Bart Gragg

REI’s Backcountry Cooking Class – Is it Worth It? Review

by Bart "Cookie" Gragg

I asked hiking buddy Gil “Why are we driving two hours to Saratoga, CA for a four hour REI class in backcountry cooking on a Sunday morning?”  I mean “What are we going to do? Boil water for four hours and eat MRE’s for three hours?”

Remember folks that I like that heavy cast iron and the food it makes. That said, I figured Gil and I could learn a little about how the thinner half lives. So off we went.

And we were very pleasantly surprised!  We learned so much more than how to boil water, as if that is what life as a backpacker is all about…sheesh.

Our instructor, Steve Wood, a geocache enthusiast, was very knowledgeable (his pack weighs 15 lbs.  for three days hiking) and easy to work with.

A few things we learned and discussed:

  • The different types of camping stoves including propane, butane, isobutane and wood burning.
  • We got a sneak preview of the incredible BioLite, which rumor has it that REI offer exclusively beginning (we hope) spring of 2013.
  • Packing light but good food. We made an incredibly simple and very delicious chicken – potato – leek soup in no time.
  • Water purification methods and systems – the pros and cons of boiling, filtering, chemical purification.
  • An introduction to the philosophies of lite backpacking, with emphasizing the idea that anything you carry must have more than one potential use – and here’s a surprising idea – that small plastic cutting board can be wrapped around an arm or leg and secured in place as a splint!
Steve Wood showing us how to light an MSR Whisperlite stove.

Steve Wood showing us how to light an MSR Whisperlite stove.

Gil Dominguez preparing the Chicken, - potato - leek soup.

Gil Dominguez preparing the Chicken, – potato – leek soup.











Bottom line? Yes! Totally worth the fee and travel time. I even made the soup for dinner for the family that night…on my kitchen stove!

Bart “Cookie” Gragg

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