02 December 2008
Note: Many of these articles are very old, and although the technical information is still relevant the equipment mentioned may not be (for example a Stormy cooker was state of that art in 1995, but not in 2021).
Although it may seem an immensely dull topic, getting this area of your bivy and camping kit is important if you’re to make the most of the food you prepare and keep the weight down. What you eat out of, and what you use to eat with, can be broken down into three categories; minimalistic, basic and car camping.
Weight isn’t a problem. Just empty your cupboards of plates and cutlery simple. If you don’t want to end up breaking all your plates, or aren’t keen of carrying half a ton of dirty crockery to the campsites didn’t sink then plastic plates and bowls are a good invest being light, cheap and indestructible. Another option is disposable paper plates and cups, which although obviously not environmentally friendly (although you can stick then in a paper recycling bin) save on washing up and can give a party atmosphere when sitting in the rain. One of my all time favourite camping bowls is the dog bowl – yes you heard right, a dog bowl! The reason is that unlike most bowls the dog bowl is designed to be very unstable and unknockoverable – a real boon when camping with clumsy partners (dog bowls are popular with yachts people). A broad deep bowl will allow you to use it both as a plate and a bowl, and a great tip is if you’re keen to scare of your neighbours on the campsite then eating you breakfast out of the bowl on all fours should do the trick.
I don’t know about you but I hate drinking out a plastic cups and so I’ll always take a proper mug.
For most people camping off the beaten track all that’s needed is a medium sized bowl. This can also be used as a cup, although plastic is notorious at becoming tainted making drinks taste last the last couple of meals you’ve eaten out of it. Lexan bowls (133g/£3) are a better choice as they are very tough and don’t seem to suffer from tainting. Personaly I’ve started using medium sized titanium pan/mug instead. This gives me an extra pan when making more complex meals (i.e. not one pan affairs), and allows me to reheat food more easily when it’s cold – it also don’t taint. My favourite pan is the titanium Trek 700 from Snow Peak (135g/750ml/£25), Which is super light and just the right size and has built in side handles. Trangia and MSR also make some good 1 litre pans. If you’re using a pan then consider sticker a few inches of gaffer tape along part of the rim so you don’t burn your lips on the metal.
If you’re not doubling your pan as a cup then you’ll need something to drink out of. Although once only the prized possessions of those who’d been to the states the plastic insulated mug is now common among climbers. The down side with the mug is that it’s heavy (for a mug) and it’s abilities to keep stuff hot can mean you have to wait ages to drink your tea. I’ve actually gone back to a standard Lexan plastic mug (108g/400ml/£4), which is much lighter and more compact and I can drink my tea without risking 3rd degree lip burns. With all plastic mugs it’s worth cutting off the handle to make storage easier.
Off course the lightest crockery is none at all, just eating out of a single pan. The downside with this is that sometimes you want to savour your food, not eat it down in a gobbling competition (having one spoon between too is even lighter and mean your partner has to wait). Having one pan can also lead to the food getting cold. One step up is to use a small tin foil container (from a Chinese taker way). This can be folded up and so takes up very little room. The downside is that it’s only useful for short trips, as they don’ts stay watertight for long. A more reliable and longer lasting option is to cut up a Platypus water carrier (15g!!/£5 or cheaper). By cutting off the top portion of the carrier you’re left with a medium sized foldable bowl that weights almost nothing and yet is tough, freestanding, easily washable and best of all takes up virtually no room.
Off course if you’re going lightweight then you’re not going to be carrying a cup. Your can use your water bladder to supply liquid with meals, or your pan if you want a hot drink. If you want to sit back and enjoy a hot cup of tea a good option is to use your Nalgene bottle as a cup (this way it’s fulfilling two roles instead of just one). If it’s cold then you can use the Neogene’s insulated cover to keep your drink warm. If you’re having a hot fruity power drink (if you’re going this light the you won’t be drinking tea) then you can add snow to it to increase your liquid intake.
What’s available if you want something slightly more high tech them a kitchen spoon? The Lexan spoon is a good option (14g/£1), although being plastic it can melt and isn’t sp good for scraping crap off burnt pans! MSR’s stainless (42g/£4.50) and titanium (22g/£11) are both great for the climber who has everything, with the added advantage that they replace the MSR stove tool (if you’re using an MSR stove), which saves another whopping 5 grams! The prize for the best spoon goes to Snow Peaks titanium Spork (16g/£8), a cross between a fork and a spoon!