Portable Dinnerware-The Mess Kit

One may ask what do you eat out of when you are camping? Some choices include disposable plates, cans the food came in or traditional dinnerware, which includes a plate, bowl, and cup. But what choices do you have if you are primitive camping and/or backpacking? The answer is simple and something that was created to aid the war effort of both WWI and WWII. This basic item of war that many soldiers carried into the trenches is the mess kit.

The basic design of a mess kit consists of a pan with a hinged handle and lid. When the lid is placed over the pan and the handle is folded over, it only measures nine inches deep and seven inches wide, which is very important if one is backpacking.

Some designs have a ring on the lid that can hold eating utensils and can aid in cleanup.

The design of the mess kit has really not changed since wartime. The WWI versions were normally made of aluminum while the WWII versions were made of stainless steel.

Eating utensils could be added to the kit along with a drinking cup and were secured to the mess kit by the ring in the lid.

Today, mess kits are not hard to find and most sport related stores carry this camping staple. But what happens if you forgot your mess kit or do not want to purchase one. Do not worry; the answer is no farther then your kitchen cabinet.

The first thing you will need is a mesh bag. This is easily found in the produce section of any grocery store holding onions, oranges or potatoes. Next, you will need a heat resistant plate and bowl. Try to get one that is not breakable. After that pick out some silverware and place all the items in the mesh bag.

As far as a “drinking cup,” you can use a canteen, collapsible cup or drinking bottle only if you plan to only drink cold beverages. If you plan to drink hot liquids, a heatproof, non-breakable mug will suffice. Many of these can be found in camping stores or look for a metal one in a consignment shop.

Once you have your “mess kit” assembled, the next question is how to clean it. Cleaning ones dinnerware, regardless of what it may be, is very important and can mean the difference between an enjoyable camping experience and a trip to the emergency room.

The first step to the cleaning process is to scrape the dinnerware clean of any food particles. Next heat two deep pots of water to the boiling point. Place dish soap in one and leave the other one plain.

If you are using a commercial mess kit, attach the lid to the pan by the ring and to the ring add the silverware. Once this is done, you can simply hold on to the handle and dip everything into the soapy, hot water. Do this twice and then dip into the clean water. Let air-dry before folding up.

If using the homemade version, place dinnerware in the mesh bag and dip as above. Hang the bag in tree to air-dry.

Having something to eat out of beyond a can is very important when it comes to roughing it. But always remember that even though you may be roughing it, the importance of cleanliness still remains.