out of garden stakes. 😂 He just cut one in half, screwed a long, hex head bolt to the half with the now blunt end for added pointiness, and cut a notch on the opposing end to fit the guy rope in. Very clever. Given most bushcrafting videos just use branches with notches cut into them, this is our attempt to make more durable ones.
This is also 100% canvas. In hindsight the dimensions are probably not that useful (3 m x 3 m)- it’s better to have something a little more rectangular in size. (e.g. 4 m x 2 m). It still does the job though. We just purchased three, adjustable tent poles and some rope to use as guy lines, and we’re also tossing up with the idea of cutting and re-stitching the awning so that it’s 1.5 m x 3 m instead. Given how wet and windy the winters can be in Victoria, it’s nice to have an undercover area where we can take our shoes off, or keep our firewood and esky dry.
If you’re going to poke a chimney/flue out of your tent, you most certainly need a stove jack to attach to your tent. We have a 45 degree angled one that has so far proven to be very good (no burnt canvas yet!). There are handy videos online on how to attach one to your tent, but essentially you have to pick the spot your tent will sit at, align the flue, mark the spot where the flue will exit the tent, then cut the canvas just enough for the jack to fit. Definitely watch a video a few times before you attempt it, although there are some places that actually sell tent and stove bundles, and they attach the jack for you.
There is no joy in winter camping without this stove. It keeps us warm (most times too warm), heats our water for cuppas, and helps me cook.
This stove in particular is a Winnerwell Nomad ‘View’ Stove (medium size). I like the flattened, rectangular shape (more room for fuel and large surface area for cooking) and the viewing window on the side. The legs can also be folded up for easier transport, and it’s super sturdy.
The only downside is that the panels do warp- so with ours the lid on the stove itself has small gaps that have opened up, which can be an issue when you’re first starting up your fire and there’s small amounts of smoke that fill the tent.
There’s a whole array of attachments for this stove (oven, fan, smoker, kettle), but we’re quite happy with just the kettle attachment– for now.
For safety we always put down 100% wool offcuts on the floor first (there’s a wool mill nearby so we just buy cheap offcuts there), followed by a cement sheet. That way when embers do fall out, it’s not going to melt anything too quickly (or at all). We also have a fire extinguisher and carbon monoxide monitor, too- just in case.
Now I’m not 100% sure what my partner has, because he purchased his sleeping bag in 2014 when he went to Everest (it’s Blackwolf branded, though), and his sleeping mat was a gift from a number of years back.
My sleeping mat is a Zempire Monstamat, which I can confidently say is the most comfortable sleeping mat I have ever slept on. I generally hate camping mats, but this thing has been amazing. I actually woke up once, thinking I was at home on our super expensive mattress, only to realise I was sleeping on this. Highly recommended if you generally hate the flat sleeping mats you typically see in use. It also has a valve system so you don’t have to wrestle with it too hard when you’re trying to roll it up after use- the air won’t leak out if you let go.
Previously I used a Darche Cold Mountain sleeping bag, but I realised that the size I purchased was way, way too big for me, so I’ve given this away. There was nothing wrong with the bag itself (super warm and comfy), but it was just a gigantic sleeping bag, and it took up too much space in the tent. It was also way too warm to use in our hot tent, so I’m currently tossing up between whether to get a smaller sleeping bag of the same series, or do something else.
In the mean time, I’ve resorted to using a sleeping bag liner paired with a cheap blanket, followed by some 100% wool offcut blankets that are leftover from what we use to line the tent floor with. I generally run hot, so I just cover my legs and feet with the wool blanket and I’m good to go.
Other things that we take with us that bring joy include:
- Our storm lantern, which was a birthday gift to my partner from me (and an unexpected hit)
- My LED lantern for emergencies and/or general use
- Our cookware, which includes a 5L and 3L pot, plus a frying pan
- A large gridle/hot plate for cooking steaks at high temperature
- Our Trangia gear, which- while we’ve not had to use yet, it’s nice to have in case weather is too bad for a big fire outside. I’m not 100% sure what my partner has (I know it’s one of their cooker sets), but I recently discovered this new world of Trangia mess tin rice cooking, so I’ve bought a large mess tin for this purpose
- We also have a portable butane gas stove that my partner bought years ago
That’s about it for the main camping gear we take. We’ve had queries in the past about what they are, so hopefully this post helps track items down (see embedded links).
Also see below about my Trangia rice cooking adventure. 😂
Cooking rice using a Trangia mess tin
I’m very fussy about my rice- namely, the texture of it. I really don’t like it gluggy or sloppy.
Because of this, we’ve been resorting to eating breads, potatoes and pasta while away camping, because I couldn’t confidently ensure nicely cooked rice if I were to say, do steak and rice, or curry and rice.
But then I was reading a hiking/camping Manga (‘Yama to shokuyoku to watashi/The mountain and appetite and me’ by Hideo Shinanogawa), and saw the main character cooking rice in…
A Trangia mess tin.
And my mind was blown. 🤯 Because it looked super easy.
So I went investigating on YouTube, and found many, many videos that showcased how to cook rice in a mess tin. Again, it looked really easy, and seemed to result in consistently good cooked rice, so I had to give it a go.
Apparently a large Trangia mess tin will cook 3.5 cups of rice max. As a trial I cooked 2 rice cups worth of short grain rice (360 ml), because that would be plenty for two people.
First step is to wash your rice. Always wash your white rice before cooking, because this process removes excess starch. I just used a large bowl, but if I were to be outdoors I’d just use one of my cooking pots.
Second step is to line the tin with a non-stick baking sheet, so that the clean up process is easier. There’s a super fancy way of folding the paper so that it’s neat and tidy, but after attempting to cut, fold, and fit it into place, and failing over and over again (mostly due to impatience 🤣), I gave up and just folded it like the photo below.
Once the tin is lined, you can add your washed rice.
And then add your water. If you’re cooking 360 ml of rice, then you simply fill the tin with water until you’re just about 3/4 way up the two circular screw heads that hold the handle in place (yellow line in photo below). I think if you’re not using the baking sheet, you can go 1/2 way up, but because I’m using the sheet, I accounted for that slight displacement by adding a touch more water.
Once you’ve added the water, set a timer for 30 minutes to pre-soak the rice. This is really important as it ensures you don’t have partially cooked rice as an end product. Just go off and do something else for half an hour, then come back. You’ll notice that the rice is now cloudy white as opposed to somewhat transluscent.
After the pre-soak, chuck a lid on the tin, and then put it on a medium sized burner on low-medium heat, just to get the water simmering.
Once you can hear some bubbling, or see small amounts of steam escape the tin, turn the flame right back to low. This took about 7 minutes for me.
Now, supposedly you can hear little ‘crackles’ once the rice is ready to be taken off the flame, but I couldn’t hear it. 😂 After I turned it onto low flame, I waited until the amount of steam coming out of the lid was significantly lower (i.e. there was no excess water being evaporated anymore)- this took about 10 minutes.
After that you simply need to wrap the tin in some towel (I double wrapped it because the outer towel was too thin) and flip the tin so that it’s resting on the lid…
And then wait 10 minutes for the rice to steam (this is really important so that you can get nice and fluffy rice)…
And you get cooked rice!
Cooked ‘fluffy’ rice, even.
Obviously you can adjust the water to suit the rice consistency you like, but I was pretty happy with the above. And it tasted great, too. Given I’m using a $100+ rice cooker at home, it was really surprising to get rice that tasted great from what’s essentially an aluminium tin.
Highly recommended method to cook rice, if you want to give it a go. I’m looking forward to trying this out outdoors, once lockdown is lifted.
A Ph. D graduate in Microbiology, residing in Victoria, Australia. Currently working in multiple locations but still in the STEM field. 👀 🦠 🧫 🧬