How To Make An Ultralight Backpacking Pot Cozy

pot cozy

A pot cozy is an essential part of the ultralight backpacker’s kitchen. This simple DIY project can help you to conserve cooking fuel, simplify and automate your trail cooking (and cleaning) and provide a convenient carrying case for your cook pot and accessories.

Ultralight Backpacking Pot Cozy DIY Instructions

Materials

pot cozy

Materials to make a pot cozy

  • Cook pot or mug*
  • Auto Sun Shade made from Reflectix (looks like metallic bubble wrap)
  • Duct tape
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Permanent Marker

*In this demo I’m using a “Walmart” Grease Pot, an ultralight, inexpensive alternative to titanium cook pots. It weighs just 4 ounces, holds approx 1.2 liters and costs only $7-$10. It is available from Walmart, Kmart, Target and Amazon.com

Part 1 – Making The Pot Cozy Sidewall

pot cozy

Making The Sidewall

1. Measure the distance from the bottom of the pot to the top lip.

2. Cut a strip of sunshade material that is the height of your measurement and as wide as the circumference of your pot plus a little extra.

3. Wrap the strip around the pot and trim the overlap so that the two ends but up against each other. The fit should be snug, but not tight.

4. Wrap a strip of duct tape around the two ends to connect them, forming a cylinder.

Tip: I use one of the existing seamed edges of the sunshade for the top opening. This makes it easier for the pot to slide in and out without snagging and prevents wear and tear. An alternative method is to protect the top edge with a strip of duct tape.

Part 2 – Making The Pot Cozy Base

pot cozy

Making the base

1. With your pot inside the cozy cylinder, place it on the sunshade and trace a circle.

2. Cut the circle out. This will be the base of your pot cozy.

3. Leaving the pot inside the cozy, turn it upside down and attach the base to the side using small strips of tape, starting at opposite sides.

4. Continue attaching the base with small strips of duct tape all around the edge. Overlap each strip slightly to create an airtight seal.

Tips: Once the base is securely attached using small strips of duct tape you can wrap a single long strip around the exposed edges to prevent the tape from coming up. Your cook pot should now be able to easily slide in and out of your pot cozy.

Part 3 – Making The Pot Cozy Lid

pot cozy

Making the lid

1. Cut a strip from the sun shade that is 1.5″ tall and as wide as the circumference of the cozy with the pot inside, plus a little extra. Wrap it around the cozy and trim the overlap.

2. Tape the two ends with duct tape, forming a cylinder. This will be the side of your lid.

3. With the side of the lid in place turn the pot and cozy upside down and trace and cut another circle to make the top of the lid.

4. Attach the top of the lid to the side using small strips of duct tape like the base.

Tip: As with the base, you can use a long strip of duct tape around the cozy lid to prevent the tape edges from coming up during heavy use. Your lid should fit snugly enough around your pot and cozy that it doesn’t come off by itself, but not so tight it’s hard to put on.

Congratulations, you made a pot cozy!

pot cozy

Completed ultralight backpacking pot cozy

Depending on the size of your pot your pot cozy should weight between 1.5 – 3 ounces and should last for thousands of miles.

A pot cozy will help you conserve fuel (and thus weight) and will provide a handy method of storing your cook pot and other cooking accessories (like lighters, alcohol stoves, camp towls, etc.) inside of your pack.

You can also use your pot cozy to comfortably hold a pot full of steaming hot food and eat your dinner without burning your hands.

How to use your pot cozy for cooking

There are two ways you can use your pot cozy when cooking meals on the trail:

Cooking Method #1 – Boil water in your cook pot, add dried food to the water, allow to simmer for a minute or two (if necessary), then remove the pot from the stove and place it inside your pot cozy for 15 minutes. Your food will continue to “cook” while you set up camp (or wait impatiently). When you are done you will have a hot meal waiting.

Cooking Method #2 – This is known as “freezer bag cooking”. Boil water in your cook pot, pour boiling water into a freezer ziploc baggy with dried food, seal the baggy and put it back inside your empty pot (removed from heat), and finally place the pot (with baggy and food inside) into your pot cozy and let it set for 15 minutes.

You can eat your food directly from the baggy (kept inside the pot cozy so you don’t burn yourself) and you won’t have to clean your pot afterward. This method works better with some foods than others (good for soft foods like mashed potatoes, pasta, cous cous… not so good for tough grains that require extended simmering or lots of time to rehydrate, like rice).

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44 Responses to “How To Make An Ultralight Backpacking Pot Cozy”

  1. If you at a JetBoil user and are lazy, REI sells an insulated bottle holder that fits a JetBoil pot (solo version) very nicely. $13.95 and 3.8 oz.

    http://www.rei.com/product/770795

  2. Instead of buying a window shade, you can buy the same metal bubble wrap by the foot at any hardware store. Much cheaper. Also, instead of duct tape, use metal tape.

  3. A year ago I made a cozy for this same pot using Reflectix insulation designed for houses. The sides were made about a inch longer than the sides of the pot. The top and bottom were made the same as the diameter of the pot. This allows the sides to overlap the top and bottom. I did not use tape to seal the top and bottom. Metal foil duct tape was used to tape the main pot cozy. The knob was kept and a hole made in the cozy top keeping it in place. Performance is quite good. Another cozy was made to fit the bag used in common freeze dried dinners from the same material. That has been highly useful keeping the food very hot. Cut off the bottom half of a gallon plastic milk jug and it makes a great case and doubles as a sink or container for filtering water. I was fortunate to have all the materials from other projects.

  4. Pot cozy’s are a great way to shave ounces on fuel carried and use one regularly on my trips. My only concern is with cooking in a freezer bag. The normal freezer bags start to break down around 195 degrees and are not designed to stand the high temperatures of boiling water, (212 degrees). I’m not sure of the exact amount of carcinogens or chemicals that leech into the food, but the convenience of not washing a pot isn’t worth the risk IMHO.

    Although I have read that they make microwave safe bags, I haven’t ever used them to cook in myself. If you are going to use the cook in bag method, do so with caution and make sure you get the bags designed to withstand heat.

  5. Since initial experiments and use of Reflectix I’ve since found some windshield reflectors which use a lighter material with foil on one side and thin insulation material on the other. Reflectix is light but still weighs more than twice as much as the single sided stuff. I second the metal tape. The raw edges of Reflectix can also be sealed with an iron–you can get a nice 1/16 to 1/8 sealed edge with practice.
    Just to tease the JetBoil users, my whole cooking system–pot, lid, pot cozy, stove, wind shield, spoon, lighter and stuff sack weighs 3.8 oz.

    • Still Lookin: “windshield reflectors which use a lighter material with foil on one side and thin insulation material on the other”
      YES! Just found this exact reflector at DollarTree, brought it home and was getting out my scissors & crayons & glue when I thought I should do a quick search….
      Anyone – my question is : Foil in, or foil out?!?
      Thanks in advance

      • @Steve West: I used the bubble kind for my pot cozys (which reflect in both directions) but I’m pretty sure with that kind you will want the foil part facing in so that it will reflect the heat coming off the pot back at it.

  6. Still Lookin!!!
    Can you give a detailed breakdown of how you get your cook system to such a light weight? Thanks if you can!

  7. No cozy required. For 1000s of miles now, I’ve simply added my mac & cheese noodles to the pot before I start heating the water. Stir once or twice to loosen the noodles as the water gets warm. Take the pot off the stove at the first sign of boiling. Let sit for a few minutes, add seasoning and tuna, sit some more, then eat. Noodles get cooked though and food is still hot. I don’t believe there is much difference in fuel consumption.

  8. Thanks for getting me off my but and trying something new. I have never used a pot cozy but decided to make one and will give it a try. If I dont like it Im only out about $10 and 1 hr of my time. I wasnt doing anything anyway.

  9. My cozy method.

    Put pot of hot water/food in a supermarket plastic bag and close. Wrap in bandanna and put in you shelter as a wind break. You can cover with extra clothing, sleeping bag/quilt or duff if you need a longer cooking time in cold weather.

    The plastic bag contains the steam, spillage, (soot if you cook on a wood fire) and reduces draft.

  10. Erik,
    Nice one! thanks for sharing.
    I always look for out-of-the-box materials to make backpacking gear. Thanks for the idea.

    Edgar

  11. I am curious about the stove Eric. I looked at the stove at wal mart like you said but they seem too big and bulky. It was a grease pot like you stated but it was 1.5 liter. Really light wieght but just bulky.

    • @Scott The grease pot you saw may have been a larger version. The grease pots I am used to are approx. 1 liter. They are about 5.5″ wide, 3.5″ tall with top knob is removed, and weigh about 4 ounces.

  12. Erik,

    I think I just discovered a nifty little DIY project.

    But 1 question – So how do you make it adjustible to fit different size pots? For example, instead of taping the cylinder together, could you use velcro and put a wide strip to give some ability to make the cylinder fit different diameter pots? and if so, how would you make an adjustable base?

    thanks!

    • @Susan I just make them custom fit the pot that they are going to be used with. Instead of trying to make it adjustable I would just make another pot cozy if you have another pot.

  13. This is a very neat idea. It seems to provide a “simmer.” Have you tried it on larger pots? Say like ours: http://www.pastprimitive.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=60&product_id=70

    I’d be interested in knowing how that worked for you.

  14. Erik-
    Getting ready for our very 1st backpacking experience-Yellowstone for 5 days-and I’m curious about your zip-lock bag method. Does a ziplock REALLY not melt with boiling water added to it?

    I have have watched and enjoyed your 5,000 calorie food pack-thanks for the ideas!

    • @Karen: Ziplock bags won’t melt when hot water is added (make sure you put it inside your pot cozy before adding water because it will get really hot). I have heard that adding boiling water to a plastic bag may cause some chemicals to leach out of the plastic into the food. I’m not sure how true that is or if the effect is anything more than negligible, but that’s something you may want to consider. For me, I’m willing to risk a little cancer for the convenience of not having to do dishes ;)

  15. I have found that when I cook with the freezer bag, the pasta has a plastic taste that isn’t there when I just put the pasta in the water and then the pot in the cozy. Anybody else think that?

    • @Denny: Could be that some stuff is leaching from the bag into the food due to the heat. I have heard about plastic water bottles leaching chemicals into water when exposed to direct sunlight, so I imagine that plastic baggies might have the same problem.

  16. Don’t mean to be technical but freezerbags and water bottles are too different kinds of plastic. The bags are made of high density polyethelene, the same plastic as milk bottles or Nalgene bottles. It’s very safe stuff, that’s why it’s approved for food storage. Disposable water bottles are generally made of polyethelene terephthalate (PET or PETE)which contain additional chemicals. They might very well leach chemicals at high temperatures. I don’t worry about frezer bag cooking because the plastic in the bags is benign.

  17. Mine comes in at 0.5 oz

  18. Wrapping a cozy around ones cook pot is all good and well, except I use mine to drink my tea from (having recently tossed my old trusty 20oz. Aladen Therma-Serve double walled wide bodied travel mug that weighed a whopping 9oz.)!

    My solution for this dilemma costs under a dollar in the form of a legal size bubbleope.
    Mind you, they make smaller ones but for my purposes this works just dandy, in tandem with a ziploc freezer bag.

    To help prevent burning my fingers I situate the zipper/ food bag at the mouth of the bubble bag, add prescribed amount of hot water, zip shut and let slide into bubbelope.
    Fold the bubbelope under itself and let sit 10 minutes. The bubbelope is now easy to handle (won’t burn your hands!)

    Weight? About a gram.

    As of now, my kitchen consist of:

    Evernew Titanium .9L. pot w lid
    Trail Designs Caldera Cone
    Homemade pop can stove
    Legal size Bubblope
    Lexan spoon
    Bic mini lighter

    Total weight: 7.5 oz

    As for fuel weight, having owned a pocket rocket I know that an empty fuel cell weighs about 4 oz. That’s 4 oz. dead weight you have to lug out of the back country with you. Denatured alcohol travels nicely in a 16oz. plastic water bottle from the mini mart that weighs in at 1.5 oz.

    Keep it real. Keep it light. keep it real light!

    Happy trails!

  19. Freezer bags are a great tip. We have been using the freezer bag method for clean up free, cream of Wheat, oatmeal and couscous for a couple of years now. We have never had a bag break and enjoy not having to worry about clean up.

  20. Freezer bags are not designed to handle boiling water, just near boiling water. If you use boiling water it be cause of off taste

    Also check the Dollar Tree Stores for the insuluted windshield mat for $1. WallMart versions will run about $8 (better quaility)

    The grease pot you show is sold at KMarts, have never seen them for sell in a WalMart. WalMart does a sell a pot by Imusa that is often called a greese pot but looks more like a coffee pot with a handle

  21. Where do you get economical, accurate scales to measure these, and heavier items up to say 5# or so? Thanks

  22. There are oven and crockpot plastic bags that use twist ties to seal. Great if you don’t want to clean and are worried about leaching plastic. My only concern with using plastic bags, which I have before, is getting all the food particles out. It’s not light weight to be carrying around water soaked leftovers. My friends and I routinely sump our food where you add water to the left over food stuck to the pot and essentially lick it clean. It’s a little gross but you get all the food, some water, and then it’s way easier to wash and clean. You could “wash out” your plastic bag and empty contents in a cat hole but I prefer the slumping method.

    -AK
    Tumblr.wildirt.com

  23. Erik,
    What sort of fuel savings are we talking about when using the pot cozy?
    Thank you.

    • Alina N: The pot cozy provides a lot of fuel savings because you only need to run the stove long enough to boil water (about 5 minutes) and then transfer the food to the pot cozy for an additional 15 minutes where it continues to heat and rehydrate under it’s own heat. You can cut your fuel usage in half or more.

  24. I looked up the max temperature of Reflectix and the company website says 180 degrees F. A pot of boiling water put directly into the cozy will be about 212 degrees, if not more due to the metal being in direct contact with a flame just moments before. Does the Reflextix really hold up well using it for this purpose? I think it’s a great idea and I will be making one. I just never thought to use this stuff since it was bubble wrap plastic.

  25. Made a cozy for my pot last night. Used metal tape. Thanks for the instructions! Can’t wait to try out my new cooking system.

  26. Just wondering…has anyone tried using the Reflectix or Windshield mat to replace the piece of metal that comes with the MSR stoves (you place it underneath the stove to reflect heat back up and protect the ground)? That piece of metal gets ruined from being folded so many times and the center seam gets sharp. Please let me know!

  27. What would be the advantage of using Metal Tape? I made mine with duct tape …

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