The single most important thing on any camping trip – more important than a good tent, a warm sleeping bag or decent weather – is a cup of steaming hot tea in the morning. Indeed, on any given Sunday morning across the country’s campsites, if you listen carefully you can actually hear faint mews of hungover, damp and smelly campers crying ‘tea… please… anyone’. So any new invention which provides a safe way of making a cup of the good stuff without having to leave the warmth of your sleeping bag deserves a bit of fanfare.
Trekmates have the exclusive UK licence for a system which uses a chemical reaction between a sachet of ‘secret ninja stuff*’ and water to create an intense heat for up to an hour. The secret ninja stuff sits inside a large teabag, which in turn is kept inside a waterproof pouch. To make things steamy, you simply remove the teabag from its pouch, stick it into the green mug and add 100ml of water – any water, clean or dirty. The teabag then takes 20 seconds to start reacting at which point it soaks up all the water and starts bubbling away.
To make your food or drink hot, you then place the stainless steel beaker inside the green mug, pour in your cold beverage and seal on the lid. Oh, then amuse yourself for a few minutes watching steam rise like some sort of Hogwartian magic.
The whole flask is covered by a neoprene cosy (the one pictured isn’t the finished item) which protects your hand from the heat and makes sure the energy goes to your food.
I’ve used the flameless cooking flask on a number of occasions now and am dead impressed. I’ve warmed up some delicious Look What We Found Chicken Soup within a couple of minutes, and then kept it hot for well over half an hour as I forgot about it and played frisbee.
I’ve also made coffee – the flameless cooking flask is perfect for this because it will get water to around 90C, which I’ve read is about perfect for coffee-making.
The less drowsy amongst our readers might now doubt the Flameless flask’s ability to make a proper cup of tea since it doesn’t boil. Well, I just tested that. I filled the stainless beaker up with cold water and popped in a Tetley teabag. After 6 minutes I had a perfectly good (by campsite standards) cup of tea. I wouldn’t have served it at the Ritz, but I’d be glad of it at 8am on a wet Sunday morning. I tried my luck with another full beaker of cold water, but alas I think I asked too much and ended up with a tepid tea ten minutes later. The results are much better if you go for two small cups of tea and use less cold water.
The Flameless cooking flask is safe, compared to other camping cooking options. If you take a barbeque into your tent, you’ll die. A stove in your tent; you’ll die. An open fire in your tent; you’ll die. An electric kettle in your tent; come on… man up!
Once the initial bit of reaction water is soaked up by the ninja teabag, and the lid is clamped on, you can knock the flask over and not suffer spillage. I did wonder whether there’d be a dangerous pressure build-up from the heating soup/tea but the lid seemed to let out the pressure without leaking.
Using the flameless flask at a recent social camping ‘do’ it received a lot of interest from people with kids. Everything from warming baby-milk to safety in the tent was mentioned, which can only be a bonus.
Cost wise, the flask itself and the initial batch of 3 heatpacks is £20. A further set of 7 heatpacks is £10. So, this isn’t a bargain product. In fact, it’s kind of expensive, so it’ll be suitable for more as an ‘occassional’ use piece of kit. Mind you, I suppose that for everything else except the morning cup of tea you would be up and about and able to fire up a stove.
*The secret ninja stuff is quicklime, or calcium oxide. When it has reacted, you end up with calcium hydroxide, which is a non-toxic substance used widely in the food industry, so disposal is harmless and biodegradable.
SUMMARY: This is a very interesting alternative to cooking with a gas stove or fire. I’m genuinely impressed by how easy and clean it has been to use. It’s very lightweight and rugged, so perfect for short, one-man adventures, but also has a wider appeal to families or the terminally lazy. The only caveat would be the price of replacement heatpacks. Hopefully, as sales increase for Trekmates, this price will come down.