For a number of years I thought that real Scouts only used real Scout mess kits. The standard issue military type clam shell mess kit has a long tradition in Scouting but, compared to the alternatives available out there it is woefully inadequate.
There are lots of gadgety, expensive, highly touted modern specialty cooking and serving ware being manufactured for campers but I like cheap, light, and practical Scout mess kits assembled from easily available components.
Here’s some evolved alternatives ranked by price. It’s likely that anyone could put together a Scout mess kit for little or no cost.
|Why carry a fork AND a spoon when a spoon will do? Any common plastic spoon (I do like Lexan spoons – they are cheap, light and indestructible) will do. You don’t need a special eating knife if your’e carrying a pocket knife.|
|$||$$||$$$||Free (or nearly so)|
|Light My Fire Spork||Lexan Camping Utensil Set||Optimus Titanium Spork||‘Disposable’ plastic spoons|
|My Choice is a food storage container with a lid, there are specialty camping bowls and kits, but I prefer the lighter, less costly alternatives.|
|Square 2-Cup Food Storage Container||Bowl with Lid||Light My Fire Outdoor Meal Kit||A disposable take-out container|
|A 1-2 quart aluminum pot with a lid is my choice, Scouts should be cooking with a patrol, and when we are backpacking it doesn’t make much sense to have every individual carry their own pot.|
|Open Country 2 Quart Aluminum Covered Kettle||Stainless Steel 2-Person Cook Set
(buy one and share with your friends)
|Ultralight Titanium Cooking Pot||An old saucepan can be repurposed into a camping pot. (you can always cut off a handle or add a tinfoil lid if need be)|
|An insulated mug does double duty as a bowl and will keep food warm unlike the flimsy plastic cup in most mess kits|
|Insulated Infinity Mug||Insulated Stainless Steel Mug||Delta Mug||Every household probably has at least several insulated mugs hiding in a cabinet somewhere.|
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I’m 61 and still have all my Scout equipment including my patrol kitchen. Yes, I even have 3 mess kits and they served me well. I know I used every part of those kits many times.
Still have my complete uniform including the leggings too!
I like one i found online a year or three ago, made from a used bug juice container. The Scouts seem to go for it as well, as it fits neatly in bag made from a folded over kitchen towel sewn on two sides and a old shoestring for the closure piece. One can eat , clean and dry it out with just the stuff on hand.
Empty the bug juice container (plastic Kool-Aid jars, CT lemonade jars), remove the area just above the threads to create a “wide-mouth” opening. the Lid still screws in place and holds the “re-used” McFlurry spoon that was cut-off so it fits within the jar. Small piece of 1/4″ foam (2.5 inches x 6 inches) creates a cozy and heat absorbent hot pot cloth. Lid functions as a cup while bottle holds a quite healthy portion of food, allows one to re-hydrate the FD food while putting up the tent and the foam keeps everything warm. You can eat anything out of it cereal & yogurt, pancakes w/ syrup, potatoes, Scrambled eggs, sausage, stew, soup and very little spills anywhere, usually just from trying to use too large of a ladle to get things within it. It’s tough to cut up a ribeye but that’s seldom consumed on teh trail or at camp. Mac & cheese tastes lucious after a hard day of paddling or climbing, and is usually ready in 30mins or less of arrival at camp.
Cost: about 20 minutes of fiddling, U can Sew the cozie together with fishing (Fireline) line and my original has lasted for 3 years now of heavy use. I take it everywhere with my 2 qt. pan from old patrol mess kit, the MSR Pocket Rocket stove and I’m all set.
For the longest time now, a trusty kitchen frying pan has served as my plate, bowl, frying pan, and pot (although it’s a bit weak on the pot side). A stainless steel fork and spoon complement my sheath knife in completing my utensils.
Of course, in a pinch, tin cans, plastic water bottles, and many other improvisations work great too. In my experience, a little ingenuity and skill beat fancy mess gear by a mile!
Another way to look at it…
Mess Kit Plate: Yes stuff gets cold but that is a right of passage for a young lad. Haven’t you ever eaten a cold evening meal when late for dinner?
The Frying Pan: Righty tighty/Lefty Loosy or even lost. On of life’s lessons 😉
The cup: a very small cup. Never providing enough drink for the meal. By using this he leaves more drink for others. A scout is kind.
The pot: Never use it but am “prepared” if the need arises. Be prepared
Utensils: those Swiss army utensils at wal-Mart are pretty cool and in a pinch you can lend half of it to a friend. A scout is friendly.
Canteens: Don’t use canteens. Maybe an evovled canteen but Camelbak’s are neater. Also see Cup above.
You silly young scouts. Next I bet you will say uniform leggings are obsolete!
We use a plastic plate ($1), bowl ($0.75), lexan spoon and water bottle with measuring markings on it. Wally World has plastic plates and bowls cheap all the time. There is no need for a knife, they better have one already. A fork is normally not needed on the trail either. Pots can be shared. If you want your kids to enjoy backpacking and camping, the lighter their gear the better.
Walter Underwood says
The “evolved” version looks almost exactly like what I carried backpacking in 1972, including the plate from a frozen dinner. I guess evolution is a slow process. Very, very slow for the BSA.
My evolved water bottle is a one liter Calistoga sparkling water bottle. It comes free with the drink and it has served well for five year and couple hundred trail miles. Nalgenes are too heavy for the job. When a one liter Nalgene is full, 18% of the weight is the bottle.
The grease pot is not OK. Those are usually made of soft aluminum that is not food grade. That is why they are permanently stamped “grease pot”. Also, the rolled-in rim is almost impossible to clean food out of. Spend the money for a real pot. Open Country makes a simple 2 qt. pot for $16
Clarke Green says
Thanks for the head’s up on the grease pot! Didn’t do my homework on that one but I removed that suggestion from the post. You will receive an oak leaf cluster for your red pencil patrol patch.
Walter Underwood says
It is an easy mistake. The label does not forbid food use, but soft aluminum is often not food-safe this is a “better safe than sorry” risk management decision.
You can find plenty of backpackers discussing this in a web search for “walmart grease pot”.