What a Year on the Road Looks Like
So I have been using and improving the Budget Overland Kitchen for just about a year now and there are some things that I would like to report and observations that I would like to share with you monkeys.
First off, let me say that all in all that I have been very pleased with the overall concept and the pack ability of the Front Runner Box. It really got tested. The kitchen has cooked food for up to 30 people without any issue. To give you an idea of its year, the kitchen has been to the LTWK Pouting, Overland Expo West, Overland Expo East, Mid-Atlantic Overland Festival, PWYP, and several smaller local camping trips.
So, yay Mike! You can read my original article here if you are unfamiliar with it or just need a refresher: http://dev.woodsmonkey.com/budget-overland-kitchen
Ok now let’s talk about the observations and issues that have come to light. The first thing is that I was very hard on this bit of kit. Harder than I was comfortable with to see where it would fail. It received no maintenance outside of when I was out in the field. How it was packed when I got home is how it stayed until I went out again. If it was wet, so be it. The case stayed latched until I needed to get into it.
So first off, I chose cast iron cookware for a few reasons but as many of you know you need to maintain it for the best results. I have a lot of surface dust on the griddle and skillet. I would scrape it with the GSI scraper and heat and oil it before each use. It got no post use oil, which normally I would do. If you are lazy go with a different griddle and skillet. I would suggest the Pinnacle Skillet and Bugaboo griddle from GSI outdoors.
Second, when cooking for more than four people it was easier to use paper plates and have everyone bring their own eating tools than trying to rotate troughs the GSI plates and washing them. The plates did work quite well, even holding large rock cooked steaks and risotto. They survived having bush knives and sporks dragged across the eating surface and getting carried around by dogs. The cups and bowls did yeoman’s work as well. Hot or cold didn’t affect them at all.
Finally, the GSI cooking tools were my biggest fear when building the kit. How in the world would folding utensils hold up to the heat of campfire cooking and cast iron? Well you can definitely see some wear but they held strong and continue to work better than advertised.
The shakers in the cooking kit were a great size for a weeklong trip. However, if you like to season your food or have a larger group you may want to consider some backup. I chose to fill the squirt bottle with Dawn soap to not only clean the camp ware but also as a safety feature if we encountered any poison ivy or vehicle maintenance grease. Good on you, GSI Outdoors! I would not hesitate to buy any of their products and have actually done so.
Ok, on to the actual Kitchen setup. The foundation of this whole idea was the REI camp kitchen. It gave me plenty of room for the main
stove and a backup stove, a prep area, and enough storage to organize when we were in base camp. It also offered the flexibility to not use it if it was just an overnighter.
The one flaw of the camp kitchen was user error but you should learn from my mistakes so your friends won’t laugh and point like mine do. On our last trip to the Overland Expo East there were five adults and all of the stuff for camping and a show in our van. To say it was packed was an understatement. On the way down the camp kitchen ended up on its side and a full propane tank and several other packs were packed on top of it. The top of one of the wings had given way. The kitchen is still functional and will get a new top this winter. The one thing that I was unable to find a good solution for was a paper towel dispenser. I may try to mount one this winter when I replace the top.
Next is the heart of the beast! Words cannot describe how happy I am with the Primus stove that I picked. I liked it so much that I bought a second Primus stove with two burners to complement the main stove when there are a bunch of people out with me. I was able to make it through all of the camping and cooking with one large propane tank and was able to rig up a method to power both stoves off of the one tank. I am also currently researching if I want to add a propane lantern as a light source for midnight bacon. Speaking of bacon, at one point, the main burner was completely full of congealed bacon grease and had to be chiseled out and cleaned so it would work again.
Now for the unnecessary conclusion, I am really happy with this camp kitchen setup. You can put some time and research and get a setup going for less or you could go out and order everything I used from the first article and be super happy. Find pieces that fit your needs build your setup around who you like to overland with and get out there and do it. Put some miles on the gear that isn’t paying rent in your basement!
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