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Reviews > Cook Gear > Cook Sets > Kindle Cook Set and Cafe > Test Report by Andrea Murland
I began hiking frequently in 2006 and have since hiked in Western Canada, Australia, and spent 2 months backpacking in the Alps. I spend most weekends either day-hiking or on 2-3 day backpacking trips, with some longer trips when I can manage them. I also snowshoe and ski in the winter, but don’t have a lot of experience with winter in the backcountry yet. Elevation is typically 500-3,000 m (1,600-10,000 ft), in the Canadian Rockies and the Selkirk, Purcell, and Monashee ranges. I try for a light pack, but I don’t consider myself a lightweight backpacker.
Description & Initial ImpressionsThe Kindle Cook Box and Kindle Café are a cooking system using disposable heat packs as a heat source.
The Kindle Cook Box consists of a stainless steel bowl which fits inside of a black polypropylene container. The two containers are held together with a plastic lid with a seal and four locking tabs. There is a neoprene cover which fits onto the black container to insulate it. The lid, plastic container, and neoprene cover all have the Kindle Cook logo on them. The Kindle Cook uses a MAXPACK heat pack, which is removed from its packaging and placed in the bottom of the plastic container. Approximately 150 mL (5.1 fl oz) of water is added to the container and then the stainless steel bowl is placed on top of the heat pack in the container. There is a water line printed on the outside of the plastic container, but no markings on the inside. The food or water to be heated is put into the stainless bowl and then the locking lid is put on to seal the whole works.
The Kindle Café works on the same concept as the Cook Box, but uses a smaller heat pack (a POWERPACK), and the lid of the Café has a drinking spout with a sealing cover.
The heat packs are packaged inside two layers of packaging. The outer layer of packaging identifies the product and has clear instructions for use with the Kindle Cook Box or Café. It also offers some warnings to the user, such as not opening the bare heat pack (seek medical attention if that happens), not touching the heat pack with wet hands or throwing it in a fire, and some warnings that the unit and heat pack will get hot. The packaging is in English on one side and French on the reverse. The inner packaging is clear plastic.
The website indicates that using snow is possible by melting a small amount onto the heat pack and then adding more snow on top as it heats up. I look forward to trying this out! The website also says that used heat packs are environmentally friendly and can be disposed of in the garbage, but there is no information on what they’re actually made from.
Trying It OutThe first thing that I tried was how everything packs together. The MAXPACK heat packs (four, to be specific) fit inside the Kindle Cook Box, but the POWERPACK heat packs don’t fit in the Café with all of the outer packaging on. I’ll have to pack the heat packs for the Café separately from the unit.
The second thing I tried was testing the seals on the containers. The Cook Box didn’t leak with water in only the stainless steel bowl, but when there was water in the plastic container as well I had a steady stream of water run out of the container when turned upside down. The Café showed the same trend, though it was only a small drip of water. I did notice that it was more difficult to get the stainless tumbler out of the Café than the Cook Box; it’s a tighter fit. The lids seem to have a good seal as long as there’s no water in the plastic container, which there will be during cooking. I’ll have to try this some more during actual cooking, but so far it seems like the units will need to stay upright until I'm done with the heat pack.
SummaryThe Kindle Cook Box and Café look like a system that could work very well on overnight hikes or as a component of my Search & Rescue Pack. I am excited to see how it works in the field, especially in cold weather and with snow.
I have used the Kindle Cook Box on two overnight trips in the Field Testing phase. The first was in March, on an overnight backcountry skiing and tenting trip. The temperature got down to about -15 C (5 F) overnight with some wind and light snow falling, and the days were sunny and up to almost freezing. The second trip was a short overnight hike with temperatures falling to about 5 C (40 F). Otherwise, the Cook Box has resided in my Search & Rescue pack, but I have not had to use it in an emergency.
The Kindle Café came along on the same two overnight trips, and also 2 day hikes in the snow. In addition, I used it on a week-long hut-based backcountry skiing trip. The day hikes and ski trip all saw temperatures hovering on either side of freezing.
ObservationsCold Weather & Snow:
On the two warm but snowy day hikes and the backcountry ski days, the Kindle Café was useful at lunch. I carried the tumbler full of water and just added water to the heat pack when we stopped for a break. The Café would steam away and I would end up with a tumbler full of very hot water, before the heat pack was exhausted. I could then make my tea, but found that the water was a bit on the hot side for drinking, actually. Although it was great to have a hot drink at lunch (I usually carry an insulated vacuum bottle for this function, but it’s not that hot), there was one downside. By the time I had a cup of tea, I was done eating my lunch and so was everyone else, so I rarely had time to actually drink much of it. About four hours later, with temperatures around freezing, I found that the tea would be only slightly warm.
On the other overnight hike that I did, I used the Kindle Cook Box to warm up a pre-made rice dinner that just needed to be heated – no cooking or water absorption required. The Cook Box did a pretty good job of that, and it was nice not to have any burnt pots to clean up later.
The water in the plastic container turns a murky white colour during the heating process. I’m not sure exactly what the reaction is that occurs and what the by-products are, but given the emphasis on the packaging of not touching the inside of the heat packs, I would be curious to know. A white residue is left on the plastic container after use.
After use, the heat packs actually weigh more than before use. For example, one of my fully-dried used POWERPACKs weighs 45 g (1.4 oz). That seems less than ideal for needing to pack them back out of the backcountry. In addition, when fully dried I have noticed that the outer covering of the heat packs can crack, which again poses a concern regarding touching the contents.
SummaryThe Kindle Cook Box and Café test has been very interesting so far. Although I am curious about some of the reaction by-products, the product does work as described, though the cold weather effectiveness is questionable. I am looking forward to further testing the warmer weather capabilities of the Cook Box, as I still think that it’s a good option for my Search & Rescue pack, at least in some seasons.
Field ConditionsI have used the Kindle Cook Box during the Long Term Testing phase to make dinner and breakfast on three overnight trips as well as three nights of car camping. All of the trips were at temperatures well above freezing, with the highest temperature being about 20 C (68 F) overnight. There was no rain while I was cooking on any of the trips. In addition, the Cook Box has continued to spend its time in my Search and Rescue pack as part of my 24 hr ready-pack. The Kindle Café was used on the same trips as the Cook Box, to make hot drinks in the evening and the morning.
I tried the Cook Box on a couple of different applications over the last few months. The first is producing food by adding water, which included dehydrated meals, instant mashed potatoes, and oatmeal. The Cook Box did a good job of producing a container full of hot water. I discovered that I preferred putting the food in a bowl and pouring the hot water in (as I do with a stove), rather than adding food to the hot water in the Cook Box. I found that I always had more water than I needed, so I would end up with watery food if I put the food into the container. The second application was for cooking pasta. I was hesitant to try this, figuring that I’d end up with a Cook Box full of watery, crunchy pasta, but I was surprised. The pasta took much longer than the time on the package to cook (about 30 minutes), but I did end up with something edible at the end. When I was done the MAXPACK was finished reacting.
The Kindle Café produced a nice hot drink every time I used it. Actually, a hot enough drink that I had to take the lid off to get it to cool off enough to drink. I am very happy to say that the drinking spout never leaked.
One thing that I really liked about the system was that once it was going it was maintenance-free. I didn’t have to keep an eye on the flame or worry about burning. I could walk away and do something else around camp.
Volume & Pouring:
I found during this stage that the Cook Box holds a strange volume for me. I wanted to put as much water in the bowl as I could, so that the energy from the heat pack wouldn’t be wasted. That volume was more than I needed for dinner, but not enough for a two-person dinner, or for dinner and a drink. I tried adding more water after pouring some out for a drink (since the heat pack was still going), but never achieved a second bowl of hot water on the same heat pack.
I also found that pouring out of the bowl was difficult. When tipped, the reaction water leaks from between the plastic container and the bowl. Since the reaction water is murky white with I’m-not-sure-what in it, I don’t really want it in my food. That meant getting the bowl out of the container...the very hot metal bowl. I tried a few tricks with utensils to try and get it out and pouring, and always just resorted to using my fingertips and trying to do it quickly enough not to burn myself.
A few things that I noted in my Field Report continue to be of interest, specifically the spraying water during the reaction, the unknown reaction products, and the increasing weight of the heat packs after use. The spraying water is violent enough that I would actually hesitate to use the Cook Box in the vestibule of my tent, even in poor weather.
SummaryThis has been a very interesting test for me. I love the concept of the self-contained cooking system, but there were a couple of major shortcomings that I noted. To me, the Cook Box shines as an emergency system (where it lives in my Search & Rescue pack), but not as a regular backpacking cook system. The Café seems to be a great item for day-hiking, but the weight of the used heat packs will exclude it from my backpacking gear list as well.
Easy to use
Easy to clean
Doesn’t require tending during use
Kindle Café drinking spout doesn’t leak
Heat packs increase in weight after use
Unknown reaction products (murky water, cracked packs)
Water sprays from container during use
Didn’t work effectively in winter
Thanks to Amundson Outdoor Products Ltd. and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test the Kindle Cook Box and Café!
Read more reviews of Amundson Outdoor Products Ltd gear
Read more gear reviews by Andrea Murland
Reviews > Cook Gear > Cook Sets > Kindle Cook Set and Cafe > Test Report by Andrea Murland
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