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  • Monday, February 27, 2017

    My $100 Super-ultralight Gear List: Cooking

    This is part four in a series about my $100 Super-Ultralight Gear List. Part four, is all about my cooking gear, DIY alcohol stove, and water treatment.
    Soda Can Alcohol Stove w/ windscreen and pot stand  |  Cost $0.00  |  Weight 1.411 oz.
    Going super-ultralight doesn't mean you have to give up hot foods and coffee. This setup costs next to nothing and is super-ultralight.
    There are a number of ways to make an alcohol stove, but this design has some advantages. Wicking stoves don't need to be primed, the burning fuel can't spill if tipped over, it's very easy to make, there is zero risk of explosion like a pressurized stove, and in ideal conditions, it will boil 2 cups of water with 1/2 to 1 ounce of fuel in about 7 minutes. A more efficient design may be able to boil water a couple minutes faster, but honestly I've never found myself that close to starvation. Click here for detailed instructions on how to make your own.
    I made this wind screen out of an aluminum foil pan. The accordion skirting shape hugs the pot while allowing heat to travel up the sides and allows plenty of oxygen for the flame. Just fill the stove with 1/2 to 1 oz of fuel, set the pot and windscreen on top, light, and then slide the windscreen down to cook.

    Cook Pot
    Steel Coffee Can  |  Cost $0.00  |  Weight 2.36 oz.
    This recycled can weighs in at less than my titanium cook pot, but not just any recycled can will do. Most cans are lined with a chemical not intended to be subjected to high heat. At high temperatures, these can leach potentially harmful metals or BPA into your food. Thankfully, many steel coffee cans are unlined, such as the "Chock Full o'Nuts" brand coffee can I used.
    Most can liners have a gold-ish tint, but some are not as easy to see. A multi-meter can be used to be sure your can is unlined. Electrical current doesn't pass through the can lining, so if it is unlined, you won't detect any resistance.
    Steel will rust. Although it is not dangerous to ingest, you can prevent it by drying it out after each use. Save all those moisture-absorbing desiccant packets from medicine bottles, dehydrated foods, etc. to put inside the pot when storing.

    Pot Insulators
    DIY Pot Cozy w/ Finger Mit  |  Cost $1.00  | Weight 0.282 oz.
    After cooking, the steel can will be too hot to touch. In lieu of a pot handle, I made a pot insulator and a "finger mit" out of a car windshield shade I purchased at a dollar store.
    The pot insulator will also help keep your food and coffee hot.

    HEET in eye dropper  |  Cost $1.59  |  Weight of bottle 0.494 oz

    Although denatured alcohol burns slightly hotter, HEET gas line anti-freeze is a great alternative. It burns just as cleanly, it's cheaper, and it's available in most gas stations and any other store that sells automotive supplies.
    It comes in a 12-ounce bottle, but if that is more than you need, you can safely transport it in a smaller plastic bottle, such as an eye dropper bottle or soda bottle. If using a soda bottle, add a drop of food coloring, so you don't accidentally drink it! Use a color that is unlike anything you might drink.
    Make sure to get the yellow bottle of HEET, the IsoHEET product in the red bottle is highly flammable and can actually explode. 

    Heavy Duty Plastic Spoon  |  $0.57  |  Weight 0.28 oz.
    Any plastic spoon will do, but I prefer something heavy-duty. You can find thicker plastic utensils in Wal-mart or any store that sells outdoor sporting goods.

    Mini Bic in Small ZipLoc  |  $1.00  |  Weight 0.388 oz.
    For a backup, I also carry a small ziploc baggie full of wooden matches. Their heads are dipped in candle wax to waterproof them. 

    Food Bag
    DIY Window Shrink Film bag  |  $0.00  |  Weight 0.14 oz.
    See my previous post on how to make bags out of window shrink wrap film. Recycled bread bags also work great. Why spend money on anything else?

    Water Treatment
    Bleach in breath drop bottle  |  $0.00  |  Weight 0.25 oz.
    Believe it or not, household bleach is an excellent safe water treatment in the backcountry. This small "breath drops" bottle of bleach will treat 7 gallons of water. Just use one drop per 16 oz. of water and let sit for 30 minutes. Click here for more details.
    The black duct tape sleeve in the photo is to block UV light. It's probably not necessary for a week or two on a trail, but UV will degrade the shelf-life of bleach over time. Click here for more information including detailed instructions.

    Water Storage
    Recycled 16 oz. Soda Bottle  |  Cost $0.00  |  Weight 0.81 oz. 
    Recycled 2 liter Soda Bottle  |  Cost $0.00  |  Weight 1.728 oz.
    Rather than spend money on various water containers, I carry plastic soda or water bottles. They are plenty durable, free, and otherwise destined for a landfill. I carry at least two, so I can lose or break a bottle and still have a way to transport water. A hiker with a dog came to my shelter on the Long Trail in Vermont, and the dog decided one of my water bottles was a fun chew toy. I'm glad I had a backup.
    My second bottle is a 2-liter soda bottle, so I can have plenty of water at camp or when water sources are sparse.
    Next Monday's Post: My gear for first aid and gear repair.
    Please send me your questions or comments.  If you have an alternative idea for a super-ultralight, super-ultracheap gear list, let me know. I would like to share them in future posts.