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Reviews > Cook Gear > Cooking Accessories > Outback Oven > Owner Review by Michael Wheiler
BACKPACKER'S PANTRY OUTBACK OVEN¹
Owner Review by Michael Wheiler
January 10, 2007
Backpacker's Pantry Outback Oven on a Coleman Peak-1 Stove.
Company Name: Backpacker's Pantry
Product: Outback Oven
Company Web Site: http://www.backpackerspantry.com
Owner Biographical Information:
Name: Michael Wheiler
Age: 50 years old
Height: 5' 10" (1.8 m)
Weight: 175 lb (80 kg)
Location: Southeastern Idaho
E-mail: jmwlaw at ida dot net
Experience: I have more than 39 years experience hiking, camping, and backpacking. I became active in the Boy Scout program as a youth and was a Scoutmaster for seven years (1997-2004) with a consistent monthly outdoor activity. Since being retired from that position, I don't get out as much but I try to go at least every other month and try to fit in at least one 3-5 day backpack trip per year.
The Outback Oven consists of a ribbed stainless steel diffuser plate called the "Scorch Buster" which sits on top of the stove and is designed to disperse the heat evenly around the bottom of the pan; a riser bar which clips to the diffuser plate and lifts the 10"/25 cm non-stick lightweight aluminum pan above the heat from the stove; a lid for the pan with a detachable thermometer; a reflector shield made of flexible aluminum which the user cuts to fit his or her stove and which is designed to direct heat upward toward the diffuser plate and shield the stove from over heating; and a "Pot Parka" or convection dome made of aluminized fiberglass designed to concentrate heat around the pan. The Pot Parka has a hole cut in the center to allow the thermometer to be seen while the oven is in use. See photographs below. The thermometer is a simple "bi-metal" type that measures air temperature at the top of the Pot Parka. The readings on the thermometer are simple as well: "WARM-UP", "BAKE", and "BURN." A 13 page Field Guide is provided by Backpacker's Pantry which contains warnings, tips for using the oven, recipes, a list of accessories for the oven and a description of the oven's parts. All of the parts are stored inside the pan which is stowed in a nylon mesh sack with a toggle closure.
Users are advised that if they are the type of person who doesn't normally read instructions, they should look at the diagram and then have someone read the instructions to them. Users are also cautioned not to use the oven with any stove that uses "burner heat to pressurize the fuel tank" or with a windscreen that encloses the fuel tank and stove together. Backpacker's Pantry warns that failure to follow these instructions "could result in a fuel tank explosion and/or serious injury (obviously written by legal counsel for the company).
After reading the Guide and looking at the drawings in the Guide setting up the oven was easy. Getting the hang of baking in the oven wasn't quite as easy. Apparently heat from the oven is absorbed by the pan and the food thus causing the thermometer readings to increase gradually while the food is cooking. The highest readings on the thermometer occur at the end of the cooking cycle. The stove should be set at a low flame with the out-put increased slowly to allow the thermometer to "equiliberate." Generally, depending on weather conditions, it takes between 5-10 minutes for the oven to reach the BAKE zone on the thermometer. According to the Guide, the optimal baking reading is around the "E" in BAKE on the thermometer. The temperature in the oven is regulated by adjusting the heat out-put from the stove and if the temperature reaches "BURN," by removing the Pot Parka and allowing the pan to cool.
Scorch Buster and Riser Bar. Lid with screw in thermometer.
Top view of the Pot Parka with a view of the thermometer.
My first experience with the oven was at Bear Gulch (elevation 5,662 ft/1,726 m) where I attempted to bake cookies for my Boy Scout Troop. This trip took place during the summer and we experienced warm temperatures. I used Pillsbury cookie dough in a can. It took a couple of extra crunchy batches before I finally got the temperature and the timing right, but hot chocolate chip cookies in the backcountry got me hooked. The only thing missing was a cold glass of milk! I have used the Outback Oven off and on ever since depending on pack weight and menus.
In August of 2006, two of my daughters, one of my brothers, my sister-in-law, and I took a three day trip into Alaska Basin in the Teton Range (elevation 9,560 ft/2,914 m at Basin Lakes). From the trail head, this is an 8 mile/13 km one-way trip into the lakes. Our chosen route took us up the Devil's Staircase with an elevation gain of 1,565 ft/477 m. As such, pack weight was a concern but given the size of the group and our ability to distribute some of the weight, I decided to take the oven for some fresh baked goodies. I did not regret the extra weight or the extra room the oven took inside my pack. Because all of the parts to the oven stow inside the pan it was easy to pack and carry. However, I should note that other members of the group carried the pots for heating water and other cooking needs.
The morning after we arrived in the Basin, I decided to bake cinnamon rolls. The temperature that morning was seasonably cool. I used my Coleman Peak-1 stove (though I have used several types of stoves with the oven). The rolls were made from Pillsbury cinnamon roll dough in a can. We kept the dough cool by placing it in the lake overnight. I cracked open the can, removed the dough and placed the individual rolls in the pan. I then started the stove, adjusted the flame to a low setting, placed the pan on the diffuser, placed the lid on the pan and covered the oven with the Parka. I eventually adjusted the flame a little higher to get the temperature into the BAKE zone. I then monitored the thermometer every few minutes and adjusted the flame as necessary. The weather was warm with a fairly strong breeze. To assist the oven, I found a rock wind break behind which I set-up the oven. In approximately 30 minutes, the rolls were ready to eat. I must admit they looked and tasted perfect. See photographs below. My only regret was not bringing another can! I almost had a mutiny when I informed the group that there was only one roll per person.
Non-stick Pan full of freshly baked cinnamon rolls. Side-view of a cinnamon roll fresh from the oven.
That night, without much prodding from the group, I fired up the oven again for pizza and apple pie. These were prepared by Backpacker's Pantry especially for the Outback Oven. We tried both varieties of pizza offered by Backpacker's Pantry--Supreme and Triple Cheese. We simply followed the simple directions on the packaging and within 20-30 minutes we were feasting. Again, no morsel was wasted. While I believe everyone preferred the Supreme Pizza over the Triple Cheese, nobody complained about hot pizza in one of the most beautiful spots in the Teton Range. The only thing the apple pie lacked was a scoop of vanilla ice cream! I must admit that it was difficult to go back to eating ordinary freeze dried fare.
Reflector collar and non-stick pan full of apple pie. Supreme Pizza made in the Outback Oven.
The faces of happy customers at 9,560 ft/2,914 m in Alaska Basin.
I last used the oven during the weekend of December 2, 2006 while testing the Hilleberg Rajd in Black's Canyon (elevation 5,437 ft/1,657 m). The temperature was cold and there was snow on the ground which made baking conditions less than favorable. Nevertheless, I wanted to see if the Outback Oven could still produce a delicious hot baked biscuits for breakfast. This time, I used my MSR Pocket Rocket and rigged the reflector to fit.
The oven on a cold, winter morning.
I used Pillsbury in the can cheesy biscuit dough. I removed the individually cut dough from the can and placed it into the pan which was then placed on the stove which was already set to a low flame. Baking time was slower due to the cold air temperature but within approximately 30 minutes I found the biscuits ready to turn over to brown both sides. Within approximately 10 minutes I had butter melting into a piping hot biscuit which I washed down with a cup of steaming hot chocolate. Not a bad start to the morning!
Cheesy biscuits just about to come out of the oven.
In conclusion, I like good food and usually don't mind packing a little extra weight. As such, the Outback Oven has become an integral part of my cooking gear. On the other hand, when the planned trip is such that I need to be pack weight conscious, the Out Back Oven is not be a piece of gear that I will carry without a great deal of persuasion. Then again, my memory of the aroma of hot cinnamon rolls wafting along with a hint of wildflowers and pine is usually enough to change my mind.
¹ Backpacker's Pantry also offers a lightweight version of the oven without the pan or lid. The user can then provide his or her own pan and lid. The pan also apparently is available in 12" (30.5 cm) and 8" (20 cm) diameters.
Read more gear reviews by Michael Wheiler
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