TopKayaker.Net: Kayak Gear & Accessory Reviews From The Field

BakePackerProduct Review: BakePacker

We used the BakePacker for the first time years ago in combination with the Open Country 2 qt. Pot, on week-long wilderness kayak trip and found it to be an easy to use, labor saving innovation.

BakePackerAt first it required a bit of practice and a review of the instructions, but after a couple meals we were cooking comfortably with a high degree of success. The BakePacker cooks your meals in a bag, (Glad freezer/storage 1 gal. or Reynolds oven cooking bag) thus eliminating clean up of cooking pots. It works like an oven by not a steamer, baking the sealed bag with the food inside.


We used a camp stove to do all the cooking. We also used the BakePacker with a generic camp pot; but the instructions explain that you should make sure that you have no more than one inch space. The right size pot for the right size BakePacker is addressed in the very thorough instructions. We have enjoyed this cooking aid so much over the years that we now carry it in our TopKayaker Store and you can read more details there. Untreated water was used to boil in the BakePacker and when the meal was over the boiled water could be used for clean up.

eggsYou don't even have to wash your dishes if you don't mind eating out of the bag. I can't tell you how happy I was to take a major portion of the drudgery out of campsite cooking.

It also helps to make minimum impact camping easy. There is very little need to dig a large deep sump pit and fill it with lots of soapy water. Also you don't have to strain your dishwater for food scraps that animals might dig up. Any left over bits in the BakePacker bag conveniently slip into a zip lock bag.

Carry In - Carry Out couldn't be easier! The BakePacker was a great addition to our cook kits and appreciated by all on the trip and always by us since.

Pictured right: Just add water scrambled eggs from Campsite Cusine.

AtwaterProduct Review:
The Atwater Carey Campside Kitchen Kit:

The kit (shown at left with additional odd bottle, Tom's instant coffee, ugh!) is a very handy organizer that has a hook meant to let it hang from a tree branch.

This was great! It contains a lot of small, light kitchen tools and containers.

There are two place settings of plastic spoon, fork and knife, but no dishes or pots and pans. The paper measuring cup was nice to have and took the guess work out of measuring water for the Adventure Foods meals. The small plastic bottles are good for a variety of spices, oils and other staples. The sponge is a nice touch.  

We might suggest going through the kit to remove any unnecessary items for the trip in mind and add the little things you prefer in your "kitchen." We were on a kayak camping trip where weight is not an issue, but on a hiking trip you may be inclined to put the contents of this kit in a zip lock bag. The carrying case is not heavy but every ounce cut from your pack helps lighten the load.

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adventure foods Product Review:

Adventure Foods

We sampled a wide variety of dehydrated dishes created by Adventure Foods. The foods re-hydrate with water, hot or cold. They mix in there own bag then seal up again for easy clean-up. Sadly, the company has retired but the principles their meals were based on came from the owner, Jean S. Spangenberg's publication: The Backpacker's Companion, for sale in our book section. (Click on their book to purchase)

We used Adventure Foods' "BakePacker" discribed above to "cook" our hot meals; but you don't need to "cook" or "steam" the meals to eat. Each one comes in its own reclosable bag with cooking pouch and spices. A cute postcard with full instructions is also enclosed. Their website shows a full line of their meals. Don't go there hungry.


Here are some Adventure Food reviews by our five campfire-side food critics: Jody, Shawn, Mike, Tom & Athena; who relied on them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout most of our Fall Sit-on-topKayaking.com tour.

Sausage & Cheese Omelette, BakePacker Meal: Grade A, nice combination of veggies. Label claims two servings, but feeds one hungry camper.

Ham & Cheese Breakfast Casserole, BakePacker Meal: Good and eggy. Use the salt and pepper (comes in almost all meals.) Note: We spilled this meal but the BakePacker bag prevented a disaster! Also, wrap any Adventure Food meal bag in aluminum foil and it will keep warm.

French Toast Casserole with apple, walnut & maple, BakePacker Meal: Excellent! Outstanding! really good with or with out maple syrup.

Huevos Rancheros, BakePacker Meal: Be careful not to overcook eggs. Don't add too much water to the salsa. If you follow the instructions it is easy to make. The salsa should be in a pocket that can be heated, otherwise yummy! We may add the salsa to the BakePacker mix just before it stops cooking next time. Note: You can eat right out of the BakePacker bag to keep your dishes clean. Ziplock bags are great for the camp trash.

Mushroom & Cheese Breakfast Casserole, BakePacker Meal: Very good, Bravo! Use the salt and pepper. It is worth the wait.

Cranberry Walnut Chicken, BakePacker Meal: Easy to make and clean up. Taste good and hearty. Feel free to season. Important to follow instructions to let it soak long enough. Other comments from the camp: "Didn't like the croutons (soaked too long?) too soggy." "Should be all wild rice with chicken. Enjoyed the walnuts and cranberries!"

Down East Shrimp with cream sauce & noodles, BakePacker Meal: Good seafood flavor with nice little shrimps. It was wonderful but the directions were not entirely clear.

Deep Dish Pizza with real mozzarella!, for the BakePacker: Great Idea, but: "...spice balance tastes wrong, a bit bitter." Others in our party thought it was good, especially the crust.

Greek Pasta Salad with Feta & Tomatoes, Just add hot water: Slam dunk to make! Seasoned well, no need for salt and pepper. Can leave it to cool for a cold salad.

Beef Stew, (not cooked in bake packer): It tasted somewhat pre-made, perhaps It was not cooked long enough, or should have been cooked in the BakePacker.

Blueberry Muffins or Pancakes, for the BakePacker: "It was fluffy and tasty like the best bakery muffins." "Good muffin! (one big one) It was worth the wait. We had it with Maple Sugar Crystals sprinkled on top."

Almond Date Oatbran Muffin, for the BakePacker: "Great with maple syrup. Very Tasty! My favorite morning treat!"

Orange Date Nut Bars, Instant!: "Very sweet...may be too tangy. Hard to make into bars."

Tuna Salad, cold preparation!: Some thought it was too fishy, others thought it was good. Easy to make, but cut the bag on the long side to make mixing and serving more easy. Good on pita pockets (travel well) or crackers (don't travel as well.)

Chicken Salad, cold preparation!: It was great! Easy to make, but cut the bag on the long side to make mixing and serving more easy. Good on pita pockets (travel well) or crackers (don't travel as well.)

Maple Syrup Crystals: Perfect for hiking trips, it takes the weight out of maple syrup. Just sprinkle on your pancakes if you are lazy or rehydrate if you are a gourmet.

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We carried the Great Outdoors EMERGENCY BOAT LIGHTS, in our emergency bag, containing six cyalume lights by Omniglow. These chemical light sticks were comforting to have on our paddle across the lake at dusk. We did not plan to be out so late but were prepared for the situation with lights for everyone in our party. We passed out the lights prior to launching. Half way across the lake it began to get dark and a float plane had landed earlier. We snapped our lights to make them glow and shortly after the float plane powered up its engines and took off. The plane missed us by a comfortable margin, presumably due to the lights, but still excitingly close.

I would recommend that every PFD have a light, preferably a "Man Overboard" personal marker light cliped to the upper portion of the life vest. At the very least a cyalume stick with a string, like their "SOS" distress signal, in the PFD pocket. Also keep a bunch of light sticks in your emergency and or first aid kit for unexpected situations.

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We carried a cell phone in a CELL SAFE on our trip for emergency reasons. I had assumed that we would not be able to use the phone that far into the wilderness, but every time I checked to see if a we were in range for a call, we were. We were not expecting any calls nor did we make any but it was comforting to know that we could reach the outside world. The CELL SAFE made it easy to store the phone in an accessible place. The bright yellow color of the case also made it easy to find. This new "clear top" version, pictured at right, is a great innovation.

While I do recommend the use of a phone as a safety device, I do not suggest that paddlers develop a false sense of security because of the phone. Paddlers should never assume that they can take on a challenge simply because they can call for help. The phone is the last line of defense and simply to facilitate communications in emergency situations. Always rely on your common sense, good preparation and your basic safety gear to keep you out of troble. Remember you are out in the woods to get away from it all so don't be tempted to make or receive calls.

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Big Spoon PaddlesBIGSPOONS PADDLE, Model T1 Composite, 240cm, 2 pc, 45 degree feather.

Shawn: I liked shape of the handle to locate the grip. The big blade delivered a lot of power per stroke. Not too heavy or too light.

Tom: The BigSpoons T1 has a very nice blade shape that seems to me to very adaptable to many different water types. I feel that it could be for anything from wave riding to touring. While it is a bit heavy compared to some of the paddles I am used to using, I found that its performance is parallel to many of the best. I would definitely recommend it as a paddle any beginner or casual paddler could use and enjoy for years.

BIGSPOONS PADDLE, Model T3 Carbon, 220 cm, 2 pc, 45 degree feather.

Mike: The lightweight paddle is great. It felt like a part of me, an extension of my arms. It pulls through water good. Blade shape could have been longer and skinnier for my stroke style. The shaft was good and felt comfortable in my hands. There was no problem with preexisting carpel tunnel condition in the wrists.

Tom: Carbon makes all the difference! Boy is this paddle light! The T3 has many of the same characteristics as the T1 but the blade shape lend it self to a higher stroke angle and a more aggressive paddling style. It was perfect for the skinny fast kayaks that we had on out trip. I feel also that the T3 would be very good in waves and possibly white water as well. The BigSpoons come in 45 and 60 degree feather angles, we used 45. While I am used to about 80 dregees I think I could get to like the angles.

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Lawson's Hammock Tent
Setting up...
Getting in...
All tucked in...
Nighty night...
All rested!

Shawn: The Lawson Hammock Tent was nice and comfortable. It is well ventilated. I did not feel claustrophobic. I had some fear but I felt good after the first tip. The netting is strong and did not let me down. I would add extra guide lines to other trees for stability.

I can also hear more when I am off the ground. I felt that it allows wild life to approach more closely. It is well constructed and strong. Getting in and out requires some practice. Once again some guide lines would help. It was a bit frustrating when tipped.

I would consider buying one. It is very light even with extra ropes, and easy to pack. The Hammock tent was convenient to assemble and dissemble. It is great for kayakers. I think that you can set it up on flat ground. It is a three season tent, and I might be concerned about extreme wind and rain. It is high enough to keep out chipmunks and mice, so they don't chew on your gear.

Tom: I have always been feeling a need for a tent that could handle less than hospitable terrain. Many a time I have found my self in a situation where there are too many rocks, uneven ground, or a swampy wet bog to pitch a tent successfully. This is the answer!

I am not a hammock person. I have never owned a hammock or dreamed of sipping my favorite beverage in the shade, swinging to the rhythm of the breezes, but this Lawson Hammock Tent is more my style. I would feel confident that I could land my kayak virtually anywhere there are trees and have a comfortable place to sleep. There is not a lot of room for gear and it is not a cabana for clothes changing, but it is comfy. I did "capsize" the tent once, and it would be nice to have some kind of grab line inside.

I agree with Shawn about the guide ropes for stability. I went as far to experiment with the concept, by tying a rope from one corner of the tent around the supporting tree (16"dia.) and back to the opposite corner. This was done on both sides and it did increase stability.

I did try to set this up on the ground. The Hammock Tent is an arboreal creature and not a terrestrial creature.

It is easy to use and fits in any kayak. It seems very well made and strong. I know from experience, the netting and seems hold up great. It does take a bit of practice to get in and out of. Also it is very important to use the directions. I am thinking that it may be a good idea to laminate the instructions and attach them to the tent so any body can use the tent and know how to get in and out with out damaging the tent or themselves. It is a nice shade of green too.

This tent could further the goals of minimum impact camping by not crushing the plant life on the forest floor, but care should be taken not to hurt the trees you are hanging the tent from.

While it would be next to impossible to have a wet tent floor I do feel that the rain fly could fail in a hard rain or snow fall. An extra tarp may be necessary to hang above if you are expecting bad weather. I have done that with countless terrestrial tents any ways. One more thing, it is possible that the Tent Hammock may be warmer because you are not in contact with the warmth robbing ground.

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