My Updated Trail Cooking System

Back in April of last year, I wrote about my alcohol stove trail cooking system and the individual components that it comprises of. Since then I have been seriously rethinking how I cook while on the trail and the types of foods I tend to cook.  My intent was to refine my system such that I could make some of the larger items serve double duty and thus extend my options and potentially reduce unnecessary weight.

One such consideration was the type of pot I carried and how I use my pot for cooking.  Until now I had almost always used a stove of some kind, either a Snow Peak Giga Power stove or one of my many alcohol stoves.  However, I had recently had very good success with my home-made Billy can and wanted to see if I could incorporate that type of simpler cooking into my overall system.

What I really liked about my home-made Billy can was the flexibility it afforded me so that I could cook in multiple ways such as; on top of a stove, pushed into the side of a burning or smoldering camp fire, and even hanging above a camp fire on a tripod.  Being able to use my pot without the dependency of a stove or a particular fuel seemed very appealing, liberating, and somewhat more Green and trail friendly.

Open Country 4 Quart Pot with Lid

After a lot of online research into Billy cans, kettles, and lidded pots with handles, I settled on an Open Country 4-quart pot.  I also closely considered the Zebra 14cm stainless steel pot from Ben’s Backwoods, and the REI Ti Ware Nonstick Titanium Pot, but when I saw the Open Country 4-quart on sale at REI.com for $8.00 I had to get it (free shipping to the store, so I ordered two!).

What I liked about the Open Country pot (beside the price) was its size and weight. It has a 4-quart capacity which is easily big enough for two or more people to boil water or even do some slower cooking and being made of kitchen grade aluminum it weighs only 16 ounces with the lid. I also like its simplicity, a basic pot with a nice sturdy handle, a nice fitting lid that has a loop attached to lift it up easily.  The handle has a neat feature that let’s it snap in the upright position and at approximately 45 degrees on both sides, which is better than it flopping all over the place.  A feature it was missing that I had on my previous GSI Soloist pot lid and have seen on other more expensive pots were drain holes in the lid that let you pour off excess water/liquid without you burning your fingers or having your food fall out onto the forest floor.  This particular pot lid didn’t have them, but with the aid of my pillar drill I quickly added some!

My Hiking Cook Kit

So here is my complete trail cooking system that all neatly goes inside my Open Country 4-quart pot.  As you can see I am still carrying my Bud-Lite alcohol stove, primer pan, and wire mesh pot stand (which I remade to the width of my new pot) as my basic stove kit.  I have the same windscreen, measuring cup and cleaning up sponge as I had before, but I have added an aluminum pot lifter and a Sea-To-Summit X-Mug to replace the cup that came with my Soloist kit. The X-Mug folds up flat and doubles as my water/liquid measuring cup. If you look closely at the picture below, you can see the measuring increments on the inside.

Sea-To-Summit X-Mug

The new pot has definitely added some weight to my overall cooking system, but for that trade-off I am gaining the ability to cook in almost any situation and make hot water over a camp fire using my pot and a few branches as a tripod.  I can carry alcohol (fuel) for my Bud-Lite stove and use it that way, but if I run out or spill it I can still use my pot and the rest of the system.  To me that’s a weight trade off I can live with.
I’ve yet to make a Reflectix pot cozy for my new pot, but when I do I’ll turn that into a post to share here.

So, have you ever tried cooking over an open camp fire with your pot or are you a die-hard stove junkie? If you have, what was your experience like and what type of pot do/did you use?

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  • Nice kitchen!

    My standard stove system is the Trail Designs Caldera Ti-Tri. I bought it as the package sold by Titanium Goat with their 900mL titanium pot.

    I’m like you, in that I hate to be limited to one fuel source. The Ti-Tri allows me to cook with an alcohol stove, esbit tabs, or wood. I’ve also used the pot by itself to cook on an open fire. The only thing I can’t do with this system is suspend the pot over a fire via a tripod or some-such. I did once try to create a handle on the pot by wrapping a bit of picture wire around the outer lip of the pot, but I found that it just got in the way most of the time.

    Do you travel much in the winter? I ask because I see that you include a sponge. I carry a small piece of a green scrubber pad for pot cleaning duty, which works fine in the summer, but I find it to be a pain in the winter, simply because I can never dry it out. (I’m in the Pacific Northwest, so when I say “winter”, I mean 6 months of rain.) It gets pretty nasty after a day or two. I imagine that it’s heaven for bacteria. Lately, I’ve been trying out Crow’s method of cleaning the pot with a spatula head. Seems to work pretty well. I still carry the small scrubber pad, but haven’t actually used it for months!

  • On the wire mesh pot stand for your Bud-Lite alcohol stove. Can you specify materials and construction method (tutorial maybe)/ Would you build for someone else with few manual abilities and no tools. I would like to use my Bud-Lite alcohol stove (minibull BIOS) on the MSR blacklite 2 liter pot, but it’s a risky unstable match. Any advice welcome.

  • Bozeman, great question and thanks for asking about it. I’ll definitely write up a how to about making one now that you’ve asked.

    The pot stand is made from something called Galvanized Hardware Cloth. It’s a welded steel mesh in a square pattern that can be used for all sorts of things – I bought mine at Home Depot in the narrowest gauge I could find. The square grid made it so much easier to cut and work with.

    Like you mention, the small stoves can be a little unstable to use with wider pans, so that was exactly why I created mine, as support for use with a wider pot – and it works great, weighing almost nothing.

    Shoot me an email (blog-at-briangreen.net) about the size of your pot and what you want and I’m sure we can sort something out for you. I have about 30-feet of the stuff left over in my garage! Happy to help a fellow backpacker. Cheers.

  • Bozeman, great question and thanks for asking about it. I’ll definitely write up a how to about making one now that you’ve asked.

    The pot stand is made from something called Galvanized Hardware Cloth. It’s a welded steel mesh in a square pattern that can be used for all sorts of things – I bought mine at Home Depot in the narrowest gauge I could find. The square grid made it so much easier to cut and work with.

    Like you mention, the small stoves can be a little unstable to use with wider pans, so that was exactly why I created mine, as support for use with a wider pot – and it works great, weighing almost nothing.

    Shoot me an email (blog-at-briangreen.net) about the size of your pot and what you want and I’m sure we can sort something out for you. I have about 30-feet of the stuff left over in my garage! Happy to help a fellow backpacker. Cheers.

  • On the wire mesh pot stand for your Bud-Lite alcohol stove. Can you specify materials and construction method (tutorial maybe)/ Would you build for someone else with few manual abilities and no tools. I would like to use my Bud-Lite alcohol stove (minibull BIOS) on the MSR blacklite 2 liter pot, but it’s a risky unstable match. Any advice welcome.

  • Nice kitchen!

    My standard stove system is the Trail Designs Caldera Ti-Tri. I bought it as the package sold by Titanium Goat with their 900mL titanium pot.

    I’m like you, in that I hate to be limited to one fuel source. The Ti-Tri allows me to cook with an alcohol stove, esbit tabs, or wood. I’ve also used the pot by itself to cook on an open fire. The only thing I can’t do with this system is suspend the pot over a fire via a tripod or some-such. I did once try to create a handle on the pot by wrapping a bit of picture wire around the outer lip of the pot, but I found that it just got in the way most of the time.

    Do you travel much in the winter? I ask because I see that you include a sponge. I carry a small piece of a green scrubber pad for pot cleaning duty, which works fine in the summer, but I find it to be a pain in the winter, simply because I can never dry it out. (I’m in the Pacific Northwest, so when I say “winter”, I mean 6 months of rain.) It gets pretty nasty after a day or two. I imagine that it’s heaven for bacteria. Lately, I’ve been trying out Crow’s method of cleaning the pot with a spatula head. Seems to work pretty well. I still carry the small scrubber pad, but haven’t actually used it for months!