No, not tucking your beloved cookware up at night, more a tried and tested method which makes so much sense that there really isn’t an excuse not to use it.
For those who don’t know what I am talking about, think about that thick blanket of foam that surrounds your hot water tank and you’re on the right path. A method of reducing the amount of fuel you use, of keeping your food warm for ages, the ability to hold your pot in one hand without removing a layer of skin, you needn’t bother with a simmer, you’ll never get burnt food on the bottom of your pan again, you’ll never over boil, it saves weight, it’s durable, saves money and it’s cheap. I make that ten reasons even though I’m rubbish at maths.
It’ll take you about 30 minutes to make one, set you back around a fiver and there are instructions below.
The method I use all the time now for drinking and eating is to boil around 800ml of water (27 fl.ounces). Once boiling I remove from the heat, fill my mug for a drink, put the pot in the cosy with the remaining water, tip in the meal for rehydration, stir, replace the lid and pop the other part of the cosy on top.
And there it stays, usually for around ten minutes where it will cook in the residual heat but I know through experience that my food will still be piping hot after 30 minutes. Yes, half an hour.
My pan of choice for the past 4 years has been an MSR Titan Kettle because, amongst other reason, it holds 850ml of water, a perfect amount for a hot drink and meal for one. Just before my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike in March of 2010 I made a cosy for this pot. It lasted the entire PCT, I used it on trips when I got back home, on the Appalachian Trail last year and El Camino this year. That’s over 6,000 miles and I wouldn’t have a problem taking it on the Continental Divide Trail this year either. Not only are they cheap, they could last for years.
My original cosy – 6000 miles & still going strong. It weighs 44gr (1.5oz)
Let’s look at the reasons in detail:
1 – Save Fuel
You can extinguish your heat source as soon as the water boils. With gas this is easy, just turn it off. With alcohol, after a few trials, it’s pretty easy to gauge how much you will need to boil your required amount of water and it’s surprisingly accurate. Knowing how much and using only the fuel you need means you save fuel.
2 – Keeping your food warm.
Without a cosy, it’s a race against time before your meal is lukewarm, or worse still; cold. A cosy will keep your food piping hot for as long as takes you to chow down.
3 – Hold you pot.
I find it uncomfortable to use the handle of a pot whilst I eat. I prefer to cup the pot in my hand. With a cosy you won’t burn your hand and the pot is more stable.
4 – No need to simmer.
Simmering, depending on your stove and especially on alcohol versions, I find a pain in the arse. Gas is no problem but simmer rings are usually fiddly to operate, difficult to be precise and the stupid thing is you really don’t need them. Because of the insulating properties of the cosy, it’s kept warm for ages and continues to cook inside.
5 – Burnt Food.
We’ve all been there. You stir the food and realise your spoon feedback is telling you that there’s a layer of food concrete adhered to the bottom of the pan. Eat your food carefully without mixing in a little of that charcoal from the depths and then begin the cleaning process. Scrape, scrape . . .
With a pot cosy and using the method above, I guarantee you 100% that you’ll never have burnt food again.
6 – Overboiling.
The classic; the familiar hiss as your porridge bubbles over the side of the pan, drips down your pan support and all over your nice burner. With a cosy, because your pan is off the heat once the water had boiled, after you stir in the food there’s no need to replace onto the heat source and therefore, no chance whatsoever of spillage.
7 – Saving weight.
Once familiar with an alcohol based system, you can become a real measurement nerd and know how much fuel you need, right down to a 1/2 teaspoon. Multiply this by how many meals you need and the result is you take exactly the amount of fuel needed for the trip and no extra. This saves you weight.
This wouldn’t apply to a gas based set up.
8 – Durability.
As I explained above and especially if your cosy is covered in duct tape, it could last you for years.
9 – Save Money.
Ok it’s a tiny amount of dosh you would save on your fuel but hey, we’re in a recession.
10 – It’s Cheap.
Backpacking Light will let you have a 500mm x 600mm sheet of cosy material for a mere £4.99 (plus £3.00 p&p). More than enough for most pots and you may even get 2 cosies out of it.
How to make one.
There’s a load of videos on the web about how to do this, it’s simple. Pot cosy material is basically bubble wrap sandwiched between 2 sheets of aluminium foil (alooominarm if you’re from over the pond), and it comes in sheet form.
The raw material – I sourced mine from backpackinglight HERE
First, place your pot upright on the sheet and draw a circular pen line around, cut this out for a disc. Then, put your pan on its side on the material, and roll along marking the start and finish point, this will give you the measurement for the circumference of the pot and hence the length of material. Mark the height of the pot and make 2 cuts, one for the length, and one for the height to give you a rectangular section.
Mark around the bottom of your pot (allow a little extra)
Cut round your mark to make the base of the cosy
For the cosy sides, roll your pot along the material and mark the start & finish point for the length. Again, alow a litle extra.
And the height.
And hopefully you should have one of these.
Bring the 2 ends of this piece together and stick with gaffer (duct) tape.
Place disc on one end and tape this also.
Tape along the bottom and around 1/2″ onto the sides.
Run sections of tape around the pot sides.
For the lid repeat a similar process but use the cosy you have just made as a template to ensure the lid fits over. Tape this also.
That’s pretty much it but you can vary things somewhat. The lid which completely encloses the pot makes it much more efficient. You can cut a slit at the side for the pot handles if you prefer but I never bothered because I prefer to hold the pan. If your handles protrude then you would need to cut a slit. If they collapse flush to the body of the pan there’s no need. The tape does make the cosy far more durable but it will add weight.
Don’t wrap the material too tightly around the pot otherwise it will difficult to get your pot in and out although with use it will become easier.
You can also use a cosy to wrap your drinks bottle in to keep liquid cool in the summer although I usually drink it too quickly to bother or make a cosy for your mug and makes sure your cuppa stays hot.
Also, pack your dehydrated meals in a zip lock bag, make a cosy to go around the bag and then add the hot water directly to the bag and then pop in the cosy. The advantage to this method is that there is no washing up.
Note: check with the manufacture of the bag before using this method, there has been health issues regarding BPA’s and other chemicals leaching into food.