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Reviews > Cook Gear > Cook Sets > GSI Outdoors Crossover Kitchen Kit > Test Report by Richard Lyon

GSI OUTDOORS CROSSOVER KITCHEN KIT
Test Series by Richard Lyon
Initial Report May 7, 2011
Field Report July 19, 2011
Long Term Report September 5, 2011

Cookset with nalgene
PERSONAL DETAILS and BACKPACKING BACKGROUND


Male, 65 years old
Height: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
Weight: 205 lb (91 kg)
Email address: montana DOT angler AT gmail DOT com
Home: Dallas, Texas USA

I've been backpacking for 45 years and regularly in the Rockies since 1986.  I do at least one weeklong trip every summer, and often take three-day trips.  I'm usually camping in alpine terrain, at altitudes 5000 to 10000 ft (1500 - 3000 m).  I prefer base camp backpacking, a long hike in with day trips from camp, but I do forced marches too.  Recently I've been actively reducing my pack weight, though I still usually include my favorite camp conveniences and always sleep in a floored tent.

INITIAL REPORT
May 7, 2011

PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer: GSI Outdoors, www.gsioutdoors.com
MSRP: $34.95 US
Warranty: None stated

GSI describes its Outdoors Crossover Kitchen Kit, which is listed on the Kitchen Sets and Tools tab of its website, as including “every utensil for any gourmet backpacking trip.”  The Crossover consists of eleven pieces for use in camp cooking and cleaning. (The items marked with an asterisk below are available individually from GSI.)

Cleaning itemsFOR CLEANING

A camp towel, 8.6 x 8.6 in (21.8 x 21.8 cm), which weighs 3/8 oz (10.6 g)

A plastic compact scraper, roughly 2.1 x 3.3 in (5.3 x 8.4 cm), weighing 5/8 oz (17.7 g)


A two-sided Teflon®-safe scrubbing pad, 3.5 x 3.5 in (8.9 x 8.9 cm), weighing 1/8 oz (3.5 g). This looks like a smaller version of a standard scrubbing pad.


A small eyedropper bottle made of soft plastic, 2.0 in (5.1 cm) tall and 0.7 in (1.8 cm) diameter, which GSI calls a soap dispenser.  This weighs 1/4 oz (7.1 g).


FOR COOKING

A pivot spatula,* 6.9 in (17.5 cm) long folded, 10.5 in (-- cm) when extended, weighing 1 ¼ oz (35.4 g)

A pivot spoon,* 6.5 in (16.5 cm) folded,  10.2 in (25.9 cm) extended, weighing 1.0 oz (28.3 g)


Pivot tongs,* 6.7 in (17.0 cm) folded, 8.0 in (20.3 cm) extended, weighing 1 3/8 oz (39.0 g)


A polyethylene cutting board, 6.6 x 3.1 in (16.8 x 7.9 cm), weighing 1 ¼ oz (35.4 g)Cooking items


A two-chamber spice container, made of hard plastic, 2.6 in (6.6 cm) tall, 1.1 in (2.8 cm) diameter, weighing 1 3/8 oz (39.0 g). The grey top screws over the top and the orange cap on the bottom shields a separate dispensing top with a half opening rather than small holes.  The two containers screw together.

A soft plastic oil bottle, 3.0 in (7.6 cm) tall and 1.0 in (2.5 cm) diameter, weighing ¾ oz (21.3 g).  


The eleventh piece is a black nylon storage sack, which weighs 1 5/8 oz (46.1 g).  It has two chambers.  On the inside of the top is a pocket secured by a hook-and-loop strip for the scrubbing pad and towel.  The other pieces stow in the larger, bottom side: scraper in a small pocket on the rear (unzippered) side; the spice container, eyedropper, and oil container in stretchy loops on the front side; and the other pieces in the middle.  Here’s a picture of the set inside the sack.  The back of the bag has a separate storage slot and two small D-rings, perhaps for threading a piece of twine through for securing at table level.  Contents are enclosed by means of a zipper with a loop pull. The lid has a small strip of mesh to allow some drying even when things are packed up.


Packed upWhen stowed the set measures 7.5 in (19.0 cm) across the back and 5.0 in (12.7 cm) high, and weighs in at 9 5/8 oz (273 g).

The Crossover Kit is advertised as part of GSI’s nFORM Crossover Technology, a design system that integrates use of many of the company’s kitchen-related products.  One consequence of this for Crossover Kit owners is that the stowed kit nests inside several cook pots sold by GSI.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

One reason I favor base camp backpacking trips is the opportunity for more than boil-and-serve or other dehydrated or freeze-dried food.  With a small titanium grill or the Fry Pan accessory for my Jetboil cooking system I try to include fresh food, especially meat and fish, in camp dinners.  The cooking components of the Crossover Kit appear to be well suited to this.  A chopping board and tongs are items I occasionally improvise and I look forward to using utensils designed for these purposes.  A spatula is always helpful, especially for a breakfast staple, pancakes.  Soup and stew are favorites, and the large spoon – sized more for stirring and serving than eating - should assist there.  While the oil bottle is identical to what I’ve used in the past, I really like the screw-together spice container, which should permit storage of two separate spices in a very small, easy-to-find container.

The soap dispenser is any old-style eyedropper, and the cleaning supplies (towel and pad) appear to be smaller versions of off-the-shelf products.  But I haven’t seen a scraper like the one in the Kit, and it’s a handy item to have for both food preparation and cleaning.

Pivot itemsThe pivot spoon, pivot spatula, and pivot tongs appear to be quite solid in either stored or extended position.  The handle of the spatula and spoon locks into place in either position, as does each of the two tong blades.  The photo at left shows the spatula extended, the spoon folded, and the tongs half-and-half. All that’s needed to change from one configuration to the other is to raise the end piece slightly, then pivot and lock. 

What makes this set appealing to me is its compact size and ingenious storage arrangement.  The stowed Kit is small enough to fit in any of my packs without dedicating a pocket for the purpose; if I bring an extra pot or bowl (which has been known to happen) I can stash the Kit inside.  Another design plus: I had no difficulty re-stowing the items in the sack.  Sometimes I cannot duplicate a factory fold or nesting arrangement after taking things out of a box.  While sometimes I need to manipulate the pivot items a bit to get the necessary overlap, so far I have not reached the point of irritation.

FIELD REPORT
July 17, 2011

FIELD CONDITIONS

I have used the Crossover Kitchen Kit on one backpacking trip and six day hikes, all but one in the Montana Rockies.  Day hikes have lasted from two to about eight hours.  Each hike, even the short ones, included lunch. All hikes took place in sunny or mostly sunny weather, with varying degrees of wind, at temperatures from 40 to 75 F (4-25 C).

In late June I participated in a five-day backcountry service trip along the Mid Creek Trail in the South Fork of the Flathead area of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana.  More good weather on this trip – no rain, and temperatures from just above freezing first thing in the morning to about 80 F (27 C) at lunchtime.  As the Forest Service had packed in our food and a kitchenful of cooking gear, I used the KIt mostly for lunch at the worksite and pre-breakfast snacks but did make use of a few of its components at dinner.

PERFORMANCE

The circumstances of my camping have somewhat limited my ability to give every piece of the Kit a full workout.  The pivot items served as auxiliary pieces on dinners during my service trip, and in each of their few uses all performed as they should.  Our dinners were one-pot meals, stews or pasta and the like, and a second large spoon was often handy for stirring the sauce.  We camped near a stream, which in most summers would have meant fried or sautéed trout as an appetizer, but extremely high water nixed any fishing. As a result the spatula was used only one morning, to flip pancakes, and the tongs not at all. 

All three pivot pieces are easy to assemble from storage to kitchen mode, and the locking mechanism has been secure in all practice at home and limited trail use.  These will be the focus for my Long Term Report period testing. 

I have good things to say about the other cooking pieces, all of which I’ve used on every hike.  The spice container is especially useful.  I underrated it in my Initial Report, by describing it as “two-container.”  In fact each end of the jar has two separate chambers, so this tiny item can store two cooking spices in addition to salt and pepper.  I put salt and pepper in one end, tarragon and summer savory (two spices I think particularly enhance simple soups) in the other, so each hiker in our group could personalize his or her soup at lunch.  At first there was an accident or two, with a diner not twisting the lid to permit dusting rather than pouring the spice, but a bit of trial and error resolved this issue. 

I’ve used the oil bottle for olive oil or (pre-mixed) vinaigrette salad dressing, for raw vegetables on day hike lunches.  Drops come out in a slow steady stream, and the top hasn’t come unscrewed.  I’ve had no leaks.  If I intend to change contents I’ve washed the bottle and top with soapy water and then rinsed it, and I’ve encountered no vinegary aftertaste after switching from olive oil to salad dressing.

I really like the cutting board, which is the perfect size for slicing a roll or sausage or cheese with a pocket knife on a day hike.

The cleaning pieces have been subjected to more testing than the cooking pieces.  The soap dispenser is also just the right size for backcountry use.  With concentrated camp soap a few drops suffice for clean up after nine-person dinners on the service trip, and a single drop works for cleaning utensils and soup cups after lunch on a day hike.  I did use this on the service trip and the tiny bottle held enough soap for daily use at ten meals. 

The plastic scraper is stout and came in very handy in scraping off pieces of meat and vegetables that stuck to the bottom of the cook pot.  The scrubbing pad was used on every day hike to good effect.  It shows no sign of deterioration at this point.

The towel is better suited for a smaller group, such as two or three.  It works fine but becomes saturated fairly quickly.

The storage pouch shows no signs of wear and tear, and its mesh does allow moisture left over from the cleaning process to dry out even when the Kit is stowed in my pack.

And pack storage is easy.  The compact storage scheme allowed the Kit to fit easily inside my daypack, an Osprey Hornet 46, and larger backpacking pack, a ULA Equipment Catalyst.  (Both of these packs are the subjects of Owner Reviews on this site.)

All in all I like the Crossover Kitchen Kit, which indeed has so far crossed over seamlessly from day to backpacking use.

LIKES

Compact storage for a full kitchen set
Size of the cutting board
Utility of the spice container

DISLIKES

The Kit is more kit than I need for a solo hike.

LONG TERM REPORT
September 5, 2011

I’ve used the Crossover Kitchen Kit on five more day hikes, one four-day backpacking trip, and at one pre-outdoor concert picnic.  I continue to regard it as a very useful, well-designed set of kitchen gadgets.

FIELD CONDITIONS

Shortly after filing my Field Report I spent ten days in the Bozeman and Big Timber, Montana area with a friend and her teen-age niece.  We took days hikes in the area on three days, all sunny and bright, with high temperatures about 85 F (30 C).  On a day the girls spent on horseback I fished up and down the Gallatin River in the meadows just north of Yellowstone National Park.  I am counting this as a day hike, as I must have walked five miles (8 km) up and down the stream looking for the elusive trout.  This day was cooler, about 75 F (25 C) and overcast, with a couple of rain showers.  

For the same reasons I am also counting a day’s fishing on Nelson’s Spring Creek, a Yellowstone River feeder stream near Livingston, Montana, two weeks ago (just after the backcountry trip mentioned two paragraphs down).  The day was hot (about 95 F/35 C), clear, and windless until a one-hour thunderstorm cooled things off late in the afternoon.  Nelson’s (private water on a cattle ranch) has picnic tables near the car park, so my lunch was comparable to a car-camping meal.

Each of these days included lunch or a snack on the trail (or stream), with cheese, cold cuts, tea, and pocket food such as trail mix or candy.

Big Horn Pass trail My backpacking trip was along the Big Horn Pass trail in Yellowstone, pictured at left.  This trip was llama-supported, so (as on the service trip noted in my Field Report) the Kit’s utensils supplemented a full backcountry kitchen. We met with typical late summer Montana weather – highs about 90 F (32 C), down to 40 F (5 C) at night, and mostly sunny with a brief thunderstorm (each day with a bit of hail) every afternoon.

I used the Kit with a picnic supper before an outdoor concert, on a brisk 102 F (39 C) Dallas evening.  Except for no hiking, this was very similar to day hiking use.

OBSERVATIONS

Performance has been consistent with that reported in my Field Report, including, unfortunately, rather limited use of the pivot items in the Kit.  When put to use, though, each of these has worked well.  I particularly liked having the tongs at the ready on the llama trip; they are far more reliable than the spatula for turning meat on the grill.  

The cutting board and spice container remain my favorite pieces, with the scraper close behind.  The scraper and cutting board are sized just right for trail use, and the spice container is truly ingenious – imagine packing four spices into a 3 x 1 inch (7 x 1.5 cm) cylinder.  

The soap dispenser, oil bottle, scrubber, and towel have all been put to good use, and all have performed as they should.  Each of these pieces, of course, is not unique to the Kit but rather is a stock item used for a particular task. I’ve never seen a scraper or pack towel as small as those in the Kit but even a mechanical idiot (me) could quickly cut an off-the-shelf product down to size.  

This leads me to my final praise for the Crossover Kit – the storage pouch.  With its several compartments, mesh panels, and zipper, I’ve got a functional pint-sized (cup-sized is more like it) container for all my cooking and cleaning instruments.  The loaded pouch fits easily inside the bowl of either of my two group stoves, and it’s ideally sized for a day hike or my fishing vest.  Crossover is a good word to describe this set, which I have found useful for day hikes, fishing days, picnics, and backpacking.  

FUTURE USE

Now that the test is over I’ll likely do some customization.  In fact, my only suggestion to GSI to improve the Kit is to make the spice container available as a standalone product, as I’d like a second one.  GSI does offer several similar accessories, however, so I think I’ll manage.

My Test Report ends here, with sincere thanks to GSI and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to put this useful product through its paces.





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