Backpacking Cookware Tips
About The Pot Materials
Attributes to Look For
Cookware Kit Contents
Shop for Lightweight Cookware & Stoves
ABOUT THE POT MATERIALS:
Although there are several materials that are used in outdoor cookware, I'll concentrate on the materials that are currently being used in the leading backpacking cookware. In other words, I won't be talking about copper, enamel, or castiron. The materials of note in this section are aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium.
Aluminum (the uncoated variety), once the mainstay lightweight cookware for backpacking, has gone out of favor for many folks, for several reasons. One is because the aluminum oxidizes, over time, and is thought to be connected to health problems, including alzheimer's disease. In addition, aluminum is not very resilient in that it dents and deforms, very easily. If you use aluminum pots for cooking, rather than just boiling water, be prepared to seek out some fine mud & gravel, because your food will probably stick to the metal.
Here's an in-depth review of Aluminum, as a cookware material
Another reason uncoated aluminum has lost popularity is because of the invent of ultra-lightweight stainless steel cookware. Stainless steel cookware is strong and durable. It does not however, distribute heat as evenly as aluminum.
Here's a review of Stainless Steel, as a cookware material
NON-STICK COATED ALUMINUM
Non-stick, coated aluminum cookware is becoming popular in the backpacking ranks--for example, Traveling Light's Evolution Cookware. Although heavier than uncoated aluminum, it is comparable to lightweight stainless steel, is durable, and has good heat distribution.
Here's a review of Non-Stick, Coated Aluminum, as a cookware material
Can't get any lighter than this. It is extremely resilient and durable. Because the metal is so thin, it also does an adequate job of evenly distributing heat. It weighs about 1/2 of what the lightweight stainless steel and coated aluminum pots weigh.
Here's a review of Titanium.
ATTRIBUTES TO LOOK FOR:
Look for the following attributes when shopping for cook pots:
ROUNDED BOTTOM EDGES:
For two reasons, (1) the pots are easier to keep clean--food stuff doesn't get caught in seams where the sides meet the bottom section and (2) flames/heat from your stove can more easily move up the sides of the pot.
BLACKENED BOTTOMS & SIDES:
Most pots do not come blackened, but over time may become that way, especially if you use them in an open fire. Of all the pots in the "kitchen inventory" section of my "gear closet", my SIGG Inoxal pots are the only ones that actually came with a black outer surface. However, no matter, I always paint my pots with flat-black stove paint, as soon as I get them. I recently did this with my Evernew Titanium pots. The black surface absorbs and distributes heat faster than a shiny surface.
A tight-fitting lid is critical in order to maximize the efficiency of your stove. If you have a tight-fitting lid, the contents of the pot will heat faster and, thus, you'll consume less stove fuel. Also, the contents will stay heated for a longer period of time.
Look for pots that require a minimum of space in your pack. Handles that fold or else a separate pot-gripper handle which is storable inside the pot. If you're carrying more than one pot, look for pots that nest into one another.
LIPPED TOP RIM:
This is especially important if you are using a separate pot-gripper handle. The gripper-handle attaches to the pot underneath this rim for security and stability. Otherwise, well, your gripper-handle could easily slip off your pot and your soup would be in your lap.
There's quite a number of good pots available, nowadays. Look for the lightest manifestation which meets your requirement.
COOKWARE KIT CONTENTS:
A person could get quite carried away here. This is, however, The Lightweight Backpacker, so I'll be brief.
SMALL ULTRALIGHT CARRYING SACK:
I like mesh, at least on one side, so the contents can breathe, just in case things like damp spoons and such have a chance to fully dry out.
Your choice--powdered garlic, onion, parsley, cayenne, other herbs. Carry each in a small, plastic container (you can buy, at REI and other outdoor shops, containers like film canisters but about 1/2 the size). You can also carry them in small zip-loc freezer bags, but be careful of holes developing in those bags, especially over the duration of a multi-day trip.
NOTE: I don't use film canisters because I was told that residual chemicals typically remain in those canisters long after the film is removed. I haven't yet taken the time to validate that information, but, in the meantime, I don't use them.
Choose your own utensils, however, I see need for only one lexan soup spoon (with 1/3 of the handle sawed off--and sharp edges sanded down).
OPTIONAL: COFFEE FILTERS & LIGHTWEIGHT PLASTIC-CONE FILTER HOLDER,
if you are a coffee drinker and carry coffee grounds into the woods. Carry your grounds inside heavy-duty zip-loc freezer bags or small plastic containers with secure, tight-fitting lids. An option, on the other hand, is to leave the filters and plastic cone at home and take along "coffee-bags" that you steep in your cup like tea. A whole lot lighter and less messy.
OPTIONAL: SMALL SCRUBBER SPONGE:
This may be prudent if you have cookware that has a protective coating which could be compromised by rubbing mud and sand over it.
OPTIONAL: INSULATED MUG with LID:
Optional during the 3-season. Very important piece of gear, though, in the Winter. In the 3-seasons, if you do carry the insulated mug, leave the lid at home and save an ounce and a half.
OPTIONAL: PLASTIC BOWL:
For solo packers, eat out of your pot. If two packers, one will need a bowl.
Shop for Lightweight, High-Quality Cookware & Stoves:
- Lightweight Backcountry Kitchen
- Snow Peak Ultralight Cookware
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