I have a friend whose backpacking kitchen is only a single small Titanium mug and a folding Esbit stove. He pretty much always cooks the same one pot meal. By the end of a trip he is pretty tired of it, but his set weighs little and he doesn’t spend a lot of time cooking. Sometimes this is a good answer, and sometimes you want more. As I have accumulated kitchen stuff, the goal of having it all (or most of it) in a light weight, compact package has been an itch. This post presents the current state of that quest.
So here is my 16 piece compact, complete kitchen, all packed up sitting beside two gas canisters for scale. It is versatile, light, compact, complete, and rugged. With it I can boil, simmer, bake, mix, hydrate, cozy, measure, prepare multi course meals, serve and clean up. All together, without fuel, it weighs 22 oz., and is about the volume of two 8 oz. fuel canisters. But of course you only need to bring the parts you are planning to use with that trip’s menu. Further, by swapping out the stove and windscreen combination, it has multi-fuel capability. So what’s in it?
- Reflectix cozy that will fit any container in the set.
- 2 cup ZipLoc container for hydrating, mixing or serving.
- 600 mL Snow Peak Ti mug with DIY tomato can lid and modified handles to nest inside 6.
- Kovea Spider canister stove.
- Flat Cat Snow Leopard wind screen for the Kovea stove.
- 750 mL Toaks Ti pot with lid.
- 2 cup GSI mug with lid and neoprene sleeve.
- DIY Si-nylon stuff sack.
- Litesmith silicone elastic cross band.
- DIY beer can baking sheet.
- DIY Al sheet baking trivet.
- Blue foam insulating pad for the canister on cold ground
- Al foil ground sheet for the stove.
- Flat Cat baking plate.
- Al baking cup formed to be a pot liner or baking cap.
- Kovea piezo lighter.
As a minimalist package, I might take the stove, ground sheet, the 750 ml Ti pot, stuff sack, cross band and lighter for a total of 12 oz. I might add the mug for another 3 oz. If I wanted to cozy meals to save fuel, add 1.6 oz. And so it goes. Adding the second pot gives me some flexibility to have a dirty pot and still heat water for drinks and wash up. I am now up to almost 20 oz. without fuel. The last couple of ounces are really specialty items for baking, mixing or prehydrating foods on the way to camp.
For an even more minimalist approach, copying my friend, I can go to a solid fuel package for a comparable total of just over 7 oz., with each fuel tablet adding only 1/2 oz. Here it is with the Snow Peak mug, ground sheet, Flat Cat Epicurean Esbit burner, Coke can Esbit snuffer, custom aluminum split cone windscreen/pot stand, Bic lighter and a smaller stuff sack. That’s a complete kitchen for a simple overnight at only 9 oz. with fuel. It’s just half the weight of the comparable canister minimalist set of 12 oz. plus 5.5 oz. for a half empty gas canister.
For my typical cooked meal routine, I make a one pot meal in a Ti pot, and 1 cup of instant pudding in my plastic mug. Then I clean the pot and mug and heat water for a hot drink. At breakfast I heat water for instant mocha in my mug and then cook oatmeal in the Ti pot. That works with the 17 oz. package, including the cozy. On a leisurely outing with time to cook and enjoy the view, I might include the rest of the kit to permit baking biscuits or cup cakes, or cooking meals that involve pasta, rice or potatoes and a separately prepared sauce. When carrying dehydrated food, the ability to soak the food for a few hours on the trail before supper improves the quality of the meal and lowers cooking time and fuel use. The ZipLoc bowl with its watertight tight lid, adds that flexibility as well as being a good bowl for mixing dough, cozying or serving.
Nerding out on nesting
Time on the trail teaches that it is not just about weight, but also volume. and not just volume, but shape. Soft goods can be mashed together to get good use out of pack volume, but hard objects like pots are difficult to fit snugly with other stuff. Some things like windscreens and cozies don’t like to be smashed and bent. And efficiently filling the space inside pots, without carrying your extra underwear mixed with your kitchen stuff is a challenge. Small wonder that products like Jetboil stoves are sized to just right take a small gas canister inside. Nesting also keeps everything together, avoiding digging in the bottom of your pack for the lost pot lid, etc. So ending up with a personal kitchen ensemble that nests is a combination of lucky accidents and some fiddling. This is how mine all packs up.
I have had the Snow Peak 600 mL Ti mug for a while. I was pleased to find that my GSI mug slipped inside if I took the neoprene sleeve off first. It was also nice that the folded Kovea Spider stove still fit inside that, even allowing for a windscreen to be curled up inside the mug. The 750 mL Toaks Ti pot was purchased to give me something a little bigger and work well with the Flat Cat Snow Leopard windscreen. The Snow Peak mug didn’t quite fit in the Toaks pot to my disappointment. But what didn’t fit were the 1/8″ rod formed handles. I removed them and bent up 1/16″ stainless rod replacements. They look flimsy, but work just fine and now the pots nest. The Ziplok bowl slips under the Toaks pot. I made a new stuff sack to fit and a new Reflectix cozy to go over everything and presto a “system”. As a bonus, the windscreen that I had made to use my Snow Peak mug and Esbit or alcohol burners alternatively fits inside the GSI mug and is an easy substitution for using other fuels. In minimalist configurations, leaving out the second pot and baking accessories, I can even fit a small gas canister into the stuff sack. With everything packed, the complete 16 piece kitchen even nests inside a solo bear canister, allowing good use of empty canister space as I consume food over the trip.