This article was written by Mike Steere for the Universal Press
The adventuring world knows Carole Latimer as a
sort of Julia Child. Her cookbook, Wilderness Cuisine, which
features such backpackable delights as Havasu Watercress Salmon
and Thai Tom Yum Soup, made her a star among outdoorsy food-lovers.
But some of her best recipes are inedible. On the trail, she whips
up civilized pleasures and conveniences from things that cost and
weigh practically nothing.
I feel like the Heloise of the wilderness,
Latimer says. I am always giving these nifty little tips.
Latimer has perfected her ingenious campcraft, along with her recipes,
in 18 years as a wilderness trip leader. She owns Berkeley-based
Call of the Wild, which specializes in women-only backpacking trips.
The Latimer masterpiece is a solar-heated spa and washing-machine
with a pack weight of only 4 ounces. Basic per-camper requirement
is two 45-gallon, heavy-duty, black plastic garbage bags, which
weigh about 2 ounces apiece. One is for washing, one for rinsing.
The procedure: Spread ground cloths or other puncture-proof
material in spots that will get direct sun for at least four hours.
Set garbage bags on the cloths. Haul water from a nearby source
and dump about 6 gallons in each bag. A loose knot keeps the water
in the bag.
While the sun heats the water, do something sweaty,
the better to enjoy the bath, Latimer says.
She soaks and washes sitting cross-legged in the
bag, which she pulls up to neck-level, and launders underwear and
socks while she's washing and rinsing herself.
It's hysterically funny to see a bunch of
people doing this, but it feels heavenly, Latimer says.
Big garbage bags also function as plastic kitchen
working surfaces and table cloths, emergency rain ponchos and covers
for packs and firewood.
Latimer also gets multiple uses out of nylon window
screen, fashioning, among other things, a combination dish drainer-and-kitchen
cupboard from a large piece of screen.Drainer/storage how-to: Fold
a 3- or 4-foot square of screen double, so it makes a sort of horizontal
envelope open at both ends, and pin it to a clothes line.
I put everything for the kitchen except food
in the screen, "Latimer says. "Everything dries fast, and you can
see any little item you want.
A smaller piece of screen makes a lightweight mini-colander
for draining pasta. Fold greens in the screen, twirl your arm and
you've got a rudimentary but effective salad-spinner.
Latimer says that a small square of screen is the
best pot-scrubber for the wilderness. It's lighter than scrubbers
sold in stores, and it doesn't hold bits of food.
One of Latimer's favorite tricks is to take some
warmth from the campfire or stove to bed. Like many guides, she
keeps a pot of hot water simmering after supper, encouraging clients
to have warm drinks.When it's time to turn in, Latimer fills her
water bottles from the pot and takes them to bed, using them to
soothe achy joints and muscles.
When she awakes during the night, she drinks from
her bed-warming water bottles, which have cooled.
Dinner, too, does double duty for Latimer. For
keeping away mosquitoes, I serve pesto, she says. Garlic
is a natural repellent. She serves nutritional yeast, another
natural bug repellent, on popcorn.
Latimer's substitute for pre-moistened towelettes:
Carry a 2-ounce Nalgene bottle of witch hazel and cotton make-up
remover pads. Pads soaked in witch hazel are every bit as refreshing
as the store bought item, but they're lighter and cheaper. They're
also more environment-friendly because they don't come in foil packets.
Latimer, a militant environmentalist and low-impact
camper, shuns items that include wasteful wrapping. She finds metal
foil particularly irksome because it can't be consumed in campfires.
Her advice converges with other guides' common wisdom
on two points:
Take a headlamp, instead of a flashlight, to have
Don't wear, or pack, blue jeans. Anything
cotton, like denim, is stupid in the wilderness, unless you're in
the tropics, Latimer says.
For backpackers, meals and comfortable sleeping
should outweigh other considerations. Latimer says to be generous
with food and bedding, but skimp on everything else, particularly
extra clothing and toiletries.
Her one cosmetic self-indulgence is lipstick. Why?
Because I like it.
Nail-painting, before a wilderness trip, helps
women foster an illusion of good grooming. When dirt gets
under your fingernails, it doesn't show, she says.You
feel much cleaner than you otherwise would.
Latimer uses her tricks mainly on backpacking trips,
but they work just as well for rafters, ski-tourers or any type
of wilderness travelers. Behind every bit of cleverness dreamed
up by Latimer and every other guide's personal trickslies
larger outdoor wisdom: In the wilderness, an everyday pleasure like
a hot bath becomes a luxury that improves the rest of the adventure.
And the differences between enduring and real enjoyment are often
simple, small and cheap, if not free.
Sometimes I feel like a nerd, with all these
teeny things, " Latimer says, But that's what being comfortable
out there comes down toall these little teeny things, to take
care of yourself.