Evolution of My Backpacking Mess Kit & Camp Stove

Ultralight Mess Kit and Weightless Stove

My first backpacking cook set weighed 2 pounds 7.4 ounces including my stove and water bottle. Now it's a mere 10.7 ounces. The biggest contributors to the ultralight weight: 1) I don't use a stove, I cook over a campfire instead, and 2) I use a disposable water bottle or a water pouch.

Here is how my setup has changed over time.

My Mess Kits

Version 1

Primus OmniFuel Stove 570 g 20.1 oz
MSR 20 oz. Fuel Bottle 160 g 5.6 oz
Snow Peak Titanium Cook Set 209 g 7.4 oz
Nalgene Water Bottle 179 g 6.3 oz
Total 1118 g 39.4 oz

This was my first kit. Most of the weight comes from the liquid-fuel stove, which I got at the time because I was camping in snow at altitude. Canister stoves have problems in those conditions.

Version 2

Snow Peak GigaPower Stove
129 g 4.6 oz
100 g Fuel Canister (empty) 94 g 3.3 oz
Snow Peak Titanium Cook Set 209 g 7.4 oz
Nalgene Water Bottle 179 g 6.3 oz
Total 611 g 21.6 oz

Getting a canister stove cut 45% of the weight.

Version 3

Snow Peak GigaPower Stove
129 g 4.6 oz
100 g Fuel Canister (empty) 94 g 3.3 oz
Osprey NATO Water Bottle
475 g 16.8 oz
Total 698 g 24.6 oz

Replacing my titanium cook set and Nalgene water bottle with the NATO water bottle that I saw in Man vs. Wild actually costed me a little extra weight. But it was fun to use the same bottle as Bear Grylls. Still, this configuration is 38% lighter than my original mess kit.

Version 4

Campfire (no stove)
129 g 4.6 oz
Aluminum Pot with Lid 218 g 7.7 oz
37 g 1.3 oz
49 g 1.7 oz
Total 304 g 10.7 oz

I no longer use a stove. I throw my pot in a campfire. Instead of 3 small titanium "pots", I use one big aluminum pot. It's slighter heavier, but I can cook/boil a lot more at once. I also saved a lot by replacing my Nalgene bottle with a soft squeeze pouch.

Overall this set is 73% lighter than my original.


Video Highlights

0:00 My first cook set ever
0:13 Liquid-fuel stove
1:08 Titanium camp cookware
1:36 Nalgene water bottle
1:46 Ultralight canister stove
3:22 Bear Grylls' water bottle and cup
4:26 Aluminum pot
5:14 Water pouch and disposable bottles
6:03 Campfires over stoves
6:36 Standalone pot holder
7:30 Importance of a pot lid
8:23 Utensils

Video Transcript

Check this out. It's my first cook set ever. I'm just getting ready for a trip to go camping and I'm going through stock of what I have and I came across this. I wanted to show it to you guys.

I got this when I was hiking with the Sierra Club and we were doing a lot of snow camping at the time. So I had to get a liquid-fuel stove, which is what this is over here. This one is from Primus. It can do multiple fuels, even gasoline, just in case you're in a place where white fuel isn't available.

Normally they use white fuel that you stick in a bottle like this. You get it from the camp store; it burns really clean. It's got heat shields inside, some tools for servicing it – that's all in there.

It's a pretty heavy package. But the reason why people use liquid-fuel stoves is because in times when your at high elevation or it's really cold outside, the canister stoves – the normal canister stoves with compressed gas – those don't work so well. I'll show you that in a minute. But this is the liquid-fuel stove.

I have this camp set here: titanium pots and pans. This is like a little bowl – like two pots... This can be used as either a lid or a pan, which is kind of cool. You know I never really found it all that useful, except that you need something to cook your stuff in. But it's not like I'm cooking three things at the same time.

I have that and my water bottle – just a regular Nalgene bottle I got from REI. I had this for a while if you can tell. That's it. That's what I used to use.

Super heavy, this whole combination of stuff over here.

So later I switched out this stove and I ended up getting one of these: This is a canister stove. It screws onto the top of a canister. You can tell it's really small. It just opens up like this.

I don't have one of those canisters with me right now, but if I did I would show it to you. And I'd show you that one thing I don't like about it is that it's hard to tell how much fuel is inside.

If I have a bottle like this, I can tell by looking inside or just by feeling it – I feel it gets cold right about there – it's about that much full. And I can just verify by shaking it. It's about full up to there. So I know how much fuel is inside just by touching it.

With the compressed fuel you can't really tell. The only way you can tell is by weighing it. You have to weigh them when they're brand new and then you can weigh them again if you want when they're used. If you weigh them when they're brand new and just do the subtraction, you can tell how much fuel you've used.

For instance, let's say it's 200 grams when it's brand new. And then you weigh it after you've used it a little bit and now it's at 150 grams. Now you know you've used 50 grams of fuel. So that's the only way you can tell with that.

But anyways, it's a much smaller package than this old liquid-fuel stove. But again, not as useful in high altitudes or when it's really cold. But this is a really cool upgrade.

The next thing I upgraded was... I was watching Man vs. Wild and I saw Bear Grylls using one of these deals over here. And what this is, is a water bottle with a metal cup inside that you can use for cooking.

So with this package, I got rid of these two over here. And this is what I started using. Later on I went to an army surplus store and I found one of these – just a cover for it. And I use it just for fun.

I ordered it because I saw it on the TV show. But eventually when I got it, I realized that it's actually pretty heavy. This thing is made out of steel, so it's strong, but useful. And this thing is plastic, but it's pretty thick. It's really sturdy, thick plastic, and it's heavy. It only holds about a liter of water.

You can see right there. This one is made by Osprey. And this is the one that's actually issued to the British Army, same design. So I thought it was cool, just kind of fun to use what I saw on TV.

But eventually I though that this was too heavy, and I got rid of both of these two things. Now this is what I use as my cook set. For boiling water I use this pot. Let me just take everything out from inside.

I like this pot because it's way bigger. It's bigger than that water cup I showed you before. This one actually fits inside. See? It fits inside of the big pot. So it gives you a lot of extra water that you can boil.

It's also really light because it's aluminum. I think I got it for maybe $10 or $20 from REI. And it's got a lid. The lid is really important and I'll tell you why in a second.

For my water, I just use one of these. I don't remember what these things are called. Platypus or some kind of water bladder. You can fill it up with water and as you use it, it gets smaller and smaller. You just kind of fold it up.

To tell you the truth, I don't actually use this. Most of the time, when I go camping, I stop by the gas station on the way and I buy one of those 1.5L water bottles – the Arrowhead water bottles. And I just stick on a little water filter to the top of it like this, one of these things over here. But in a pinch I can use one of these too. I just have them in my pack to carry extra water if I want to. If I don't use it, it takes up hardly any space at all.

This is my camp stove now. It's a campfire permit. It's a permit for backcountry campfires.

Instead of using an actual stove that I bring in with me, most of the time – if I can, anytime it's allowed – I end up just building a fire and using that and just holding this on top of the fire. It just saves a little weight, because I don't have to carry any fuel. I don't have to carry any stove. I just make the campfire there with whatever wood is there and I cook on that.

But when you're doing that, sometimes it can get pretty hot, which is why it's important to have one of these: a pot holder. This I had to buy separately. And you notice, even if I look back at some of my older things, they had these little handles like this one over here. These have a handle like that over here. And these are nice. They're generally OK. But in a campfire, I'll tell you, it gets so hot that, these things, you can't touch them. You almost need gloves to touch them.

With this, I don't actually put this in the fire. I keep my pot in the fire. And when I need to grab my pot, then I go in with the pot holder, the outside pot holder, and I grab the pot like that. So that's what I got this for. And I really much prefer that to the older systems where everything's attached and it's sitting in the fire, because that's almost useless to me.

Then the second thing I needed was the top. And this came with the top. But the reason why the top is so important is because if I'm boiling water or I'm cooking things on a campfire on real wood, a lot of ash is going to go up into the air and fall into the cup here. And that's what was happening with me. I was getting a lot of ash in the cup. So now that I have this lid, I no longer have the problem. Alright?

So that's my entire cook set for cooking my food, for storing the water, and for heating it up – for making fire. This is the new set compared to this as the old set. So a lot lighter now.

Last thing I want to show you. Utensils. What do I use for utensils? Nothing fancy. This is a plastic spoon I just grabbed from my closet. Normally I just get any plastic spoon where I can get it from. If I forgot to bring one on the way I might just stop by at McDonald's or Carl's Jr. or something and get one on the way.

I did use a plastic spoon that I really liked once – a plastic spork from Light My Fire. It was like a fork on one side and a spoon on the other. I really liked that one just because it was kind of a fun, novel thing. And I used it until the tine broke.

But I was at the store the other day and I saw the titanium version of the same thing. I ended up deciding to splurge and I got that one. And I really just got this one just for fun. Really it's a lot heavier than the plastic spoon. If I really cared about weight – you know, the few extra grams it's going to take – I would much rather take the plastic spoon because it's lighter.

In fact, this is a really sturdy plastic spoon from my closet. But I'm sure if I got one at McDonald's it would be way less weight than this. Another option I sometimes use is: I just get those disposable chopsticks – especially if I'm going to eat ramen.

But there you go. That's what I cook with.

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