Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lightweight Cooking Kit for Under $20

As you have probably noticed from my past posts, I have been using a rather expensive set of titanium pots to do my cooking. They have performed great all this time, and I have no complaints. However, I know that for many, such high end gear is out of their price range. Because of that, I set out to find and make a low cost complete cooking kit that can be carried by a backpacker.

Disclaimer: When I say lightweight, please remember that I carry an axe in my pack. If you are an ultralight backpacker, this kit will probably be too heavy for you. Also keep in mind that I do a lot of my cooking on a fire, so this effects my choice of pot as well as stove.

The backbone of the cooking kit is the Open Country 2qt Aluminum Pot. It has proven to be an excellent pot. It is just the right size for me, measuring 4 inches in height and 6 inches in diameter. It looks small for a 2qt pot, but is great for cooking for one or two people. It has a bail and a lid, and is very sturdy. I expected it to be a lot softer, but it is a very strong pot. It weighs 7.7 oz. The pot costs $11.


I like to have an extra container in my cooking kit. Here I went with a ziplock container that fits well within the Open Country pot. Together with the lid it weighs 0.6 oz. I got 5 containers for about $2. You can see it in the picture together with a mini Bic lighter, which weight 0.4 oz.


Next comes the stove (together with windscreen and pot stand). Here I am using an alcohol stove. There are many good DIY designs out there. They all have the advantage of being light weight. I chose the simplest one for the kit, so those who are just starting out can easily make one. All it is, is an open container in which you place the alcohol and light it. I’ve used a 8 ounce Red Bull can, which I have cut so it just colds 2 ounces of alcohol. I find that to be enough fuel to bring two cups of water to a boil and keep it boiling for at least 10 minutes. This stove burns for 13 minutes on 1 ounce of alcohol and brings two cups of water to a boil in 10 minutes. I have put a piece of molefoam on the bottom of the stove, so it provides insulation from the ground when used in cold weather. The stove weighs 0.2 oz. I will try to take a look at some other stove designs later on for those who are interested.


I made the pot stand from three Staples “Mega Clips” paper clips. The packet cost me $2. All I did was bend three of them so that the top of the stand is 3/4 of an inch above the top of the stove. I then used wire to bind the legs together to form a tripod. The whole stand weighs 0.8 oz.


I did not bind one of the tripod legs, so that I can fold up the stand. Here you can see it folded next to the windscreen, which is just a folded up piece of aluminum foil. It weighs 0.4 oz.


So, here are the specifications for the whole kit:




Open Country Pot 7.7 oz $11
Ziplock container 0.6 oz $2 (for a whole set)
Pot stand 0.8 oz $2 (for a whole pack)
Stove/Red Bull can 0.2 oz $3
Bic Lighter 0.4 oz $1
Windscreen 0.4 oz  
Total 10.1 oz $19

I like to keep the contents of the kit wrapped in a bandana, which will add another 1 oz to the kit.

So here it is. Modify the kit however you see fit. It is comprised of commercially available items. You don’t have to get “lucky” on ebay or run through army surplus stores. For $20 you can easily make a cooking kit that weighs less than 1 lb. Compare that to a single Zebra pot, which costs $30 and weights 26 oz all by itself.

1 comment:

  1. I applaud your attempt at finding a low-cost solution for people and I really like your blog. That being said, I have to let you know that aluminum pots are extremely harmful to cook with.. The metal actually gets into the food at the microscopic level and is very toxic to the human body. I recommend the gsi glacier cup which you can pickup for 10-15 bucks. Stainless steel and titanium are perfectly safe to cook with. Be careful when you buy lightweight cookware, i was looking into buying a set from a company (the name escapes me right now) and their whole website sells cookware with their revolutionary "proprietary alloy" material that is "similar to titanium" and this and that.. Well after digging around and reading specs i discovered that their fancy metallurgy factory just takes cheap ass recycled aluminum and somehow makes it lighter. They change the structure, slap on a fancy name, and sell pots for ridiculous prices to yuppies that dont know any better.. Its like killing people slowly for greed, disgusting.