Southern Comfort

Blue Ridge Outdoors: Southern Comfort

Glamping (“glamorous camping”) is out. Sleeping on 500-count Egyptian cotton sheets in a yurt while a chef roasts a whole pig can come off as a bit ostentatious, particularly in today’s “less is more” economy. But there is a lesson to be learned from those excessive days of glamping: there’s nothing wrong with being comfortable. Just because you’re in the middle of the woods, 30 miles from the nearest HoJo, doesn’t mean you have to live like an animal. You’re a backpacker, not a martyr. If you’re willing to carry a few extra pounds, your next backpacking trip can feel like a luxury retreat.

Set the Menu

The easiest way to elevate your backpacking trip is to get inventive with dinner. “Pick a short hike, anything less than five miles, and you’d be surprised what you can carry into the campsite,” says Ron Shrieves, a long-time backpacker who organizes an annual gourmet backpacking trip for the Sierra Club’s Harvey Broome Group in Knoxville, Tenn. “On one week-long backpacking trip, I carried an oven and baked a cake every night. And that’s nothing. I’ve seen people cook Cornish game hen in the backcountry.”

Shrieves says to forget the freeze-dried, pre-packaged meals. Instead, think fresh ingredients, even seafood. “You’d be surprised how popular salmon is in the backcountry,” he says.

Try This: Pre-cut hardy vegetables like squash, green peppers, and onions and marinate them in olive oil, sea salt, and basil before the hike. Wrap them tightly in foil, then seal them in a freezer bag. Slide a frozen salmon filet into a double-wrapped freezer bag as well. The salmon will thaw on the hike into camp, but still be fresh for dinner. Cook both the fish and the vegetables in tightly wrapped foil over a small fire.

Shrieves also recommends bringing hors d’oeuvres to prime your appetite and give fellow campers something to munch on while dinner is cooking. Cheese and crackers works, but shrimp is better. Pack pre-cooked, frozen shrimp in a sealed bag and let it thaw on the hike into camp. Add a jar of cocktail sauce and you’ve got backcountry shrimp cocktail.

The Bar is Open

Lugging a bottle of wine for five miles can be more trouble than it’s worth. Clif Bar has solved this problem with their new bag-o-wine. The energy-bar maker has bought a Napa Valley winery and is producing easy-to-pack pouches of chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. 

What’s Your Sleep Number?

A solid pad and warm sleeping bag are the foundation of a good night’s sleep. But you can take your comfort level to the next, well, level by adding a sleeping bag liner.

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