Good Gear, Cheap: Cooking

I have been accumulating gear and tweaking what I use and in the process have acquired a lot of gear, most of which are bargain finds, and some of it up to 90% off of MSRP.  Keep your eyes peeled and the deals will eventually come around.  Once I decide that I need or want something, (usually the latter when it comes to outdoor gear) I feel I go through a cycle:  I hunt around to no avail, picking up other pieces of gear along the way, and then forget about it until a few months later it pops up in a sale or swap meet somewhere.  Today I’ll go over some of the things I have found over the past year or so that I use in my cooksets.


Coleman F1 Powerboost

Paid: $14  MSRP: $49.99

Picked up at the Coleman Outlet, great for car camping or cooking for a group of people. Burns hot and fast at 23,900 BTU’s so also a great tailgating stove.  I also bring this along skiing sometimes so we can have a hot pot of chili while taking a break in the powder, nestled in some trees in the backcountry runs at some of the resorts here in Colorado.  Why was it cheap? Happened to be there one weekend when everything in the store was 75% off.

SnowPeak GigaPower stove with Piezo

Paid: $8.83 MSRP: Stove Alone: $49.95, Complete Set $84.95

Picked up at REI garage as part of the Snowpeak Starter kit. Kit included Stove and 700mL Titanium Cup. Missing titanium Spork and Lid. Super pumped to pick up this set for solo trips or at least trips where I am not providing for the whole group.

MSR WhisperLite & Expedition Service Kit

Paid: $19.83 MSRP: $79.99 (Stove) $24.95 (Cleaning Kit)

Super excited to pick this one up at an REI garage sale.  The note was that the kit was missing 2 rubber O rings and the pump did not work.  Luckily the Pump Seal was still in the kit and after replacing it, it works just fine.  Have not had a chance to use it in the field yet, but look forward to using it this fall and winter while camping in the snow and higher elevations.

MSR Fuel Bottles

Paid: $2 each MSRP: $14.95-$19.95

This does not come with fuel bottles but luckily I had picked up two of them last year at a swap meet and after replacing the O rings they work just fine.


REI Cookset

Paid: $14.95 MSRP: $49.95

3.5 qt and 2 qt aluminum non stick pots.  I picked them up a while ago because at the time I was just using random small lightweight pots found at thrift stores.  Good for car camping and tailgating, otherwise don’t use backpacking unless with a large group, and then I may only use one of the pots.  They were a great value on clearance from REI.

Evernew Titanium Skillet

Paid: $3 MSRP: $47.95

This is by far one of my best bargains ever.  Skillet is in great shape, handles are true and un-melted.  I picked this up from the Wilderness Exchange swap meet that they hold twice a year in their parking lot.  I came across some super cool folks that didn’t have any use for it with their style of cooking and said $3 was a fair price.  It works great with my canister stoves, but I do have some scorching issues when using it with my homemade alcohol stoves because of a lack of heat regulation.

SnowPeak Titanium Trek Mug 700mL

Paid: $8.83 MSRP Mug Alone: $39.95 Complete Set: $84.95

This came with the SnowPeak Stove as mentioned above at an REI garage sale.  Great when I am just taking care of myself or one other and rehydrating food.  This was cheap because it was missing it’s lid and spork. Luckily I already had utensils and just use a small piece of foil that I keep in the cook kit as a lid that folds up small and weighs nothing. This works just fine when just looking to boil some water.

Snowpeak Mug 450

Paid: $3.83 MSRP: $25-$32

Picked this up at an REI garage sale.  The note for being returned stated that it was too hot and burned lips when filled with hot beverages.  Since this is not good for much more than sipping a morning hot chocolate or tea (not much of a coffee drinker but I do partake in a VIA periodically) it is kind of pointless.  I tried it, and yes, it gets very hot.  I can see how someone would return it after spending $30 of a coffee cup, but for me, I can wait 2 mins to let it cool down and for what I payed for it, not that bad.

Sea to Summit Alpha Utensil set.

Paid: $.83  MSRP: $14.95

I picked up two of these sets super cheap at an REI garage sale one day and am pretty satisfied.  The reasons they were returned was because after being washed they changed texture.  This is true, and it may be due to the aircraft-grade 7075-T6 aluminum alloy construction.  On the shelf they seem smooth and shiny but after a washing (in the dishwasher I’d bet) they because a flat metal color/texture.  It does change the eating experience but I found that all you have to do is dip your utensil in the food you are eating first to coat it and it works just fine.  Again, this is another time where it works for me because of what I paid for it.  Had I paid full price for the set I would have returned it as well.


Alohol Stoves

Unless you plan on just buying a titanium alcohol stove you should take the time to play around with them. They are fun and kind of addicting.  There is a lot of entertainment in learning how to make these if you like tinkering around and enjoy the satisfaction of building something and doing it enough where you try to perfect it.  Soon enough you will find that you have a plastic tub full of working stoves all with different flame patterns, flame size,flame height, boiling times, etc…

They are cheap to make, don’t require any major tools, and the materials used are things you have around the house that you would otherwise throw away (but hopefully recycle).  Seems like a win win hobby to me.  Although I don’t use them as much as I used to, I still carry one with a bit of fuel on long day hikes in my “just in case” stuff sack.

The best DIY resource for alcohol stoves is Zen Backpacking Stoves. This will give you an idea what is involved and how easy it is.  For the best “homemade” alcohol stoves you need to visit Tinny at Mini Bull Design.  I say “homemade” because Tinny has taken DIY alcohol stoves to a new level and is, in my opinion, the king of the alcohol stove world.  Be sure to check out his “How its Built” page.

If you catch the DIY gear bug like so many have, there are a ton of sites out there, but I enjoy Gear Talk with Jason Klass.  Also, check out his Homemade Backpacking Gear blog as well.


I have been collecting the spoons from my local Yogurt Land.  They are very sturdy and hold up to washing, being stepped on, and bent.  They are made of some plastic type material that is plant based so they are biodegradable.  The fact that they are biodegradable is cool, and I don’t seem them disintegrating into nothing in between backpacking trips as I’m sure they will take quite a while.


About mattlacuesta

Just a Buckeye living in Denver and enjoying playtime in the Rockies. View all posts by mattlacuesta

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