Main man at ESP Dave Ellyatt is a stickler for shaving a few ounces off his kit wherever possible - the nature of his fishing dictating it to be the wisest option. In the second of a series of loosely termed 'reviews' we explore some niche and slightly more obscure items of kit and find out exactly why they suit the situations so well.
I’ve rambled on in print on a few occasions about my obsession over the last few years of pruning kit to the bare minimum as I tend to carry it all the time now rather than use a barrow. This is partly due to the nature of the venues I have fished not being suitable for getting around with a barrow and also due to most of my fishing being short sessions so less gear is required.
However this minimal approach has in the past undoubtedly handicapped me on the cooking front. I’ve never really been a fan of cooking on the bank. I just find all the extra kit required and the mess created a pain, especially on short sessions. So I’ve tended to eat at home before I go, or grab stuff on route - inevitably convenience store crap.
So what I really wanted was an easy to prepare hot meal without the mess and extra pans etc. Looking at options online I found the foil sachet type ration packs used by the military and hikers etc. I was a bit sceptical about how tasty they would be (as it happens I needn’t have worried), but what attracted me most was that they could ‘boil in the bag’ in ten minutes and then be eaten straight out of the bag with no extra plate or bowl required. No mess and even better, lake water could be used for the boiling as obviously the sachet is a sealed unit, so no diminished brew water reserves either!
'No mess and even better, lake water could be used for the boiling as obviously the sachet is a sealed unit, so no diminished brew water reserves either!'
There are various ration pack brands available but the stand out one in the UK is Wayfayrer. I picked a few up from the local Go Outdoors where they seem to be on permanent offer of three for two and work out at about £3.60 each the last time I brought some. There is a wide variety of main meals (classic staples like chicken tikka and rice, chilli, pasta meatballs, English breakfast etc) so after trying a couple of different ones and being satisfied with them I went back and brought enough for a year’s angling (they have a long shelf life) and keep a stash of them in the van. The foil material is tough and their flat shape is easy to store down the side of a rucksack. The portion size is ample, they seem to average around 400 - 500 calories per meal.
However, although I had now found the ideal ‘quick fix’ food source for my style of angling, deciding on what to actually boil the ration packs in was the next consideration. The old faithful little Trangia kettle wasn’t suitable and I didn’t fancy carrying a separate pan as well so looked for something that would be both a kettle for brews and a pan for the ration packs. Scouring the ultralight backpacking websites I found a stainless pot used by the British army called the mk1 Crusader Cup made by a Welsh based company called BCB. It was designed to be compatible with the ration packs so looked perfect. They are available in black and brushed stainless but when I was shopping the black was out of stock everywhere so I got the stainless and (naturally!) sprayed it olive green. The cup has fold out handles which don’t get hot (edge) and there is also the option of a moulded clear lid which works really well when in kettle mode as it has an easy pour hole and as the metal cup expands it locks the lid in place so you can pour one handed without risk of the lid falling off. As it cools the lid just lifts off for refilling.
'Scouring the ultralight backpacking websites I found a stainless pot used by the British army called the mk1 Crusader Cup'
Another reason the Crusader ticked all the boxes was that I can fit my brew kit in it for space saving. It accommodates a mug with plastic jar containing a 50/50 mix of instant coffee and whitener inside, a little stove (Soto Amicus which is superb), tea spoon and lighter. I nest this in a little bag I found on ebay with the lid and gas canister sitting on top.
I know the cooking connoisseurs will think all of the above is some sort of blasphemy and I completely agree that it doesn’t come close to rivalling an al fresco fillet steak but it’s a super neat, lightweight alternative solution that suits my angling to a tee.
'I know the cooking connoisseurs will think all of the above is some sort of blasphemy and I completely agree that it doesn’t come close to rivalling an al fresco fillet steak but it’s a super neat, lightweight alternative solution that suits my angling to a tee.'