How to Set up a Kayaker’s Kitchen

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Cooking is a large part of wilderness camping when kayaking, but there are a few issues to consider when creating a successful outdoor kitchen.

So, you have paddled your kayak all day and if you are like me, most of the afternoon on the water was spent considering what would be on the dinner menu when arriving at camp that evening. When the day’s kayaking is done, the tent is erected, and your kayak tied safely above the high tide mark, it is time to light a campfire and cozy in with a good meal. After all, a kayaker travels on his or her stomach.

Food is fuel and for the adventurer, a different set of considerations about the types of fuel is required. High-energy foods that your body can metabolize easily will be on the menu. For the weekend paddler, the menu can be gourmet, while the multi-day paddler must scale back on some fresh items due to shelf life and cargo space. No matter what type of paddler you are, the kayaker kitchen will be one of your first priorities upon landing at your campsite but be mindful of where you are, and that your kitchen will intrude on the natural way of things.

How to pick the right location

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The location of your kayak camping kitchen will be the largest consideration when choosing where to camp. There are several reasons for this, but the major issues are to leave an adequate distance between your kitchen and where you will be sleeping in your tent. Another issue about the location is we share the great outdoors with animals.

Park campgrounds usually come populated with rodents sized from mice to raccoon. In primitive wilderness sites, larger beasts might be lurking about your campsite. The following checklist works for the inland camper as well as the kayaker.

Pick a spot at least 20 feet from where you have pitched your tent.

This way, if anything should wander in at night sniffing around where you have been cooking, it will be far enough away from where you are sleeping. Remember, and I cannot stress this tidbit enough, do not for any reason bring food, snacks, or drinks into your tent at night, or during the day. There is no seal tight enough to hold back food smell. This scent is what attracts animals into our camps in the first place.

Cooking on the beach is perfect.

The setting could not be more appealing, and there are rocks and convenient logs everywhere to set up your camp stove. Take a look at your tide tables first. Check the wash marks on the beach, which is the line of seaweed and debris washed up by the previous high tide.

This is very important to know because should you turn in before the high tide reaches its peak your kitchen may get soggy or even wash away entirely. Make sure everything is packed away securely well above that line. Your tide table will tell you whether it is an increasingly higher tide or if it is waning each day lower than that line.

Leave no trace

Cooking scraps will inevitably fall on the ground while cooking. Simply kicking sand or dirt over the bits and pieces will not do, and I suggest tossing them farther away. Please hang your food bags and remember a clean camp will be an animal-intruder-free camp.

Dishwashing in the outdoors

Washing dishes may seem a benign thing to do. Again, you are playing in someone else’s house while camping in the outdoors. The inter-tidal zone is a tough monkey. It takes a beating from stormy seas, and it is attacked constantly by incoming debris. Pebbles from the beach tumble and roll over it day and night. To top it all off, we stomp about in our sandals and dump our dishwater onto these marine life habitats, and it all adds up.

Please use biodegradable soaps.

Treat this as a matter of pride and be careful about where you dump it. I do not bring a tub to wash dishes but do them individually at the shoreline using only small amounts of soap, and using crushed shell or sand to do most of the scrubbing. Avoid dumping your entire wash load over rocks or delicate areas on the beach. You are doing more harm than you know. It is better to disperse your soapy water on outgoing tides where it will be dispersed widely and do less harm than if deposited in a small area.

Respect the environment

In performing a weekend of no-trace camping, we can fool ourselves into thinking that by paddling a kayak and camping on the land, we do no harm. We enter this activity with the intention of being eco-minded but our very presence changes the places we visit. Before you begin rolling rocks to make room for your nylon abode, take a little walk. Stretch your legs after a long paddle and find a less intrusive place to camp out.

Your kitchen should be part of your camp but not the center focus of it. By no means do I suggest we all tiptoe about out there, Mother Nature is not made of fine crystal, just remember who was there first.

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