Monday, June 20, 2011

DIY $1 Pot Cozy

Making gourmet meals on the trail is hard. At home one usually brings water to a boil, adds the pasta or rice, and cooks it for 10 to 30 minutes on the stove. However, the amount of fuel needed to do this on a hiking trip makes this sort of cooking impractical. So, instead of cooking things on the stove for a long time, it is more practical to first soak the food to be cooked in water for a while, bring the water (and food) to a boil on a stove, and then let it sit for some time more. To make sure that the water that was heated stays warm for as long as possible, a pot cozy can be used. So, here are some instructions for making a $1 pot cozy using a thermal bag and some duct tape.

  • A $1 Thermal Bag
  • Duct Tape
  • (Your pot/mug to take measurements from)
Take the thermal bag and cut it open along the sides. You will end up with three pieces: the two outer linings, and the inner insulating material.
Fold the insulating material over twice, mark the desired height on the insulating material, and trace the outline of the bottom of your pot. Now cut this out and cut it so that it fits around your pot. If you have left over material (like I did), you can use that to make more insulating layers. Make sure to not have it fit exactly around the pot, as you will want to be able to slide your pot in easily.
Now measure and cut out the reflective material so that you can wrap it around the insulating inner part. You'll want to have it be twice as high as the inner material so that it wraps around nicely. Cut it out and tape it up. Perform the same step for the bottom of the cozy.
Tape the bottom of the cozy to the sides. Put your pot in the cozy and admire the space age look of your cozy.
Now, that you've spent all this time making this cozy, does it actually do anything? To test this, I heated 2 cups of water in my pot (I actually have a Coleman set but Amazon doesn't have that one anymore) and compared the temperatures of the cooling water over a span of 15 minutes comparing the temperatures with and without the cozy. As one would expect, you're better off using the cozy. But only marginally... there was only a 3C difference after 15 minutes. (Yes, I spent 30 minutes measuring water temperatures...). The results were similar when using the cooler ambient temperature of the refrigerator (3.5C instead of 25.6C). The temperatures were 63.3C and 67.7 without and with the cozy respectively.

On the bright side, although its effect on the water temperature isn't out of this world, the cozy does have two additional benefits: you can hold your pot even if the handles are a tad warm, and it keeps your mess kit bag clean as the cozy covers the possibly dirty bottom (especially if using an alcohol stove).

UPDATE: For a picture of the pot cozy in action, take a look at my Sunday "brunch" photo on top of Mt. Liberty while hiking the Pemi Loop in New Hampshire.


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    1. Covering your pot and then making a cosy for the top will help. Heat rises and leaving the top open to the air you are going to lose alot of heat.

    2. Very true. I actually take two "pots" with me, one being the lid of the other. I first heat my water up in the smaller one for my coffee/tea/hot chocolate, and then use the heated cup as a "hot lid" on the pot that I use to make my meal. That way the coffee mug serves as a lid for my meal while it's being cooked and the meal being cooked keeps my coffee warm.