GOTH Kit – Example

GOTH (Go to Hell) Kit

This post is largely an excerpt from my book: The Simple Survival Smart Book available as paperback, kindle, or audiobook from Amazon.

It struck me recently that I have made several posts in the past about what kits to use/have immediately available in a crisis but I have not posted an example.  This post is an attempt to begin to rectify that.  Let me preface this post by saying that there is tons of advice and checklists available in books and on the internet about the kinds of kits to have, how many, and what to put in them.  This is none example and is the one I have in all my family’s vehicles.

What kit and/or kits each person builds is going to reflect their appreciation of what they need as well as what level of resources they have to devote to preparedness.  There probably is no 100% correct answer when it comes to what to put into a kit as everyone’s needs and requirements are a little different.  I have three kits that I keep prepared at all times.  The GOTH kit that is the subject of this post, a Semi-BOB (Bugout Bag) that I tote around with me everywhere, and a larger BOB Bag based off an ALICE ruck that I keep in the basement if I have to unass the house in a hurry.  The GOTH is not so much a survival kit, although it has that function, as an everyday emergency kit that has everything needed for two people to survive in relative comfort for 24-28 hours except for water of which I always have a ½ gallon or so in my vehicle anyway.

Now, the thing to remember when planning any kit be it GOTH, BOB, or household storage is that there is no single correct answer.  That is because everybody’s needs are different.  Sure, there are general needs that everybody is going to have such as food, clean water, shelter, first aid supplies, and fire making. Everyone is also going to have specific needs that only apply to them such as glasses, medicine, specific dietary requirements, perhaps even disabilities that must be accounted for.  The kit I describe is pretty generic and it works for me because other than wearing glasses I have no specific requirements and I am not going to carry spare glasses in my car kit anyway as I already have a pair in my glove box.

As you plan your kit take care to keep space limitations and absolute necessities in mind.  A mistake that everybody makes when planning kits is taking too much.  In a SHTF scenario too much gear can be just as deadly as too little.  An analogy is the gear soldiers take into combat.  Every new guy to combat tends to tote too much gear.  Gear they don’t need and won’t use but have decided they have got to have.  As you gain experience you start to throw things away or leave it in the rear and strip your gear down to bare essentials.  Since you won’t be able to use your kit in a real-life SHTF scenario until very bad things happen planning and practice will have to make up for the real thing.  If possible, try to do an experiment and live off your gear for a few days to figure out what is essential and what is not.

Lastly, quality matters.  Prepping can be expensive and while it is possible to prep on a budget there are some things you absolutely don’t want to pinch pennies on and water filtration is one of them as are storage food and a good knife.  How ironic would it be if you got everything together, have to use and die from some food or waterborne illness or your blade breaks with no replacement because you decided to go cheap?  Like everything else in life, where survival is concerned nothing beats careful thought, consideration, and planning.

EXCERPT BEGINS HERE:

This compact kit can be carried in the car, on the boat, or in a small ruck/backpack while hunting, hiking, exploring, etc.  Most of the contents will fit in an Army 7.62mm ammo can which doubles as a pot for melting snow and device with which to dig an emergency snow shelter. (However, if you can carry it, include a small shovel.  It is far, far better than trying to use an ammo can.)

GOTH Kit laid out

Carrying container

  • US Army Surplus 7.62mm ammo can (can be purchased at local Army Surplus tore or online)

General Items

  • 550 Parachute Cord (25 feet)
  • Signal Mirror
  • Matches (2 boxes)
  • Magnesium Fire Starter
  • Bic® Lighter
  • 40 Alcohol prep-pads for first-aid & use as fire starters
  • Compass (learn how to use)
  • Paper and pencil
  • Fishing line, hooks, split shot leads
  • Pocketknife
  • P-38 GI Can Opener
  • Money
  • Garbage Bags (3 large size bags)
  • Dental floss (It’s strong and useful as thread for sewing, fishing line, or for lashing branches for improvised shelters.)
  • Gardening Hand-Shovel (carried externally)

First Aid Kit (Recommended contents)

  • Moleskin
  • Sterile pads (2 x 2 and 4 x 4)
  • Sterile Gauze
  • Neosporin
  • Band-Aids
  • Aspirin
  • First Aid Tape

Food & Water

  • Water Filter Straw
  • Iodine Water Purification Tablets
  • Emergency Rations (3 day supply for one person)

Optional/Nice to Have Items

  • Instant Soup or tea (3-4 packages)
  • Camp Cup/Canteen Cup
  • Emergency Wire Saw
  • Emergency Tent
  • Campfire starter sticks (optional)

GOTH Kit packed

All contents will fit in a US Army Surplus ammo can, I use a 7.62mm can that I have from long ago. It is waterproof and closes very securely.  If there is extra room (there should not be) you can keep things from rattling in the can by wadding up some wax paper and stuffing it around the items.  The wax paper stays dry and also doubles as a fire starter.

My G.O.T.H. Kit weighs 8.5 lbs. and the ammo can fits perfectly behind the back seat of my pickup.

Johnny Cake # 2

Here is the report on Johnny Cake.

First off, let me describe the Johnny Cakes that comes out after cooking. Mine came out as lumps abut 1 ½ inches around. Much like Hardtack, after you let it dry and cool completely it actually crumbles into chunks with a little effort. Johhny cakes are 95% corn meal with a mixture of milk and oil to hold it together while cooking. My pieces all weigh between 40 and 50 grams each. According to the USDA degermed, enriched, yellow Cornmeal provides 370 calories per 100 grams. Doing High School math that means that it has 3.7 calories/gram so a piece of Hardtack between 40-50 grams has provides roughly 148-185 calories, that is a tiny bit more than hardtack. Like 2-3 calories more. A bouillon cube provides roughly 5 calories per cube. As with Hardtack I use two cubes for two cups of broth. It totals out to a Johnny Cake and broth meal consisting of two bouillon cubes and one Johnny Cake providing 162-205 calories, not much, but not insignificant either and if you use two pieces of Johnny Cake you get a decent mid-day meal that you can easily supplement with jerky or something else as Civil War soldiers commonly did.

The fixings in a civilized garage

The fixings in a civilized garage

Johnny Cake as I have it packaged

Johnny Cake as I have it packaged

I cooked it up in the same way I did the Hardtack. I used 2 cups of water, brought it to a rolling boil and then dissolved 2 cubes of chicken bouillon in it. Once the bouillon cubes had dissolved I added the crumbled up Johnny Cake to the broth and boiled it for another 5 minutes. I vacuum packed my Johnny Cakes and added an oxygen absorber to each package because since they are made with milk and oil they will probably go rancid a lot faster than Hardtack will. I also came up with the bright idea of sing the butt end of my camp knife to crush the cake up while it was still packed to hopefully avoid a huge mess and losing most of the Johnny Cake to scattering. It actually worked out quite well as you can see in the video.

The finished product

The finished product

As to eating it. Johnny Cakes actually add a little flavor to the broth unlike Hardtack which essentially tastes like cardboard. The difference is the same as the difference between eating a piece of white bread and eating a piece of cornbread. The Johnny Cake also softened up better. Where Hardtack tended to just turn into a doughy mass, the Johnny Cake breaks up into smaller chunks and has a more gruel like consistency. I think of the two Hardtack and Johnny Cakes, I prefer the Johnny Cakes as they simply taste better and are more palatable. Johnny Cakes are bulkier than Hardtack though so they take up more space, even if they don’t weigh any more than Hardtack. I will probably end up packing slightly more Hardtack than Johnny Cake in my BOB and GOTH bags simply because I think Hardtack will keep better in the long-term than Johnny Cake.


Plan on supplementing Hardtack and Johnny Cake with something else. I personally have sugar, salt, some dried beans, and jerky in my kit as well several cut down MREs and some commercial rations. In my BOB I only have about three days’ worth of hard rations but in my GOTH I have about two weeks’ worth of hard rations and a selection of salt and spices to make food taken from the wild taste better. In all I have about 25% of the load in my GOTH bag is food or food prep items.  My GOTH bag is going to get totaly repacked and reconfigured in a month or so when my ruck mod gets back to me though.

All that being said, neither Hardtack nor Johnny Cakes are nutritionally complete as the armies on both sides of the civil war recognized. Hardtack and Johnny Cakes were just one component of a daily camp ration that consisted of: 12 oz of pork or bacon or 1 lb. 4 oz of fresh or salt beef; 1 lb. 6 oz of soft bread or flour, 1 lb. of hard bread, or 1 lb. 4 oz of cornmeal. Per every 100 rations there was issued 1 peck of beans or peas; 10 lb. of rice or hominy; 10 lb. of green coffee, 8 lb. of roasted and ground coffee, or 1 lb. 8 oz of tea; 15 lb. of sugar; 1 lb. 4 oz of candles, 4 lb. of soap; 1 qt of molasses. In addition to or as substitutes for other items, desiccated vegetables, dried fruit, pickles, or pickled cabbage might be issued. The marching ration consisted of: 1 lb. of hard bread, 3/4 lb. of salt pork or 1 1/4 lb. of fresh meat, plus the sugar, coffee, and salt. Source for both ration lists is the “The Civil War Dictionary” by Mark M. Boatner III.

Johnny Cake # 1

I made my Johnny Cake on Monday.  I used the below recipe to make it.  One thing I have to say up front is that the recipe says you should be able to use a spoon to drop it onto the baking pan.  That was not my experience.  When I mixed everything up it was kind of sticky but more clumpy than liquid.  I ended up making balls of the dough with my hand and putting them into the pan like that.  There was also more waste than I thought there would be as you can see from the picture of the finished product. I have not tried to prepare them yet so I can’t speak to how they taste.

The Fixings

The Fixings

Mixed up in the bowl

Mixed up in the bowl

Just before going into the oven

Just before going into the oven

Regarding storage I am not sure these are as amenable to long-term storage as Hardtack because they have both milk and oil in the recipe.  I am going to vacuum seal these just as I did the hardtack but I think I’m going to throw an oxygen absorber into each package in an attempt to extend the shelf life.  I will probably have one for lunch next week sometime and put the video of that together and post it then.  I also have video of making Johnny Cake but I have not put it together yet.  It will go up as soon as I am done editing it as well.  As usual, I will put up a post when the video is posted.

Here is the recipe I got from the Arkansas History Hub at: http://www.arhistoryhub.com/civil-war-make-your-own-hardtack-and-johnny-cake/

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

Necessary Supplies for Johnny Cake:

  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Mixing bowl
  • Cookie Sheet

Instructions for Making Johnny Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease a cookie sheet with butter or vegetable oil.
  3. Mix all dry ingredients together in the mixing bowl.
  4. Add all wet ingredients to the dry.
  5. Mix together until the batter is very stiff.
  6. Use a spoon to drop the batter onto the cookie sheet, very much like making “drop biscuits.”
  7. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the biscuits are lightly browned.
  8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

 

Hardtack -How to Prepare It & Eat It

I had the time today so I decided to go out to the garage and prepare some hardtack to eat for lunch.  Two reasons for this. 1. I wanted to know if it was worthwhile for me to make more (if it tasted like shit I was not going to add it to my BOB/GOTH) and 2. I wanted to see how long it would take.  I made it using the gear I would use in a collapse and do use when I go camping.

Campingaz Twister Stove and Canister

Campingaz Twister Stove and Canister

The stove I have is a Campingaz Twister+ that I bought in 2003 before I deployed to Iraq.  I used it throughout my tour there for coffee and other stuff and have used it ever since.  I bought my stove in Europe and have not been able to find the same stove in the US although there are similar stoves out there and I can at least buy gas bottles here.  The closest thing I have found is the Coleman Exponent F1 Ultralight Stove and I can use the Coleman Butane / Propane gas canisters with my stove.

Implements of destruction

Implements of destruction

I used my Olicamp Mug and initially attempted to use an MRE spoon I have used for years but it melted in the boiling water so I pulled out my combo utensil fork/spoon/knife to finish with.

 

Hardtack and Bouillon vacuum packed

Hardtack and Bouillon vacuum packed

I have taken and vacuum packed my hardtack and bouillon cubes for storage.  I chose to pack them in essentially single serving packages.  That is, one or two squares of hardtack per package and two bouillon cubes per package. The red cubes are beef bouillon and the yellow cubes are chicken.  I used Wyler’s chicken bouillon cubes because those are the one I like the best flavor-wise.  I got them at the local grocery store but if you want, they can also be ordered online at a significant markup from what you will pay in the store.

The recipe I used for making my hardtack came from an article on the Arkansas History Hub at: http://www.arhistoryhub.com/civil-war-make-your-own-hardtack-and-johnny-cake/

Here it is:

Necessary Supplies for Hardtack: 

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ to ¾ cup water
  • Salt (5-6 pinches)
  • Mixing bowl
  • Rolling pin
  • Cookie Sheet
  • Fork

Instructions for Making Hardtack

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Add all dry ingredients into the mixing bowl, and then add wet ingredients. Mix all ingredients together. Use extra flour if necessary to make sure the dough is no longer sticky. However, be careful not to make the dough too dry. If you add too much flour, add slightly more water.
  3. Knead the dough until it is easy to work with.
  4. Spread the dough onto the ungreased cookie sheet.
  5. Use the rolling pin to roll the dough into a rectangular shape. Hardtack was around a half inch thick, so don’t worry about making the dough thin.
  6. Bake the dough for 30 minutes.
  7. Take the dough out of the oven and cut it into large squares (around 3 inches by 3 inches). Use a fork to poke 16 to 20 holes into each square.
  8. Flip the squares and return to the oven for 30 more minutes.
  9. Allow the hardtack to completely cool inside the oven. Be careful when biting into a cracker, as they do get very hard when completely cool.

Now, let me describe the hardtack that results.  It is a three inch square roughly 3/8 of an inch thick and hard as a rock.  After you let it dry and cool completely it actually crumbles into chunks with a little effort.  Hardtack is essentially wheat and salt.  My pieces all weigh between 40 and 50 grams each.  According to the USDA white, all-purpose, enriched, unbleached Wheat flour provides 364 calories per 100 grams.  Doing High School math that means that it has 3.64 calories/gram so a piece of hardtack between 40-50 grams has provides roughly 146-182 calories.  A bouillon cube provides roughly 5 calories per cube.  I use two cubes for two cups of broth.  It totals out to a hardtack and broth meal providing of two bouillon cubes and one square of hardtack providing 160-200 calories, not much, but not insignificant either and if you use two pieces of hardtack you get a decent mid-day meal that you can easily supplement with jerky or something else as Civil War soldiers commonly did also.

MY cup with tick marks

My cup with tick marks

I prepared the broth first.  I made two cups (16oz.) of broth.  My cup has handy tick lines on the side to aid in measuring the liquid in the cup.  To make the broth you first heat the water to a rolling boil and then drop the bouillon cubes in and stir until they are dissolved.  Reduce the heat to simmer the water and then crumble the hardtack into the broth.  Keeping the broth at a simmer let it boil for another 5-10 minutes so the hardtack soaks up the water.  After you remove it from the heat let it sit for a bit (another5-10 minutes) so that it cools enough to eat it.  The hardtack should soften to the point where you can chew it.

IMG_3013

Prepared Hardtack

It actually does not taste very bad.  The broth itself is pretty good and the hardtack had essentially no flavor so it soaks up the broth flavor.  The hardtack takes on the consistency of rubber and is quite chewy when you rehydrate it.  The best description I can think of for their consistency is shitty dumplings.  Think dumplings from Chicken and Dumplings that are not quite cooked all the way and are therefore rubbery and sticky at the same time.  They don’t taste bad, they essentially taste like nothing.  I can see why Civil War soldiers hated it so much.

Hardtack will keep you alive but it is food you will get no enjoyment out of.  Since keeping you alive is the point of survival food and flavor is at best a secondary concern hardtack is suitable.  I will be making more hardtack and adding it to both my family’s food storage and putting some in both BOB and GOTH bags.  It is light, compact, and calorie rich.  The perfect survival food.

The next experiment is making Johnny Cake.

Hardtack -How to Prepare It # 1

How to prepare hardtack and a taste test coming soon. I am eating it for lunch right now and putting the video together. I hope to have the video edited and uploaded by this afternoon but it will go up by tomorrow at the latest. It depends on how much my video editing software fights me on it. The below picture is what it looks like prepared in broth.

Prepared Hardtack

Prepared Hardtack

It is better than I thought but not something I want to eat every day. I can totally understand why Civil War soldiers hated it. I am going to be making Johnny Cake later this afternoon.

Hardtack

Made my first batch of hardtack today.

It is one of those forever foods that if stored properly will literally never go bad. It is still cooling off so I have not yet tried to eat them but if they taste anything like MRE crackers I know this is one food I will always have. They are hard as a brick already and I can see why Civil War soldiers had nothing good to say about it.
Hardtack # 7
One day soon I plan on trying my hand at making Johnny Cake, the Confederate version made with cornflour. I found recipes for both here at the Arkansas History Hub website: http://www.arhistoryhub.com/civil-war-make-your-own-hardtack-and-johnny-cake/

Once it is cooled I will vacuum pack the individual pieces and add them to my BOB & GOTH kits, they should make a pretty good gruel with the bouillon cubes I already have in there. In a few days I will eat a piece and post a full description of how to make them.

The Quest for a Modified ALICE Ruck

A quick update on the rucksack search.  I have found a couple of shops that might be able to do the mod to an ALICE ruck I am looking for.  Getting one created is much more difficult than I at first thought.  There are plenty of places that will make one but they want you to place an order for a minimum number of units (typically 100 or more) up-front.

I am going to take the ruck I have and get it modified and then wear it for a while to see how it fits.  It could be that modding it to make it modular just throws the weight off and I will be kicking myself in the ass for ruining a good ruck.  We will see.  I will be lucky to have the work done and the ruck back by mid-January I think.

If the mod works out and I like it I will think seriously about trying to raise the funds to have a first production run manufactured.  It looks like unit cost for the first production run, what the army limited production, will be in the neighborhood of $75-$125 per excluding design costs.  I am going to pursue this because I am just unsatisfied with the options out there for a good ruck that does not weigh a ton, is modular, but is not full of little pockets inside that generally just fill up with extraneous crap.

The bug bear when building a kit, GOTH or BOB, is striking a balance between what you need and what you want without making your ruck so heavy it becomes impractical.  More is not always better when you are talking about something you have to hump around on your back for an indeterminate amount of time.  That is the reason the rear areas of armies on the move has always been littered with discarded equipment.  Soldiers keep what they need on campaign and nothing more.  That should be the guide when setting up your kit as well.

Combat Techniques – First in a Series: Combat – What to expect

Standard Disclaimer: The techniques discussed in this post series should not be used unless and until the SHTF for real and civil order has broken down completely. If you try to pull this stuff off during peacetime and are successful you can pretty much guarantee you will be prosecuted and sent to prison and so you should be. There are enough violent retards in the world who kill people over stupid shit that we preppers don’t need to add to their number. The whole point of prepping is to be prepared, not to terrorize the innocent. We learn these techniques so that if and/or when that time comes we can protect ourselves and others from the jackasses out there with no sense of right and wrong. We want to be the people they want to avoid because if they mess with us all they will get is heartache, pain, and probably an earlier grave. Now that that is clear let’s continue.

If the SHTF expect that you may have to defend yourself from others with less foresight than you and who therefor want to take what you have. At some point you may have to fight. It does not even take a complete societal breakdown for this to happen. During the LA riots in the early 90’s I am pretty sure none of the shopkeepers in Watts and South Central LA thought they would be barricading themselves in their stores to protect them in the week before the riots started. I bet nobody in New Orleans thought looting and violence would be the problem it was in the aftermath of Katrina.

Because of that and because the vast majority of Americans have never served in the military and of that minuscule percentage even fewer have actually been combat arms trigger-pullers I decided to write this series acquainting m readers with combat techniques and methods. I deal with some of this in The Simple Survival Smart Book and the 2nd edition due out next year will cover this in more depth but I will start putting some of it up on here.

The first in this series will talk about combat itself. The mental and physical experience of it. First, my bona-fides. From the Simple Survival About page: I am retired from the military after 23 years in the US Army. I was a 19D4XP5 Armored Cavalry Scout by Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). I spent virtually my entire career in Divisional Cavalry units except for time as a Drill Sergeant, a close combat weapons tester, and three horrible years on staff. I deployed twice in my career, to Bosnia for 11 1/2 months in 1996 and to Iraq for 13 months from 2003-2004.

Combat is probably not what you expect it to be from the movies and TV.  Hell, I had been training for it for 15 years and had even been shot at and stuck in the middle of two factions shooting at each other in Bosnia and it was not what I expected.  There is a huge difference between getting shot at and being one of the shooters.  Bosnia was weird because when we got shot at we could not return fire due to the ROE and essentially just buttoned up and drove towards one of the sides doing the shooting.  This only happened three times in my year there too.  Most of the time it was enough if we just showed up with our Bradleys and loaded for bear and the factions decided to play nice.  Iraq was a whole different ball of wax.  In 2004 the ROE was somewhat relaxed and we could and were expected to actively seek out the enemy.  That could be fun but it could also be scary.  Then again, if I did not think it was going to be fun I would not have went combat arms in the first place.

Back to my original point: Combat is probably not what you expect it to be from the movies and TV.  In fact, combat is significantly different your first time than how Hollywood presents it.  Your first experience being in combat will probably be confusing.  My first firefight, I was so busy I did not have time to be scared until it was over and the real reaction did not set in until I was back in the FOB and had debriefed my platoon leader.  Then I got the shakes something fierce because Mrs. Shrier’s little boy thought for a minute there that he wasn’t coming home.  That was only the first time though.  You don’t get used to getting shot at, you get numb.  Which is both a good and a bad thing.

That being said, there are several things to remember when training to fight and when your first fight happens.

  1. Combat is confusing. There is whole lot of stuff happening all at once and if you are just a trigger puller it is simple. If you are a leader it is more complex.  Not only do leaders have to pay attention to themselves, they have to watch all the trigger pullers and tell them where to go and what to shoot at.  A good leader is generally more at risk than those he is leading.  There is a reason that good armies historically have high losses among combat leaders.  That held true for the Romans and it holds true today.
  2. It is difficult to determine where fire is coming from unless it passes very close, you see the rounds impact the ground, or best of all you can see the rocket coming at you.
  3. Direct fire (rifles & Machine Guns) is easier to deal with than indirect fire (mortars &artillery) because you can generally engage those responsible for direct fire.
  4. Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. It is what keeps you alive and on your toes, even when nobody is shooting at you. It is a cliché but the trick is to not let fear rule you.  If you are someone who has no fear in combat I want you as far away from me as possible because you are probably going to do something stupid.  The same is true for those that let their fear rule them.
  5. If you can keep your head, react where necessary, and think when you have the time, you will be ok. Remember, it is not the bullet with your name on it you have to worry about, it is the one labeled “to whom it may concern.”

    The Modern Battlefield.

    The Modern Battlefield – Ad Dawr, Iraq in 2004

  6. The modern battlefield is empty, you may see the guy to your left and right but not much beyond that. Post-collapse, don’t expect people who are going to fight you to suddenly start standing ranks and firing volleys. The battlefield then, whether your backyard or a mall parking lot, will seem pretty empty too and it will be a lonely place for the mentally unprepared.

Lastly, the only way to know how you will act in combat is when it happens.  All the training and simulation in the world may mentally prepare but a 20 year soldier with no combat experience is just as much an emotional virgin in their first firefight as is a private straight out of basic training.  You will know how you react 10 seconds after you realize someone is shooting at you.  I cannot give you any more advice than that.  I know how I reacted, and I know how my fellow soldiers reacted, beyond that circle of comrades, I cannot say.  If you are lucky, you will never have to find out.  If the SHTF, you probably will and the time to start preparing yourself to fight, both mentally and physically, is before it is absolutely necessary.

 

Hack for packing your BOB and/or GOTH bag.

I have a vacuum sealer that I use for food storage. I also use it to vacuum pack individual clothing items and other stuff that I don’t want to get wet that are in my pre-packed bags. I actually started doing this while in the Army because while the army gives you a wet-weather bag to line your ruck with, that thing always leaks somewhere.
I started out using ziploc freezer bags when I was a private and I still carry some but since I just keep my BOB/GOTH bags packed and don’t use the stuff in it unless it is time to rotate I vacuum pack all the clothes and have made some individual meal packs as well. This helps to keep the bag organized and also means that the clothes will not get musty if some dampness seeps into the ruck (I keep my bag in my basement).

A pair of vacuum packed socks

A pair of vacuum packed socks

The Aluminum Foil Cookpot: An Experiment

I have been fairly critical of the old, aluminum foil cookpot idea in several recent posts.  In honor of that I decided to build one and try it out to see how it works and let you guys know how it goes.   Given that most mini-kits are fairly small and if you are smart you will not rely on a foil cookpot in your BOB or GOTH kits I used a 1 foot square piece of standard Reynolds brand aluminum foil.  I decided not to use the heavy duty foil for two reasons; the biggest was that heavy duty foil folds like crap and the second is that it is much bulkier than standard foil.  After all, the point is to try and fit this foil into a mini-kit such as the infamous Altoids tin.

My 1' x 1' piece of foil

My 1′ x 1′ piece of foil

My finished cookpot

My finished cookpot

I picked a 1 foot square because that is big enough to make a small container or to wrap a fish in without being so bulky that it forces you remove something else from your kit to fit the foil in.  I note, that I do not have foil in my mini kit, I just think I would rather a have a few extra fish hooks or sinkers in my kit than some foil that is of dubious value to begin with.

I managed to fold my foil into a reasonably water tight cookpot shape that is approximately 5” long by 2” wide by 1.5” deep.

The cookpot holds right at half a cup of water.  For experiments sake I decided to cook the water over my camp stove, which uses butane.  Because I was afraid the stove would melt the aluminum I only turned it on halfway.

It took about 5 minutes for the water to start boiling and I let it boil for a little over 30 seconds, which is the minimum recommended time for sterilization of impure water.  Shortly after I stared to cook the water the cookpot started to leak a little.  That could be because of a bad folding technique or because where the aluminum bends it will tend to get weaker anyway.  Once I let the water boil I turned off the gas and let the cookpot stand for a few seconds so the foil would cool enough for me to pick it up and pour it back into my measuring cup.  Between leakage and boiling off I lost roughly an eighth of a cup of my water.  I would guess that was mostly leakage.

Post-use damage to the cookpot

Post-use damage to the cookpot

After I poured the water out the cookpot was inspected for damage.  There is a spot on the bottom as well as places on both sides where the aluminum started to melt.  There is a slight tear on the bottom from the ties of my stove.  I would assume that in a survival situation where you don’t have a stove it will not only take longer for the water to boil but you would have to put the cookpot directly on flames or hot coals to get the water to boil, which would make removing the cookpot a challenge in itself since if you have this in your mini kit you don’t have asbestos gloves with you and the cookpot is to flimsy to be picked up with a multi-tool.  Lastly, you can get at most a cup’s worth of water from a cookpot like this, which does not even meet the requirements for one person for one day.

Canteens with cups

Canteens with cups

In summation, theoretically the survival cookpot fabricated out of aluminum foil sounds like a great idea and in a life or death situation it is better than nothing, given sufficient planning even for a mini-kit, this is a poor solution at best.  The cookpot itself seriously lacks anything resembling durability and the amount of drinkable water you get for the effort expended is laughable to say the least.  I would recommend incorporating some sort of water filtration method into your mini-kit, a bottle of iodine pills to use to purify the water in your cookpot for instance.  Even better, make sure you always have a water bottle with integrated cup with you such as a canteen and canteen cup or Nalgene bottle and cup.

The results of this experiment (done under controlled conditions no less) have not changed my mind that a foil cookpot is essentially eyewash, like airport security, something that may make you feel better but doesn’t materially do anything except provide an illusion of usefulness.  If anyone else has had a different experience please let me know in the comments.

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