A lighter (and cheaper) 24 hour backup kit

One of my pages describes a "backup kit" for use if I'm stranded overnight. I designed it to serve two or three people so it's a bit heavy, which might discourage you from creating a backup kit for your own use. Here's a lighter alternative that uses a homemade "billy can" instead of a commercially made cook pot, so it's also cheaper.  


The container for the backup kit is an empty coffee can with a plastic lid. The can measures 4 inches (10 cm) across by 5 1/2 inches (14 cm) tall. It doesn't hold as much as my regular backup kit (I had to leave out the survival blanket and one peanut butter container) but there's plenty of room for both food and gear. There's a real weight savings: my old steel cook pot weights 10.0 ounces (283 grams) but the coffee can with lid and handle (more on the last below) weighs 3.7 ounces (105 grams). Filled, the coffee can backup kit weighs 16.1 ounces (456 gm).

The reason to use a metal can is so you can boil water to purify it, and so you can prepare hot food and coffee or tea while stranded.  Which means that you want a can that doesn't have a plastic lining; instead the inside should look metallic, as in the photo to the right.


You'll need a wire bail on the can, so you can lift the can or suspend it over a fire. (And once the bail is hot, you'll use a stick or folded bandanna to lift, right?) Because this is a fairly small billy can, "for emergency use only," a lightweight bail (such as picture hanging wire) will do nicely. Here I used a piece of copper wire about 18 inches (50 cm) long, because I happened to have some lying around. As you'll see, you want the bail to be flexible.


Most billy can bails are attached using two holes at opposite sides of the top of the can, but in this case you want four: two holes about half an inch (1.3 cm) apart, about half an inch below the lid, and the same thing on the other side of the can. Thread one end of the wire out a hole and back in the other hole, then twist to secure. Do the same with the other end of the wire, on the other side of the can. Now you have a bail that doesn't interfere with the plastic lid you'll use to keep the contents in place. Instead, you fold the bail down into the can, on top of the contents, before snapping on the plastic lid.

In case my instructions didn't quite make sense, I'll add a close-up of how the bail is wired to the can. By the way, filled to the top ring in the can wall, your new container holds about three cups (700 ml), so this also makes a cheap, lightweight container for one-person cookery on the trail. If you're cooking for several people, a billy can made from a No. 10 can works well and is also very light. Be sure to use a heavier gauge wire on a No. 10 can; it holds about four times as much as my coffee can example, so the pull on the bail will be four times as great.