Camp Chef Camp Oven Review

Imagine you’ve been on the trail for hours, searching for the perfect spot to camp. Finally, you find it, the best campsite you have ever seen! There is just one thing that could make it better, cinnamon rolls! This is something we’ve been able to do, ever since we got a Camp Chef Camp Oven two years ago. With the addition of the Camp Oven to our overlanding arsenal, the on-trail menu has expanded tremendously.

camp chef camp over inside
The inside of the Camp Chef Camp Over.

Fuel and Power

The oven is fueled by propane, either with a 1LB or a larger tank, when combined with an available hose. Using a 1LB tank has its limitations, only letting the oven get up to 350F for 7 hours. While using a larger tank will allow it to reach 400F. No matter what tank size you use, the oven will still produce 3,000BTUs/hr and the two brass range burners will do 7,500BTUs/hr.

traditional stove burners
The top has traditional burners for cooking on.

Accessories

bulk tank hose adapter allows you to extend cooking time with a larger propane tank. The deluxe oven carry bag provides a weather resistant cover, with padding to keep things safe. The mountain series steel griddle and outdoor oven pizza stone give you alternate cooking surfaces. These last two turn the range into a flat steel griddle perfect for eggs and give the oven a flat surface great for bread and pizza.

Personal Thoughts

After owning this oven for as long as I have, I feel like I can share my honest thoughts on the product. First off, I haven’t been nice to it. Saying that it has held up surprisingly well. The only casualties were two of the rubber feet breaking off. It was nice to find that Camp Chef does offer replacement parts on anything you could break. You can find a parts catalog here.

Something I wish we had purchased was the Deluxe Oven Carry Bag. As of now, I let it bounce around in the bed of my truck, and it would be nice to have some protection for the oven glass. I did buy the Bulk Tank Hose Adapter, and I don’t think we could live without it. It’s been great not having to worry about how many 1LB tanks I should bring along. Especially on a week-long trek on the back roads of the Upper Peninsula. With one 20LB tank, we made two meals a day and heated water for coffee and tea for nine days!

One thing we’ve noticed that’s kind of annoying is that the oven seems to take forever to heat up. Depending on the weather, you may be waiting an hour or so for the oven to heat to temperature. This is more prominent when you are trying to use a burner and the oven, at the same time. What I’ve also noticed is the thermometer is slightly off, and it can be a little inconvenient being unable to set the oven to a specific temperature. You may need to cook your food slightly longer in the oven to make up for inconsistent temps. But in the end, it is camping, and I usually don’t plan on making anything that needs to be in the oven for more than 30 minutes.

All in all, I do enjoy using the Camp Chef Camp Oven over a traditional camp stove. The ability to make things like garlic bread, pizza rolls, or even cookies on a cold night, makes our on-trail home feel more like a real home.

Shelter In Place, Bugging Out, and Having A Kit Ready

The mentality of most people who practice some form of preparedness is not “if” the disaster happens but rather “when” it happens. When it happens will you have enough supplies? Do you have the right gear? Do you know when to shelter in place versus having to leave town (bug out)? In this particular article, we’re going to talk about the differences between sheltering in place and bugging out and what supplies to have available in both scenarios.

What Does Shelter In Place Mean?

Shelter in place is relatively easy to define. It means you’re staying put wherever you are, whether it’s work, school, at home, or even in your vehicle. The Red Cross defines shelter in place as “selecting a small, interior room, with no or few windows, and taking refuge there.” During accurate in place event potentially harmful materials may have been intentionally or unintentionally released into the air, an active event may be ongoing, or a natural disaster has happened unexpectedly.

Shelter In Place At Home Versus At Work

If you are at home sheltering in place becomes an easier task. Your supplies are more readily available, and you may even have more than you need (see below for a list of items for a large kit). However, it does not always happen at home. Many companies have shelter in place cabinets in their buildings and routinely perform training and exercises, so employees know what to do and expect.

In the case of having to shelter in place at work, you should also prepare a small kit to keep in a desk drawer or a bag that is easily accessible (meaning you don’t have to run to your car for it). It would be hard to keep a large, 3-day kit at your work desk, so a small kit consisting of the following is a good baseline to have available:

  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Small first aid kit
  • Flashlight, small lantern, and chemlights
  • An emergency radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Prescription or specialty medications
  • Anything you might specifically need to last a shelter in place scenario

Sheltering In Place In Your Vehicle

While this seems like an unlikely scenario, you could find yourself having to shelter in place in your vehicle. The best way to do this is not to do it all together and get to someplace (home, work, or somewhere you know is safe) that has the gear and supplies needed. If you find yourself having to do it in your vehicle, then pull over someplace safe, turn off your vehicle, and seal the vents and windows as best you can. Stay in place until an all clear is given. While this is not an ideal situation to be in, having the same type of basic kit in your car as you might at work can go a long way.

What Does Bugging Out Mean?

There are many different variations of what bugging out could mean. During the Korean War, it meant a position was no longer defensible and was in danger of being overrun. In a disaster scenario, the term has more to do with leaving in a hurry than being overrun by an enemy (although I suppose you could classify a storm, tornado, or whatever is causing the bug out as the enemy).

Disaster events can cause evacuations of towns and cities on a mandatory order. If this is the case, ensure your kit is accessible and can be put into a vehicle without issue. If you have time prepare your rig like you’re going on a trip and supplement that gear with your disaster kit.

An evacuation is probably going to mean roads are potentially going to be full of traffic with other people trying to leave the area. Planning may play a role in whether you end up stuck in traffic or sail through with no problems. Having a disaster plan may mean leaving early or having an alternate route to take out of the area once an evacuation has been called for. These types of decisions should be made early rather than later.

Having The Right Gear and Supplies

With either scenario having the correct equipment and supplies available is paramount. Having the correct equipment takes some research, planning, and preparation on your part. In the first article in this series, we talked about the definition of disaster preparedness and the functions within. Part of those functions is to plan, exercise, and evaluate. Those three features should help you decide what is needed and what isn’t required. Always keep in mind you should have gear and supplies specific to your particular situation. If you require particular medication ensure you have enough or an extra supply for a determined amount of time.

The Basic Survival Kit

The American Red Cross, FEMA, the CDC, and much more all provide lists on what you should have in a survival kit. A good baseline, and what most lists use, is 72 hours (3 days), which can be adjusted up from there based on your particular disaster scenario planning. The Sweethome did an article recently that provides a very comprehensive breakdown of what items to have and why. Whether you are bugging out or sheltering in place, below is a list of the basic items you should have available:

  • Water: one gallon per person for x amount of days
  • Food: non-perishable, easy to prepare items for the amount of people in your plan for the amount of days you planned for
  • Utensils, can opener, etc.
  • Flashlight(s)
  • Two-way, CB, or HAM radio
  • Emergency radio
  • Extra batteries
  • Fire starting tools and helpers
  • Whistle and signaling devices
  • First aid kit
  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Important personal documents (insurance cards, birth certificates, etc.)
  • Cell phone(s) and charger(s)
  • Extra cash
  • Extra clothing
  • Emergency blanket(s)
  • Map(s) of the area

Some other things to consider adding to your kit that end up being specific to your particular situation:

  • Prescription or specific medical supplies
  • Baby wipes, diapers, and formula
  • Games and toys for children
  • Pet supplies for x amount of days

Keep everything contained in one spot in a storage bin of some kind, so it is easily accessible if you are sheltering in place or you need to grab it in a bug out situation. Make sure to check the contents regularly so anything that expires can be replaced with newer items. Important and non-waterproof things like documents need to be kept in waterproof containers, so they do not get ruined. Depending on the types of disaster scenarios you are preparing for more specific items should be added.

What type of disasters do you prepare for? What do you keep in your kit? Leave a comment below and let us know.

What Does Preparedness Mean and Why Is It Important

hurricane

September is national preparedness month. On the heels of hurricanes Harvey and IRMA we thought we’d run a short series on being prepared. While natural disasters don’t often happen here in Michigan, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the necessary steps to be prepared. Whether it’s an actual disaster event, being stranded, or the loss of power in your home there are still plenty of scenarios outside of full-on disasters that warrant having a preparedness mindset.

CAVEAT: We are not preparedness or disaster event experts by any stretch of the imagination. The definition breakdown is just how we see each function being applied. You can find more resources and significant online that exceeds what we are presenting. The definitions from FEMA are strictly from our point of view.

The Definition of Preparedness

The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA define preparedness as “a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action to ensure effective coordination during incident response.” All of that seems familiar as an overlander because those essential functions are what we use to plan and execute trips and expeditions.

As overlanders and outdoor enthusiasts, some of the principles used in the definition of being prepared apply pretty easily to what we normally do for trip preparation. We’ve broken them down below and how they might apply.

Planning

Planning should come pretty easy as planning takes a significant role in what we do as overlanders. Instead of planning routes and menus for a trip, preparing for a disaster situation has you working out the details of what happens when a disaster situation occurs. What food do you have or will you need? Are you sheltering in place or bugging out? What route are you taking? Is anyone else joining you?

Organizing

Again, a natural function to incorporate into a disaster plan is the organization of equipment, food, and even people. If you’re using bins and totes of some kind for your overlanding adventures, you can adopt the same approach for disaster event gear.

Organizing, in this case, doesn’t just mean gear, it also means how you might organize a group for evacuation from or response to a disaster. What’s the reporting structure for the group? What communications are going to be used?

Training

Much like winching or driver training, having training specific to disaster events is important. The lines of types of training can cross and intersect here, and nothing can replace proper training. Figure out what kind of disaster you are planning for and get training that is applicable. First aid training is always a good choice but having some actual disaster response training can be invaluable.

Equipping

Much like asking what might be needed for an overland adventure, you need to figure out what gear you’ll need in case of a disaster. If you’re planning for multiple scenarios, then make sure the gear you have will be usefull in each situation, so you’re not storing multiple pieces of equipment.

Exercising

This is a crucial part of planning overall. Everything looks good on paper, but once it has been tested, you may find things don’t go according to plan. An exercise should regularly be executed to test the abilities of your gear, people involved, communication plan, routes, etc.

Evaluating

Once the exercise is complete, take some time and evaluate the overall process, what worked, what didn’t. What gear was used and needed and what equipment wasn’t even touched? Did your route make sense and work? There are plenty of questions to ask during an evaluation, and everything should be considered.

Corrective Action

Most times after a trip a corrective action is taken to remove or add equipment that wasn’t needed or may have been needed. As part of the evaluation, you should be able to pinpoint what didn’t work and come up with a corrective action.

What’s Needed and For How Long

You can Google preparedness and find any number of lists for different scenarios and events. The best thing to do is decide what sort of disasters you might be facing and plan accordingly to what they are. For example, here in Michigan, depending on the area, you could be faced with large snowfall amounts. In this case you may want to ensure you have enough food, water, a source of heat, and warm clothing for everyone who will be with you.

Your supply lists should include food, water, and the necessary gear you’ll need to survive your particular disaster scenario. It should be enough food and water to accommodate however many products will be with you. Part of the planning function is to decide how long you want supplies to last.

Why Be Prepared

There is any number of reasons and situations to be prepared. Disaster scenarios happen to be the primary reason but consider other scenarios as well. What if you’re stuck in a traffic jam and unable to move for hours on end? What if you’re in the woods and can’t make repairs to your rig? Do you have enough supplies to last you those two scenarios? Do you have enough gear and supplies to have to walk out of somewhere?

Realistically, you may never have anything happen at all, but it’s always better to be prepared than not to be prepared. It’s one of the reasons we carry some of the equipment we do as overlanders. First aid kits and recovery equipment are good examples of this. You may never need them, but it’s better to have them than not to.

To be prepared for your chosen scenarios you need to ask yourself what gear, what supplies you’ll need, and actually work in the planning stage heavily. You may end up finding that you need to plan gear and supplies for a shelter in place and a bug out situation. If this is the case, you want to make sure your equipment and supplies potentially crosswalk between both scenarios and are readily available.

This article provides a very basic and high-level overview. You could spend hours falling down the rabbit hole on preparedness topics and discussions on websites and forums. In the end, do you what works best for you and/or your family. Have the gear and supplies necessary to sustain for your determined length of time.

What sort of planning and preparation do you employ? Leave some comments and let us know.

Mud, Blood, and Good Company: A Trip Through Manistee National Forest

xterra woods

The title is slightly misleading but it’s what I remember the most from a recent trip to Manistee National Forest to run trails with some of the guys from our Facebook group and the Overland Bound forums. This trip had been planned earlier in the year to coincide with the Memorial Day long weekend but it ended up happening almost two months later. I don’t think we could have asked for a better weekend in July though.

The weather forecast leading up to Friday looked pretty bad. Rain was scheduled for most of Friday and sporadically throughout the weekend. When the weekend finally rolled around it turned out to be one of the best weekends I can remember having this year. Not too hot, no rain, perfect temperature.

The Best Laid Plans Go To Waste

The plan was to have two meet up times; at 2 pm in White Cloud and 4 pm in Baldwin. I tracked a 30 mile run from White Cloud to Baldwin thinking anyone wanting to meet up early with me could run the track to Baldwin where we would meet with the rest of the group. This ended up not happening. The time gods were not in my favor on Friday despite taking a half day from work to do so. What should have been a 2.5 – 3-hour trek across the state ended up being more like 4.

 

Fast forward past all the boring highway driving, I arrived in White Cloud at about 3:45 and met up with Braxton at the first meeting spot. I refueled my truck and made the decision to head north along M37 directly into Baldwin instead of running trails. We made to the second meeting spot around 4:15 and met up with Chris and Mike. Dave followed along shortly and met us at the gas station that was established as our meeting spot.

 

We lined up our rigs and BS’d for a bit before deciding to set off for Friday night’s camp. We were a motley crew of random rigs, as is our MO. A Chevy Suburban (myself), Dodge Durango (Dave), Nissan Xterra (Chris), a Toyota (the model escapes me, Braxton) and a Land Rover (Mike) that put all of us to shame.

gas station line up
Lined up at the gas station before hitting trails.

A short jaunt down some main roads found us at the Kinney Rd intersection where we headed into the woods for the weekend. The first camp site was a place I had been to before. A large clearing big enough to accommodate our 5 rigs overlooking the Manistee river. Chris wanted to attempt some fishing so I decided to move us further into the woods to another spot I had found on a previous trip. The second spot was directly on the river as opposed to being up higher.

 

The problem was it was closed off. Apparently, it’s supposed to be a hiking/footpath. We parked in the small spot just before the “No Motor Vehicles” sign and walked into what should have been our camp spot for the night. The first spot was still as good as I remember and looked like it had been maintained. The second spot was slightly different. There was a very large tree down over the route so no possible way to drive back. We would have had to park in the first spot and hike our stuff in.

Taking a Chance on Spot Two

We walked back to our rigs, checked our maps, and decided to try two different spots. One just to the north and on an offshoot of the river. And the second, if the first didn’t work out, to the south along the main river. The first spot was a short trek back along the path we traveled. Turns out we didn’t need to even consider the second spot, this one turned out to be perfect. We circled the rigs around a pre-built fire pit and made camp for the night.

 

Chris is a fan of bushcraft skills so he was gracious enough to show us how to build a fire BUSHCRAFT! style. Braxton and Mike took a chance on it the first night and after making some kindling and a pile they were firing off sparks trying to get a fire going. It took a little fine tuning in how and where to throw the sparks before the fire took. Once it was going though it kept burning well into the night. Braxton also managed to slice open his hand at some point and emerged from behind his rig with a makeshift duct tape band-aids.

bushcraft fire making
Chris dropping some BUSHCRAFT! knowledge on Braxton and Mike.

Much like our rigs running through the woods we had five different sleeping setups and five different cooking setups. I think that’s what I enjoy most about these outings is we don’t just get a bunch of tricked out trucks purpose-built for overlanding. We have a buffet of rigs, gear, experience levels, etc. Speaking of buffet, dinner and cooking methods all varied. The best of all was Chris’s fire cooked steak and potatoes. It was probably the best steak I have ever tried. I’ll have to remember it for next time (thanks, Chris!).

 

Ryan and James from the Overland bound forums were supposed to meet up with us for the night but due to some communication issues (you don’t really get a good cell signal in the woods), they ended up at a spot nearby. A missed opportunity to add Ryan’s pretty awesome Tacoma to our hodge-podge lineup of rigs.

Hitting Some Trails

Our only full day of trails had us snaking north through the forest to a second camp site that butted up against a small creek. We got up, made some coffee and breakfast, and made our way northwest through some new area. The thing about Manistee is most of it is relatively easy to navigate through. There aren’t many spots where a non-overlanding equipped vehicle could run through. We just happened to hit a muddy spot where having some of those overlanding vehicle amenities came in handy.

 

I ran ahead a little bit (around the mud mind you) and set up a few cameras to grab some action of everyone else running through the mud. Chris made it look easy in his Xterra and was lined up behind me watching the action. Dave with his Durango was the second one up and promptly buried his rig. A quick pull backward got him out and he took the alternate route around like I did. Braxton and Mike both sailed through in their lifted rigs and we continued on.

 

The rest of the day had us hitting some primary roads before diverting back on to a loop that would eventually lead us to camp site 2. We ended up finding some good spots throughout the drive, both campsites and trails to try out. When ended up in one spot that was planned but looked like the larger rigs wouldn’t make it through. The opening was small and more overgrown than some of the tighter spots we went through. Chris decided to give it a go and it opened up into a nice little loop run that came back to the primary trail we were on.

tight trail
Tight trails lead to the best spots.

Camp site 2 was a spot I’ve been to before. A nice clearing big enough to circle our rigs around the fire pit. It’s set off the main trail enough that passing by you wouldn’t notice anyone back there. The main trail itself ends up as a dead-end into a gate before running down into the creek.

 

We got our fire going in the same way as the previous night with no help from lighters or matches, just a magnesium bar, and a fire rod. Chris once again taught us how to make a sleeping platform from whatever longer sticks and brush could be found in the area. He also set up a heat diverting wall made from weaved together sticks and brush. During brush gathering activities Mike managed to cut up his hand pretty good. If you’re keeping track, that’s twice blood has been drawn.

 

At some point, we wanted to keep the firing going so we pulled down a large old stump and threw it on the fire. It didn’t take long for the brush covered heat diverter to take and we ended up throwing sand on it in order to save it. After that bit of excitement the evening process was the same as before; cook dinner and sit around the fire BS-ing.

old stump fire
We decided the fire we had wasn’t big enough.

Morning came quickly and we packed up our campsite for a short day of trails. The two routes we did get in ended at private property. We back tracked both and took some new routes that worked out pretty well. Eventually, I had to make the decision to call it for the day. I had a roughly 3-hour ride back to the metro Detroit area. We gathered our rigs into the obligatory photo half circle and snapped one last photo.

Overlanding Brings Us Together

This trip was a much-needed mini-vacation for me. I planned a solid two-day route through Manistee National Forest and we ended up getting through about half of it. This bothered me not in the least because of the company I had over the weekend.

rig line up
Required end of trip rig line up.

For me, that’s what it’s about. I love the rigs and the gear but I like meeting like-minded people, putting faces to names and screen names. Finding folks at our meetups who enjoy similar interests outside of overlanding. The overlanding is what brings us together as a group but we end up finding out we all have more in common.

Being Ready to Adventure With a Premade Go Box

How often do you finish work on a Friday and think, I just don’t want to go home? Instead, you’d rather just hop on the highway and find some adventure. Having a premade go box and ready items in your vehicle allow this to become a reality. The go box is stocked with everything you might need for an overnight or weekend adventure and can be easily restocked once you’ve traveled back to your home base. The ready gear is items that can be easily stowed out of the way even during day-to-day travel.

ready gear
Everything ready for a quick run into the woods.

There are potentially two ways to go with this. A solo container and a family container. Either way, the case shouldn’t be too large that it cannot be easily inventoried after your adventure. Something as small as a cooler could work if it’s just you. A single large Plano case or Rubbermaid container would work if the family is tagging along. Ideally, you want to keep things to a minimum.

Season and Condition Appropriate Clothing

Pack season appropriate clothing and make sure to rotate it as needed. You don’t want to be stuck with summer clothing and decide to roll out in the middle of December after work. One suggestion would be to have 2 to 3 days worth of season appropriate clothes packed and ready to go in individual smaller bags. That way it’s easy to grab and go or swap out as seasons change.

three season clothing
All the necessary clothes needed for 3 seasons of adventuring.

Along with season appropriate, make sure you’re packing condition appropriate as well. This might be a little harder to pinpoint if you live somewhere the conditions constantly change. Here in Michigan, it would be a safe bet to have items that serve dual purposes. Pack a jacket that can keep you warm and provide some protection from the elements.

packed clothing
Everything packed into a Yukon Outfitters bag.

Stove, Fuel, and Cookware

As far as cooking is concerned, if you aren’t looking to bring along a lot of people then a simple single burner stove and a canister of fuel should suffice for cooking. If you are bringing the family along, then finding a camp stove that fits easily at the bottom of the go box or can be strapped to it may be the answer.

cook set
A cook set big enough at most for 3 people.

When it comes to cookware, think multipurpose. Buy a cook set that can be used to eat or drink out of. Think sporks instead of fork and spoon. When all else fails, pack some paper plates or bowls that can be used to get a fire going. Don’t forget to pack a small container of dish soap to keep everything clean.

Food and Water

For food, we recommend packing some dehydrated meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can supplement some of the breakfast meals with something that isn’t going to spoil easily and can be easily made. Granola bars or packaged oatmeal would work well in this case. Pack some easy to carry snacks in case you decide to get off the beaten path and wander. If you can handle bottled water that isn’t chilled, then a case or two should suffice for the entire trip. Make sure to pack enough water for each person going. This eliminates the need for a cooler to keep water and food cold.

dehydrated food
Food and coffee for a few days of off-road adventuring.

Toiletry Bag and First Aid

This might seem like a no-brainer, but I’m sure it happens frequently. Getting into the middle of nowhere and not having toilet paper could make for an interesting trip. The toiletry bag should contain enough items for 2-3 days. Basic items like soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, glasses/contacts, and any medications needed should be included. If you’re bringing along family ensure you have the necessary items for each person.

med kit sundries
A medical kit is a must, but make sure to pack necessary sundry items as well.

A first aid kit is a must have item even if you’re not planning on weekend getaways. You never know when you or someone else may need it. This is one item where it’s beneficial to potentially more than enough for just one person. Do some research and either build your own kit or buy a premade kit.

Shelter and Sleeping Setup

Depending on your situation will determine what sort of sleep setup you might go with. If you have a family who will be joining you then packing a tent and sleeping bags will be necessary. If it’s just you then a sleeping bag may be all you need. You can always roll out a sleeping bag either on the ground or in the back of your rig if there’s enough room. If having a shelter is what you want, consider a full hammock sleep system, a single person tent, or at the very basic a tarp to string up for some basic protection.

sleep setup
Two different methods of sleeping: a hammock system and blow up mattress.

Everything Else

In this case, everything else includes items that are probably located in various places in your rig. This might include camera equipment, communication devices, or a camp chair. Some of these items can be easily stashed away in a glove box, center console, or maybe in its own storage container. They may even be items that you normally have in your rig day-to-day.

extra stuff
Bonus items that accompany you on the trip or are always in your rig.

Post Adventure Check

Once you’ve returned from your weekend adventure make sure to take stock of what you used. Make a note to replenish your go box as soon as you are able. Ultimately, what you decide to pack is going to depend on the current season (if you have to play that game) and the number of people to factor into your impromptu adventure. Going off by yourself means packing just enough to get you buy versus having a go box ready for multiple people. In the end, you’ll probably come back with some notes on what to pack for next time and maybe even what’s not necessary to take.