Lightweight Gear 2
Everything but the Kitchen Sink.
Right , you've got the big 3 bangs to rights. That means nothing until you control that beast of miscellany that fills every nook and cranny of your sac with ne'er a second look. Yep, that crap you take with you that has no purpose or reason. When i first filled a rucksack for overnight camps when i was in my teens, i shudder to think what it weighed! Now i know I don't need 2 or 3 spare trousers and shirts, and that one or two pans is enough to cook in.
Before that, we'll look at cooking options. Gas is the obvious choice, and the MSR Pocket Rocket is one of the lightest and cheapest available at around 80g. It costs only £30 and I have seen it for £25. I had a beast of a cooker at 220g, and have now replaced this with the pocket rocket. It really does live up to the name, and boild water really quickly. Other fuels really become practical if you trek abroad, or need to carry more than 4 day's fuel with you at a time.
You then need to add the weight of pans and so on. I use the MSR non-stick aluminium Blacklite solo set, two pans and a lid.For a solo effort you could carry just the one pan, which saves weight, as opposed to two. You could invest in a titanium one-pot thing which could cost between £25 and more than £40, depending on make (snowpeak do a cheap one for £25 and MSR do the Titan Kettle for £40). I have invested in the MSR Titan 'Kettley Thing' as it's affectionately knows, and had excellent service from Podcast Bob at Backpackinglight.co.uk. These solo pots double as a mug too, so you save weight there, and they also have a lid. The lid is one item I wouldn't leave at home as it can save its own weight in fuel. This is especially true for rice, which you can bring to the boil and then leave to soften in the pan with a lid. Some even use a piece of foil as a lid, saving further weight. This I might try on a non critical trip next year, but it would appear too flimsy to last. A foil pie tin would be an even better option, but i'm unsure of the weight benefits.
Now, if you're willing to be cooking dehydrated meals, then you need one pan, and that's all. Same goes for boil in the bag meals. If you're going 'self-catering'. than it's more likely that you'll need 2 pans, depending on the food. One for main meal and one for pasta/ rice. You need to work out what you cook and how many pans you need. Personally, i think that it's worth going for dried food to save weight on extra pans. Bowls and plates are a waste of time for a solo walker. What you must have in a group is a bowl/plate per member plus pans. Cheap plates and bowls are usually available in supermarkets for next to nothing. I have a plate and bowl from Tescos that are a bit flimsy, but light and cheap. Folding bowls and plates from Flatworld are an option worth looking at too.
Washing up? You'll need at minimum the smallest nalgene bottle (50ml?) of washing up liquid (environmentally friendly) and a small sponge. I use a non-stick sponge scourer, or to be exact, a quarter of one. In addition, my pans come with a small camp towel to protect the non-stick coatings when they're nested. The only other thing you need is a cut down wooden spoon (or a plastic equivelent). This is essential if you have non-stick cookware and want to look after it, or if you are cooking for a group. Otherwise a spoon to eat and cook is all you need. However, if you cook boil in the bag meals, or rehydrate in the bag meals, you won't need a wash kit, just lick the fork clean afterwards!
I have recently experimented with Tesco Wipes, unfragranced) to wash my pans with. If you just need to wipe sauce and stuff off, then they are ideal. You don't pollute the land with your wasted food or detergent, and a quick rinse leaves the pans clean. I tried this last weekend, and had cooked curry. There was no aftertaste in my coffee later that day. They are good to wipe your hands with and they have an excellent secondary use, being much nicer than Toilet Paper. The downside is that you have to carry them out with you, and cannot bury them and you need to keep a seperate supply for each use.
I like the thought of eating properly at camp, and after all those hard years of training with KFS (Knife, Fork, Spoon) that my mother put in, I wouldn't want to disappoint her. the Lifeventure Titanium KFS are a decent option at just over a tenner (and 52g), but that said a decent stainless steel set only weight 92g and Lifeventure do one of those too. Some people take plastic cutlery, and I spotted the ones that Stena do on their ferries would be strong enough to do the job, will have to arrange a Dublin booze cruise soon...
Food I'll cover only briefly, as I may put a more detailed section in later. Lazy option is to buy dehydrated food or boil in the bag food. These involve no prep at home, no washing up on the trail. You can even cater for two people (or more with a bigger pan) with one pot. The downside is that they cost a fortune compared to making your own food. I don't find the boil in the bag meals worth the weight, but they do taste better than dehydrated, and they do a couple of puddings that are tempting. There are lots of plenty of dried food available cheaply in the supermarket such as Beanfeast, couscous, noodles and pasta that rehydrate quickly. Rice is an excellent choice, it will cook in 15 minutes off the heat, while you prepare the rest of the meal. Dried soups, milk and porridge are a staple food for these trips too and I'll go into detail on food in a seperate section. So email me your recipies if you want. Weight wise, the dehydrated food comes in at 125g for a meal, so in a day you need 3 plus a pudding at 100g, making a daily weight for food of about 500g. This sort of weight is acheiveable by using supermarket foods too. Remember that you'll also need to add any extras like tea and coffee, and that YMMV (Your Mileage Might Vary), so bear that in mind if you eat like a horse.
So, as a summary, your solo kitchen weight shouldn't be more than 1kg if possible. Mine comes in as well under this, including fuel and is sufficiently equipped to serve two people. Remember, that fuel weight is very important, as a petrol/meths stove will be much lighter when you include fuel, over longer distances. As I tend to do shorter trips, gas serves my purpose. Food will then add at least 500g per day, probably nearer a kilo (which is an often quoted figure for daily food weight) as not all food will be dehydrated. A Mars bar weighs 60g so it soon mounts up. If you can eat seeds and dried fruit, then this is the best trail food, but I can't stomach it. I need proper, cooked food and it is the one thing I both won't and can't compromise on.
With the MSR Pocket Rocket and a Titan Kettle I can reduce my kitchen weight down to about 350g, down from just over 600g with the one pan it is now. As the current gear cost me at rrp, roughly £50, this is one place where losing weight would have cost very little more, but with one pan instead of 2. I have now invested in this system, so my kitchen weight comes in at under a kilo but with the addition of a Katadyn Water Filter which has paid for itself in just one season's use.
As a final addition, if you can get 100g gas canisters instead of the 250g ones, then that's another fair chunk off the weight, especially for short trips. I'm not aware of where to get these though, as the supplier must be local as gas cannot be sent in the post.
Originally shown on www.walkeryri.org.uk