Have you ever been out on the trail and experienced a sudden and intense craving for a fresh baked berry muffin? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could prepare your favorite baked-goods on the trail ? What if you could carry a complete, integrated ultralight stove system and the only extra thing you had to take was a small baking pan that weighs about three ounces? (Well, that and the muffin ingredients, but you were planning to eat anyway, right?) “Hey,” you say. “Do you mean to tell me that I can bake delicious muffins out on the trail, and my weight penalty is only about three ounces over and above my cooking system?”
Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. All you need in order to bake tasty muffin treats on a trek is an ultralight Bobcat system, which weighs less than half a pound, including the pot and a lightweight baking pan. The only weight you’ll have to carry over and above the ultralight cook kit is 3.1 oz (89 g) for a small (4″/10.2 cm) baking pan. You’ll be baking tasty treats in no time!
First let’s take a brief look at the ultralight Bobcat system. For the baking set up, the Bobcat system uses ESBIT type fuel cubes, but an alcohol stove can be substituted. For more information on the alcohol set up, please see The Bobcat Stove System on my blog. Note that the results when baking with alcohol are a little more variable than when cooking with ESBIT. The base cook kit weighs 7.3 oz/208 g (without any baking items or fuel) and consists of a 1.3L Evernew ultralight titanium pot, an Epicurean titanium stove, a heat reflector (aka a “base plate”), and a windscreen. The 1.3L Evernew ultralight titanium pot is one of the lightest and most versatile pots on the market. It’s my go to pot for most of my trips, even those where I don’t do any baking. If you know anything about backpacking, you’ll know that titanium isn’t cheap, and the Evernew pot is no exception. But if you want ultralight, sometimes you have to pay for titanium.
And here’s something that’s really cool, everything in the base cook kit fits inside the pot. There’s even room for a spoon, a lighter, and a box of fuel. Nice!
The first thing we do is unfold the heat reflector and set the stove on top. The stove we’ll be using with this set up is the Epicurean titanium stove, which weighs a mere 14 grams (1/2 ounce). If that’s too heavy for you, Flat Cat Gear sells another version, the UL15, which is only 7 grams but is said to have all the same features. Note: I have not tested the UL15 version.
Now, usually you don’t have a lot of control when cooking with ESBIT type fuel. You’re either burning it or you’re not, and when you are burning it, it’s putting out full heat with no control. The beauty of the Epicurean titanium stove is that there are two modes: regular (high) and simmer (low). With the Epicurean, point the air holes down for high heat as picture below…
…and point the air holes up for low heat (below). The other benefit of the Epicurean stove is that on simmer the “fishy” odor that you get when using ESBIT is all but eliminated and the residue that ESBIT typically leaves on the bottom of your pot is gone. I consider these two huge benefits to using this stove.
A word of caution: There is a silicone tube on the handle of the stove, but that silicone can still get pretty hot. If you boil up some water and then want to set the stove to low, grab the handle with a bandana or something. Your fingers will thank you.
Working with ESBIT is simplicity itself. Just put a cube of fuel in the stove, light, and put the pot on. Note: a butane lighter is the easiest way to ignite ESBIT.
The last basic component is the “It’s a Snap” windscreen, which, as you might guess, simply snaps together.
So that’s the basic cook kit: Pot, heat reflector, stove and windscreen. It’s a complete set and is an ultralight 7.3 oz/208 g. You can use this set up for all your basic backpacking cooking.
This is an article on baking, so enough basics; let’s get to the good stuff: What treats do we get to eat?! Well, the sky’s the limit, but out on the trail, I like to keep it simple. I like the “just add water” mixes, but advanced backcountry bakers have done things like birthday cakes and even lasagna!
The “just add water” mixes are available at most any grocery store. I’ve also tried cookie mixes that call for oil. I didn’t use oil, and they turned out fine. My personal favorite is the Krusteaz mix. Half a tube of Krusteaz works really well with a 4″ (10.2 cm) baking pan, and a whole tube works well with a 5″ (12.7 cm) pan. The Bobcat system will accommodate either a 4″ or a 5″ baking pan. The 4″ pan is good for two, possibly three people. For three or more people, you might want to go with the 5″ pan, but of course the 5″ pan is a bit heavier. Speaking of the Krusteaz tube, it’s pretty light, but I usually just dump the mix into a Ziploc bag before I head out on the trail.
So, let’s head out on the trail and do some baking! Let’s try our hand at a blueberry muffin. Basically, you just dump the mix into the pan, add water, stir it up, stick the pan inside the pot, and, a little while later, you’ve got a muffin. It’s really pretty simple, but let’s break it down step by step.
First set up the stove (all of about one minute). Then take out the baking pan. I like to put a little olive oil in the pan just to prevent sticking. Jon at Flat Cat Gear recommends lining the bottom of the baking pan with parchment paper, which does help, but I haven’t found it to be strictly necessary.
Then add the mix and the water into the pan and blend with your favorite utensil. I’m using a Light-My-Fire spork here.
Then stick the baking pan into the pot.
Light the fuel, place the lid on the pot, place the whole ensemble into the windscreen, and wait about 45 minutes. In the photo below, the black object atop the pot is a Flat Cat “hat” which is an optional carbon felt insulator which aids in baking
Yes, it does take about 45 minutes — which isn’t bad for baking, but you do need to plan for it. For me, the most convenient time to do baking is on those evenings where I get into camp reasonably early. Baking in the morning is great but does delay one’s start time. The one drawback is of course that your stove system is tied up while you are baking. That’s why I like to get into camp a little early, cook and eat my supper, and then start baking. While things are baking, I can set up my shelter, do camp chores, or just enjoy the beautiful outdoors (which is why I’m out here in the first place, right?).
And after 45 minutes, what does one get? In this case, a very nice blueberry muffin, thank you very much.
Pulling out the muffin, we see that it looks good (darned good!). And the muffin has come out of the pan fairly cleanly. Clean up is a snap. I just use a bit of water and the edge of my spoon. There isn’t any hard, baked-on food; it’s fairly soft and comes off pretty easily. You do want to take care not to over bake. Leaving the muffin baking too long can result in burnt on food and a black bottomed muffin.
Slicing open our muffin, we can see that it’s nicely done all the way through. As for the taste, it was pretty darned good (there were no leftovers!).
That’s it! It’s really simple, and you might just be the most popular person in camp. Just think of the possibilities; special trail celebrations (like a birthday, anniversary, or after a big through hike), family backpacks, etc. I’ve found that muffins are super popular with the youngsters and that the family is a lot more willing to come if I mention “muffins.” And you’re not restricted to just muffins, biscuits, and cake type items. As I mentioned, some have even baked lasagna with this system. There are many recipes on the Flat Cat Gear website. I leave the ultimate possibilities up to you.
The Bobcat System for Ultralight Baking
What’s good about it?
- Fresh baked goods!
- Ultralight (see component weight table, below)
- Simple to use
- Kids love muffins (so do friends and fellow campers)
- The 1.3L Evernew titanium pot is one of the lightest and most versatile pots on the market
What’s bad about it?
- Baking takes time
- Your stove system is tied up while you’re baking
- You have to carry a baking pan (but it’s only about 3 ounces)
- It’s a little tough to scale up for larger groups
The Bobcat System — Details
Manufacturer: Flat Cat Gear (stove, windscreen, and heat reflector)
The pot is made by Evernew; the pans are made by Fat Daddio’s. All can be purchased through Flat Cat Gear.
Date available: Currently available.
Manufacturer’s Website: Flat Cat Gear
MSRP: $55.00 (Epicurean stove, windscreen, and heat reflector only, without pot); $65.90 (Stove, windscreen, heat reflector, 4″ baking pan, and Flat Cat “hat”, without pot). Prices per Flat Cat Gear website as of 3/17/2013. Prices subject to change.
Listed Weight: See component weight table, below.
Actual Weight: See component weight table, below.
Materials: Titanium (stove and main pot); Aluminum (windscreen, heat reflector, and baking pan)
Packed Dimensions: 15cm x 7.7cm (5.91″ x 3.03″). Everything packs in the 1.3L pot except the baking pan which is either 4″ x 2″ or 5″ x 2″, depending on which baking pan you buy.
Size/Model tested: Epicurean titanium full sized version (not the UL15).
- Max pot capacity, 1300ml (44 fl. oz.). Practical pot capacity, ~1100ml (~37 fl. oz.).
- 4″ baking pan capacity, about 4.25 ounces (120g) dry weight of muffin mix or similar.
- 5″ baking pan, about 8.5 ounces (240g) dry weight of muffin mix or similar.
- For items that do not rise, the volume of the 4″ pan is about 1.75 cups (about 400 cc).
- For items that do not rise, the volume of the 5″ pan is about 3 cups (about 700 cc).
Requirements: ESBIT or other hexamine type fuel (sold separately).
Warranty info: Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Colors Available: Not applicable (uncoated titanium and aluminum)
|Item||Stated Grams||Grams Measured||Stated Ounces||Ounces Measured|
|Epicurean Ti Stove (ESBIT)||19||14||0.7||0.5|
|“It’s a Snap” Windscreen||51||52||1.8||1.8|
|Heat Reflector (Base Plate)||9||9||0.3||0.3|
|Evernew 1300ml UL pot||130||130||4.6||4.6|
|Base ESBIT Cooking Set Up||212||208||7.5||7.3|
|4″ Pan (standard for baking)||89||89||4.6||3.1|
|4″ Baking (Base + 4″ Baking Pan)||301||297||10.6||10.5|
|5″ Pan (optional)||120||140||4.2||4.9|
|5″ Baking (Base + 5″ Baking Pan)||332||348*||11.7||12.3|
|Flat Cat Hat (optional)||13||11||0.3||0.4|
*Jon informs me that he has changed suppliers which would explain the weight difference