Gear Review: Ultralight Backpacking Kitchen
Stove and windscreen/pot stand = Trail Designs Classic Caldera Ti-Tri cooking system 2.5 oz. This incredibly light stove is made from an aluminum can. It burns denatured alcohol, available at any hardware store, or HEET, a gas-line antifreeze commonly found at gas stations. We found these fuels at almost every town we visited on the PCT.
The thin titanium windscreen is custom-sized to hold our Evernew pot, forming a wide stable base. The windscreen also optimizes airflow, increasing the the stove’s fuel efficiency.
While hiking, we packed the stove in the pot for protection. We stored the windscreen wrapped around the fuel bottle, secured with a rubber band. The stove got slightly crunched one day from packing too much food around it in the pot, but it still worked fine. Overall the Caldera system preformed flawlessly during the entire trip.
Pot = Evernew Titanium Non Stick Pot 1.9L 8.6 oz. We needed a pot that was large enough to match our huge thru hiking appetites, and this was perfect. Two boxes of mac and cheese fit with room to stir. Pots made from titanium are the lightest available, but they heat unevenly. This wasn’t a problem for us, because we chose nutritious meals that only required boiling water and a bit of stirring. The built-in insulated handles were a plus — no pot holder required. The pot is still in great shape after our thru hike, which speaks to its durability.
Fuel bottle = Grocery store water bottle with squeeze top 1.0 oz. Before the hike, we searched through our fridge and were thrilled to find a Whole Foods Sriracha squeeze top which mated with a small water bottle. This combination was inexpensive, light, and worked well. The squeeze top allowed for precise control over the amount of fuel poured into the stove. Plus, the top’s red color served as a reminder that the clear liquid in the bottle was not potable.
A meal for two required slightly less than 50 mL of fuel. Prior to our PCT thru hike, we marked the side of the fuel bottle with a permanent marker every 50 mL. The markings simplified refilling in town. We never ran out of fuel on the trail, nor did we carry much more than needed.
Lighter = Mini Bic Lighter 0.4 oz. The Mini Bic was straightforward and dependable. We used 2 mini lighters in 5.5 months. We were also carrying a few REI stormproof matches as a backup for the lighter (0.3 oz.), but plan to remove this redundancy on our AT and Te Araroa hikes.
Eating Utensil = MSR Collapsible Spoon 0.5 oz. This spoon has everything we desire in a utensil: extra length for stirring a pot or meal pouch, collapsibility for easy storage in a pot, and nonstick-friendly plastic construction. A spoon works for any backpacking meal, whether solid or soupy. This one is light, durable, and just plain awesome.
Pocket Knife = Gerber Paraframe Mini Folding Serrated Knife 1.3 oz. A small knife is handy at meal time to cut cheese and open packages. Occasionally it is helpful for cutting bandages or repairing gear. This knife served us well, but we didn’t use it often. We will opt for a smaller, lighter knife on the Appalachian Trail.
Pot Scraper = GSI Outdoors Compact Pot Scraper 0.5 oz. This small spatula without a handle allowed Shutterbug to eat every last bit of food in the pot, more than making up for the scraper’s tiny weight. Plus, when he was done, the pot was practically clean.
Food storage = Bearikade Weekender Bear Can 30.6 oz. After a surprise bear problem in the desert of Southern California, we opted to carry a bear can for the remainder of California, Oregon, and Washington. We feel strongly about keeping bears from becoming accustomed to human food, but didn’t want the time and hassle of finding a suitable branch to hang our food every night. The Bearikade was an easy solution. Made of carbon fiber with an aluminum top, it is the lightest bear can approved for use in the Sierras. The only minor problem we experienced was that one of the o-rings on the lid lock was getting stiff and needed to be re-greased by the time we reached Canada.
We were so happy with all these lightweight, durable kitchen items that we will be using almost the same setup on the Appalachian Trail. Bon appetit!