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.