Trail Baking Methods: Steaming vs Dry Baking

Nothing can be more satisfying than freshly baked bread after a long day hike. Make your own loaf, pie or muffins in the backcountry with this quick and easy trail baking guide.

There are two main methods for baking in the backcountry: steaming and dry baking. You can choose the one best suited to your individual needs and backpacking trip style.

What is steaming?
Steaming is a moist-heat cooking technique. It can be done on a stovetop, with a pot containing a small amount of simmering water. The item to be cooked (batter) then is placed in another pot or bowl set above the liquid and  covered with a lid. The hot steam circulates through  and cooks the food thoroughly.

How To Bake
Make a “device” that keeps the food above the boiling water in your pot.  This could be aluminum foil ring or just three flat stones placed in the bottom of the pot.

steam baking

Pour enough water just to cover ring or stones. Fill the smaller pot, mug or bowl with batter and place on the “device”.

steam baking step 2

Turn the stove to medium-low, cover with lid and steam until ready.

chocolate cake steam baked

Use toothpicks to test readiness – if a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake will come out clean, the cake is ready to be taken out.


–    It works with all types of stoves;
–    Suitable for lightweight and solo backpacking;
–    No chance of your food getting burnt.


–    Long cooking time (20-40 minutes);
–    You will never get that perfectly browned crust.

What is dry bake?

Dry baking  is a method that uses prolonged dry heat by a moving heat source such as hot air, normally in the oven, but also in hot ashes or on hot stones. This method is best describes on Outback Oven Ultralight.

Sold by Backpacker’s Pantry, Outback Oven Ultralight is designed to work with your own lightweight cook set (pan plus lid) which can be of 10” in diameter or less.

The kit consists of an 10” pot parka (convection dome), riser bar, scorch buster, reflector collar and a thermometer. When placed on a stove, it becomes a convection oven.

How To Bake
Pour the batter into a pan greased or lined with parchment paper. Silicone  muffin cups is a good solution for trail baking too. They are lightweight and very easy to clean.

Turn the stove on.
Place the ribbed heat diffuser plate on the stove’s burner.

outback oven setup

Set the pan on a riser bar and cover with lid. Adjust Oven thermometer  on the pan lid.

outback oven setup

Put Pot Parka over the pan to hold rising heat from the stove. The thermometer should be seen through an opening in the top of Pot Parka. It has only 3 points: “Warm Up”, “Bake” and “Burn”.


Once the Oven is heated, set the stove flame to minimum and maintain temperature in the “Bake” range until food is ready.
Turn heat off. Let stand 5 minutes.


–    Requires little time to setup and bake (12-15 minutes);
–    Less fuel needed to prepare food in Outback Oven;
–    A wide range of food items can be prepared in such oven (pies, cakes, lasagna, fish etc.)
–    It can produce a perfect browned crust.


–  Requires stoves with simmer function (ability to maintain a low flame);
–  Flame should be regulated very carefully. If the flame is too high,  food will burn on the bottom; if too low  food will be undercooked.


–    Not for use with stoves that have  burners mounted directly above their fuel source, oven heat may cause the fuel tank to over pressurize and rupture.
–    Do not use an Outback Oven with a windscreen that encloses fuel tank and stove together.

Outback Oven Recipes:



  1. Ray Thomas on February 19, 2024 at 5:10 am


    • Tanya Krezevska on March 4, 2024 at 10:51 am

      Unfortunately outback oven is out of production now. But you can make your own oven. Know how here >>

  2. Frankie on October 20, 2020 at 1:54 am

    I am new to this, just bought uses muel pot like a large cup with handle looks like aluminum and want recipes to bake dry cook or?
    can I subscribe to your emails?

    • Tanya Krezevska on October 21, 2020 at 10:49 am

      Hi Frankie! yes, you can use such a cup for baking and cooking. As for subscription, you can find sign-up page here:

  3. Reagan on March 16, 2019 at 10:19 pm

    What kind of pan are you using for this? Looks amazing! do you find it that you have to experiment with the stove to get the sweet spot for the bake setting?

    • Tanya Krezevska on March 18, 2019 at 11:01 am

      Hi Reagan! I do use the Trangia pot. The best stove for trail baking is remote canister stove with flame regulation.

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