It was early on Christmas morning when Kip Clifton realized he’d made a crucial mistake. His family—in-laws and all—was camped out in a cabin in Marin County, California. Before they’d left on their trip, Clifton had meticulously packed all the makings for pancakes.
But not meticulously enough. He had everything he needed—except a spatula. The irony: At the time, Clifton was preparing to launch a company designed to alleviate this sort of problem.
It’s called Fireside Provisions. It’s a meal-delivery service—like GrubHub or Blue Apron—but for camping and backpacking. With about a week’s notice, Fireside Provisions will ship to your home (not to the trail or backcountry) most everything you need for your next campfire cookout, plus include a handy checklist to make sure you don’t, you know, forget the spatula. One day of food costs $15 per person. The menu for backpackers includes meals like cranberry scones with jam for breakfast and campfire pizza for dinner. The options for car campers are even more gourmet: summer sausage hash for breakfast and jambalaya or citrus chicken and creamy polenta for dinner.
“I’m the guardian of three boys from Ghana and on the weekends we love to go camping,” Clifton says. “It’s easy enough to throw the tent and sleeping bags in the car, but when it comes to what to eat, it’s like oh my goodness. Do you really want to bring the whole thing of olive oil? I wanted to address that point of pain for families.”
Unlike Blue Apron, the Fireside Provisions box doesn’t include meat and highly perishable veggies aren't included. He says he also worried that shipping cold items would require an amount of packaging that the granola demographic might find unpalatable. If you’ve ever ordered Blue Apron you know that Clifton probably made the right choice—those icepacks and cold bags stack up quickly.
A month after launching, the company says that its backpacking meals have actually been the more popular seller, which is surprising considering how much ready-to-go backpacking food is already available. (Plus, it sort of goes against the idea of self-reliance inherent in the activity.) This is perhaps due to something I call freeze-dried stroganoff fatigue, a common but easily treatable condition many backpackers will face in their lifetimes. “You really can only eat so much freeze-dried food,” Clifton says.
The service is about making it easier for working families, Clifton says. He hopes to expand to offering boxes for ski trips during the winter. He’s also tossing around the idea of opening pop-up shops on the outskirts of national parks where adventure-bound Americans could pick up a box of ready-to-make provisions and campfire cookware in one easy stop.
“For many people that first camping experience is really overwhelming,” Clifton says. “If we can just make that first experience a little bit easier—a little bit better, I think we can get them hooked.”