ULTRA LIGHT KITCHEN – EVERYTHING YOU NEED AND NOTHING YOU DON’T

If you’ve been following the ultra light articles for the last several months, this article will complete the series on ultra light gear. This final work will cover the one area that affects your mental well-being more than anything else, with the exception of wet feet. After a long day on the trail, there’s nothing better than a hot delicious meal. I like to prepare meals that require only some boiling water. Most of the people that I hike with follow the same approach and keep their meals very simple. The availability of dehydrated and freeze dried foods that are light and tasty make meal planning pretty easy. For the ultra light kitchen, all that is needed is a couple of cups of boiling water and a freeze dried meal. Here’s where it gets kind of tricky. There are a multitude of manufactures of cook pots and stoves. If you’re only going to boil water, I recommend looking for the lightest pot and stove possible.

COOK POTS:
Titanium has taken the lead when it comes to light weight cooking gear. I’ve used a 1 liter titanium cook pot for years. It has served me well and continues to do an excellent job with boiling water. My advice on the cooking gear that you purchase is very simple: consider the types of meals that you prefer and the size of the portions that you require. Adjust the size of the pot accordingly. You just don’t need to complicate it any further. Now, go out and hit the outdoor stores to see what’s available….Good luck making a choice. Once you’ve decided on the cook pot, don’t relax and think you’ve got it made. The next decision may be the toughest of your backpacking life. So, you have that super cool titanium pot full of water. Now you need something to heat it up.

STOVES:
Oh boy, here we go. I have tried just about every type of stove imaginable. I started with a Coleman burner that mounts onto a fuel canister. It did a good job, but it was bulky and not exactly ultra light. I started looking around for a lighter stove and came up with an Esbit fuel stove. Esbit is a solid fuel that looks like a small bar of soap. I found a stove design on-line that matched my cook pot. I used this stove for years. It all fit into the pot for easy storage and was very light weight. A half of a fuel tab would get two cups of water boiling in minutes. The drawback was the odor. The fuel tabs just smell bad…It also left a gooey mess on the bottom of the pot. I finally got tired of the smell and the mess from the solid fuel. Next, I started exploring alcohol stoves. Ask any long distance thru-hiker and they swear by alcohol stoves. These little gems weigh only grams, have no moving parts, and last forever. If you decide to go with an alcohol stove, you have a lot of options. A quick search on-line will produce endless sites with simple how-to’s for stove construction. I have to admit that after thorough evaluation, I have come full circle back to a canister stove. Yes, the alcohol stove is lighter; however, once you factor in the weight of the fuel, it pretty much becomes a wash. My current stove weighs around 2.5 ounces. The stove plus a full canister are equal to an alcohol stove with a bottle of fuel. There’s no right or wrong answer here. If you’re a gear head, try them all and then make up your mind which suits you best.

EVERYTHING ELSE:
My stove doesn’t have a built-in starter. I use one of those flint strikers from a cheap survival kit. I suppose a book of matches would work just as well. I include a titanium cup with graduated measuring marks in my kit as well. The cup adds a bit of sophistication when sharing a single malt scotch or a fine merlot. If you like to suck from the bottle, you could save a couple of grams and leave the cup at home. I use a Lexan spoon with the handle cut off, so it fits into the pot. Also, included is some Dr. Bonners soap in a small eye dropper bottle. This pretty much completes the kitchen with the exception of the tooth brush, tooth paste, and floss.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed the series of ultra light articles. If you have any questions, ideas, or recommendations, drop me a note. I’m an organizer for Seattle Backpackers Meetup and plan on at least two ultra light challenge hikes this summer. Maybe I’ll see you on one of the hikes. As a parting shot, I’ve included my Ultra Light gear list. Be safe, have fun, and enjoy the ride….Pat

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