It has been awhile since I posted an article on a cook kit, and my good buddy Chad recently decided to post a blog on his cook kit, which he and I worked on a bit to finalize (and I think he really nailed his) so I figured I would go ahead and share with the world what cook kit I have been using lately. The difference between his and mine is somewhere around 0.1 ounces so these will be pretty close to identical. I also know four or five other hikers out there who have contacted me the last few months and are building themselves nearly identical cooking setups. Most of them SUL hikers, one I think was UL wanting to just have something light and simple.
I feel it will be important here to start off by saying I have typically been a “no cook hiker”, which means that my meals are able to be made without the use of any hot water. For 2012 I have told myself that I will not abuse myself as much as I did last year (in my quest to go hard core XUL, with sub 2 pound BPW setups) and so I have switched back to carrying a cook kit. This does result in an additional 8 ounces of weight per section of trail (1 ounce per day of fuel + cook kit, on average of 6 days between resupplies) but the ability to have a warm cup of coffee in the morning, or some eggs, or a hot meal after hiking in the rain all day, well it really makes up for those extra eight ounces, when it all comes down to it.
Cook Kit Philosophy:
It would be nearly impossible for me to write an article without talking about something philosophical in nature, after all if we are not learning and teach each other about hiking, we are never going to learn anything. There are a lot of different philosophies when it comes to a cook kit. There are those that are die-hard wood-only hikers (more power to you guys, and I mean that!! I would join you except all the wood burning setups out there seem to weight three to five times more than this setup). There are those who are die-hard esbit users (and I have become one of them). There are those who are die-hard alcohol stove hikers (I use to be one, but I am tired of hearing about hikers burning down forests or burning their gear, plus esbit is just easier, argue that all you want, but it is).
This article does not exist to try to convert anybody to the esbit tablet cooking system. If you are happy with what you use, awesome!! I simply have no intentions of trying to get anybody out there to switch. You will notice I did not include canister hikers in the list above. That is because HikeLighter.Com is all about SUL/XUL hiking, and while it is not impossible to use a canister system as a SUL hiker, it can be pretty tricky taking a canister cook kit with you and staying under that five pound mark. I have done it a few times, but never for a long hike and never in cold weather when I needed a canister stove with a regulator (which adds weight). If you are a XUL hiker you probably have the experience and know-how to go out with a SUL setup using a canister stove kit, but chances are you would question your sanity about doing such, just as I did the few times I went out with one.
What I also am not going to do within this article, and hopefully none that I will ever write, is try to talk anybody out of the pot that they prefer. The choice of a pot in a SUL cook kit can be a rather delicate issue to talk about when you have a group of SUL/XUL hikers all in one room. I have well documented a 26 gram cook kit that I put together as an experiment that used a hacked up baby soda can. It was comical at best, but it was fun and got some other hikers thinking about how to lighten up their cook kit. It was also something that resulted in minibulldesign making significant medications to some of their products in a quest to lighten them up as light as they could go. But back to the pots, yes, I think each of us have our own ‘favorite pot’ and often times we go through a lot of them until we do find one we like. I have probably owned nearly a dozen pots and cups over the last five years.
I would also like to take a moment to discuss the philosophical aspects of burning esbit from a performance factor. As most people who have converted to esbit have learned, there are some setups out there that give you a lot of performance and there are some setups out there that make it almost impossible to bring 2 cups to a boil with an entire esbit. I have seen a lot of people burn through a lot of esbit tablets in their quest to discover why that is. Oddly, it seems very few people have ever figured out why. Some say it has to do with air flow. Some say it has to do with the height between the flame and the bottom of the pot. Some just like to fall back on the old “tall pot verses fat pot” issue. Personally, I have never invested a single minute of my life trying to figure out why. In the end if I can bring two cups of water to a boil for one half ounce of fuel, I am happy. Whether that is in the form of an esbit table or HEET with an alcohol stove system. I pretty much shoot for the half-ounce per meal rule and call it good. With a half of an esbit tablet I can typically bring my initial 1-1/2 cup of water to a boil, and than I will pour however much I need into my food, and than the rest goes into use for my tea or coffee. I than throw the pot back onto the pot stand and from the remaining amount of of the burning esbit I reheat a bit more water to top off my tea/coffee when it gets down a bit. That is my philosophy on how I prepare my meals with an esbit cooking system.
My 2 Ounce Cook Kit:
My cook kit for the last part of the 2011 hiking season and for hopefully all of the 2012 hiking season is made up of the standard parts of a cook setup. A pot, a stand, a spoon (yes, I believe you should count your spoon as part of your cook kit), your stuff sack, and your fuel. If you were really paying attention to that you might have noticed I left out the ‘stove’ part of that setup. I know a lot of esbit hikers like using a stove to put their esbit tablets into. Be it the very cool Esbit Ti Wing Stove, or the very neat Trail Designs Gram Cracker, or what Stick made up (see photograph), or the cute little stove that JERMM made up. I have tried many of these and in the end they just seemed like dead-weight. So I have just gone to putting the esbit right onto a small piece of Ti (in order to protect the ground from burning) and have not had any issues with this method so far.
The pot that I use is the Zelph 2 Cup Flat Bottom and it hits my scales at 29.76 grams (1.049 ounces). It is listed that it is suppose to be 27 grams. I ordered one when they first came out and it was 26.8 grams. Than I ordered a new one and it is almost 30 grams. Being that they are hand made and a very custom made product, I can live with the slight differences, though lighter is always better. I might order a third one in the hopes that it is 3 or so grams lighter. Overall this is one amazing pot. The flat bottom makes it fit and stay on every stove that I have ever put it on. I never understood why hikers would want to use a pot that was not flat on the bottom. The chances of your water boiling and causing the pot to rock back and forth create a situation where on unstable ground, or in really windy conditions, the pot can fall over and thus you have wasted potentially precious water and fuel. A flat bottom pot rocks. End of story about that. It just does.
My windscreen is the Suluk46 Ti Windscreen, which I have had custom sized. Mine hits the scale at 8.54 grams (0.301 ounces) and I really love it. This is my second Ti Windscreen from Suluk46 and for those wondering, yes, they are worth the money and worth the extra shipping costs (they are bounced out of Canada). Steve is one awesome guy who like myself has pushed the boundaries of XUL hiking perhaps a bit to far at times. We have both learned some hard lessons, the hard way. Every product of his that I have bought have been perfectly hand created. While they are not the “cone” style windscreens I have never really found a need to have one of those with any of the setups I have used. Granted I have never used one so maybe one day somebody will send me one and it will blow my mind at how awesome they are or might be over the Suluk46 screen, but for now, at 8.5 grams, I am a happy hiker.
My spoon is the third heaviest item, at 5.66 grams (0.199 ounces). It was a one-off hand made spoon by Rob Kelly – and for those wondering, he made it very clear to me that he would never ever ever make another one again lol, so, probably not a good idea to go asking him for one. Apparently it was a… how do you say it… a PITA… to make, plus it is made of a specific type of Ti that is rather expensive. Before I got this I used (and still love) the Sea to Summit Alpha Light Short Spoon. It is the spoon I recommend to everybody. It is an insanly light weight spoon at 7.58 grams (0.267 ounces). It is proof that Ti is not always the lightest way to go in the hiking world! If I ever decide to retire the “QiWiz Abela Spoon” I am going back to the StS AlphaLight without any hesitation at all.
Next heaviest item is the pot stand, and it is from minibulldesign. Take one of their standard wire pot stands and whack off a few layers off the top of it, than cut out a large majority of the up-right sections and you are good to go. Remember that 2 cups of water (more realistically, 1.8 cups of water, in most of these 2 cup pots) plus the pot itself does not weigh a whole lot, so the need for some crazy strong pot stand is just totally unnecessary. My pot stand hits the scale at 4.03 grams (0.142 ounces)
Next up is a ZPacks Cuben Fiber Stuff Sack. I honestly do not remember what size it is, I think it might be one I had custom made to size, but it is 3.48 grams (0.122 ounces). It has held up for a few years now (2000+ miles) and that is impressive.
Next is a standard sandwich size ziplock bag that is 2.46 grams (0.086 ounces) which I use to hold my esbit cubes, the pot stand, the ground protector, empty esbit containers, and any left over half size esbit cubes. It does not take long to realize that esbit can be a bit dirty, and I just choose to carry the additional 0.086 ounces and put my esbit items into a separate bag, rather than inside of my pot. To each their own.
Next up is a small bag of matches. I carry twelve of them. Two per day, per six days between resupplies. I also carry two of those waterproof light anywhere matches in my SHTF bag, should I need a fall back. The 12 matches plus the striker is 1.82 grams (0.064 ounces). I know a lot of folks like to use a mini-bic for lightening esbits, I just for some odd reason like the sensation of lighting a match. (oh crap, I did not just admit that did I?? me looks both directions for the fire marshal, ducks and hides)
Lastly is a round piece of Ti that Steve from Suluk46 made up for me, that I use as a Ground Protector. It is 0.98 grams (0.034 ounces) and is the same basic size as my pot stand. I use it to try to prevent ground scaring from the esbit tablet. Has worked so far. Before I got it I used a piece of aluminum that I folded over a bunch of times.
All said this cook kit is: 56.73 grams (2.001 ounces) and that is sort of impressive for a 2 cup setup I tend to think. Not the lightest that I have ever put together, but all of my lighter setups were nowhere near as durable as this setup. I have hundreds of miles using this setup. It has proven to be tough enough for me, light enough, and provide me all the hot water I have so far needed as a solo long distance hiker.
While on a 5 day, 115 mile, hiking trip earlier this month I took a few moments to shoot a video (poor quality) of my setup. It at least shows everything that is within my cook kit.
I hope you have enjoyed this article!! I love comments and feedback :-)
In accordance of Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that the disseminated content within the review of this product(s) is free of endorsement(s) between myself and the manufacturer(s) of any product(s) disclosed herein and meets all FTC 16 CFR.255 compliance requirements.