Bake some tasty treats in the backcountry Photo: Tarmo Poldmaa

Being in the backcountry doesn't mean you have to give up dessert

The first time I saw some serious baking in the wild was while I was hiking in New Zealand, or “tramping” as they like to call it. I was on a six-day hut-to-hut tramp and along the way I met an energetic Kiwi family—Ma, Pa and their two littlins. The poor father had an enormous pack for his size and I felt sorry for him because I knew he had a hell of a climb ahead.

That night we ended up in the same hut. By the time the family arrived I had finished my simple pasta meal and was busy trying to decide whether to make my chocolate stash last me for the rest of my hike or just eat it all at once.

I watched the family take over the gas burners and start making their meal. It didn't take long to figure out that Pa's pack was filled with baking supplies and cooking utensils. Before long the family was sitting down to an amazing three-course feast followed by a wonderful chocolate cake. I know there were two things on the minds of everyone else in the hut that night: not feeling sorry for Pa, and hope for an invite.

Since my New Zealand experience I've tried baking while camping. But outside of cooking the odd meal using tinfoil and a fire, I never really managed to bake consistently. Then I discovered the Outback Oven—a lovely piece of equipment that is compact, light, versatile and fairly consistent when it comes to baking.

The oven is pretty simple. There’s a special plate that sits between the burner of your stove and the oven’s baking pan to deflect the heat around the pan rather than just heating the bottom. The oven also comes with a flame/heatproof cover that captures the deflected heat and holds it around the oven. The lid on the baking pan even has a temperature gauge on the top that’s visible through a hole in the cover, although I find that this feature isn't very reliable.

Now, don't get the idea that you’re going to go out on your next kayaking trip and make a soufflé—even my oven at home isn't consistent enough to do that. The recipes included here are pretty simple but can add a whole new dimension to your outdoor cooking repertoire.

Backpacker's Pantry, the company that makes the Outback Oven, sells an entire series of camping food specific to the Outback Oven, including things like pizza, lasagna and brownies. Visit for more information on these prepackaged selections and the Outback Oven itself.


Chocolate Crazy Cake

1 1/2 cup flour
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cocoa (be generous)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp white vinegar
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup warm water
Coffee, cocoa and icing sugar for topping

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl. Make three depressions in the mix. In the first depression place the vinegar, in the second depression pour the oil and in the third add the vanilla. Now pour the warm water over the depressions and mix until you have a nice smooth batter. Transfer to a well-oiled baking pan. Bake slowly until a knife comes out clean. While it's cooling you can make a simple topping from leftover coffee, cocoa (2 tbsp) and icing sugar (1/2 cup). Depending how much coffee you add, you’ll have a spreadable icing or a glaze to pour over the cake before serving. Warm topping is particularly nice. Eat and of course share (the Kiwis did, in case you were wondering)!


Bannock Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup white flour
2 tsp sugar for mix
2 tsp baking powder
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar for filling
1/3 cup raisins, currants or apples (optional)
1/4–1/2 cup warm water

Mix flour, baking powder and 2 tsp sugar in a bowl. Cut half the butter into the dry mix—use a fork and basically mash the hard butter into the flour mix until it is evenly distributed. Slowly add warm water and knead into a soft but not sticky dough. Divide the kneaded dough into six equal balls. Flatten each ball into a small disk about the size of your palm. Spread the remaining two tablespoons of butter on the surface of the disks. Sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon and optional fruit and then roll up the dough and seal the edges by pinching together. Place in well-oiled Outback Oven. Bake slowly until risen and golden brown.


Backcountry Baking Tips

1. The Outback Oven has a tendency to cook the bottom a bit quicker so turn down your burner to prevent burning. I know it's chocolate, but be patient!
2. Near the end of the baking time remove the lid on the pan and replace the “cone” that traps the heat. This will help with cooking the top of your dish. You may have to use some engineering skills because the lid typically supports the cone. Stacking some rocks beside the stove to support the cone works well.
3. Grease the inside of the lid as well. If your cake or bread rises high enough to touch the lid it may stick.
4. Check once in a while. Don't rely totally on the thermometer. But at the same time don't be looking every couple of minutes because your cake could collapse.
5. Watch you don't overheat parts of your stove that are under the cone. If your burner sits above a butane canister or fuel tank, you must install the included reflector shield below the burner. Plastic knobs etcetera can also melt. You can protect them by wrapping them in tinfoil.
This article originally appeared in Adventure Kayak Magazine, Summer 2004. Download our free iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch App or Android App or read it here.

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