Guided Backpacking and Kitchen Safety, Part One

One of the most under-appreciated hazards of wilderness backpacking, including on our guided Yellowstone backpacking trips, is the food preparation area, or the back-country “Kitchen”. This kitchen is a mobile one, consisting of pots and pans plus a grill or camp stove or both, carried by the guide in order to make sure that his pack isn’t too light and comfortable.

On most of our treks, campfires are allowed, and we at Big Wild do most of our cooking on fires, where the guide sets up a grill for efficient cooking over the flames. However, at some of the Yellowstone campsites, fires are prohibited, and that is also the case with most of our desert trip routes in the colorful canyon country of southern Utah. In these situations, our guides do the cooking on lightweight stoves that run on “white gas”. Regardless of the cooking method, though, the kitchen area is hazardous, and we need our clients to stay out of it until the guide calls you for chow!

Why is the kitchen area hazardous, you might ask? Simply put, fire and boiling water provide plenty of opportunities for accidental burns. Remember, you’re out in the wilderness and the ground is uneven. There are rocks and tree roots poking up out of the ground. At the end of the day most folks are tired, and therefore their sense of balance is sub-par. It definitely is a detriment to the guide’s disposition if a client kicks over the carefully measured pot of water, dousing the fire and perhaps burning oneself. We also realize that the possibility of a client falling into the fire is real, though that’s never happened on one of our treks! So again, give the guide plenty of working space! Here at Big Wild it is company policy to avoid severely burned clients. Please help us to maintain that portion of our overall very clean safety record! In the next installment, we will discuss a few less obvious hazards of the wilderness kitchen.


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