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Reviews > Cook Gear > Cooking Accessories > Vargo Titanium Sierra 750 > Test Report by Mike Daurio Jr.

VARGO SIERRA 750 TITANIUM POT
TEST SERIES BY MIKE DAURIO JR.
LONG-TERM REPORT
September 18, 2008

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Daurio Jr.
EMAIL: mikejr232323@aol.com
AGE: 31
LOCATION: Maryland/D.C. Area
GENDER: m
HEIGHT: 6' 0" (1.83 m)
WEIGHT: 183 lb (83.00 kg)

I am quite new to backpacking. My experience lies mostly as a canoe guide. My inspiration to get more into this sport/hobby was a backpack trip to Thailand in 2005. Due to my experience I am fond of lightweight, waterproof quality gear. I backpack in mainly hilly forested areas and of course near rivers and streams. I also do a lot of backpack traveling to other countries. I am a 3-season backpacker. Every year I spend time in the Ozarks in Missouri and in Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota. I'd love to explore Canyonlands National Park in Utah. I am originally from the Midwest, but have recently moved to the Washington DC area and more importantly about 40 miles (64 km) from the Appalachian Trail.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
PICTURE COURTESY OF MANUFACTURER'S WEBSITE




Manufacturer: Vargo Outdoors L.L.C.
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.vargooutdoors.com
MSRP: $39.95 US
Listed Weight: 4.5 oz (128 g)
Measured Weight: 4.4 oz (125 g) without mesh stuff sack
4.9 oz (139g) with mesh stuff sack
Other details:
Listed Volume Capacity: 750 ml (25.36 fl oz)
Measured Volume Capacity: approximately 750 ml* (25.36 fl oz)

Dimensions of the pot are approximately: 6.25 in (16 cm) diameter at opening
4 in (10 cm) diameter at base
2 in (5 cm) depth
3.5 in (9 cm) handle measures from pot side

*Please refer to the "trying it out" section for measurement method

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Sierra 750 arrived in a small box in good condition. The pot/cup is packaged in a small mesh bag with a small plastic fish-bone-type-tag-hanger affixing the bag to a cardboard tag. The tag displays the UPC, product information and the company's information on one side and a simple Vargo titanium graphic on the other.

The manufacture's website boasts, "Large enough to use as a pot yet small enough to use as a bowl or cup, the "Sierra 750" brings new functionality to the classic Sierra cup design. Made from ultralight titanium the cup has a 750 ml (25.36 fl oz) capacity and comes with a lid." I have determined the Sierra 750 more of a pot as included to my backpacking style and needs. I drink mainly out of a Nalgene bottle or hydration bladder, but for testing purposes will use the sierra as a cup for hot liquids. For reporting purposes I will refer to it as a pot.

The mesh sack is made of nylon and is cinched closed by a drawstring and plastic cord lock (see pictures). The pot fits inside and the sack is a little roomy for the pot. I will most likely throw a utensil or camp cloth in the sack with the pot while on trail. While opening the sliding drawstring holder to remove the pot the knot holding the drawstring became undone. I simply rethreaded the string back through the closer and reknotted the end of the string. The pictures display the new knot.
IMAGE 5
IN MESH STUFF SACK
IMAGE 2
POT AND LID


















IMAGE 3
FOLDED HANDLE
IMAGE 4
HANDLE SUPPORT BRACKET


















After removing the Sierra 750 from the bag I noticed right away that the pot's lid doesn't fit firmly into the pot's rim. There is some play in between them. The lid is flat and has a plastic handle on top affixed by a small screw. As far as I can tell the knob handle, the screw, and the mesh sack are the only things not made of titanium. The lid has well placed holes punched in for straining liquids. There are 6 holes on one side and one vent hole on the opposite side. "VARGO TITANIUM" is etched above the vent hole.

The pot has a handle which folds under the pot and is secured opened or closed by a bracket. It is moved opened or closed by pinching the two handles together until they clear the bracket. The handle is locked in place by a sliding bracket that when slid towards the pot's body doesn't allow the two handles to be pinched together. The bracket, which holds the handle to the pot's body, is welded to the pot with five welding points. I mention these because they are visible and felt on the inside of the pot. The cosmetic aspect is unimportant to me; however, I do worry about its strength while scorching hot. I will report my findings of my concern in the Field and Long Term section of the report.


READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

No instructions came with the pot. I feel that the lack of instructions is due to the simplicity of the pot and its features are self-explantory.

TRYING IT OUT

I decided to make a bowl of ramen with the Sierra 750. I filled the pot with the prescribed 3 cups (710ml) of water and tried to fit the block of ramen in the pot. It did not fit. I like to keep the ramen together so it is easier to eat with chopsticks. I had to resort to breaking them apart.

The first thing I noticed is how fast the soup started to boil. It was a remarkable increase in boil time as opposed to the stainless pot I have used prior. It was almost too quick, as the noodles didn't cook all the way through. I removed the soup from the flame by grabbing the secured handle. I stirred the soup and then covered the Sierra 750 with the provided lid. The titanium pot continued to cook the soup inside. As the noodles are the best part of the soup I drained them from the liquid by holding the pot in one hand and the lid against the pot firmly with my other hand . The misshaping of the lid caused the soup liquid to drain through the gap between the lid and pot, rendering the holes on the top of the lid useless. Although the holes weren't allowed to function properly the task and goal was completed with no fallen noodles.

The volume of the pot was measured by first filling the pot with water and then trying to pour the water into a measuring glass. Pouring the water into the measuring glass without spilling proved impossible and I was forced to get more creative. I filled a Nalgene bottle up to the 1000 ml (33.81 fl oz) mark. I then poured the liquid into the Sierra cup until it was full and read the Nalgene's marked measures using the line created by the remaining water. I then subtracted the remaining volume from the starting volume.

TESTING STRATEGY

I have just moved to the Washington DC area and am located about 40 miles (64 km) from the Appalachian Trail (AT). I am excited to start exploring the area and have gotten a day hike and a mountain bike ride in so far. I expect the majority of use to be in these areas. I'm hoping to do a portion of the AT in the next two months as an overnight or multiday trip. I have immediate plans to day hike with my visiting fiancée at the C&O National Historic Park. I will be bringing the Sierra 750 along with my stove to cook up a hot meal.

I will be using the Sierra 750 primarily as a pot and will try it out as a cup for hot liquids. On solo trips I will be boiling water and using the water to cook dehydrated cook in bag type meals. I will also be with my fiancée on day hikes and trips this summer. When she's around I will be getting a little more gourmet with my cooking. I may simmer some chicken for chicken tacos in the pot and probably countless packages of ramen noodle soup.

I will comment on the terrain and conditions of the exact test areas in the Field Report when they are determined.

Things that I will weigh in on my testing:

Design of the pot:

Does the handle continue to support the weight of the pot and its contents?
Do the welded points continue to hold?
Does the slight mis-match in fitting the lid continue to play a role when draining liquid?

Material:
This is my first Titanium experience.
Due to its excellent conductivity do cooked meals scorch and burn easily in the pot?
Is it easy to clean?
Will I be able to cook hot liquid drinks in the pot and still sip them from the pot?
How long will it take to cool?
I will also be comparing boil time between my old stainless pot and the new titanium Sierra 750.

I will also be commenting on how things stow inside the pot. In my quest to go lighter as a packer I have found I'm more concerned with compressibility and size then weight. The Sierra 750 gives me an opportunity to store some things inside the pot for packing. I will take note of my discoveries and combinations along the way.

SUMMARY

This concludes my Initial report. I'd like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Vargo Outdoors for the opportunity to test the pot.
Please check back for the field report section of this report.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS



I have used the Sierra 750 in my first visit to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. It was on a day that brought afternoon thunderstorms with hail. After entering the park's gates we hit an afternoon gusty thunderstorm that brought a lightning show, a heavy dousing, and even pea-sized hail. Temperatures were around 80 F (44 C) before the storm and cooled to about 70 F (21 C) before we started out on the trail. We took the Matthew's Arm Loop and gained 600 ft (183 m) of elevation while climbing the Cut Off trail to the Knob Mountain Ridge Trail. The trail head starts in woods abutted to the parking lot and descends down a hill before winding along a gushing stream, swollen by the storm. After crossing the stream over a downed tree trunk, the trail gains elevation for 1 mile (1.6 km) to the ridge trail with a total elevation of 2657 ft (810 m). The trail consists of packed mud, leaf covered earth, and hard bouldered mountain side.

I have found a new favorite day hike. The Billy Goat trail in the Chesapeake and Ohio National Historic Park in Maryland is a rocky trail that winds through mountainous forest, and hops over river carved boulders and rocks. The day we went out, was the first real gorgeous day of spring with the sun shining and temperatures around 75 F (24 C). As the sun descended behind the trees temperatures dropped in to about 60-64 F (15-18 C). The trail is a 5.4 mile (8.7 km) loop that trails the edge of the Potomac river. A second trip on the Billy Goat trail was spent with warmer temperatures around 85 F (29 C).

IMAGE 1
Terrain of the Billy Goat trail



I also did a day trip in Gambrill State Park on the Yellow Poplar (4.6 mi, 5.3 km) and Black Locust loop (3.3 mi, 7.4 km) trails totalling 7.9 mi (12.7 km) . Terrain consists of packed dirt over mountainous rock. The park is located just south of Catoctin Mountain National Park. Most of the hike was spent under a forest canopy. The Black Locust trail was the more difficult of the two sections, as it climbs and descends on the mountainous terrain to 3 overlooks on the 1600 ft (488 m) summit of High Knob. Temperatures were around 85 F (29 F) and we were pestered by small gnat-like bugs.
IMAGE 6
Gambrill's Terrain



PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I have been impressed with the Sierra 750's performance so far. On my trip to Shennandoah it had helped me cook 2 bowls of Ramen soup and boil water for warm drinks. The boiling time for 16 oz (0.47 L) of water is 1 minute 38 seconds. This time is almost half the time I get out of a hard anodized alloy pot I use. The increased conductivity has benefits and concerns for me. I love the time saving aspect; however when cooking I need to concentrate on cooking or I could burn my meal. Thankfully it hasn't happened yet.

In my two trips on the Billy Goat trail the Sierra 750 boiled water for a dehydrated bagged meal and simmered chicken for chicken tacos. Boiling times were similar to the ones in Shennandoah, and the bagged chicken simmered in about 4 oz (0.12 L) lime juice in under a minute. The simmering was done with the lid on the pot. Steam escaped through the stamped holes in the top and from the space created by the mismatched lid and rim of the pot.


IMAGE 7
Sierra 750 overlooking the Potomac River








In Gambrill State Park, in Maryland, the Sierra 750 helped simmer a larger helping of chicken. I timed the simmer times to around 1 minute to simmer and a total of 5 minutes of cook time.

The cooking has been consistent and the size and weight of the pot is great for day hikes and short ultralite adventures. My stove stows conviently inside the pot along with its windscreen. Below are some pictures illustrating the fit.

The stability the handle gives the pot is sufficient and easy to adjust. As mentioned before I haven't burnt anything in the pot and otherwise it has been simple to clean. The lid's handle is cool to the touch even after 5 minutes of simmering.



IMAGE 8
Stowing my stove...
IMAGE 9
... and windscreen

SUMMARY

Overall I am pleased with the pot's performance in the field. I will continue to use it for my ultralite adventures and dayhikes. It also does a great job boiling water with high efficiency.

The mismatched lid and pot rim renders the lid's straining holes almost useless. I only use the lid when simmering the chicken and for that purpose it does fine.

Please check back in August 2008 for my Long term report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

The Vargo Sierra 750 was used on a day hike to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, a mountain bike trip in Schaeffer Farms part of the Seneca Creek State Park in Maryland, a day hike of Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland and on an outing in Antietam National Battlefield in Maryland.

In Shenandoah, My fiancée and I hiked the Rose River Loop Trail (RRLT), which follows the Skyland-Big Meadows Horse trail before meeting the RRLT where it descends down to the river and the Rose River Falls. It then winds back up to meet the Rose River Fire Road. At the meeting we took a 1.4 mi (2.25 km) detour to Dark Hollows Falls on the Dark Hollow Falls Trail. Total distance for the hike was 5.4 miles (8.69 km). We stopped twice along the trail to cool off in the water from the humid 85 degree F (29.4 C) day. Elevations at the trailhead, across Skyline drive from the Fisher's Gap Parking area, are 3061 ft (933 m) and decreases down to 1750 ft (533 m) near the river. Although humid the day was clear and slightly breezy.

IMAGE 1
SHENANDOAH'S RRLT



On a lunch break for a mountain biking trip in Seneca Creek we used the Vargo Sierra 750 in near 90 degree F (32 C) heat. The 11 mi (17.71 km) ride winds in a forest covered trail system with rocky and root strewn paths.

IMAGE 2
Terrain in Schaffer Farms



During an outing in Antietam National Battle field, friends and I completed four quick loops each about 1 mile (1.6 km) long. Terrain ranged from grassy meadow to tree covered paths in forests to a romp through a cornfield, stopping at historical markers along the way. Temperatures were around 90 degrees F (32 C).

IMAGE 3
Goofing off in Antietam N.B. (Meadow trail around me)



Sugar Loaf Mountain was a tough trek around, and then eventually up, the mountain itself. We did a combination of the 7 mile (11.3 km) Saddle Back Horse Trail, as well as taking a 1 mile (1.6 km) jog on the Northern Peaks Trail to the White Rocks Overlook. We then ran up the red blazed trail to summit the 1282 ft mountain (391m). We gained almost 600 feet of elevation (183 m) in 0.5 mi (0.8 km). The Saddleback Horse Trail winds through forest canopy and over rock jutted terrain before emptying out on the red blazed trail where we were forced to scurry up boulders using all four limbs, some of the time. Temperatures were around 78 degrees F (26 C).

IMAGE 4
A portion of the Northern Peaks Trail





PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Vargo Sierra 750 performed pretty consistent throughout the test series. The lightweight aspects make the cup packable for almost any hike. The four hikes I used the Sierra 750 on for this portion of the test were all day hikes. Including the Sierra 750 in my daypack is almost unnoticeable.

In Shenandoah I used the Vargo to catch water from the waterfall pictured above. The strong handle did well with the weight of a full cup and the pressure of a tiny but flowing creek. I then boiled the water and floated some ramen noodles in the steamy bath. I am really impressed with the conductivity of the titanium pot as the water definitely boils faster than my old pot. The size of the pot allows only 1 package of ramen to be prepared at a time. While dragging my fiancée along on all of the mentioned trips we found ourselves eating in shifts versus together, depending on the meal prepared.

In Schaffer Farms our midday break was spent preparing Pad Thai. We boiled some water in a separate pot and left the noodles to cook. I then simmered some chicken in an inch (2.5 cm) of water in the Vargo Sierra 750 and added the pre packaged Pad Thai sauce for heating. The pot's material seems to heat evenly, despite the complaints I've read for titanium. I had no scorched spots or discoloration on the pot.

In Antietam we boiled water for a dehydrated bagged meal for two. I boiled about 0.5 liter (17 fl oz) of water in the pot and dumped it into the bag as directions stated. I did, regrettably, overlook the part of the directions that said stir the meal. (I have cooked at least 20 of these meals before; I guess just a dumb move.) The meal was cooked unevenly and I had crunchy noodles. I do not fault Vargo, the Sierra 750, or its titanium construction for the horrible food. The water was boiled correctly and with efficiency as usual. The chef was to blame.

On an Overlook in Sugarloaf we boiled ramen, ate in stages, and descended down the mountain. Again, consistency was the Sierra 750's trademark. When eating Ramen I prefer the noodles to the broth and like the drain feature in the pot's lid. Due to the mismatching lid it does however drain the majority of the broth through the space between the pot and lid.

The material of the pot has stayed strong throughout the test series. The pot has not warped or become misshaped and the handle has supported the load asked of it. I am pleased with the overall durability of the Sierra 750.


SUMMARY

The Vargo Sierra 750 is a reliable, super light pot for my backcountry needs. Its weight is its superior quality, which allows it to be carried on most day hikes and brings down my total pack weight for most overnighters.

Things I like:

1. The weight of the unit allows flexibility in packing it.
2. The titanium material seems to cook evenly and efficiently. I assume saving me fuel for my stove.
3. The construction of the handle is rigid and supports the weight of a full load of liquid and then some.

Things I didn't like:

1. The engineering or molding of the lid was off. Although I worked around it quite easily had I bought the pot I may have returned it for one that fit well on the rim of the pot.

2. The shape of the pot was great for cooking however drinking out of it was a little sloppy. I don't care for drinking out of sierra cups generally.

CONTINUED USE

I do plan on packing the pot with me on day hikes and will include it in my Ultralight set up I am collecting. I will mostly use the pot as a solo piece and would recommend my fiancée to get one so we can eat together.

This concludes my test series. I'd like to thank Vargo and Backpackgeartest.org for being able to test the Sierra 750.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Vargo Outdoors gear
Read more gear reviews by Mike Daurio Jr.

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