I spent the best part of my day yesterday (Sunday), hiking through out local woods with my buddy Andy, so that I could practice with and test out some of my gear and take a few photographs for some blog posts that I had in mind. As many or my regular readers know, I am a die-hard ultralighter, always looking to shave a few ounces off the weight of my pack and gear. However, yesterday instead of taking along my favorite alcohol stove and cooking kit, I thought I’d try a new approach based more on bushcraft skills than ultralight backpacking.
A few weeks ago I made Billy can out of an old Oatmeal can, a wire coat hanger, and a $1.00 wooden handle I had lying around. It’s pretty crude but it seems to work just fine. I drilled two small holes on either side of the tin towards the top, then cut and bent the wire coat hanger into a handle shape and poked both ends inside the can. I bent the wire inside the can so that it couldn’t pop back out. Next I drilled a small hole in the center of the lid and screwed on a small wooden handle that I had left over from another project. The result is a relatively light weight Billy can style cooking container that can be hanged above a fire as shown.
After clearing a good sized patch of ground of leaves and lighting my fire, I got to work making a stand for the Billy can. Off to one side, away from the fire, I made a simple bushcraft adjustable tripod out of three long branches and tied them at the top using a clove hitch. To make the pot holder, I cut a shorter branch with a small arm that could be used to hook over the top of the tripod and then cut a notch to hold the handle of the Billy can towards the bottom of the holder.
The result was a tripod that held my can firmly but which could be easily adjusted for heat/height by simply spreading the legs apart or pulling them together. Despite taking a few minutes longer than setting up my alcohol stove, this set up was very easy to do and boiled my 2 cups of water very efficiently in about 7 minutes. What I like about this approach is that I used materials that were readily available and only had to carry in my home-made Billy can and food.
I’m now thinking of investing in a small commercial Billy can like the Zebra Cans or Tatonka Cans that I can use just like my home-made one for cooking along the trail. Of course the downside is that in order to cook I would have to start a fire, but my fire making skills are pretty good and I can usually get one going quickly even in damp conditions. There’s also the issue with soot on the outside of the can, but that’s easily cleaned up – just a pain.
I’m not sure whether I’ll completely abandon the alcohol stove just yet, it’s more likely that I’ll just swap out my GSI Soloist pot for a small Billy can and have the best of both worlds.
Quick update: Here’s a few seconds of video just for fun :)
So what type of trail cooking pot do you use, and have you tried using Billy cans with open fires? I’d love to hear from you.