Chris’ Hack: How to Grind Fresh Coffee While Camping

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Since moving to San Francisco we’ve picked up some snobby coffee habits:  We love our french press, we buy whole bean coffee and grind it fresh every morning.  It really isn’t that much effort, and it makes a world of difference.  Coffee used to be something I’d begrudgingly drink when I had to wake up extra early.  It’s now become a simple daily pleasure.

When we go camping we like to eat well, and enjoy some of the little pleasures from home.

When we would head out for a weekend camping we used to grind up enough coffee for the trip, and bring it along.  Now, due to Chris’ ingenuity we’ve got an even better method.

The Grinder to Use

This is the pepper we bought from Trader Joe’s a few months back.  It has a built-in pepper grinder.

Once the pepper was all used up, Chris had the idea to see if it would work for coffee.  I was skeptical, but we put it to the test.

The tools at hand: whole bean coffee, pepper grinders.

The tools to create hand ground coffee without power.

We filled the former peppercorn grinder up with the whole bean coffee:

The pepper grinder turned coffee grinder.

Grind it up, and this is what you get:

Hand Ground Coffee without power

A beautiful coarse ground coffee.

Whether camping or traveling this is a simple, compact, power-free method to have fresh ground coffee anytime, anywhere.

This is the first in an ongoing series of Chris’ Hacks. Don’t miss out on these posts! Sign up to receive free email updates from

The Beauty of the Tiny House

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The concept of a tinyhouse.

What is it about the tiny houses that draws people in?

I think it’s the same thing that draws me to bicycles: the sense of freedom, the sense of living life as if your still playing.

The concept that a tiny house is something that forces you to live a minimal, simplistic life is appealing. The concept that what could be a downpayment on a standard home, can pay for an entire tinyhouse is appealing. The concept that no one can ever take your home from you is appealing.

Whether modern:

Or Traditional:

Made of shipping container:

On a truck bed:

Or a foundation:

A little bigger:

Or teeny tiny:

It seems somehow similar to camping, or traveling or being free.

What I Carry When I Bike: The Essentials

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I like to be prepared.

But I also like to keep things simple.

If your going to have a problem while out on your bike, I’m the guy you want along for the ride.

Here’s what I carry on every bike ride to ensure I’m never stuck far from home:

A repurposed microphone bag stores my stash.  I believe in using what you have before buying something new.

My Bag

It all fits inside:

It all fits inside my bag.

And it’s all organized for quick access:

All organized inside.

Spread out for better viewing:

The contents of my bag:


The contents:

Inside the first baggie (From lower left, moving counter clockwise.):

  • 2 safety pins
  • super glue
  • 4 zip ties

Moving counterclockwise in the above photo:

Spare Tube

All this in a package that weighs only 1lb., and measures 12″x4″.



Final Choice

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Today while flattening a few cardboard boxes the cheap pair of scissors I was using finally gave out on me.  The plastic joint which held the two arms of the scissors together snapped apart.  Being plastic and cheap, it is irreparable.  This leads me on a search for a new pair of scissors.  Yet, I have no plan of heading to the dollar store or the local drugstore and buying whatever is cheapest just to save a few dollars.

“Anywhere I can make a buying choice that I, with proper care and maintenance, will never have to make again for the rest of my life, I do.” – Patrick Rhone

This final choice concept is one that I whole-heartedly subscribe to.

When I purchase a new pair of scissors I will do my research.  I will read the reviews, I will find the scissors that have a chance of lasting a very long time.

One of the reasons for this is that I don’t like shopping.  I find shopping exhausting and distracting from the life I want to be living.

I also enjoy being surrounded by well made objects.  We own a vintage chair that is a beautiful piece of sculpture.  It’s well made, its functional and its a joy to sit in.  It’s been around longer than I have, and I enjoy knowing that it will be around long after I have.  Purchasing that chair was a final choice.

Final Choice

Final choice purchases can have a higher price tag than the cheapest option available.  Our chair cost more than an Ikea chair.  However, by doing our research we were able to purchase this chair for far less than the price we were first presented with.  Instead of purchasing the chair at a retail antique store, we purchased – and haggled – at a flea market.

The final choice philosophy is one of quality over quantity.

What objects in your life, whether you previously realized it or not, are final choice objects?

Fireside Food: Boozy Campfire Cheese

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photo via wintersoul

One of the best things about going camping, is the chance to eat great food cooked over an open flame.  At home we can get lazy and compliant, opting for frozen pizzas or a bowl of cereal.  When heading outdoors we are forced to plan our meals, and I often plan for easy yet amazing meals.  I like a great meal to look forward to while camping.

Over the years we’ve discovered a few favorites that we always make sure to bring the ingredients for.  This is the first in an ongoing series, Fireside Food.  Sign up here to receive email updates and ensure you don’t miss a post.

Boozy campfire cheese is a recipe I originally discovered on is not a backpacking or outdoor oriented site, so I was originally a bit leery about the recipe.  But man am I glad I tried this one out.  Even if you don’t use the brandy, wrap up your cheese and throw it in the coals anyway.  Perfect as an appetizer (yes, when I camp I have appetizers) or a late night snack.


Boozy Campfire Cheese   

by Kate Ramos from


1 (7- to 8-ounce) wheel soft-ripened, bloomy-rind cheese, such as Camembert or Brie

1 tablespoon pear eau de vie or brandy

1 loaf crusty bread, such as pain au levain, baguette, or sourdough


1.  Unwrap cheese and set in the center of a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, about 12 by 12 inches. Perforate cheese by pricking it a few times with a fork, then sprinkle liquor over the holes.

 2.  Close the foil by wrapping the sides up around the cheese and sealing it at the top. Place wheel in the embers of the campfire, at the edge of the fire where the logs are smoldering and covered with a layer of gray ash (not in a direct flame). Cook, turning wheel occasionally with the tongs so all sides spend some time near the embers, until cheese is soft and melted, about 10 to 12 minutes.

3.  Remove from the fire and place on a plate. Open foil packet, and scoop out cheese with hunks of crusty bread.


This is the first in an ongoing series of camp-friendly recipes, Fireside Food.  Don’t miss out on these posts!  Sign up to receive free email updates from

Why wool?

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Wool is a magical fiber.

Why Wool

photo: slightly everything

I first dealt with wool when I began knitting.  I quickly learned that the wool, or wool blend yarn, would feel a whole lot nicer on my hands after hours upon hours of working on a knitting project.

I knew wool was a “nice” fabric, but I didn’t know why.  I knew it was natural, versus the synthetic acrylic wool that would squeak between my knitting needles.

why woolphoto: Artiii

When we began camping, hiking and shopping at the local outdoor supplier I learned that not only was wool yarn expensive, but wool shirt and sweaters seemed to be VERY expensive.  Again, I know that it was a “nice” material, but I didn’t truly understand why.

why woolphoto: sarahgb

Then one day I scored a nice black wool cardigan at a discount store for a steal.  It was a great cardigan and I began wearing it with everything.  Soon enough I donated my old acrylic and cotton cardigans to charity.  Soon enough I realized I didn’t need to wash this wool cardigan as often as I had to wash my cotton and acrylic cardigans.  It didn’t seem to wrinkle, it didn’t smell, when I got caught in the rain the water just beaded up and didn’t soak in.  Let me tell you I was sold on the qualities of a nice wool garment.

Given the cost associated with such garments, I’ve slowly been stalking the sales and hunting the clearance racks for wool garments.  At this point I own several pieces of wool: Swiftwick socks, a bright red peacoat, a Chrome hoodie, a merino cardigan from Banana Republic, and a handful of Icebreaker shirts I spotted on  Next up on my wool wishlist: wool underwear.

Lately I’ve been looking into the why and how of the magic behind the wool.  What I’ve learned:

  • Wool traps warm air against your body to keep you warm.
  • Wool has natural anti-bacterial properties.  The natural shape of the wool fiber repels bacteria, allowing you to wear the garment over and over again without a stink!
  • There are different qualities of wool, with Merino being one of the nicest.  That scratchy pokey wool is a lesser quality of wool that has shorter fibers.  The merino is a finer, thin long fiber that feels soft against the skin.
  • It’s breathable, due to the structure of the fibre.  It allows moisture (sweat) to escape, wicking it off of your skin.
  • Synthetic materials are petroleum based and melt when burned.  Wool is naturally anti-flammable. (Not that we ever plan to be on fire, but hey, things happen.)
  • Most modern wool these days can be washed in the machine on gentle cycle, and hung to dry.


Additional reading on the wonder of wool:


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The Simple Secret to Camping More Often

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Simple Secret To Camping More Often

It’s all too easy to get swept up in work, weekend chores and other priorities until you realize its been months since you’ve made it out on a camping trip.

S240 is a term that’s familiar to me.  Though, I’ve learned, many other campers, hikers and other friends react with a quizzical look.

It’s time that more people learn the beauty that is the S24O.  It stands for Sub-Twenty-Four Hour Overnight.  The concept: stop the excuses and take one night and just go.  Find the closest camp site, leave after work and be back home in less than a day.  When you go for just one night, it’s easier to carve out the time.  Everything doesn’t have to be perfect.  So what if you forgot the sleeping pad , the lantern, or the coffee?  You’ll be back home before tomorrow night.

Open up google maps and find the closest camp ground.  Throw what you need in a bag after work and head on out.

Though I’ve lived all over the country, I’ve never lived more than an hour’s drive from a great campsite.  Worst case, utilize your ‘leave no trace’ skills and head toward the closest open space for some stealth camping.

It’s even the perfect excuse to get that friend of yours to come who claims they don’t have the skills or the gear to head out with you on your longer trips.  When it’s only one night the excuses come few and far between.

The concept of the S240O was originally popularized in bike-touring circles by Grant Peterson of Rivendell Bicycle Works in an Adventure Cycling article.

So what’s your excuse to not go play in the woods this weekend?


More S24O Resources:

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