The small packet reacted ferociously within seconds of adding water, an entertaining display of chemistry that soon began pumping out enough heat to cook a simple meal.
As my test of the Barocook flameless cooking system revealed, this novel addition to the pantheon of backcountry cooking options does work, but at a cost of both money and weight. Overall, it's more of a novelty than a go-to cook system, though it does have potential value for inside-the-tent use during severe weather, especially in winter conditions.
Here's how it works. The cook system consists of four components: an outer plastic container, an inner stainless steel pot that nests closely inside, a plastic lid that clamps down over the top, and a chemical packet.
|The Barocook system features an outer plastic container and inner cookpot that nest together. Photo: Matt Heid|
To operate the system, you remove the chemical packet from its wrapper and place it flat in the bottom of the outer container. You then pour a small amount of water over the packet (the empty wrapper serves as a measuring device for how much to add, including a fill line). Now quickly place the cook pot inside the container, seal the lid, and sit back and watch chemistry in action.
The packet quickly heats the water in the outer container to boiling, which creates steam that soon begins shooting out from under the edges of the lid. This sufficiently heats the overlying pot and its contents to near-boiling temperatures. The reaction lasts for roughly 10 minutes, by which point nearly all of the water in outer container has boiled away. Residual heat in the now swollen packet continues to produce warmth for several minutes longer.
|A tight-fitting plastic lid clamps to the sides of the cook system to effectively trap heat. Photo: Matt Heid|
Hot water is useful in and of itself for reconstituting dehydrated meals or making hot drinks, but I also tested the system's cooking ability with some quick-cooking macaroni pasta. You want to avoid removing the lid while heating is underway to trap maximal warmth, so I added the pasta to the cold water beforehand. Sure enough, the Barocook was able to adequately heat the water for long enough to cook the pasta.
Barocook systems comes in a range of different sizes and shapes (most are rectangular rather than round). I tested the BC-010 model; its 1-liter cookpot is one of their larger offerings.
Success aside, there are some significant drawbacks to Barocook that make it more of a novelty than a practical everyday solution on the trail. It's heavy—the model I tested weighs in at well over a pound (21 ounces). The cook system is relatively inexpensive (around $40) but you need a collection of expensive single-use chemical packets to use it, which run roughly $3 each (like this 5-pack on Amazon).
And then there are a few quirky issues. First, there's not a lot of space between the outer plastic container and inner cookpot. If you add even a little too much water to the outer container, boiling water will start squirting out from underneath the lid as the reaction unfolds—not particularly safe. Second, once all the water in the outer container has boiled away, the chemical packet still puts out substantial heat, which can actually deform the plastic container—you need to remember to take it within 20 minutes of cooking, an important task easily forgotten. (You can read more about the Barocook system on this FAQ page.)
Overall, the only potential applications I could think of where a Barocook might outperform a traditional cooker would be situations where you absolutely had to cook inside your tent due to extreme conditions (caught in a winter storm, say), when a Barocook would be a safer option than an open flame; or in very windy conditions that would make lighting or heating with a flame difficult to impossible. (Though even in both these cases, a self-contained cook system like those from JetBoil can be used with reasonable safety and success.)
Barocook is a Japanese product (with sometimes clunky English translation on its website) that can be found with some online searching in the U.S. Some Barocook products may become available in U.S. stores later this year.
“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.
Labels: Backpacking, Camping, Cooking, Food