Thursday, April 23, 2009

Kitchen Gear: ZipLock Twist'n'Lock

There are a few reasons that I really enjoy making my own camping gear. I like to build things. There's something satisfying about having done it myself. Building it yourself also ensures that the gear you create has all the features that you want and none of the ones you don't. But my primary motivation... the one thing that got me into this in the first place is... dun dun dun... I'm cheap.

I really don't like spending a great deal of money. It physically pains me to pay retail prices. Even looking at the price tags on technical outdoor gear hurts. Clearance racks are my friends - but even those can seem overpriced to me when it's backpacking gear.

That's why I like to make my own gear. At least, in my head, that's what I tell myself - I'm not really that convinced that I've saved any money...

Which brings me to the ZipLock Twist'n'Lock kitchen system.

If you're backpacking you want to keep your gear to a minimum - both in size and weight. No, I'm certainly not a gram-weenie, and depending on your standards I may not even fall into "ultra-light". That's fine with me. I will gladly settle for fairly light. That said, I think this system will fall into the ultra-light category.

Size small ZipLock Twist'n'Lock bowl with cozy. Cost me about $2.75 at WalMart for a pack of three.

The three pieces separated. The lid has a piece of 1/4" ccf (ccf = closed cell foam) that fits in the indent and has aluminum tape underneath and on top.

This cozy is made from a 1/4" ccf pad with aluminum tape covering the inside (duct tape on the outside). Aluminum tape acts as a heat reflector (making the ccf work similar to reflectix).

If you are new to backpacking and lightweight gear this may seem a bit odd to you. But veterans are well aware of the importance of a good cozy. It's one of the most overlooked yet very important parts of your cook system. A cozy retains the heat in your container allowing food to cook without requiring it to stay on the stove - saving you fuel, often the weightiest part of most lightweight cook systems.

The small size ZipLock container holds 2 cups to the brim. It is a compact little bowl that works great for most solo meals, as a mug/cup, and you can store food or whatever else in it during transport (multiple-use items are big weight savers in your pack). And if the size small won't handle the meals you'll be doing, try the medium size container, it holds 4 cups.

Two sizes of the Twist'n'Lock cup (small and medium) with a small ZipLock bowl for size reference.

Most people make a cozy for their cook pot, not their bowl. Bring your food to a boil, pull the pot off the stove and slip it into your coy and let it sit. I like the mug/bowl cozy because it makes clean up easier for me. My cook pot is only used to boil water so it never has a sticky, gooey mess to clean up.

Going this route is really a form of freezer bag cooking. Just put your pasta in the container, bring your water to a boil and turn off the stove, pour the water into the container and twist on the lid. Let it sit for 5-15 minutes (depending on what you're cooking) and walah! Food's done.

I even use it at home for oatmeal and ramen noodles.

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