Cooking Oil for the trail.

I have seen a lot of questions lately about cooking oil.  "What is your favorite cooking oil for the trail?", "How do you carry your cooking oil when backpacking?" So I thought I would share my thoughts on the subject.  Bottom line, I really like Coconut oil for the trail.  At this point, at least in my opinion, it can not be beat.


Cooking oil for the trail



I started out using olive oil, but about two years ago I discovered coconut oil.  After trying it at home in the kitchen I decided to give it a try on the trail as well.  On the trail, I keep it in a prescription medicine bottle inside my cook kit.  I usually keep the medicine bottle in a small ziplock as a backup, but have yet to have any leak out of the bottle.  The smaller bottle that I have been using weighs about 10 grams empty.  I can get between 35 and 40 grams of oil in it, which is usually plenty for a couple day trip.

medicine bottle



The opening of the bottle is big enough to get your knife or a fork inside.  It is a bit too small to get a spoon or typical spork in there.  Most of the time I use the back end of my spoon or a knife to scoop it out, and if it has melted, then I just pour it out.


Cooking oil for the trail 2 


Here are the 4 main reasons that I now use coconut oil on the trail.



1.  Coconut oil melts at about 76 F, and it re-solidifies when it is cooled back down below that temperature.

My initial reason for giving coconut oil the trail test is because it remains a solid until it reaches about 76 F (24.4 C).  For me that means that about 75% of the time that I am in the woods this stuff will not spill! If you have ever opened your cook kit to find that olive oil has leaked all over the inside then you can probably understand how valuable that fact alone can be.  It also seems to handle higher temperatures well, which can be very helpful with super thin lightweight cooking gear.

medicine bottle 3


2.     Nutritional, quick energy!

 Coconut oil provides about 8.6 calories per gram.  While this is not quite as dense as extra virgin olive oil at 8.8 calories per gram, coconut oil is made up of almost 90% medium chain triglyceride saturate fats.  What the heck does this mean, you might ask!  Well, these medium chain triglyceride saturated fats are metabolized in such a way that they go directly from the digestive track to the liver and become a quick energy source.  It sort of works like one of those 5 hour energy drinks, except with out all the sugar.  In most cases we are not really eating enough calories while backpacking to really support the number of calories that we are burning.  Eating these medium chain triglycerides sort of put our bodies in a mode that allows us to more easily burn the fats that are already in our bodies, allowing us to go farther before becoming fatigued from the calorie deficit.  



3.     A great addition to the first aid kit.

About half of the fatty acids in coconut oil are lauric acid, and to top that off when coconut oil is digested it forms monolaurin.  Both lauric acid and monolaurin are natural antibiotics, antifungals, and antivirals.  Combine this with the fact that it is a great moisturizer, what you have is one of the most useful members of your first aid and hygiene kit.  It works ok on small cuts and abrasions similar to an antibacterial cream.  It can be used as a lotion for dry hands and feet, and it works fantastically as a lip balm.  You can also mix it with a bit of baking soda to use as a toothpaste or a face/body wash.

coconut oil FAK


4.     A fire starter.

Many people carry cotton balls soaked in Vaseline to use as a fire starter.  Well we all love the multiple use items, and it turns out that coconut oil burns just as well as Vaseline.  I usually carry a couple cotton balls or cotton pads in my first aid kit, and with coconut oil in my cook kit I am all set for a similar type of fire starter with out adding anything to my fire kit.

coconut oil fire starter




Thanks for reading, and I hope you find this info helpful!

As always, I would love to read your comments below.





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I think I have my new trail coffee brew method figured out. Tea filters.

We all love our coffee in the morning, well at least I do... I am a fresh grind kind of guy but out on the trail that really isn't possible. I just can not seem to get into the instant stuff like a lot of you folks seem to do. So typically I grind my beans just before a trip and individually pack a cups worth. I either vacuum seal it, or for the quick trips, just a mini ziplock does the trick.

Now getting that goodness in your cup in the morning while on the trail is a whole different problem entirely. I can't stand the cowboy method... to me that is almost as bad as the instant stuff.

For the longest time I would just grind my beans extra course and just steep it in a tea ball. That's not too bad, usually just a few grounds in the bottom of the cup. 

Tea ball

For my last method, I would cut down regular coffee filters and then put the grounds into the center of it, and then pull the outside edge up tying it off with a piece of string. I called these coffee bombs because they sort of looked like firecrackers.  I would just steep the coffee bomb the same way as the the tea ball, but no grounds in my cup.  This way saved a little bit of weight depending on how many coffe bombs you need for a trip.  As far as the waste, I typically would sprincle the spent coffee grounds around on the ground and the filter would end up in the fire, or if I didn't have a fire it would go in the trash ziplock.

This morning I was looking on amazon for filters and come across this little jem and I think this is going to be the ticket.

These are about perfectly sized for my cup.  They are virtually weightless, not even registering on my scale!  Essentially what they are is a little bit larger than standard tea bag with an open top and a gusseted bottom.  The Amazon add lists the dimensions in the description to be 2.8 long x 3.9 wide.

virtually weightless       gusseted bottom


There are no holes in the filter, so you will have to poke your own in there.  The included stick is pointed so it pokes right on through without any problem.

I grind my coffee beans in a burr grinder, and set to course/french press. Not sure if you can really see it in the picture, but it is fairly course.  This is the same as I would do for the coffee bombs or even the tea ball.  For trial number 1, The at home test, I put about one and a half scoops of coffee into the filter.  I put the stick about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way down from the top of the filter and there are little notches in the filter that sort of grip it and hold it open.

course grind                in the cup


I used about one and a half cups of water, and I must say that I am pretty impressed.  I basically slowly poured the water from my pot into the center of the filter.  The filter does try to close on you when it gets wet, but that isn't really that big of a deal.  This time around, it turned out just a touch weak. Next time I will use 2 scoops, and think that would be perfect. There were no grounds at all in my cup. As far as waste, there will be less than there is with my coffee bombs. Stay tuned, as I plan to post a quick "brew video" as soon as I get a chance to try this in the field!!

Thanks for reading, and as always if you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments box below.

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