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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you find this info helpful!
As always, I would love to read your comments below.