I’ve got more outdoor cooking gear than you can shake a stick at. I keep thinking that the next bit of kit I pick up will in somehow work better than the gear I’ve already got. I’ve used everything from Mil Spec gear to high tech titanium and light weight aluminum. I’ve got stainless kit’s that nest together and even a metal spork to round it all out. But I still haven’t found my favorite camp cook kit. But I think this billy can is as close as I’ve come so far. A billy can is simply a deep metal pot that can be hung over, or propped up next to a fire to cook with. Most commonly made out of old coffee cans, these are a tinkerers dream. They can be rigged up from any size durable tin can with any handy bit of wire to use as a hanger. They’re simple and versatile. It can cook your soup, stews, rice and pasta. They’ll boil water to purify, and for your tea and coffee. And you can even chunk up your meat and cook it diced up in the bottom. They also serve well as both a cup and a bowl. I’ve always like the billy can, but I’ve never been satisfied with any I’ve made. They’ve either been too bulky and heavy, or too small to be useful. But the main gripe I’ve had with the billy cans I’ve made is their seams. Just about every tin can has a seam down the side, and a seam where the bottom is put on. Overheated, these seams can fail and create leaks and cracks. I feel that any piece of kit I’ll carry without a spare should be as tough as possible. Tin can billy’s just don’t cut it for me. You can imagine how excited I was when I found this stainless can at my local Target.
For about $5, this stainless coffee canister makes the perfect billy can. It’s stainless, making for increased durability and clean up. Also, it’s seamless. That ensures it won’t crack under heat or pressure and leave you with a useless scrap of metal. Target currently carries three sizes of this, the largest of which being enormous. I bought the ‘cofee’ can size. The inner diameter is slightly larger than a standard Nalgene bottle, allowing you to nest your Nalgene inside the can in your pack. The can will carry 28 oz of water easily. That’s plenty enough for meals on the trail. And the lid to the can is large and deep enough to be used for a cup. The lid can be turned upside down and stored on the bottom, this allowing you to slip your Nalgene bottle inside the billy in your pack. The cap also helps speed up boiling and cooking time, thus getting the most out of your fire. I made the wire hanger from a coat hanger. Remember to remove the zinc coating that comes on most hangers if you use that wire. Stainless wire and thin cable or chain are also good ideas for hangers. If you use a thin chain, as small "S" hook on an additional bit of chain could make for a handy hanger over a fire.
I’ve cooked a few meals with the stainless ‘coffee’ billy. Ramen noodles cook quickly and easily. Boiling water is a breeze, and rice and pasta are a snap. Often, the food you plan to cook on the trail can be carried stored in the billy can. For about $5, this billy can is one of the most versatile and useful cooking tools on the trail and around the camp. These are easy and cheap enough to make. You can have one with your emergency gear, and one in the car. They are especially nice to have along in the winter in snowy climates. Along with a fire kit, the billy can can melt snow for potable water. And lastly, there’s as satisfying simplicity to the billy can. And simplicity is really the nice part about this billy can.