Monday, January 30, 2012

Gear in Review - Camp Kitchen

The Skinny (which will hopefully keep me from getting skinny!)

Seven days of dinners

MSR Pocket Rocket
I have the MSR Pocket Rocket. A funny name, right? It sounds dirty, which is probably why it makes me giggle. But that's where the laughing stops. This device is light, at 3 ounces. And powerful, able to boil water in a couple minutes. The Pocket Rocket is also tiny, fitting into a small plastic case to protect it.
I have used this stove extensively, in Zion, the Cascades, all over West Virgina, Virgina, Maryland, and New York. I've used it in every season. I have been satisfied with the performance, and the cost of this equipment. There is a long list of why this is a valuable, quality stove which I won't bore you with. It boils water, it simmers with some work (hold the pot or skillet a bit off the cooking platform), the canisters last a good amount of time.

The Good
Burn time

I have some issues with the MSR Pocket Rocket though. The 3-pronged pot base is decently stable, but I am always aware of how I must be fairly exacting on placing the pot on the Pocket Rocket and with two cups of water watching it sway a little bit.
Also I had the great idea of putting a wind screen like a sleeve around the entire device and canister, as the wind has a huge, huge effect on the efficiency of this equipment. I did some research and found that what I was thinking about doesn't allow heat to escape and could make the canister explode, if I want a wind-screen I will be using my body, a shelter or a sleeping pad. I could probably engineer some tin-foil around just the cooking portion to keep the wind from effecting it too much.

The Not as Good
Lack of Wind-screen

The bottom line is that I will happily use this stove over the competition from ease of use, fuel type, weight and cost.

Cooking Food
For this next section I will be describing how I get food from course hard dry rice, to moist plump and delicious!
I will be posting soon a dissection of a food drop. To give you a taste I need to describe the types of food that I will be cooking. In the mornings I only have coffee water to heat up, the meals are breakfast cookies and bars, nuts, and dried fruit. Lunch is protein bars and shakes. Dinners will all be cooked, however all of the meals will not require dirtying a single dish. That's right, 6 months with no dishes! I will be using an Insulated Food Cozy. I found the product at Trail Days a couple years ago and I have tried it out every camping trip since. You have a freezer bag with your food in it. You boil water. You pour the water into the ziploc bag, stir, and place the bag inside of the Cozy, fold over the top and put it aside. Now, if you play the Harmonica, it is the time to play that instrument for 7 to 10 minutes. Viola! Your food is now tender enough to eat directly out of the freezer bag. How many dishes do you have to clean? None. Best idea ever.
So what will I do with rice? That method would leave it hard still. For this I will pour 1/2 the water I'm going to use into the bag at lunch time. The other half of the water I will follow the above steps. This method reduces my need for a cook set to a single metal mug that I can use for multiple purposes. Coffee in the morning, dinner in the evening. The entire cook set is a stove, a mug, a spork, and an insulated pouch.

Other Ingestion Related Gear

Steripen Adventurer + funnel pre-filter
 The Story
What's small, light, easy to operate, and leaves no taste. If you said a Smart car, you're wrong. The Steripen is it, I tested it out in the Cascades in Washington. Granted that was water almost directly from glaciers, so it really didn't need to be treated most likely. Still it was easy to use. My only complaint is that is should have a small piece of rope, like a camera has, to put around your wrist. That way when you drop it, it doesn't sink to the bottom of your bottle.
The pre-filter removes particulates like leaf matter, water spiders, very small rocks, and churches (now read the last two in a British accent). Of course neither remove the taste of the water, so if you are getting water from a stagnant pond, it will still taste like frog slime. Then again, I know from personal experience that iodine tablets don't remove that flavor either!
Nalgen bottles
The Story
I have a water bladder, but I found that they are not for me. They are a pain to fill up, I have an irrational fear that I will poke a hole in it. And I have never actually gotten it to fit in my pack with my gear in the appropriate pouch, to refill it one must remove everything from the pack. Instead it ends up getting put under the top flap. Half the time the hose gets crinkled and I must take off the pack to get water anyway.  A bottle is multi-use, easy to fill, easy to purify, indestructible, easy to clean after filling with wine, and cheap!

SeatoSummit folding bucket
The Story
A bucket is always useful, when the water source is far away, easier to let crap settle to fill the water bottles, a good way to let water warm up in the sun before taking bath. It is light-weight and has all kind of LNT principles as a reminder.