Hey everyone. I've been looking for a compact cooking kit to take along with me when I go camping/hiking. It had to be able to be slung over a shoulder, and have everything I wanted in a nice package. Well, after looking at canteen style setups, I found this absolutely fantastic stainless steel bottle cooking kit on the Self Reliance Outfitters website (also known as the Pathfinder Store, in case you want to google search). This 'ible is sort of pic heavy, with lots of pages and explaining about what/why I chose the items that I did. Bear with me, as the final result is the best overall setup I have yet to see anybody make. I don't want to show the final result until the last page ;) so stick with me!
*UPDATE* Looks like they are back in stock. So disregard the following paragraph. I will leave it, rather than delete it, just cor posterities sake.
*Edit* I went to the Pathfinder online store, and it seems they have stopped making this particular setup with my style of bag, and they are now replacing it with something very similar called the Trail Pro Cook Set ($99) that has a new style of bag, and includes the alcohol burner (an item I do not have, but will pick up soon). The new bag is a square style, which makes for easier access to the items compared to mine. It really is a nice kit, no matter which style you manage to have. And for the price, and what you get, it is a good deal in my opinion, rather than having to buy all items separately.
Anyways, onward to the kit!
Step 1: The Kit in Its Original Form
So here we have the kit, as originally purchased. It has a brownish/tan bag, with lots of MOLLE webbing, and a front pouch. It came with a 32oz stainless steel bottle with lid, 2 stainless steel cups, 2 lids with built in strainers that fit snugly in the cups. The kit also came with a stainless steel bottle stand with a cutout so you can feed sticks into the side to keep your fire going. Also included was a ferro rod that is supposed to glow in the dark (mine doesn't, haha), a plastic spork from Light My Fire (ok for being used at home. Just too flimsy for my taste), and a little tin of what are called "mini infernos", which are cotton cleansing pads, doused in some sort of fuel (lamp oil? kerosene?) and then coated in wax. They burn hot, long, and are great at starting a fire! The tin doesn't close tightly, so I wrapped it with a little electrical tape. Problem solved, and now waterproof!.
So my kit has a 32oz stainless steel bottle, with a bakelite lid that has a rubber seal underneath. No leaks! This bottle is solidly built, single walled design, and it will be incredibly hard to dent or warp this bottle! And being as it is 32oz, this is the amount of water that a single purification tablet can purify when dropped inside some questionable water. Clever thinking Pathfinder Store! Also, NEVER boil water with the lid on! You are asking for an explosion! Be safe people. I shouldn't have to mention this... but Darwin and Murphy both have a way of showing up from time to time.
The original kit normally comes with 1 cup and lid, which has laser engraving on the inside up to 25oz of fluid. I opted for the extra cup and extra lid. I now have 3 boiling containers. I could cook 2 separate items, and boil water in the bottle, or cook some food in 1 cup and make some tea or something in the other, or coffee in one cup and tea in the other (I am not a coffee drinker, but someone with me might be)... and I would still have a full bottle of clean water! I decided to have a spare cup, so I can cook/boil something for somebody in 1 cup, and something else for myself in another. It is good to have options. And by all means, unlike the bottle, by all means boil with the lids ON these cups! They are ventilated, so no risk of explosion. The lids also fit inside the cups VERY snugly. Don't try to remove them with hot contents inside. When not being used, the lids sit on the underside of the top of the bag. Perfect spot out of the way.
The great thing about this kit, is how compact everything is, and how well it all nestles together. As you can see from the pictures, with the mini infernos in the bottom of the bottom cup (wrapped in some paper, to keep rattling down, and as a secondary source of tinder), the bottle fits perfectly inside. The other cup fits over the top of the bottle, and then the stove fits over the top (or bottom) cup. It all slides into the bag nice and snug. I prefer to keep the stove on top (with a piece of paper between it and the bottom of the top cup for further sound dampening) because it is kind of a pain to remove if you keep it on the very bottom.
So there is the kit, in its original form. Overall, it is a well thought out and solid kit and has some of great bases covered. But as Tim Allen from Home Improvement once said "Never leave 'em stock!" He of course was talking about cars, but that adage could be used for most things ;)
Step 2: Upgrades! Mods! Awesomness!
Now for what you were probably waiting for. What I have added, modded, and changed to make this kit much more complete and functional.
First, I added a "ranger band" (otherwise known as a a piece of cut up bicycle tubing) around the lid. Not only does this give better grip on a wet lid, but it is used in conjunction with the next picture, which is to hold down a cotton bandana over the opening of the bottle. This acts as a pre filter to keep dirt and such out when filling the bottle. A bandana has a TON of other uses, which I will not get into at the moment, as that is an entirely separate 'ible unto itself, that I'm sure others have already covered. In the picture I have a red and black bandana around the bottle just for demonstration purposes. I actually keep the yellow bandana with this particular kit... which leads to the next picture.
Inside the yellow bandana, I have 2 bottles. One is a bottle of water purification tablets. The other bottle has the taste nullifier tablets to get rid of the iodine flavor after using the purification tablets. I have a rubber band wrapped around the bandana to keep it nice and compact.
The blue thing around the bandana is a small dry bag. This has some uses in and of itself, and takes up literally no room. All this nests between the lid of the main pouch (that holds the 2 cup lids) and the little stove. This also acts as a sound barrier from the lids bouncing against the stove, and fills out the shape of the main pouch pretty snuggly so there is no sagging.
Between the 2 cup lids, I have a small neck knife (CRKT brand) with a can opener attached. Good little backup, fine work knife. It's all flat and such, so fits perfectly, and is a barrier between the 2 lids from clanging against each other. My kit makes no noise, which can ruin the enjoyment of a hiking trip.
Step 3: Steamed Vegetables Anyone?
This is the only mod that I added that I copied from someone else. Everything else was my own ideas and thoughts about what I wanted/needed.
If you go on youtube, search for David's Passage (stainless bottle kit mod), and he has an absolutely fantastic idea on how to make a little vegetable steamer tray that fits in your cup. It has little wings that hold it halfway down your cup to nestle your veggies on.Brilliant! He uses a different type of metal (what looks like a solid type of grating), and he even mentions that over time, this steamer may break due to constant use by being bent. That may be true, but it will take a long time for that to happen if you use this thing sparingly, and he said he bought a 3 pack for around $1 dollar. So no big loss.
Mine is a different type of material, used from a basket strainer. Each tiny little strand can move, slide, expand, and contract. This might make it a little more durable in terms of when/if it could break. Time will tell. It slips into the bottom of my cup, with the mini infernos sitting on top. The material is the perfect thickness to keep my bottle from rattling around against the cup.
Again, an absolutely ingenious modification! I simply had to steal this one! Definitely watch the video on youtube. If you are wondering what those holes are in the side of the cup, just wait, I will explain in a couple steps...
This concludes all items that go inside the main compartment. Now to the side pouch!
Step 4: Side Pouch Contents
So inside the little built in side pouch (which is spacious!) I have some goodies. In the pictures you can see 2 baggies. 1 contains a cardboard toilet paper tube with some completely dry wooden shavings I made out of an unused cedar house shingle. Guaranteed to light. I am actually going to replace that with toilet paper... Just haven't gotten around to it. The reason I'm going to replace it, is because of the next item I recently added, which is a little firestarter log. Came in a 15 pack for around 6 dollars at Home Depot, if I remember correctly. This is why I don't need the wooden shavings anymore.
I have a bunch of flavored drink packets. Sometimes it's nice to have some flavored drinks when hiking.
I have an orange waterproof match case with 10 or so stormproof matches. I also glued onto the top of the lid a little compass. It is fairly accurate.
In the other baggie, I have a mini Bic lighter, some more weatherproof matches (but not as good as the ones in orange container), some extra particulate filters for an item I will show later, 5 plastic baggies that are used when you buy fruit and vegetables from the grocery store, and a candy tin that has cardboard smothered in petroleum jelly with a jute twine wic. This can act as a candle, or be used to start a bigger fire if need be.
I also keep the ferro rod in the outside pouch. I ditched the striker that came with the original kit. I added a pruning shear sharpener made by Corona to use as the ferro rod striker. It is meant to add a working edge on dull blades. It has a 90 degree carbide steel edge, and when used the way I am, sends an absolutely MASSIVE amount of sparks off of all my ferro rods. This thing runs about $12 dollars on Amazon. You can probably also find it at Home Depot, Lowes, etc... I found mine at Orchard.
That is what is kept on the inside of the little side pouch. On the outside, woven behind the MOLLE webbing, I have my Sea to Summit titanium spork. Much much better than that plastic Light My Fire one. Longer handle helps with stirring, and no risk of melting. I have a little carabiner through the hole in the handle, and that helps keep it from sliding up and falling out when hiking.
And now we head into all the other stuff I have attached to the outside.
Step 5: Hangers
The Gen2 version of my kit originally shipped with a single stainless steel bottle hanger, also known as a fish mouth spreader. Now you have to add them to the kit when you order it as they no longer ship them included. They are only $3 dollars, so no big deal. I ordered some black ones off of Amazon for $2 each as add on items to a larger order I had placed.
As you can see in the 2nd picture they can be used to hang the bottle over the fire, or slide into the slots of the cup lid, and into the side holes in the cups for you to hang your cup above a fire if you want. The cup lid is pretty ingenious. and the side hole's are just that. On the side. You have no worries about spilling liquids when you are drinking if you are using the handles on the cup.
I could toss them on the front pouch with all the other stuff, but that would get pretty crowded. So I threaded the D-ring of the bag for shoulder straps through the hangers, and then threaded them through the MOLLE webbing. Out of the way, and now IMPOSSIBLE to lose them because of the D-ring.
I also attached a little carabiner with a TON of #36 tarred bank line. Never know when you need some good strong cordage, and this stuff is WAY more compact than having paracord.
Step 6: Love Me a Mora!
I wanted to have a decent knife on this kit. So I added one of my two Mora Bushcraft Black knives to the outside. This one is stainless steel, and serrated. This is fantastic knife. Razor sharp, and won't rust. My other Mora is plain edge, and carbon steel, in case you were curious. I had to figure out an easy way attach the knife, since the plain Mora sheaths are pretty junky and have no option for Molle attachment. Yes, I know they have an addon for the sheaths, but that's not what I have, or want. So I made my own. I flipped the belt loop downwards, and ran a black ziptie through the loop twice, as you can see in the 2nd picture. This loop now will not move whatsoever. Then I added a pretty thick ranger band (again, a cut up bicycle inner tube), and threaded 1 of the MOLLE straps through this band. It sits high on the main pouch, and is easy to draw when/if needed. Ingenuity at its finest :)
If you made it this far, bare with me just a little bit longer. I'm almost done!
Step 7: Shoulder Strap Upgrade!
If you noticed in the first part of this 'ible, the main pouch had a thin, brown shoulder strap. Having that little webbing rubbing your shoulder for extended periods of time will eventually lead to a painful shoulder! So I ditched it, and used a spare strap I had laying around that has a nice padded section. Padded section also has a piece of webbing on it that you can use to hold an extra bandana or something. Much more comfortable now! No shoulder fatigue!
I bought off amazon this "shoulder strap pouch" from China, made by Caldera Gear. I had never heard of them, but decided to give this thing a shot, as it would add some really nice quick access pockets and more storage to my overall kit. This product is made with Cordura, and from everything I can see, it is actually really well made. No loose stitching, no rips or tears, a smooth zipper, and good sturdy buckle.
It has a square top section with buckle for easy access. the flap is actually velcroed on, and can be adjustable for length. It has a LOT of velcro too. The entire back is a huge velcro pad. So no worries about it coming undone or slipping or getting loose.
The long zippered pouch contains a glow stick (night time signaling), and a Survivor Filter. This is a 3 stage water filter. This is what that little baggie of pre filters in the front pouch go to, they filter out larger particulates like dirt. This filter can filter better than a LifeStraw (.05 microns vs LifeStraw's .2), and also includes a carbon filter element to get rid of any taste. All parts are replaceable too, unlike LifeStraw. It can also be screwed onto a Dasani or Smartwater bottle. Overall, it is a MUCH better filter. Not pictured in the picture is the little 16oz roll up water bag that my Sawyer Mini water filter came with. It has the same thread pitch as the Survivor Filter, so I keep that rolled up in the zippered pouch also. Another quick option for water storage/filtration available to me.
In the square pouch, at the moment, I have my Altoids survival tin. I won't go into what I have inside this for now. If there is interest, I will show you what I have. I will say that I have a super thin compact mirror on the outside that can be used for daytime signaling in an emergency. And an extra can opener. Along with a lockpick set (not much use in the woods, I know, but this way I always know where it is).
Step 8: El Fin!
So there you have it! My upgraded, modded, and vastly improved Pathfinder School stainless steel water bottle cooking kit!
I have a vast majority of my 10 C's covered: Cordage, Combustion, Cutting, Container, Candle, Compass, Cotton Bandana. I ALWAYS have a pocket knife/belt knife with me, as well as a flashlight. I can always make/add something with Cargo (duct, Gorilla) Tape, and can always throw a Canvas Needle in there too, probably stick it right in the bank line.
I also have multiple ways to signal, day and night. I can also throw in my lensatic compass if need be. Redundancy doesn't solely have to be attached to this pouch (can keep the lensatic compass, matches, lighter in my jacket pocket for instance). Two is one. One is none.
In the near future, I will add a Maxpedition RolyPoly pouch the outside so I can use it as a little spare dump pouch or foraging bag. Overall, I'm pretty satisfied with what I have done. In my opinion, it is the most complete bottle cooking kit I have yet to see.