Food, water, and coffee. The triumvirate of life. I wouldn’t say I was addicted to coffee, only that without my morning espresso, I’m completely unable to function—often not sure who I am, where I belong, or what day it is. On my bicycle tour from John O’Groats to Lands End, I packed a heavy stove-top espresso maker—enough said. Anyway, whilst my caffeine dependency remains unchanged, I have fine-tuned my coffee-making apparatus. In some extreme circumstances, I’ll even consider food and water consumption as an alternative, and subsequently, I thought I’d share my kitchenware for such an occasion.
Bear Bones Meths Stove
Bear Bones Bivvy Gear, based in Wales, manufactures ultra-lightweight camping gear primarily designed for bikepacking. One such product is their Meths stove, introduced to be “the lightest, most compact alcohol stove possible while still being completely functional,” offered in 8/22 gram options. The Ultra-ultralight 8-gram version provides an average burn time of five minutes and is designed to heat a pot diameter of 80 millimetres (i.e., standard 450-milliletre mug). The Ultralight 22-gram alternative burns for an average of 10 minutes and is suited to pot diameters up to 150 millimeters. In simple terms, the former is intended to make a cup of tea or rehydrate a meal, whilst the 22-gram stove allows you to boil enough water for bigger meals/two people. I chose the 22-gram model, as the additional 14 grams is negligible for almost double the burn time. I combine the Meths stove with an aluminium windshield and a homemade chicken wire pot stand (I’d recommend the Bear Bones Tapered Aluminium Windshield to maximise efficiency). I love this setup as it’s super lightweight and stores effortlessly inside my Toaks 1100-milliletre cooking pot when not in use.
This has been my cooking stove arrangement for the best part of 10 years and put simply, it works. With the Trangia 1L Fuel Bottle secured to my bike’s down tube, I can easily manage extended bike tours without any need to refuel. However, there are downsides to this configuration, and recently, I’ve found myself considering other options. On outdoor adventures, it’s commonplace to camp somewhere wooded, grassy, soft, and dry, which is great for a good night’s sleep but is not ideal for the Meths Stove. In Cyprus, for example, I was frequently surrounded by super dry vegetation, which would’ve caught fire easily. Thus, I was forever looking for rocks to safely perch my Meths Stove on to avoid any fire risk.
Moreover, the process of pouring alcohol into the stove after a long day requires concentration to avoid spillage, which is easier said than done when it’s pitch black and you’re exhausted. I don’t want to overdramatize the fire risk issue, as, for the most part, it’s mitigated easily through considered usage. However, I think moving forward, I’d like to eliminate the risk entirely and revert to a more generic gas burner, such as Alpkits Kraku, for some rides. Furthermore, a gas alternative is quicker to set up and gives a more reliable, long-lasting burn. Sure, I’ll then have to carry a gas canister, but I’ll be able to remove the Trangia Fuel Bottle from my down tube, use that location to carry water, and thus free up ample space for storing gas.
The perfect stove doesn’t exist as all have their pros and cons, and the effectiveness is largely dictated by where you’re riding, availability of fuel, and the climate. Thus, before committing to any stove, it’s important to do your research and choose the best-suited option for your objectives.
Toaks Outdoor Titanium Cookware
Buy once, cry once. In other words, the only reason you’d swap out Toaks titanium products is because you fancied a change, not because it had broken. Their gear is manufactured to last, using the latest technology, and is “among the lightest, strongest, and most packable on the market.” Toaks pots, stoves, and cups are also designed to be stackable, so you’re able to fit multiple inside one pot, which is ideal on the bike where storage is at a premium. I’ve owned their 1100-millilitre pot (145 grams, 5.1 ounces) and 375-millilitre cup (62 grams, 2.1 ounces) for almost a decade, and they’ve been flawless. I’m able to “stack” my entire stove arrangement (excluding fuel) and cup inside the 1100-millilitre pot, which is perfect. If I’m feeling particularly lavish, I even have a Toaks Titanium Wine Flask (44 grams, 1.5 ounces empty, of course, I keep it brimmed) with Shot Glass (10 grams each) Combo set. The company offers a large range of products in various sizes, and I can’t rate their gear highly enough.
$49/19 Toaks Outdoor, Titanium 1100ml Pot/375ml Cup | toaksoutdoor.com
Soto Helix Coffee Maker
One of my favourite things to do on any overseas adventure is to sample the local coffee, and the Soto Helix allows you to do just that. This collapsible coffee maker is suitable for two people (or one caffeine addict), is made from stainless steel, uses two generic cone filters, collapses for easy storage, and weighs just 46 grams. I love the Helix; it’s easy to use and allows me to enjoy local coffee whilst being so light/compact that it’s a no-brainer for java aficionados. Nevertheless, I bought this product approximately seven years ago and since discovered brands that have made this innovative design even better. The Helix’s biggest drawback is the need for cone filters, which create additional waste and are another thing to carry. I was waiting for a company to integrate an eco-friendly reusable filter, and the GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drip Coffee System does just that. Simply rinse out the nylon filter, and you’re ready for your next cup.
Light My Fire, Titanium Spork
It’s the gram saving afforded by products such as this spork that help delusional camera fanatics like me justify carrying additional photography gear. In some warped reality, I convince myself that this 20-gram spork offsets the 785 grams of added weight from my Leica M6 (including lens). Jokes aside, it’s good practise when bikepacking to continually reassess gear and, wherever possible, shed weight; after all, grams soon become kilograms. Light My Fire’s polished titanium spork is one such product that gets straight to the point and alleviates the need for any other eating utensil. This spork is an essential travel companion that’s great to eat from, is extremely lightweight, non-toxic, easy to clean, and will last forever.
$30 Light My Fire, Spork Titanium | lightmyfire.com
Klean Kanteen Classic 27-ounce (800-milliletre) Water Bottles
Water is, after espresso, fundamental to any adventure. You’ll find that alongside basic hydration, water is the quintessential ingredient to almost all bikepacking meals, whether that’s rehydrating meal packs, cooking pasta/noodles, making porridge, or washing up. It’s important to allow for more water than you think you’ll need and to create ample storage on the bike to carry it. Klean Kanteen is an environmentally motivated company that makes amazing products, are Climate Neutral Certified, a Certified B Corporation (high standards of social/environmental transparency, accountability, and performance), 1% For the Planet member—and if that wasn’t enough, they offer extensive warranties on their products. I’ve owned my Classic bottles for a decade, and despite the roughest life imaginable, they’re still functionally perfect. Sure, they’ve tumbled down stairs, fallen off the bike at high-speed, been crushed in bike boxes, lived in saltwater (inside my kayak’s hold), been dropped a bajillion times, and have scars to show for it, but they continue to be on my person daily. There are riders who dislike the added weight of steel versus plastic, but I’m happy to embrace those additional grams for a good cause. The only criticism is that 27 ounces isn’t a huge capacity, and when I’m on tour, I can easily consume an entire bottle in one sitting. This is an issue, as space on the bike is precious, and sacrificing a bottle holder for a relatively modest capacity isn’t ideal. Either way, they are a truly brilliant product and one that I use throughout bikepacking trips for both hydration and cooking. In addition to my Klean Kanteen bottles, I’ll carry one or two water bladders. I’m currently using CamelBak/Berghaus 2-litre bladders, which drastically increase my capacity, are lightweight, store easily, and are reusable. In hot countries, I’ll usually fill both alongside my twin Classics, giving me a decent range between refills. The only downside is that life on the bike is often rough, and a water bladder is susceptible to leaking, or worse, bursting. Therefore, I recommend storing bladders in a quality dry bag or strapping them to the exterior (for example, your rear rack).
I’ve already written up a full review of the Leatherman Rebar, but it’s worth mentioning that it also comes in very handy for preparing food. The pliers are ideal for grabbing hot pots, removing the pot lid to check food, shuffle around the burner/windshield for optimum performance, or any other application where using your fingers would end in curse words. Moreover, the 420HC stainless steel clip point knife (and sheepsfoot serrated knife) is fantastic for preparing fruits and vegetables or cutting slices of local chorizo on the trail. It integrates a can opener and the hardest working bottle opener in all the lands. There must be a hundred different ways to use each Leatherman accessory outside of their designated purpose, and if that means securing a fresh avocado on the end of the Philips screwdriver whilst your spork is busy elsewhere, so be it.
$70 Leatherman, Rebar | leatherman.com