Mess Kits: Helpful Features and What to Look For
What happens if you find yourself stranded by the side of the road or out by the campground and you don’t have a mess kit with you? Sure, you have your dehydrated pasta, your SPAM, and your peanut butter, but the one thing you never even thought about was how you were going to actually eat all that.
Do you go caveman style and just eat with your fingers? Do you concoct some type of bizarre-looking spoon out of the magazine in the passenger seat? What do you do?
These are questions you never have to deal with if you’ve got a mess kit at the ready. So what are some of the things that you’re going to want to look for if you’re going to complete your own? We can help with that.
Here are some of our thoughts…
A P38 Can Opener
No mess kit is complete without a can opener, and the P38 is so inexpensive, small, and lightweight that making sure that you always have one within reach is a cinch. Even if you don’t intend to hike out into the woods with canned foods, it’s still a plus to have one of these in your person.
After spending enough days on the trail, you start to end up with weird cravings for different foods. For me, it’s normally apples and milk, for whatever reason. But the point is that when you’ve been eating “backpacker’s food” for three days and still have three days left of your trip, you start to better understand those bizarre pregnancy cravings your wife went through. There’s a good chance you’re going to want something other than granola and peanut butter the next time you resupply, and what you really might be craving very well might just come in a can. (“Hellooooooo, Spaghettio’s.”)
And if you don’t have a can opener with you? You just might be out of luck.
Want to know how to use a can opener? Check out this video below:
You didn’t get to hit the trail until after work, but you’ve put in five miles, set up your tent, and you’re exhausted. It’s time to eat. You dig out your food and gear and get to cooking when you realize that you’ve done it: you didn’t bring any type of silverware.
Been there, done that.
It’s incredibly frustrating to find yourself in a situation where you’re going to have to drink your chili, and the problem can easily be avoided with something as simple as a few backpackable eating utensils. This is something that you need to be aware of with some MRE products out on the market, too. While official MREs will come with plastic cutlery, if you’ve stuffed a bunch of MRE entrees into your glove box just in case, you’re going to need something to eat them with.
We have a couple of different options that can help you with this.
Coming in at right around $13 is this two-pack. All of the utensils connect together, meaning you can continue down the Continental Divide Trail without listening to silverware clink against each other with each step that you take. We also offer a US GI fork, spoon, and knife set if you’ve previously served and want to get nostalgic the next time you head out to the campground.
Want a can opener too? This 4-piece German 2-pack we sell comes with that as well.
The Military Canteen and Cup
A mess kit without the ability to hold liquid isn’t much of a mess kit. Unless you’ve figured out some ingenious means of drinking out of a pan, you’re going to need some type of container, and this is where a canteen or bottle comes into play. The cool thing about an Army canteen is that they’re tried and tested. You don’t have to worry about whether the design is going to leak out in the field like some of the other bottles out there when you buy a canteen engineered specifically with soldiers in mind.
If you’re going to be boiling water to make hot coffee or soups, however, you’re going to want a metal cup that you can drink out of. For these purposes, the US Army produces stainless steel canteen cups that nestle over US GI canteens. We sell unused 2-packs of these that will give you and a loved one plenty of versatility regardless of where you are at or the situation you find yourselves in.
Heading out with the family for a picnic? Then part of your mess kit is going to include something that you can put all of your food on. The problem, though, is that your toddlers refuse to eat food that’s touching other food, it’s fairly windy outside, and you most certainly don’t want to take your actual plates.
So what are you to do? You know that paper plates are going to turn into paper kites, and there’s a good chance that the atrocity of the corn touching the beans is possible with a normal plate as well.
This is where meal trays can come in handy. Take this 4-pack of meal trays we sell here. They’re heavy enough to stay in place, regardless of the weather, stack for easy portability, are easy to clean, and have six separate compartments in them so you can make sure that the bananas do not touch Junior’s strawberries.
Don’t want plastic?
We have a stainless-steel option available as well.
You’re not going to be able to take these trays backpacking, but for a camp mess kit, they’re perfect.
One-and-Done Mess Kits
If you don’t want to build your own but instead are looking at a one-and-done purchase for your mess kit, we have a couple of options that you’re going to like.
For starters, check out this Yugoslavian mess kit that we offer. The entire system is extremely space efficient, with everything packing down into a single little pouch, saving you more room in your bag for other gear. With this set, you get an aluminum cooking pot, a cup, a dish, a canteen, and a complete silverware set as well when you pick up one of these. Throw in one of our P-38 can openers, and you have everything you could need.
If you’re wanting an American option, we have an unused, stainless steel mess kit that is just like what American GIs use when they’re out in the field.
Have eccentric tastes and want to impress your buddies at the next men’s retreat? We have a 1947 French mess kit here where you have to find a stick out in the woods and carve the end down to size to use as a handle for the frying pan. We can pretty much guarantee you that nobody else at the campground is going to have one similar.
And should you mainly be thinking that all you need is a container for your water and a cup to cook your oatmeal, soup, and dehydrated meals in, you may be interested in this 2-pack of Swiss canteens with metal cups that nestle onto the bottom.
Throw any of these kits in your bag right next to your food sack, and you’ll have the makings of a fully stocked backpacking pantry.
Eating Without a Mess Kit? It’s a Mess.
Imagine sitting down at your dining room table, dumping a pot of spaghetti on it, and then having everybody dig in with their fingers. Camping without a mess kit is similar in more ways than one. So if you give a hoot about personal hygiene while out in the field, check out some of the gear that we offer.
And it’s not just camp cooking gear that we have, either. Whether you’re looking for used camping gear to get you out in the woods or the enamelware you’ll need to cook out there, we’ve got it.
What are your thoughts on eating in the woods, though? Are there particular things you look for with your mess kits? Are there other useful pieces of gear you use that we didn’t discuss above? Let us know in the comment section below.