Thursday, 6 December 2012

Re-inventing The Backpack - Part 1: The Mess Kit

Part 1. The Mess Kit

The Mess Kit is probably the most important kit that I will carry with me no matter what. It is in essence what I will ALWAYS have with me. A stainless steel round container with a rubber seal that contains the most essential items for a woodland trip be that for a day or for a month. I use it for having dinner, boiling up to 700ml of water, and generally as a food container with the means to start a fire, warm up some food and of course eat it.

The items included in this Mess Kit are...

1. Stainless Steel container.

2. Esbit Stove (plus solid fuel tabs). Other stove types may be used. Small alcohol stoves for example, or small tripods for regular fire, but I always keep in mind I may not be able to light a fire all the time (wet wood, rain, snow....).A portable tripod (I am working on a sturdy and light-weight one at the moment could easily be included as the Esbit(or similar) stove has its limitations.

3. Fire Lighting gear. Matches, a storm lighter (promotional from cigarette brands, costs nothing*), Firesteel with the tip covered in masking tape to prevent accidental sparks.

4. Spoon and Fork, stainless steel. It can be either a titanium spork or whatever expensive or inexpensive spoon/fork combo one may like.

5. An Opinel knife. I prefer a stainless steel blade. They are quite cheap, size 9 or 10 go about 8-9euros in Greece.

6. Water purification tablets. I use 8 tabs (for 8lt of water). I cannot always know where I will find water or if I'll have the ease to boil it.

7. Earl Grey Tea, 4 satchets. Because even if I go out for half a day I will definately have a cup of tea in the woods.

 I used to use an aluminum mess kit that I kept packed with stupid and useless things. The square size is a pain when trying to tidy things up (like getting it inside the round pot I use...) plus the aluminum is thin, the rubber seal disintegrated soon after I had bought it (waterproofing went down the drain...) and the food tasted like aluminum. Other than that, it was super light-weight but difficult to use regularly.
 Introducing the stainless steel, Greek made, mess kit. Feels like a kitchen grade pot. Quite sturdy, you can scratch it, put acid or salt in it without etching it**. The rubber seal is of very high quality and it cost only 2euros more than the aluminum one.

 I tried to keep the items simple, durable and dependable.

I keep all the items in sealed plastic bags. This is because the used Esbit stove (which I regularly put to the test) reeks of something utterly foul. So I don't want the food container smelling and tasting bad, especially if I am not sure I'll find running water to clean it up. So I keep the container washed and clean, and everything else bagged. Also I pack some big ziplock bags in there to stop the rattling and make sure all the stained items are packed away safe after I eat.

Now, these are the items I use and what I think there should be in the mess kit. If anyone has a better idea or suggestion please, by all means say so. But keep in mind that other things that may seem more important here are covered in the next Kits...

Next up is The Medical Kit....

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