Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

Cosy Cooking

The pot cosy is in my mind a simple elegant idea, and simple ideas are usually the best ones, that has transformed my backpacking cooking. I remember nearly 45 years ago when I was in the boy Scouts we had ‘Hay’ boxes, these were large insulated boxes (probably ex-WW2 and weighing a ton) that a multi-gallon pot of boiling stew could be popped inside at  lunch time and then miraculously by dinner it was cooked. Over the years I definitely make use of this concept and I can remember wrapping a pot of under cooked food with a fleece or sleeping bag and letting it stand for 5 mins, I wasn’t really thinking of fuel saving but more I couldn’t be bothered relighting the petrol stove.

Why use a pot cosy? I’ll cook a mixture of both one pot wonders and home prepared dehydrated meals, preparation of these meals requires simmering for 5 – 15 minutes, the pot cosy replicates this simmering and so reduces fuel consumption. Some foods tend to be prone to welding itself to the bottom of the pot during simmering (porridge is the classic) requiring a lot of stirring; the pot cosy eliminates this risk. Some stoves are pretty poor at low revs or have a fixed output (a lot of meths stoves) making simmering difficult to impossible. A pot cosy keeps the food hot longer, particularly significant in winter. The only down side I can see someone questioning is the additional weight.  I use an Evernew 1L Pasta Pot and it’s cosy weighs around 40g, not a lot but the gram weenies will shudder.  However I estimate the saving in fuel is probably repaid in 1 day with meths and 2 days with gas, or conversely the same quantity of fuel will last more days.

Pot Cosy Materials. You can make a cosy for your pot with just about any insulating material; you could probably have your Gran knit one.  You could use your sleeping bag although I’d recommend putting the pot into a sealed poly bag to guard against spillages and stop moisture permeating the sleeping bag. I’d recommend a cosy made from either a Reflectix™ type material, which is two layers of bubbles wrap sealed with reflective foil, or closed cell foam (sleeping pad). There’s two options with the Reflectix™ type: You could buy one off the shelf, Antigravity Gear produce ready made cosy’s for some of the most popular backpacking pots. Or make your own; some folk seem to have had good results using building insulation others choose to buy a Pot Cosy Kit and Bob Cartwright has produced a good video on Making a Pot Cosy using this and only needs simple ‘Blue Peter’ skills to knock up. This is the ‘double cosy’ I made using Bob’s kit and instructions after a year’s use, it’s looking a bit battered now but it still works. IMG_0255

I reckon I made two errors when I made this; firstly I think I made the cosy too snug a fit, my thought was to reduce any air circulation and increase performance, the result was that now it’s a bit battered it is quite difficult to get the pot in and out. Secondly the pot handles are also always outside the cosy making the overall unit not as packing friendly as I would like.  A slightly larger cosy would probably eliminate both issues but may not be as thermally efficient. IMG_0257 I could have made an improved replacement as I’ve enough material left from the kit but I decided to give an old closed cell foam mat a second lease of life.  A bit of work with a craft knife and some impact adhesive was all that was required and after a year it’s stood up very well:

IMG_0254

I did try to put a reflective foil, using aluminium tape, on the inside but with time this has largely come off, I guess that using a dirty old mat didn’t help the tape stick well.  I did make the cosy large enough to allow the handles to be packed inside for transit and added a piece of Velcro across the handle cut out. IMG_0256

Reflectix™ Vs CCF With use I found that I preferred the added toughness of the CCF and I estimated that the two cosy’s performed about the same but I thought I’d try a more scientific test to prove one way or another. The test: I brought 500ml of water to the boil and then put the pot into the cosy for 30mins before measuring the temperature and I repeated the test twice for each cosy.  Surprisingly the CCF cosy kept the water a couple of degrees hotter. It may be that the results with a new Reflectix™ cosy may be better particularly if the handle cut outs were ‘improved’ but I wouldn’t have thought appreciably so. Overall I like the CCF cosy, performance is good, 80C after 30mins in test, and the material is very cheap (£4 for a whole mat in the supermarket) and very robust.

If you’re considering making a cosy I recommend you also give “More Cosy Cooking” a read, it puts the differing insulating materials into perspective.

Modified Cooking Technique A simple recipe that illustrates the principles is my one pot pasta 125ml of wholewheat pasta, 500ml of water and seasoning to the pot and bring to boil; option add some chorizo or bacon bits. Stir in a Cup-a-Soup, adding after the pot comes off the heat eliminates the risk of burning. Pop into the cosy and leave to stand for 15mins. Dress with some Parmesan Quick cook pasta or supermarket noodles can be substituted for the wholewheat pasta reducing the ‘cooking’ time but but I prefer the texture of the wholewheat.

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This entry was posted on September 29, 2013 by in Gear, MYOG and tagged , , .
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