I don't usually post gear stuff.. I prefer just adventures. But it take some gear to do an adventure and this weekend Fronkey asked me about my current thinking and version of a light weight cook kit.
the last time I posted anything on a cook kit was September 2012.
Since that time I have changed somewhat on what I want I from a cook set and also some external circumstances have changed.
In 2012 I was simply going for the most ultralight set up possible. A simple alcohol stove. But that set up does end up with a fair number of parts and pieces depending on your set up and then there is the alcohol itself. Typically I just bought a bottle of HEET (in the yellow bottle only- NO RED) and carried that. When you factor in the weight of the fuel over a multi-day trip, along with the ability to get the fuel in certain locations it adds up. Add to that, the mess that alcohol stoves in the wrong hands can make, sometimes a permanent scarring of anything they sit on!
Below- my photo of a picnic table in a shelter along the AT that has been damaged by careless alcohol stove use.
In addition to this it has become somewhat less responsible to carry alcohol in favor of a system that has an on/off switch for areas in severe drought or just to be responsible in all areas.
I started looking at canister systems. The most efficient in my experience is the Jetboil, (there are other good systems to be sure- MSR, etc) but it has lots of issues; you can't cook in it (more on that later). It is VERY expense. It is tall and narrow so food doesn't re-hydrate well anyway and it is hard to get a spoon all the way down in it and see what is going on. it takes up a lot of space in the pack for what you use and all but the titanium versions are heavy.
All of this could almost be overlooked when it comes to efficiency, On a 200 gram cartridge of gas I can get almost twenty, two cup boils. Even in cool temperatures, having a hot dinner and a hot beverage in the morning, I can go for almost 3 weeks on fuel that weighs only 7 ounces.
Since I love to modify things, I looked to work on the Jetboil. Since they are so expensive you have to really think about what you want to do before you do it. I found that John Abela @ Hikelighter
had cut his Jetboils .8 liter pots in half. Since I only needed 2 cups maximum this sounded perfect. I had a buddy that could cut down my Jetboil pots and maybe roll the lip to get me the same shape as the original so the lid/strainer would still work. This turned out to be a big issue. We went through three $120 pots before we decided that rolling the lid was just not possible. If I would have given it more thought I would have realized that I didn't need the pot rolled for a lid. The lid is really only useful as a strainer and since you can't cook inside a Jetboil pot it doesn't matter.
Why can't you cook inside a Jetboil pot?
Jetboil now states on their website (they didn't use too) that you can't cook in the Ti version of the pots. I don't think its a good idea to cook in any version, Titanium or Aluminum, of their pots as any food that sticks to the bottom of the pot will cause the heat ex-changer fins to super-heat and fall off the bottom of the pot. These don't pose an issue for the gas cartridge underneath but they will melt your igniter switch and any of the plastic on the actual stove part instantly!
So as I mentioned I only need 2 cups of water, so I eventually got a Jetboil cut down to just over 2 cups in size. This brings it down to a manageable size and weight, even for the aluminum version and as previously stated the efficiency is outstanding
Before (Left) after cut down (right)
The lip guard is there because occasionally I will use it for a hot drink (take the pot off the flame before mixing any drink)
new set up. Note that I do use the cartridge stand- not pictured (it does add 1 ounce, but I like the stability on uneven surfaces)
So now I have the water heating system but not the eating system. You really don't need anything else if you eat from "bag cooking" methods. Open bag, pour in water, wait 10 minutes and eat.
7.2 oz and you are done
You can see in the picture below if you want a lid, then any of the aftermarket quality lids fit on the Jetboil nicely. @ 7.8 oz.
For me I find these pre-packaged foods are usually too large a portion, even the single serving versions. I also find they create more trash than they should. So I just grab some stuff from the grocery store, like Mac&Cheese or Korrs sides and add things to them. This gives me bags of food I reseal during my trip, so I can't use the bag for boiling.
I need something to eat from. I found the Decor storage containers and I use a 500ml round container that is seal-able with a screw top. I can re-hydrate food during the day if I have too, but mostly I just have a tight seal as the food heats. I have made a cozy for it which keeps my food hot for almost an hour after I have made it. The round version is easy to eat from and easy to clean with a smooth bottom surface.
There is another reason I chose this particular bowl/lid combination. the strainer lid that originally came with the Jetboil fits perfectly on this bowl. This is actually useful as now I can strain off any excess water on pasta or rice that is cooking in the bowl.
Cozy lid screwed on
All packed up
In the stuff sack