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Living the Van Life: Cooking a Meal Outside

Returning to our natural roots as humans comes with a serene feeling only Mother Nature can provide. Getting away from it all allows for deep breaths, and a brief break from daily stressors. Last week, we did just that with Chad Derosa from Living The Van LifeNaturally, we escaped to Pacific Northwest’s beautiful North Cascade mountains, a short drive from the Trayvax warehouse in Bellingham.


Going on a camping trip is largely about being out there. Sounds of the city hustle, traffic and sirens have no place in the great outdoors. Just you and the sounds of wind through the tree tops, a rolling river and the looming question of

where are we sleeping tonight?”

Finding a camping spot should give you the “this is home for the night” feeling. Camping near running water provides quick access for swimming to clean drinking water. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to campsites, find one that speaks to you and ideally has a fire pit.

Starting Small

Living a minimalist lifestyle comes with practice and commitment to a routine. Start small, no need to overstep your camping experience. Cooking a meal outside can be quick and easy. Whether it is the backyard campout, one night camping escape to fully living off the grid we all have something to gain from sitting around hot coals cooking food as our ancestors did.

Slowly, each individual camping trip builds upon this skillset of living minimally off of the tools you brought. Surely you should stop on the way out of town and grab all your personal bbq favorites from the grocery store. Hot dogs on a stick, pre-made kabobs and the classic s’mores combo pack are some of my favorites.

Creating a cooking outside kit helped me personally have everything in one place. Things like aluminum foil, cast iron skillet, oil to cook with (Pro tip: Chad loves Toasted Sesame Oil by La Tourangelle) and a way to boil water all help in bringing modern conveniences to your camp site. 

If you have not already, you will soon learn that adapting to problems while camping requires some creativity. Forgetting something at home only means brainstorming a new way to do something. I have a friend that swears tent stakes make the best chopsticks. 

When you fully depend on something in a time of need you begin to create new uses for it. Chad finds our Trek Knife fits that bill of the knife that can do it all. Helping build the fire by accurately splitting each kindling piece. Cutting up the vegetables to be sautéed over the fire and cutting your steak like butter.

Take it from Chad directly :

“Get out here and cook a meal, push your limits. Try something new. You will never know what you are going to learn out here in the backcountry.”

Check out the full video feature on our YouTube Channel:


Tips For Cooking Over a Campfire

*Fire extinguisher disclaimer* You do not want to be this person. Have a way to put out the fire prior to starting it.

Build Your Fire Right the First Time

Have you ever heard the saying in construction “measure twice, cut once.” Starting a fire has a similar premise. Build it right the first time and it will continue to burn. It all starts with the right wood. Bringing your own fire wood can insure it will be dry and make a toasty fire. If you plan to scrap wood from around the campsite look for dry, deadfall or lightweight wood. 
Signs that a piece of wood is wet is green leaves, if it is heavy or has hard-to-break branches - this type of wood will be excessively smokey and could hinder your fire from starting fully.
The goal to cooking a meal over the fire is getting hot coals to cook over. Prior to starting a fire the wood should be stacked appropriately; making sure your fire will get plenty of oxygen to start up.

Living the Van Life Pro Tip: Wet Paper Towel Under Cutting Boards

When cutting up your vegetables or prepping your meal Chad recommends placing a wet paper towel underneath your cutting board to stay in place. It is quick tips like this one that comes with experience. Every time we go in the outdoors we have things to learn; about ourselves, our experiences and the environment we find ourselves in. 

Get Coals Centrally Located

After your fire has been lit for a bit, your food is sliced, diced and ready to be cooked; it is time to get the fire ready for food. Using a fire poker move the embers or coals to the side of the fire pit you will be cooking on. This will allow control of the flame intensity. Whether using a grill grate, like Chad, a skillet or cooking directly on stone your food should be appropriate distance away from the coals.

Leave No Trace

Respectfully for Mother Nature, our ancestors and future generations we ask you honor the Leave No Trace camping philosophy. Leave No Trace provides research, education and initiatives so every person who ventures outside can protect and enjoy our world responsibly. One of the underlying reasons we all venture into the outdoors is to explore; it is our common ground, lets keep it that way.


Brian Z - Trayvax Content Creator


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1 Response

Jan Turzanski
Jan Turzanski

September 04, 2020

Chad is awesome and has inspired me to go back to the simplicity formula for camping with quality tools like the Trayvax Trek Knife he uses! I plan to add it to my collection for future ventures to the woods! PA Shop Teacher! :{)>

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