Pack 46 has stopped using paper or styrofoam products for eating at campouts and uses eating kits (sometimes called “mess kits”) and providing water to refill water bottles at campouts for several great reasons:
It’s greener. A Scout is a good steward of natural resources. Not using styrofoam or paper plates and cups saves space in landfills (you can’t recycle paper plates with food waste on them) and cuts down on environmental damage from their production (especially when it comes to styrofoam). Sames goes for disposable plastic utensils.
It’s cheaper. A Scout is Thrifty. Every year, the pack spends a lot of money on disposable plates and cups. That cost is passed on to the pack’s families. Not only do they have to be purchased and transported to the campsite, but they have to be bagged up and hauled out as trash, too. That all goes double for bottled water. At most campouts with bottled water, well over half of it gets wasted. Even cheap bottled water is more expensive than gasoline (even at today’s gas prices!) and creates a lot of waste packaging that has to be hauled out (even if it’s going to be recycled).
When camping with Pack 46, every member of your family should have an “eating kit” to eat and drink out of. Many of you when you hear “mess kit” will either think, “huh?” or “You mean those crappy aluminum things I had when I was a kid that screwed together and you lost most of it the first time you used it?” We’re NOT talking about those!
A modern eating kit can be as simple or fancy as you want, but all it needs to contain is:
- Bowl (or plate)
- A bowl can usually serve double duty (in case there’s chili or oatmeal — but not together!), but a plate will do. You can use a cheap plastic bowl from Walmart that costs less than $1 and will last for years. You can also use a semi-disposable container (such as Gladware) or even a Frisbee!
- Spoon (and/or fork or spork)
- A spoon will do the job most of the time, but you may want a fork (or spork). You can use the ones you use to eat with at home. A lexan camping spoon can be had for under $2 at your local outdoor store (maybe even Walmart or Target) and will last until it’s lost. Spoons are easier to keep clean than forks (see below).
- An insulated plastic mug is great for coffee or hot chocolate, even oatmeal or chili, too. They can be had for cheap at nearly any store or gas station. If you only ever drink water, you can skip a mug and just drink out of your water bottle.
- Water Bottle
- You can buy a fancy stainless steel water bottle or plastic water bottle or just re-use a “disposable” water bottle (or Gatorade or soda bottle). The BPA-free Lexan Nalgene bottles are easy to clean, hold a lot of water, and are nigh indestructible, too. They’re also not too expensive and last for years.
- The pack will provide containers of water for drinking water to refill your water bottles (but please bring them filled to start with!).
- First, only get as much food as you plan to eat, then eat it all! If you’re not sure you’ll like it, ask for a taste or get just a small amount then go back for more later, if you want.
- Scrape or wipe with a paper towel any remaining food remenants from your dishes into the trash. The rule of thumb is don’t leave any chunks.
- Tub #1 will have warm soapy water and a scrubby. Scrub your plate/bowl/spoon/cup clean!
- Tub #2 will have cool clean water. Rinse all the soapy residue off your plate/bowl/spoon/cup.
- Tub #3 will have cool water with a bit of bleach in it. Drop your plate/bowl/spoon/cup for 30 seconds or so in this tub to disinfect it.
- Use a towel/bandanna/etc. to wipe your plate/bowl/spoon/cup dry, or hang it up somewhere around your campsite until it’s dry. Don’t put it away wet!
- Once it’s dry, put it in a storage bag or box to keep it clean until you need to use it again.
A great article expanding on some of the above examples (albeit from a more Boy Scouts-oriented perspective) can be found over at the Scoutmaster Blog website. Ignore the parts about cooking pots and frying pans when it comes to Cub Scouts, but bookmark that article for reference in a few years when your Cub Scout moves up to Boy Scouts.
Cleaning Up Your Eating Kit
The thing about eating kits is that we have to wash them after we use them — so we can RE-use them again!
The Pack will set up a washing station so that Cub Scouts, siblings, and parents can wash their own dishes. It’s fun!
Here is the process:
There will be a trash bag/container and three tubs.