Homer's Travels: I Have A Cooking System

Thursday, May 08, 2014

I Have A Cooking System

When I last wrote about my upcoming first camping experience I had little hope of having a hot meal.  I'd ordered a camping stove but the estimated delivery date was five days after my first camp.  The stove was coming from Hong Kong and I had little hope of it being here in time.  Turns out the world is shrinking as the stove arrived in the mail last Saturday, a full eleven days faster than expected.

The arrival of the stove threw me into a minor tizzy. The stove is only one part of a camp cooking system and, not thinking I would have need of it for my first camp, I did not research the rest of the cooking system.  Fortunately Gv, who may be more excited about my planned Appalachian Trail (AT) hike than I am, had done some research and passed on some suggestions.  With her suggestions, and the little research that I did after receiving the stove, I went out Monday and bought a few items to complete my cooking system.
  • Ultralight Backpacking Canister Camp Stove: The stove I bought doesn't even have a brand name.  It is a simple generic camp stove that runs on Butane/Propane mix.  It seems well built and has a great Amazon rating.  In most conditions the stove should boil enough water to re-hydrate a meal in about two to four minutes.  It weighs in at 3.4 oz (96 g) and comes in an orange plastic case (0.6 oz - 17 g).  Not sure I would pack the case for a long hike like the AT.  I might wrap it in a cloth that could also be used as a pot holder instead.

  • MSR ISOPRO all-season Fuel Blend Canister: I bought the smaller size - 3.9 oz (110 g) - fuel canister.  The canister screws on to the bottom of the stove and acts like the base.  One of these small canister should last five days or so depending on how conservative you are with your fuel.  Not sure how many 'burns' were used to calculate the five day number though.  One cool thing about the MSR branded gas is the level markings on the canister.  If you want to know how much gas is left in the canister, float it in some water.  The higher it floats the less gas there is.  The actual weight of the canister with gas is 7.5 oz (214 g).
  • Snow Peak Titanium Mini Solo Cook Set: This is a simple, two pot cooking set.  It consists of a 28 fl oz (828 ml) pot with a lid and a 10 fl oz (295 ml) nesting cup.  The pot really only has one function and that is to boil water.  These ultralight camp system are not made for cooking gourmet dinners and so a simple pot to boil water is all you need.  The cup is nice if you want to make coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.  A nice thing about this set is that the pot fits inside the cup and the stove and a 3.9 oz fuel canister will also fit inside.  The only downside is that the pot does not have volume marks.  The saving grace is that the cup does so you can use the cup to measure out the amount of water to put in the pot.  It is very light weighing in at 5.5 oz (156 g).

  • Optimus Canister Stand: The small size of the fuel canister can make camp stoves unstable and easy to tip.  To counter this I bought a collapsible universal canister stand that attaches to the bottom of the canister to give it a wider stance and a more stable footprint.  Weight is a whopping 0.8 oz (23 g).

  • Light My Fire Spork: The last thing I need to complete my cooking system is a spork.  I have one that I took with me on both my Caminos.  It has served me well (pun intended) and even matches my canister stand (though color is not really that important a criteria when choosing a spork).  I do have a few doubts about the spork.  Namely, is it sturdy enough (people I know have had them break in their pack) and is it long enough to get to the bottom of a food pouch full of boiling water.  If any of these doubts turn into real issues, a longer, more sturdy metal spork may be necessary.  This is a light 0.4 oz (10 g).
Total weight for this system, including the mesh bag to hold it all, is about 18.4 oz (522 g).

There is one piece of hardware missing.  That would be a stove windscreen.  While these are not mandatory they do make it easier to start a stove and maintain the flame in windy conditions.  One will be added eventually.

The last thing I bought was a couple dehydrated meals.  I will try one this weekend.  There are two very common brands which carry essentially the same meals: Mountain House and Backpacker's Pantry.  I chose Mountain House's Lasagna with Meat Sauce and Beef Stroganoff with Noodles.  I suspect the lasagna will be my first test meal.  For those who are curious, each dehydrated meal weights 4.75 oz (134 g) and contain roughly two servings (yeah ... right ... who wouldn't finish the whole thing in one sitting ... nobody ... that's who).  I will let you know how it tastes.  Hopefully it won't taste like wet cardboard.  If it turns out to be inedible, or I have trouble with the stove, I will also carry some cold food to eat as well - cereal, trail mix, jerky, protein bars ... stuff like that.

My kit is slowly coming together.  Not sure what the next will be.  Water purification?  A 'real' sleeping bag?  Cold weather gear?  Who knows.  What I do know is it's fun to shop for this stuff.

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