Choosing the right dutch oven is very important. There are several different styles and brands out there, as well as different materials. Cast Iron and aluminum are the two main types of dutch ovens. They both cook well, but cast iron will retain and distribute heat better than it's aluminum cousin. Cast Iron also gives the food that great smoky dutch oven flavor we all love, where aluminum sometimes gives food a chalky flavor. The advantage of aluminum is its weight. Aluminum will weigh about 1/3 less than cast iron. Most people use cast iron ovens.

When you are looking to buy a dutch oven, look closely at the following items

1. For outdoor cooking over charcoal briquettes only buy dutch ovens with legs. The ovens with flat bottoms are much more difficult to use. Legs lift the bottom of the oven up to accomodate hot coals. Flat bottom ovens have to be supported with bricks. Make sure the legs are not bent, cracked or broken.


2. Check the fit of the lid. It should fit flush around the entire oven with no large gaps. The lid should also have a lip that comes up above the top of the oven. This allows you to put coals on top without having them fall into the food. An oven with a rounded lid makes adding top heat very difficult.

3. Check the thickness of the metal, especially around the rim. If the oven walls are thinner or thicker in some areas than in others it will produce hot or cold spots during cooking.

4. Make sure the lid has a loop handle that is not cracked and is well attached.

5. Check the wire handle. It should be easy to move and strong enough to carry a heavy pot full of stew easily. I have an oven with handle problems. The handle actually comes off the oven--it makes it very difficult to move a hot oven full of food.

You also need to consider the size of oven you will need. They are avaliable in many sizes, 10", 12" and 14" are the most common. There are also standard and deep size ovens. If you are only buying one oven to get started, get a 12". It will hold just about anything you need. You can always add other sizes to your collection later.


A quick and easy way to organize those spices for your next adventure. 











  What you will need:

You can go to your local $1 Store and pick up all these items. 

The first step was to use the labels to cover up the days of the week. Purchase labels that are the same width of the compartments and then you will have to trim them to fit. 


When it's done… they look like this.


Water Proofing:


Choose your favorite spices, label them and your ready for your next adventure. 




Photo Credit : Miss Tweedle



Whitney “ALLGOOD” LaRuffa and his lab Karluk are long distance hikers and Ruffwear Ambassadors based in the Pacific Northwest. Together they have been busy this winter both hiking as well as sharpening their ski touring and mountaineering skills. With big goals this season, ALLGOOD shared with us some of his training and preparation plans for the miles and miles of trails in their near future.

Tips From ALLGOOD and Karluk-

Weight in Pack: I have been easing Karluk back into to carrying weight. We started with four pounds and have been working up the to the ten pounds he is now carrying. Just like a person I didn't want to over do it when just starting back.

Miles: Just like weight we started slow and built the miles up. Our first few training hikes were  six to seven miles. We then built up to completing a thirteen-mile hike. I think it is best to add a few miles each hike that way when it comes time for back-to-back twenty-five mile days Karluk will be ready and not risk and injury or strain.

Booties: When needed, the Grip Trex boots work well for Karluk. I found that once on, it helps to play ball to get him focused on something else beside trying to get the booties off.

Trail Food: With backpacking season approaching, it is time to start the process of dehydrating food for our trips. I am going to use two separate food items this year.

The first is using the Natural Balance meat logs and crumbling up one feeding size per tray in the dehydrator and then dehydrating the food to be reconstituted later on the trail.

The second dehydrated meal I will be making is a homemade recipe. In this, I mix cooked brown rice, chicken breast, beef liver and pumpkin puree in a large pot and then place it in the dehydrator. I then package the dried food into food saver bags. When on trail, all I have to do is add one and a half to two cups of boiling water, then seep and occasionally stir until it rehydrates. This usually takes ten to fifteen minutes.

By making my own dehydrated food, I can lighten Karluk’s food weight for him, and also ensure he is getting the proper nutrition and extra calories needed when on trail.

by ruffwear

Living in the Pacific Northwest provides many early season hiking opportunities. Some folks like to go the the coastal range, my favorite destination is the Columbia River Gorge. With many hikes just an hour east of Portland and a higher percentage of likely sunshine the Gorge provides the landscape for some spectacular hiking. Over the past couple of weeks we hiked one of my favorites Angles Rest and added a new one to the list Herman Creek/Nick Eaton Ridge. Angles Rest is a comfortable 4.6 mile out and back hike. Elevation gain is 1880ft and the views from the top are awesome. We were welcomed with huge patches of star-flowered Smiliacina and trillium along the trail. And of course the panoramic view of the Gorge from the top. A quick bit to eat, soak in the view and we were back in the car all within 3 hours. A great hike if you are short on time but have to get on the trail.  

Trailhead directions: Eastbound on I-84 Take Bridal veil exit # 28. The trailhead is south of the Historic Columbia River Highway, opposite the junction with the interstate access road in Bridal veil. Westbound I-84 Take Ainsworth State Park exit # 35 and follow the Historic Columbia River Highway for 7.1 miles (11.4 km).
This past Monday we ventured a bit further east on I-84 to Herman Creek trailhead were we hiked UP to Nick Eaton Ridge. The trailhead starts at Herman Ck. and splits .6 miles from the start and begins to climb. Elevation gain is 2800 in 2.6 miles. Bring a map because there are several trail junctions as this is a jumping off point for many hikes in the Gorge. Beginning with a cutoff to the Pacific Crest Trail (#2000), Gorge Trail (#400), Gorton Creek Trail (#408) Herman Creek Trail (#406) and Nick Eaton Way (#477). We did a loop starting on Herman Creek Trail and then turning left onto Gorton Creek Trail to a junction with Nick Eaton Ridge cutoff trail which climbs to the top of the ridge. We stopped for lunch before hiking down the 2800 ft. that we had just mastered. All in all a wonderful hike with many vista view points of Gorge and Bison Plateau to the west.
Trailhead directions:Take I-84 East from Portland about 40 miles and take exit 44 for Cascade Locks. Take the road through town, East, then under the freeway, continue East on the frontage road on the South side of the freeway for about 2 more miles to the Herman Creek Campground sign.
Ranger Contact: Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, 503-668-1440