Image by Luisa Brimble.

With the summer season now in full swing, we’re planning and packing for a few outdoor adventures. Sifting through the options for gear can be a daunting task. Whether you start your search at your local retailer or an REI, the market for the outdoor products is worth over $887 billion in annual sales and it can be hard to parse through all the marketing-speak. Our editors at MOLD consistently track products at the intersection of food and design and some of the most consistently inspiring innovations have emerged from this sector. Materials technology, new manufacturing capabilities, and strong human-centered design have led to huge improvements in weight, portability, durability and functionality. That, coupled with an increasing interest in off-grid living and a desire to connect with the bounty of experiences outside our urban centers, energized our team to kick off the #MOLDmonthly Salon with a panel focused on “Designs for Cooking and Eating in the Great Outdoors.”

Our inaugural salon included Erica Rosen (Biolite), Jake Leonard and Chris Schuessler (Snow Peak), Eliza Axelson-Chidsey (Alumnae) and Ted Rosen (Court Street Grocers) on getting the most from your outdoor gear and grub. Our panel of experts shared product recommendations (and why design matters), recipes and strategies for creating culinary experiences while taking in the beauty of nature. As the United States National Parks celebrates their second century of stewardship, let’s enjoy the gifts of nature and go outside this season. Here’s five tips from our experts:

Panelists from left to right: Erica Rosen, Eliza Axelson-Chidsey, Ted Rosen, Chris Schessler, Jake Leonard and moderator LinYee Yuan. Photo by Glen Jackson Taylor

1. PREPARE
Prepare, prepare, prepare. The number one piece of advice from our expert panelists is the power of preparation. Whether you’re chopping all your vegetables before packing them away, freezing your meat so it can thaw (and cool) as you hike, or making sure your water filter, fuel source, toilet paper and fire are all in working order before you hit the road. Download your trail map, charge your lamp, check the weather and dress in layers to save yourself from misery and frustration once you’re off the grid.

2. FAVORITE PRODUCTS
When asked about the essentials for camp cooking, everyone agreed that salt, fat, a good knife, steady light and a reliable heat source will make any outdoor feast infinitely easier. The BioLite CampStove2 and the Snow Peak Grill and GigaPower can help you with the latter, but here are a few of our panelist’s favorite products for camp cooking.

HEADLAMP: Our panelists recommend the durable, waterproof, and multi-functional headlamps from Black Diamond. Each lamp pumps out over 300 lumens of light, making mundane tasks like pitching a tent or slicing some steak manageable, even after sunset.

WATER FILTER: Water is a key component to any cooking endeavor. Before you head out of the house, check the water conditions in the location you’ll be hiking to confirm the quality (and opportunity) for drinking water. Beyond boiling, check out Sawyer’s water filtration products. The mini water filter only weighs 2oz and can filter up to 100,000 gallons.

3. PACK FOR MAX ENJOYMENT
There’s not a right or wrong way to enjoy nature. Whether you’re planning for an off-trail, mountain summit and packing the lightest possible pack, or planning for maximal relaxation with your tricked out car camp crew, bring what will give you the greatest joy—whether that’s a ukulele or a cast iron skillet.

4. FOOD RECS
Here are some our favorite foods for any outdoor trip and add a little trail spice for a real taste of nature. Remember, breakfast matters. There’s nothing like getting up after a fitful sleep to a warm breakfast cooked outside. Overall, our panelists pay significant attention to sustainability vs. convenience—are individual serving sizes worth it—and pointed out the often baffling branding of “outdoor” foods. Remember, trailmix by any other name would taste as sweet.

MCT OIL: After a long day on the trail, it’s important to eat a high-fat meal to keep your body temperature up through a cold night. Outside of more traditional sources of saturated fats like grass-fed beef, butter, palm oil, certain cheeses and coconut oil, consider the benefits of MCT Oil, a concentrated form of these beneficial types of saturated fatty acids. It’s easy to transport and can be consumed as a spoonful in your coffee or milk. Available at health food stores or via Amazon.

Snow Peak tripod for cooking over a fire pit.

CASHEWS AND ALMONDS: Nuts are the perfect companion for any outdoor snacking situation, but cashews and almonds are a trail favorite for their high nutritional yield and energizing fats.

BEEF JERKY: Easy to make and easier to handle, jerky is a trail staple for a reason. Store it a waterproof bag and snack on the go. This high protein snack is also high in those saturated fats that your boy needs while hiking or overnighting outdoors.

ANNIE’s MAC and CHEESE: This brand’s boxed mac and cheese is a favorite amongst the BioLite engineers for its easy preparation. Add water, stir and eat. The cardboard box can then be used in the BioLite CampStove as fuel.

BAKING CHOCOLATE: Baking chocolate is a worthy alternative to conventional chocolate bars. The semi-sweet squares tend to leave out the milks and oils that could cause a potentially melty, mess with a bar. And best of all, the chocolate comes pre-portioned for easy snacking.

LIPTON SOUP MIX: This nostalgic favorite does double-duty as a seasoning and also as a soup base. Add water for a perfect start to any campfire cooking.

5. GO FORTH AND PROSPER!
New apps and offline maps have really transformed planning and navigating your next trip. Here are some new and time-tested options to consider for identifying the next, great adventure.

HIPCAMP: Like Airbnb for outdoor space, Hipcamp connects people with outdoor space to share with would-be campers with a few easy clicks. Explore undeveloped and wild spaces by supporting the people who steward the land. Stay on a sustainable farm, horse ranch or empty field, or find a public park that suits your needs!

NYNJTC: With filters for experience, difficulty, route type, accessibility and hike length, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference is a great place to start planning your next outdoor activity. Their database has over 700 hikes, parks and destinations to explore with a seamless user interface.

GAIA GPS: Is the most robust app for planning and navigating a hike. Plan routes, find new trails and access maps offline when you’re off grid. Pricing starts at $9.99/year.

ALLTRAILS: This comprehensive (and free) app has over 50,000 trails with filters for difficulty, length and accessibility. Get driving directions to the trail and save your favorites. Pro users ($29.99 in-app purchase) can download maps for offline use.

Join us on June 27th for “The Future of Farming is Female” and our #MOLDmonthly salon and roundtable discussion at Ludlow House. Sign-up for our newsletter for more details and forthcoming RSVP information.