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Mess Gear Tips

As much as we joke about going camping for the food, eating is actually a very important part of the outdoor experience.  We tend to be very active in the outdoors and burn a lot of calories.  If we don't replenish those calories, the activities become difficult and the experience usually turns out to be rather negative.

Because of the nature of many of our activities, we are unable to guarantee that we will have backup supplies for any boy who doesn't bring a mess kit.  If a boy doesn't bring mess gear, he may have to improvise, even if that means scrubbing his hands really well and eating out of his hands.  As you can imagine, the mess gear is as important an item to pack as the sleeping bag.

We don't have much to say about what kind of mess gear to get.  It can be plastic, aluminum, stainless steel, or even fancier metals.  You can find mess gear for a little as a few dollars or as much as $75.00.  For most boys, something on the lower end is best as they tend to lose bits a pieces over time.  At minimum, each piece should be marked with the boy's name.

The basic components we want each boy to have are
  • bowl
  • cup (in addition to water bottles)
  • plate (this isn't strictly necessary, but is convenient on non-backpacking trips)
  • fork
  • knife
  • spoon
The images below display some of the more common items we see on our trips.  

Common Styles of Mess Kits

While the options illustrated above are durable and attractive, they are not necessary.  A boy can have a successful meal with common containers leftover from the home kitchen.  The cottage cheese container below can serve as a bowl or a cup.  The Cool Whip container can be a plate or a bowl.  Some plastic silverware obtained from a fast food restaurant is perfectly adequate for the meals we eat.

These kinds of containers are affectionately known in our troop by the politically incorrect term of 'Hobo-ware.'  Traditionally, the use of Hobo-ware has been something to brag about, and when we see it, we tend to extol it's virtue as lightweight, thrifty, and environmentally friendly.

Ultralight Options
For the more seasoned camper (meaning, someone less likely to lose their stuff), there are some lightweight alternatives available, usually made out of titanium.  The titanium materials are about the same weight as Hobo-ware (or lighter) but are more durable and can be used on stoves.  They are very pricey, however, and probably not the best option for the casual camper.