Cooler Packing Tips for Picnickers

Hey, it’s Owen here. I wanted to share couple of my tips and thoughts on how to effectively pack coolers for your next camping or picknic trip.

No better joy explains the part at which picnickers seek maximum pleasure while camping. And experiencing joy to the fullest is guaranteed through sharing of freshly preserved foods, among invitees, which are best enjoyed while relaxing in the shades in a sunny afternoon.

There are a couple of times whereby camping experiences are being ruined by a distasteful meal, which is usually caused by the insufficient use of reliable resources for preserving the delicacies of perishable food items.

picnicConsidering the hot climate, and the influx of bacteria, keeping food fresh can be a daunting task. Therefore, careful planning and packing beforehand is necessary so as to avoid contaminating food items and poisoning in the process.

In this case, we shall be examining the steps for preserving fresh food with the use of (good) coolers, while considering camping or picnicking as a form of relaxation.

Ensure Visiting the Kitchen before Camping

A lot of picnickers are carried away by the euphoria of a splendid outing without considering the preservative methods that could have averted a disastrous picnic experience.

In order to avoid such an occurrence, it is advisable thatpicnikers who plan to host a small or large number of friends should ensure that their food items are proportional to the amount of resources that will be available to retain the fresh taste of their food items.

Such was the case with a neighbour of mine, who decided to send out invitations for a celebration, having been awarded a contract running into a hugh amount of money. On the D-day, arriving at the venue, I noticed that while the invitees were being served glasses of champagne, there was an unpleasant look on the faces of these guests. Some could hardly breathe, others were yet having a good time, not detered by the nauseating smell which greeted the atmosphere.

It was later on discovered that my neighbour’s wife decided to fill up a cooling apparatus with meat and host of expensive drinks, owing to the large number of invitees that turned up for the event. The effect of that clumsy arrangement left a host of individuals unperturbed, and feeling reluctant to attend an event at which my neighbour announced a new date for his first child’s naming ceremony.

So, in order to lessen the risk of cross-contamination, as likened to the scenario created at my neighbour’s camping experience, food items that require a lot of fresh tomatoes, pepper and chilli, in liquid form, could be frozen and kept in a separate cooler.

Also, wine, beverages and table water could be well arranged in a cooler, covering it with a nylon, before placing a frozen soups in the cooler along with the drinks, depending on the picnickers descression: this is permitted if there are limited resources for food preservation.

Employing this strategy will save a whole lot of picnickers an embarrassing situation, who are planning to execute a well-crafted event to soothing the tasting experience of their invited guests.

Ensure your Coolers are Airtight

There are times whereby the large number of invitees received unexpectedly into a host camp could leave the camp host disorientated by the idea of meeting the appetite of these large sums of people.

So, in a bid to meeting with time and considering the merger resources, picnickers unnecessarily over pack food items into a cooler, without considering the air that will thaw up most frozen items in a loosely closed cooler.

A better way of avoiding this messy situation is ensuring that food items are properly arranged in coolers in such a way that air will be compact, leaving food items and beverages stay cool and fresh for a very long time.

Freeze Meats at High Temperature for Extended Trips

frozen-meatStoring up food items can be of great challenge, especially if the food item for camping are meats. If you are planning an extended camping trip, freeze the meat before putting it in the cooler.

This way the meat will stay cold long enough and you reduce the risk of spoilage, and of course a nauseating smell.

However, there are times whereby a camp host is inaccessible to using electric power supply for freezing up meats for extended trips. Here, before embarking on such an extended trip, it is advisable that the camp host employ other forms of preserving meat if power is unreliable.

Salting for instance can also be used to preserve meat for extended trips, even if such a food item is placed in a cooler for a good number of hours.

Employ Pre-chilling Methods for Food and Beverages before Camping

Most of the time, picnickers erroneously pack food stuffs and beverages without pre-chilling them. The idea is that, while embarking on an extended trip, food and beverages would have soked up frost.

Unfortunately, after serving the beverages, one would notice a disgusting look on the faces of invited guest, who are forced to gulplukwarm beverages. So, the idea of pre-chilling saves the unrealist thought that coolers are designed to make food cold, after filling up a cooler with ice and warm beverages or food items.

Avoid Using a Single Cooler for Storing Multiple Foods and Beverages

Considering how exciting picnic outings can be, cooler lids are constantly detached from the cooler on several occassions. This is due to the rushing demand of picnickers who are delighted by having a taste of whatever food items or beverages that have been provided by the picnic host. Initially, children are the culpable ones, who are always visiting coolers at picnics indiscriminately.

Such an action could ruin a picnic, if all the food items and beverages are all loaded up in a single cooler. Providing a separate cooler for beverages will not only keep your meat fresh, but also avoid cross-contamination of food and beverages when visiting the coolers at regular intervals, during the course of the picnic.

Avoid Placing Ice at the Base of Coolers

Placing ice on top of coolers has a unique benefit, because cold usually travels downwards when cooler lids are closed properly; a lot of picnicker are ignorant of this dynamic technique for keeping food items from thawing after a very long time on an extensive trip.

Leaving ice at the base of the cooler will sparingly chill food items at the top of the cooler, leaving out other items less chilled. A picniker could decide to crush a large block of ice into smaller chunks and spread them over the food items, layer by layer, in a cooler for proper chilling effect.

Fill up Coolers Excessively

ice-cubesYou should never consider leaving your cooler empty. The purpose of filling up empty spaces is to keep the cooler airtight. This method keeps the frost compact, therebyallowing the foods items retain their freshness.

Leaving coolers half-filled with ice on many occassion can leave picnickers dissatisfied to seeing their food items degenerating, especially when such food items are not frozen or pre-chilled before hand.

Never Consider Using the Wrong Ice

The choice of one’s cooler should be determined by the type of ice oneneeds for different types of occassion: for soft-sided coolers, choose ice packs instead, while hard-sided coolers can accommodate larger chunks of ice.

Soft-sided cooler can retain a small amount of beverages and as such will require less heavy ice blocks unlike the hard-sided coolers which are capable of retaining a large amount of ice blocks, coupled with the heavy amount of meal needed for picnicking.

On this note, you must take into consideration these icing techniques in preserving food items that are capable of losing their taste at the slightest exposure to long hours of warm temperature. You do not want your summer picnic ruined? Follow these icing steps religiously.

Thanks Guys, to the next one.

Cheers, Owen

Knives Can Make Perfect Gifts – True or False?

I think it’s true – knives can make a perfect gift, maybe not for everyone but for most people – yes. Actually, I have come to the conclusion that knives make good gifts for anyone over the age of 18.  Even me… clumsy, have-to-concentrate-super-hard-while-I-cut-veggies me enjoys receiving a knife as a gift.  Be it a little Spyderco Cricket – one of my best Spyderco’s – , or some kind of historically significant knife, there truly is a knife out there for everyone.

Recently my office pooled together some cash to buy a knife block set for one of our fellow staffers that is getting married.  Sure, we could have bought him a duvet or some towels or something else from his registry, but really how can you go wrong with kitchen knives?

knives make perfect giftIf you cook anything more than a frozen dinner you need them, and they make such a nice display on your countertop when complete with a snazzy block to store them in.

Plus wedding gifts always tend to lean more toward appealing to feminine sensibilities than male sensibilities with the exception, perhaps, of a few choice pieces such a barbecue and of course, knives knives knives.  Needless to say, my co-worker was well pleased with his knife block.

Pocketknives also work well as unusual thank you gifts.  My husband and I are doing extensive renovations to a recently purchased house and are considering knives as little gifts for our most helpful contractors and trades people.

We just ordered a SOG knife to give out as one of these gifts.  It comes in a great little box and looks very swish.  And who couldn’t use a pocket knife?  To use myself once again as someone you wouldn’t expect would enjoy such a gift, I work in the corporate world, not a nature preserve…  I don’t do anything with my hands other than type, and even I find uses for a pocket knife.  Need a box opened?  That’s right; it’s me to the rescue with my trusty little knife.  See?  Everyone can use a pocket knife.

Bringing home knives from faraway places is my husband’s gig.  From a Finnish puukko to a Nepalese khukuri, these have become the objets d’art displayed in our glass cabinet at home as well as much loved gifts to our friends and family members.  Knives tell such stories about the cultures they were created to serve.  They are tangible pieces of history, and make much better gifts that the standard trinkets most people bring home from their travels.

Ah, knives…  So many choices that you can always find one to give as the perfect gift.  From weddings to birthdays to anniversaries to baby showers…  Okay, maybe not baby showers…  Knives are an easy and elegant solution to the gift-giving dilemma.


Off-Road Essentials to Pack Before Hitting the Trails with Kids

The weather is great, the mountain trails are calling your names, yours and your kids’ four-wheeler are looking far too clean…if you’ve got a four-wheel-drive vehicle like those and a thirst for some fun with your kids, you already have just about everything you need for a fun weekend of four-wheeling with kids. There are, however, a few things you may be overlooking that could make your off-road excursion safer and more enjoyable. Here are six things you don’t want to forget before hitting the trails:

Trail Maps

printed-mapYou’ve done your research and picked your route, but if you’re solely relying on your electronic devices to get you through your trip, you may find yourself in trouble. In case you lose your cell signal, your laptop battery dies, or your GPS goes on the fritz, it is always safest to have a printed map and compass on hand. Bring a pen or marker to keep notes and jot down landmarks to help guide you safely back home in a rough situation.

Bottled Water

Not only is it important to have water to drink, but you may find yourself in a jam that requires additional H2O. If you hit the mud harder than expected and your windshield wipers can’t keep up, throwing a gallon of water across the glass can make a huge impact. You may encounter first aid problems ranging from simple cuts and scrapes to major injuries, most of which require thorough disinfecting with clean water before any other steps can be taken. If you find your vehicle overheating and you are running short on coolant, adding clean drinking water to a radiator (after giving it ample time to cool down) can save you in an otherwise emergency situation.

An Emergency Kit

You most likely already have a first aid kit in your vehicle, as many four-wheel-drive trucks come pre-equipped. Expanding on the generic kit can make a huge difference when you need some assistance. In addition to your standard bandages and ointments, be sure to include a pair of tweezers for minor first aid to both you and your vehicle. Heavy duty masking tape and superglue can not only be used to repair all sorts of engine, line, and tubing problems, but can also help in a first aid emergency. Also be sure to include a full-size bottle of rubbing alcohol. Your stock first aid kit most likely includes small alcohol wipes or swabs, but many situations require more alcohol than those can provide.

Aluminum All-Weather Blanket

These aluminum-lined blankets are surprisingly affordable and easily found at most camping outfitter stores. They are compact and light, making them easy to stash underneath a seat. While they are typically marketed as an emergency blanket used to combat hypothermia, they serve many other purposes. They can provide excellent shelter for protection from sun, wind, and rain. When placed in your windshield, with the reflective side facing outward, they can keep your vehicle cool while you take a stroll or work under the hood. They also provide excellent ground cover for anything from a midday picnic to an emergency engine repair, and typically clean up easily with a splash of water.

Basic Tool Kit

tool-kitNothing is worse than calling a tow truck when all you need is a minor repair. Be sure to stock a set of screwdrivers, pliers, wrenches, and sockets. It is also handy to have a small hammer or rubber mallet and a hacksaw on hand. If you have room under a seat or on the roof, bring along a small collapsible shovel in case you need to dig yourself out of a situation. A simple tire repair kit can also mean the difference between getting home or calling for help. If you throw in a few clean rags, you should be set to handle any minor issues that come up.


When hitting the trails, you might be tempted to stock your vehicle with potato chips, crackers, and cookies, but those may do you more harm than good. Avoid packing foods that are high in salt and empty calories, as they can dehydrate you and leave you feeling hungrier in the long run. Choose foods packed with grains and proteins, such as granola bars, low-sodium trail mix, and peanut butter. Try to stick with foods that are good at room temperature, as your cooler may not last as long as your trip – unless you have a high end one, like my favorite K2 cooler. Toss in a few packets of instant coffee to keep you alert on your drive home.

Whether you are planning a simple dirt-road daytrip, a mudding adventure, or a more complicated trail excursion, being prepared is key. Having a vehicle that is stocked to face your standard hiccups will allow you to relax and enjoy your adventure. Stock your truck and hit the dirt!


Into the Woods with Kids – Five Ideas for Nature Lessons

Remember being allowed to roam the woods as a kid? Being in the forest was exciting, awe-inspiring, and even a bit scary. Nevertheless it stimulated exploration and adventure. Safety and education were not always on the agenda.

Today, sadly, it is not the best idea to let children roam alone, even in public parks and nature preserves. However, taking them on a walk where you are the guide enables you to instill in them that same sense of adventure. With a few precautions and a bit of common knowledge, your kids can enjoy the wonder of nature in a secure way.

1. Know the path before you go

trialKnowing the path is fundamental when you have young ones in tow. Try to use paths and trails that you have already been on. Take note of any obstacles like holes, large roots, narrowing of the path, or poison ivy. Guiding your children around these will be easier if you are aware of them yourself. You can also point them out so they will be aware of such things when they start to wander the woods by themselves.

If you do start down a trail you have never been on, stay in the front of the group, so you can spot any possible dangers. Be sure to spread overhanging branches out of the way. Little ones will want to hold your hand, but if that is not feasible, tell them to hang onto your shirt or pants leg.

2. Show them the many varieties of plants

Plant life is an excellent way to let children know that there are other flora besides daisies and dandelions. Wildflowers can be decorative and edible. Children will be delighted to know that they can eat “weeds” like burdock or cattails. Planning a wildflower picnic with food picked by the children is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

Taking the time to show and tell about poisonous plants is a good way to build their confidence for when they go off on their own. Ivy, oak, and sumac should be on the teaching agenda. Inform yourself about other irritating substances from plant life in your area.

3. Be aware of animals you may encounter

SquirrelIf you know that one of the young ones is skittish around animals, take time to find out what critters may cross your path on your walk. Talk to the child before you go and tell them what to expect. Squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, and birds are only the beginning. Be on the lookout for holes that might have snakes, groundhogs, or mice living in them. Introduce children to nocturnal animals by describing their habitat and then asking them to point out what they think might be a burrow or nest.

Safety first should be your motto when you hit the trail with kids. Do not dig into a burrow or break down a thicket to see if anything is there. And if you do encounter a wild creature, be sure to keep quiet and let the children know that disturbing an animal is probably a bad idea.

4. Differences in seasons, weather

Summer is the most popular time to go hiking. With sunshine, warm breezes, and lots of green plants, it’s easy to encourage your children to learn about nature. There are some downsides, though, such as overgrowth which makes navigating a path difficult.

Spring is the time of budding flowers and baby animals. Rain can be an introduction to the planting season. The smell of fresh earth could turn into a discussion of earthworms.

nature-walkAutumn brings colder weather which can cause disinterest in the great outdoors. However, a lesson in decomposition, along with an afternoon of collecting leaves, makes for a special outing.

Winter may not be the obvious time for nature walks, but there are many opportunities for learning. A conversation of endurance can begin with showing how some plants stay green while others wither and die. Talking about hibernation may start an imaginative story of what animals dream about.

5. Let them find surprises

Be on the lookout for surprising things. Seeing a baby rabbit just coming out of a nest is a wondrous thing to a small child. Older ones will be delighted when they spot a woodpecker after wondering where that knocking sound is coming from.

If you should spot a nest of baby birds, or an unusually bright patch of sunlight, suppress the urge to point it out. Instead, guide the child so their line of sight picks it up. They will be so thrilled to have “found” something they can show you. “Look what I found!” are happy words indeed.

Roaming the woods is an age-old tradition of most cultures. Passing on this legacy to your children is a satisfying method of encouraging life-long learning along with the love of nature.