say good bye to rebar! impact driver and hex bolts are a game changer

My first playa name was ‘john henry’ and that was given to me because I’m good at pounding in rebar. ting! ting! ting! I never missed, which is an asset when you’re setting up camp. Let’s face it, it takes a significant amount of time and repeated landed blows to get 18″ of rebar 12″ inches into the ground. It is some serious labor. This year, by sheer luck I came across another fantastic figjam ingenuity of using hex bolts and an impact driver to drill  into the playa to secure your shade structure.

We didn’t own an impact driver, but I was able to pick one up from a mom-and-pop hardware store (sadly) going out of business and likewise was able to get the 12″ 3/8 hex bolts for a fraction of what I had found previously. They were also kind enough to cut the chain in to 2 link sections that we could slip on the bolts to use as the tie-down. We sank probably 16 bolts and backed them all out with one battery and it was showing no signs of stopping. It is to date easily the best playa specific expenditure I have made.

used and new hex bolts
used and new hex bolts

We rolled into Black Rock City on Saturday night shortly after midnight after a full 5 hours in the early entry line, which is brief compared to the entry of many burners, to be certain. It was dark and very, very quiet. Eerily quiet for the playa, truth be told. We needed some extra space for our pals who were scheduled to arrive the next day, so we were able to use some marker tape and sink a 3 bolts to create a perimeter just large enough for our shade structures and their RV. Some people will debate about ‘marking territory’ this way, but in my experience EVERYONE marks the perimeters of their camp for their friends. We were at 7:08 and I (Eyeball Camp aren’t our signs cool?) so we were well in the burbs. The fact that it was quiet, and I mean QUIET is important, because it would have sucked and possibly woken up our neighbors (who had already staked their areas) if we had been pounding in rebar for 15 minutes instead of quickly zipping in those bolts in 18 SECONDS a piece.

home sweet home. yes, we didn't cover up our logo, but we have a good excuse... a busted transmission! more on that later!
home sweet home. yes, we didn’t cover up our logo, but we have a good excuse… a busted transmission! more on that later!
chain bolt
3/8 hex bolt with 2 links of chain

The great thing about these bolts is that because they are drilled flush with the playa, you don’t have to worry about rebar injuries from people tripping over the rebar. Likewise, you don’t have to pack a dozen plus pool noodles / tennis balls / stuffed animals for the ends of your rebar. You just mark your tie downs and extra ropes accordingly.

Everyone that we showed this to on the playa was in awe. Figjam, you’re the best! GAME CHANGER!

cast iron is surprisingly resistant to playa dust…

cast iron is surprisingly resistant to playa dust…

This year I made an honest attempt to be as streamlined as possible as it related to our playa kitchen. In years past I have indulged in entirely too many pots, skillets, jars, spatulas, spoons, knives (of which I have a particular weakness) and gadgetry. I mean, I really adore my granite mortar and pestle and desperately need it for salad dressing, but… really? No. Not really. I would be strong. As such, I tried to take the basic principles – minimal grey water, ease of use, multiple applications and heartiness and the same approach as I would have to a bug out bag… What pray tell, would I be hauling behind me like Samwise Gamgee should I be pursued by nefarious creatures?

For pots and pans, well, there should only be THE pot. The only answer that I could effectively reason to satisfaction on all points was the cast iron dutch oven. That thing of utter beauty and utility. My model is an industrious, yet flirty sort. Legs for days! It has a wire handle, feet on the bottom as well as feet on the lid, so that the lid may in turn be utilized as a skillet. As it turned out it was a smashing success. I seasoned mine well prior to departure so that it had an excellent dark patina making it naturally stick resistant, even to soy chorizo with an extra dollop of playa dust! 🙂 Cast iron is typically cleaned without suds, so that aligned nicely to the playa regime and minimal grey water. After use I would just spray down the used cooking surface with our vinegar and water solution and wiped them out with paper towels which are easy to burn later. Later on I will do a post on my solar over with fresnel lens and further extol the virtues of my dutch oven’s usefulness with that application.

post 10 days on the playa

For stirring spoons, spatulas, tongs and ladles I opted simply for silicone tongs. After much camping, I’ve determined that you just can’t beat twelve inch silicone tongs. They will do it all. You can stir and scrape the sides of your pot. You can flip. You can sauté. They are long enough to keep you safe over a grill. They are easy to use to grab a bite to taste your concoction. They likewise are rather non-stick and clean up easily with the aforementioned vinegar and water solution lickety-split. I was very happy with this commitment to one tong to rule them all and found myself singing the thong song in my head to ‘tong t- tong tong tong’ in delight while whipping up some one-pot no grey water carbo-load pad thai after all those dust storms abated. Cause you have to have that carbo load day out there at least once.

While the dutch oven IS excellent it doesn’t serve for the purpose of, say a nice cuppa instant miso or tea, or apple cider (the best late night treat IMHO) For this I settled and was greatly pleased with the Stanley adventure cook camp set. I has two handy heat resistant nesting cups so you can share your hot cider. It has a perforated securable lid so you can see when its contents are steaming happily. It has a convenient locking handle, so your ADHD ass isn’t as likely to leave the lid in the lawn chair armrest beverage holder two camps over (not that you’ve ever done that sharing your hot cider, or found say, someone’s socks there either), This handle also functions excellently as well… a handle while cooking. 🙂 Guess what? It also has oz and ml measurements on the side, so no measuring cup! It’s 24 oz so cans of soup and what not don’t nearly overfill it, which let’s face it is WAY to stressful on the playa.

no measuring cup? no problemo.
no measuring cup? no problemo.

Now for the coup de grace… the stove. I have recently discovered the one-burner butane stove at my local 888 Asian grocer and boy is this thing fine. The butane stove and canisters are cheaper, more compact and somehow not as scary as propane. They are also fool proof with their little locking mechanisms and tabs and don’t require a lighter to light them. Ask anyone, but the telescoping lighter disappears no matter what. Even if you put it on a telescoping bungee it still seems to wander off like a toddler’s sock. To boot, they are HOT and FAST with some BTU’s. You can boil water in that little stanley in no time flat. I’m never going back to either of my coleman stoves. The only thing I suggest is taking along a little grate and placing this strategically out of the wind.

So let’s get down to plates and bowls. Now many people are fans of paper which they can burn and I applaud them. I am a fan of tiffins. They are a bowl. They’re a plate. You can lock on the lid and stash your snack for later or make up a hot plate for your honey who’s still on their ranger shift. Aww aren’t you a great ranger widow? You can likewise take them with you if you’re the sort that tends to get fed often on the playa or goes in search of playa gourmands. Also, I’m a fan of my Eat’N Tool. Put that sucker on a bungee.

Which brings us to knives, yet again I charged myself with one knife and one knife only…

And because I cannot help but to share my recommendations, if you’re in the market, check out my amazon store!