Large Stainless Steel Cup
One really handy piece of equipment to have on hand is a large stainless steel cup. It serves a number of purposes. Obviously you could pour water or coffee into it to drink which is a nice convenience but it can serve other more important purposes as well.
A stainless steel cup can also serve as a cooking vessel. This is why you specifically want one that is large. It can be used for cooking in much the same way that a steel pot would be. Not everybody would think to heat a cup over the fire directly but it works great. You just need to be careful not to burn your mouth or your hand. Let it cool down first.
Purify Water by Boiling
This also means that if you carry a cup you have an effective way to purify water. A steel cup and a fire are basically all you need for water purification. This isn’t as limited as using a filter or purification tablets. A cup can be used an unlimited number of times. It will basically last indefinitely. A pot and a canteen can also be used to boil water. This is assuming that the canteen is metal and doesn’t contain any plastic or flammable components.
SAFETY TIP - This shouldn’t need to be said but here goes. Obviously, don’t attempt to boil water in a canteen while the top is closed. This would be incredibly dangerous as it will almost certainly explode.
A cup is smaller than a pot and easier to fit in a smaller pack. Ideally you would have a cup, a pot, and a canteen. If you are traveling light you might only bring the cup. A pot is going to give you the same functionality as a cup but with larger capacity. A canteen would be a little bit more difficult to cook with but makes it easier to carry water with you while you are on the move. A cup isn’t useful for carrying water longer distances.
Cooking / Water Boiling Vessels:
- Large stainless steel cup - smallest
- Stainless steel pot - largest, can heat the most up at one time
- Stainless steel canteen - medium size, can carry water on the move
Tips and Things to Watch Out For
Here are a few things to keep in mind. When you heat a cup over a fire there may be some discoloration. This is normal. You do however need to make sure that you have a cup that is OK to heat over a fire. If it is 100% steel, you should be OK. Also, make sure it is a single wall cup. Also, it helps to have something with a detachable handle as the cup will get really hot when heated over a fire.
You will NOT be able to heat the following:
- Cups with a plastic outer layer
- Cups with a plastic inner layer like a thermos
- Anything with a vacuum seal or any type of double wall
- Cups with a plastic skin that protects from corrosion
- Anything with flammable parts
- Tin mugs that are painted to imitate enamel
- Anything that is painted
If you do have something with a vacuum seal or a double wall, it is not recommended to just punch a hole in the wall. It may have other things inside like plastic or foam. A hole would also allow moisture to get inside which is going to end up being messy in the long run. It will also start to smell bad.
Which Large Stainless Steel Cup to Buy?
We would recommend making sure you get a good cup so that you don’t have to worry about anything. It doesn’t generally cost much to get something of good quality and you will get a lot of use out of it. Here are two good cups that we could recommend. The first is a stainless steel cup made by GSI and sold by EMS HERE. This is a great deal. It is a really simple basic cup. It is solid and durable. People tend to like it but it is a tiny bit on the heavy side. You could also get the titanium version if you want to save on weight but it tends to cost more. You can find a titanium cup made by MSR at EMS HERE .
If you want something a little more fancy/pretty looking, you can get this Falcon Enamelware cup. It is heavy weight steel with thick enamel. It comes in a few different colors. It is definitely on the heavier side and it isn’t as durable since the enamel can break. It still remains functional if the enamel is damaged but it isn’t something that I would consider durable. You can find it HERE. It is a nice cup but it isn’t the most practical thing available. It is functional and it can be used to boil water or whatever else you might need. So, it does work fine but it isn’t as optimal of a choice as the GSI or MSR cups mentioned above. If you do want something enamel, this particular cup is the one to get.
Metal cups are often made of other materials besides steel. Titanium is a great alternative whereas tin and aluminum are not as great in my opinion. There is a great article comparing steel, titanium, and aluminum HERE.
Titanium is stronger than aluminum and lighter than steel. It has been noted as the lightest cookware material you can get before sacrificing strength. It is slightly harder to cook with titanium pots due to heat distribution but for cups and for boiling water it is great.
Another common material commonly used for cups is tin. Many are made of pure tin. Some tin cups are enamel coated and are also somewhat popular. Personally, I would recommend steel if you do want an enamel cup. Actually, I would recommend steel either way, that or titanium.
You can find cups made of aluminum. They are very light. They don’t seem to be as popular as steel. They do tend to be inexpensive but steel cups can be inexpensive too. I personally would prefer steel unless you really, really need to save a few extra grams of weight.
Aluminum may react with certain liquids and is oftentimes coated with a thin protective layer of resin. None of this is comforting. I would recommend either steel or titanium.
Steel Cups with Enamel
These look and feel good. They do have some disadvantages. The enamel can be chipped or broken. They tend to be heavy. You wouldn’t want to take one off the fire and directly drop it into the snow or cold water. This can also cause the enamel to crack. For all of the disadvantages of enamel cups, they are still very practical, not the most practical but still pretty good. If you want a nice cup and don’t mind the shortcomings, this might be the choice for you.