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How to take your BBQ off the grid and leave no trace

Cookouts are the casual, en plein air answer to dinner parties for those of us who often find ourselves with dirt smeared across our white t-shirts and have an aversion to awkward questions about being single.

Plus, there’s some kind of weird, inherent sense of accomplishment gained from grilling. It’s great.

BBQ off the grid
Why not take your BBQ some place a little more interesting? Photo: Díaz Fornaro/Flickr
Now, imagine taking that party on the road. Not to a stadium parking lot (though that’s fun, too) but to some beautiful, hidden valley or riverside clearing, accessible only on foot.

Ugh, that seems like a lot of work. Well, don’t worry. We've got it all figured out for you.

In any situation where the only supplies you’re allowed are the ones you can carry on your back, you need to pack thoughtfully and efficiently. An off-the-grid BBQ is no different.

First, you need to think about how many people will be present at this hinterlands shindig. This is important because it will dictate exactly how much grub you bring and how to divvy it up between pack mules — er, people.

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Say you’re a regular old party of five. According to Danilo Alfaro of About.com, the safest bet is to assume that each person wants one burger and one hot dog, then add 20 percent.

So, for five people, you’d bring six beef (or veggie) patties and six hot dogs. Of course, you can also just ask your friends how much they’ll eat.

Once you’ve got that sorted, think about how long your hike in will be. Since thawing meat is tricky business, we’re going to suggest that you don’t rely on a six-pack to keep it cool, especially if you’re hiking for longer than an hour.

A lightweight, packable and leak-resistant cooler bag will ensure that your foray into wilderness haute cuisine doesn’t result in food poisoning.

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Most vegetables, on the other hand, actually can be chilled using beer or frozen water bottles. Just make sure that they’re washed before you pack them. Avocado is easy to chuck into a pack, doesn’t require refrigeration and does double duty as a condiment if mashed.

Tomatoes are also comfortable at room temp and travel moderately well if protected from bruising. Technically, ketchup and mustard don’t need to be refrigerated at all. And, just like at the grocery store, buns should be at the top of your packs.

You know that six-pack we mentioned before? Well, cans are durable and virtually weightless (not to mention crushable) once they’re empty, but consider transporting your beverage of choice in an insulated growler, which locks in carbonation and keeps its contents chilled. The reusable (and re-sealable) container also means less waste and the potential for leftovers — novel in the world of beverages.

Next, you’ve got to consider your “appliances.” Do you want to cook over an open fire (and will there be a pit)? Or bring a stove? BioLite's Wood Burning CampStove Bundle ($200) is small, comes with a grill and can be powered with pretty much whatever you find nearby. Bonus: It’ll charge your phone.

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The beauty of a burgers and dogs affair is that you don’t really need cutlery, or even plates … Or even napkins. (Refer to the opening paragraph.) Jetboil’s Jetset Utensil Kit and a clean knife should do you just fine for the actual cooking.

Okay, a few paper towels would be good for a swift wipe down of your cooking gear before repacking, and you’ll probably want a little bottle of hand sanitizer to de-germ after handling uncooked meat.

Finally, don’t forget to “Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints.” A biodegradable trash bag or two will help you pack out what you packed in. Bon appétit!