What gear should I get to bake on the trail?

I'm considering getting the Outback Oven for baking on the trail this summer, but other folks have the Bakepacker. Have you had an opportunity to check both out? What is your opinion? I know the Bakepacker basically "stes" the food, instead of baking, but what other differences are there? Gigi Concord, California

A: Um...what other differences matter? I don't want to knock the Bakepacker ($21), a well-thought-out, workable product that has its own merits I'll discuss shortly. But in terms of actually baking something—pizza, brownies, biscuits, a frittata—the Outback Oven ($68 in the ten-inch size; is simply superior in every way. Sure, the Bakepacker, which uses steam to cook food placed in a plastic bag, does just that: it cooks food. But it doesn't perform that bit of alchemical magic that occurs when high, dry heat hits the surface of rising bread. In short, no crust, nor any of the wonderful flavors or textures that emerge in that combustible mix of food, heat, and mouth.

Outback Oven

So if you're already a fairly competent baker—and I'll assume you are—then you won't be satisfied with anything but the Outback Oven. Moreover, in the hands of a good cook, the Outback Oven can literally bake nearly anything you can do at home (true, big trays of cookies are a little impractical). Its distributor, Backpacker's Pantry, sells a variety of pre-mixed packaged baked goods. But it's a lot more fun to adapt home recipes for use on the trail. Pack along some olive oil, Parmesan cheese, some yeast, and there's almost no end to what you can come up with.

That said, the Outback Oven does have its foibles. Mainly, it's a little tricky to get the heat at the right level, so practice on some biscuits or something at home before taking your show on the trail.

And the Bakepacker can do a few tricks that the Outback Oven cannot. It's better at poaching fish, steaming vegetables, or making dishes that include rice. But for the most part you already can perform those tasks with an ordinary camping pot or skillet.

So, get an Outback Oven, and bon appetit!

Read more about some of the Gear Guy's other favorite things, pieces of gear that stand the test of time and on-trail abuse, from socks to stoves to ultimate packs.

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Filed To: Camp Stoves
Lead Photo: courtesy, REI
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