Backpacker's Pantry Outback Oven|
Owner Review by Anson Moxness
July 12, 2007
Height: 5'9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 145 lbs (66 kg)
E-mail: anson dot Moxness at gmail dot com
Location: Anchorage, Alaska US
I have been a backpacker for my entire life. Most of my experience backpacking has been in the Chugach Mountains outside of Anchorage. I am experimenting in a more lightweight approach to backpacking and hopefully I will end up with around a 15 lb (6.8 kg) pack for shorter (2-4 day) trips. I try to seek out the most rugged terrain possible; in the Chugach that I prefer steeper rocky terrain with some snowfield and glacier crossings. I mostly hike in the summer months but I do have experience in cold weather conditions.
Model: Outback Oven 10"
Manufacturer: American Outdoor Products, Inc
Year Purchased: 2005
Listed Weight: 26 oz (740 g)
Measured Weight: 27 oz (765 g)
Measured Diameter of Pan (Between outside edges): 9.9" (25 cm)
Packed Dimensions: 10" x 2.75" (25 cm x 7 cm)
MSRP: $69.90 US
The 10-inch (25 cm) Outback Oven comes in a mesh bag and consists of a 10-inch (25 cm) non-stick pan with a lid, a "Pot Parka", a Scorch Buster, Riser Bar, Reflector Collar, a screw-in thermometer, and an instruction book. The non-stick pan and lid fit together and the lid has a small hole in the top where the thermometer screws in. The Pot Parka is a reflective dome that fits over the pan and lid combination that helps retain heat - hence the Oven. The Scorch Buster and accompanying Riser Bar spread out the heat from the stove and the riser creates an airspace that, when the two are used in combination, allows for better air flow and more even cooking. The reflector collar is designed for use with a canister stove on which the burner is directly above the gas tank to keep the tank from overheating during the sometimes-long baking process. The collar can be cut to fit a specific stove. The screw-in thermometer fits into the lid of the pan and can be seen through the top hole in the Pot Parka; it has three temperature ranges: "Warm up", "Bake", and "Burn!". The Oven's instruction manual contains basic instructions, some frequently asked questions, tips, and a few recipes designed for the Oven that have non-perishable ingredients (or at least options for ones).
In the field, the Riser Bar is placed into slots on the Scorch Buster, which is then placed on the stove itself. If the stove sits on top of the fuel canister, the Reflector Collar is put between the stove and the fuel tank to shield the take from unnecessary heat. This is where the stove can be turned to low. After the stove has started, the pan (with food placed inside) is put on the Riser Bar and the lid (with screwed-in thermometer) goes on top of that. Finally over all that the Pot Parka is gently placed on top with the bottom edges away from the direct flame. Now the baking can begin!
I used the Outback Oven mostly on short trips (2-3 days) where I was not particularly worried about the weight of my pack (as the Oven is not really a necessity for me). I have used my Outback Oven with two different stoves: an MSR WhisperLite (white gas) and an MSR WindPro (external canister). The two main places that I will discuss in this review were on the Ruth Glacier in the Alaska Range, around 5600 feet (1700 m), and in the Talkeetna Mountains at around 3000 feet (915 m). In most of my uses there was only a slight breeze and the temperatures were no lower than 45 F (7 C), but when the wind did pick up I was able to use a wind screen because I didn't have to worry about the fuel canister heating up (as per the instruction manual) because I had an external fuel source.
To start off, I consider the Outback Oven a luxury item, a treat on shorter trips with shorter walks or a base camp set up. I would not want to carry the whole Oven on longer trips because it is simply not a necessity and only serves a limited purpose. However saying that, I thoroughly enjoyed my meals where I was able to whip up a sweet treat after dinner or for breakfast. My first use of the Outback Oven was on the Ruth Glacier in the Alaska Range, since we were at a moderately higher altitude (5600 ft, 1700 m) we adjusted the cook times and ingredient amounts for slightly thinner air, only to find out that Backpacker's Pantry had calibrated the recipes in their booklet to 5000 feet (1500 m). Nonetheless with a little waiting we were able to have piping hot brownies with some powdered sugar, which definitely made my night. On this trip weight was not as much a problem because we were flown onto the glacier and did day trips up and down the Ruth so we never really had to carry our camp gear a long way.
Another adventure that I used the Oven for was a backpacking trip into the Talkeetna Mountains. From my prior experiences I knew to keep to the recipes provided by the manufacturer unless I was using a pre-made food such as brownie mix or pre-made cookie dough. On this trip, much to the surprise of my hiking partner, I whipped up some chocolate cake batter after our dinner of freeze dried food. The problem was that I had never tested the manufacturer's recipe before and the cake turned into more of a steamed chocolate pudding, which was really not a problem because how often do I get to eat chocolate cake in the middle of the wilderness. From now on I will test all the recipes on a stove at home before I go out and cook them on a trip. This was the first time I had needed to pack the Outback Oven a longer distance than a hundred meters or so (110 yards) to base camp, but since all of the parts of the Oven fit into the mesh bag and it packed quite small, it didn't take up too much room in my pack. I was simply able to slip it down the back to provide even more rigidity in my pack. I have used the Oven in several more trips after these and it has performed just like I thought it would, creating warm meals that are a refreshing break from the normal bland camping food.
The use of the Oven was fairly straightforward so long as I followed the diagrams and instructions provided: turn on the stove and put at a low setting and then place Riser Bar with the Scorch Buster and optional reflector collar on the stove, then put the nonstick pan with food on top and put lid and Pot Parka on. From there it was simply modulating the heat after the Oven warmed up, keeping the thermometer needle on the high side of BAKE. My main problem with the Oven was modulating the heat, as I used it more I was able to do this more effectively. On a canister stove such as the MSR WindPro I used in the Talkeetnas, it was more difficult to keep a consistent temperature. In my experience, this is the case with most canister stoves - they are meant to boil water rather than simmer and bake a cake. In the future I will only try to use the Oven on a stove that is designed to simmer, such as the MSR WhipserLite I had used on previous trips.
I love the Outback Oven for trips where I am not being weight conscious because there is really no other way to get hot brownies or chocolate cake (see a trend in chocolate foods?) out on a hiking trip. The Pot Parka itself can be used over plain pots to help retain heat and it helped lower boiling times for some hot beverages to go with the nice desserts. My only real concern with the product is its use with canister stoves on which it is harder to modulate heat and keep at a low power, but that is more a problem with the stove than the Oven itself. Overall I would highly recommend this product to those who aren't counting ounces and would like a hot treat every once and a while.
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