8 Freebies from Starbucks to Help Build Your Kit

 

Starbucks Freebie Trio

Whether you are building a bug out bag or home emergency kit, think outside the box when you get your morning cup of coffee.  Starbucks can be a great resource to help you find the little things to add to your kit that aren’t easy to come by in your local grocery store.

In addition to the freebies you can get at almost any fast food joint like salt, pepper, and plastic ware, here are a few hard to find items that are available at your local Starbucks.

Honey

Honey is a great natural sweetener that has an extremely long expiration date (if none at all).  Starbucks has the small plastic honey packets (.3 oz) that are great to add to any kit, large or small.  The small packets allow for flexible and compact storage (much easier than the teddy bear container from the grocery store).  You also don’t have to worry about a sticky mess from a leaking large container and can increase longevity by only opening what you plan to use.

Raw Sugar

If you prefer a granular sweetener, but want the real stuff rather than the white beached kind, grab a few packs in addition to what you put in your cup of coffee.  The raw sugar is usually out with the cream and sugar where you prep your drink before consumption.

Agave Syrup

A sweetener that is harder to find than those above, but is preferred by some due to its low glycemic index.  If this is your sweetener of choice, get a few extra packs each time you visit as small packets can be much harder to come by than other sweeteners.

Stir Sticks

Starbucks Stir Sticks for FireIn preparedness, it is important to have tools which can serve multiple purposes. In addition to being able to stir your morning beverage, the stir sticks can also stir your oatmeal or Mountain House meal.  Consider adding them to your fire starting kit as they also make good fire tinder to help in constructing your campfire.

Saracha Hot Sauce

Want to add a little kick to your freeze-dried meal?  Pack a few of these individual packets in your kit.  Although hot sauce can be found at a number of fast food vendors, many have their favorites when it comes to flavor.  Find your favorite and stock up.

Old Gift Cards

Keep a good relationship with your Barista? Ask them for some old used gift cards.  Use them as a rigid base to wrap your duck tape around.  Get rid of the bulk of a duck tape roll and still store 25-50 feet easily in your pack.

Used Coffee Grounds

If you are big into homesteading or just looking to start composting or a home garden, used coffee grounds are prevalent at your local Starbucks and are a great way to improve the nutrients in your soil.  Just ask your local barista to give you a few bags absolutely free.

From fending off insects, increasing the soil acidity for hydrangeas or roses, or raising the nitrogen levels in your compost heap.  There are a multitude of benefits to coffee grounds around the home and garden.

Starbucks Dried FruitDried Fruit

Some of the food that Starbucks offers, includes a single serving 100 calorie pack of dried fruit.  Throw these in your pack for a quick pick-me-up for you or your children.  The single serving packs keep things more sanitary than having many grimy hands in a single bag when the importance of hygiene is at its highest.

Treasures Behind the Counter

Many of the treasures available at Starbucks are kept hidden behind the counter and can be obtained politely asking your local barista.  What is kept out at the drink prep counter is specific to the local store.  If you know what you are looking for and don’t see it, just ask, and most baristas are willing hand over a few. A little tip never hurts either.

Be Respectful, Place an Order

Most Starbucks employees are local and are working to do everything from supporting families to paying college tuition.  While you may pay a little more for your Iced Carmel Macchiato, their customer service is usually top notch.  If you don’t like what you ordered or they didn’t get it right, let them know and they will correct it.

So as you go in to get your caffeine fix whatever the time of day, be respectful and purchase a beverage or snack before you start to pocket the free goodness that they provide.  Remember, they are helping you to avoid bulk purchases of little items while assisting in building your emergency kit.

Thinking about some items that we missed?  Let us know by commenting below.  Still trying to figure out what to put in your kit?  Check out our free Bug Out Bag Checklist to get you started.

Best Backpack Cookware: GSI Dualist Review

GSI Dualist Cookset At WorkWhether stocking an emergency bag to serve the family or just planning to go hike and camp for a few days on the trail.  The GSI Dualist Cookset leads the way in backpack cook sets by providing a lightweight, durable design and great features to serve up to a family of four.

Pursuit for a Family Backpack Cookset

Our method of use  for this cookware kit was to serve in one of our emergency bags (INCH Bag to be exact – click here for more details) while also being packable for camping or hiking trips from day to day.  A large amount of time and effort went into finding the best cookset to meet our needs.  Fortunately we documented the process to hopefully save others some time.  Check out all the cooksets we tested, their specs, and the requirements we were looking for in this separate article.

Cookset Overview

The GSI Pinnacle Dualist cookset is a 21.6 ounce kit designed for use by two people while backpacking or hiking but can be used by up to four (read on for more details).  The kit measures 5.90” x 6.40” x 5.90” when stowed and includes:

  • 1 – 1.8 Liter Pot
  • 1 – Pot Strainer Lid
  • 2 – 20oz insulated mugs
  • 2 – 20oz bowls
  • 2 – “Sip-It” Mug Lids
  • 2 – Telescoping Foons (aka: sporks)
  • 1 – Stove Bag
  • 1 – Stuff Sack

Features and Performance

The Dualist cookset offers a number of features, many of which allow for multiple uses or functions of an item.  This additional thought and ingenuity in the design helps to bring this system to the top.

Cook Pot and Lid

The cookpot included with the set is manufactured with hard anodized aluminum and is coated with a Teflon Radiance non-stick coating which is both abrasion and scratch resistant (see more on the coating from Teflon here).

Non-Stick and Even Heating

GSI Dualist Non-StickThe aluminum keeps the kit lightweight and works well in correlation with the Teflon to heat evenly when cooking.  There is no metallic taste to the food as found with some metal camp cooksets and I have never had a hotspot issue (uneven heating) with this cookware when used on a stove.

When cooking stick prone items such as eggs, the non-stick coating makes for easy cleanup.  Just a quick rinse with soap and water and you are ready to stow.  No hard scrubbing required.  The Teflon Radiance coating is supposed to be resistant to scratching with metal utensils, I try to avoid using them when possible, but even with a few uses, I have yet to see any damage to the coating.  Granted this pot isn’t PTFE free (hence the Teflon Coating) but for the quality, features, and price point, it is the least of my worries.  If you are looking for a great PTFE free system similar to this, check out the MSR Trail Lite Duo System which was our runner up.

Boil Times

During our testing with the MSR Pocket Rocket, even with a low fuel canister, we were able to average between 12 and 13 minutes for a boil of a half pot of water in light wind (summary is below).  We were more than comfortable with these results.

Summary

Average Time to Boil: 12 minutes 30 seconds

Volume Liquid: 0.9L or Approx 30 ounces (Half Pot)

Outdoor Temperature Range: 34°F to 43°F

Wind Speed: 1-5mph

Wind Direction: From the North

Environment: Exposed to Wind, Pot Covered with Lid

Watch the Fire!

One of the sacrifices that has to be made when you are looking for a non-stick system, is the ability to use the pot by seating it directly in a campfire.  Non-stick pots are designed to be used with a stove system or being raised and supported above a fire.  If placed in a direct fire, the life of the non-stick coating can be shortened by the excessive heat and your warranty can also be voided.

Solo Stove in Use

Solo Stove Lite

For me, this is a small price to pay to have easy cleanup.  If you need to cook with wood, you can carry a Solo Stove Wood Fire System to use for little additional weight.

It should be noted that some reviews report users melting the plastic coating on their handle when they get it too close to a camp fire or don’t have the pot seated evenly on a stove.  Keep this in mind when cooking, to protect yourself from burns and make your equipment last longer.

Non-stick pots and pans are not designed as a direct campfire cooker.  Go with the stainless steel version of this system, the GSI Glacier Stainless Dualist if you want to cook directly on the fire.  Know this means, no non-stick, more clean-up, and additional weight.

And to put a “Lid” On It

The pot lid seals well with a silicone O-ring making it easy to clean.  Whether straining fresh made pasta or draining additional water from a morning meal, no water leaks from the rim when you apply a little pressure to the lid, all liquid strains through the strainer holes as it should.

Keep those Fingers Cool

The handle to the pot is metal and coated in a plastic dip while the lid handle is made with a high temperature plastic.  Both handles help protect hands from heat while in use.  They do get slightly warm while in use, but are cool enough to use with bare hands.  This adds a nice touch to the kit when most cookware requires gloves or a tool to hold.  Make sure to flip up the handle on the pot lit before seating to help further reduce heat.

Mind the Steam: Do be careful of the steam coming from the strainer lid once your meal is at temperature as you will be more likely to get your hand burned from the steam than the lid handle.

Some Room for Improvement

The only negative I found was the lack of measurement hash marks on the side of the pot to help with measurements while cooking. Doing a little math in your head will get you in the ballpark (full pot is 1.8L, half pot is .9L, etc.), but markings make life easier.  Although each cup and bowl does have ounce and liter measurements which can be used instead, adding the markings to the pot would be highly beneficial and improve the user experience when cooking or boiling water.

Bowl and Cup Design

The Dualist system includes two cups and two bowls, each sharing a similar shape.  The cups have a snap on lid with sip holes and an insulated “neoprene type” wrap to help keep your drink warm and alleviate spills.  While the cup design of the GSI Dualist may seem a little odd at first glance (yes, it looks like a bowl), it really allows for the dish to be multi-functional.  This design ingenuity is really what allows the cook set to be used for up to 4 people.

GSI Dualist All Parts

All Cups and Bowls Nest Together and Store In Pot with Additional Storage Space

Nested Design

The Dualist bowl and cup uses a nested design.  This allows for minimal use of space when in stow leaving more open space for other items (i.e. stove, isobutane canister, etc).

Bowls for Four

The shape of the cup allows for it to substitute as another bowl when required, making this one of the only two person cook sets that can be used for up to 4 people.  Worried about the insulated wrap getting dirty because you are using it for food?  Just slide it off and stow it away.

Wide Base

The cups offer a wide base allowing them to maintain stability on multiple uneven or steep surfaces where other narrow cups would fall over.  This is also a great shape for kids allowing enough surface area for a secure two hand grip to limit spills.

Cups Could Keep Things Warmer

During our use in colder temperatures, we found that the cups insulated wrap works, but doesn’t keep your drink warm as long as some competitors.  During testing, our drinks were poured straight from a boil into the cup, then mixed with coffee and 2 creamers at outside temperature, and capped with the lid. The results below show the respective time it took for the drinks to cool to around body temperature (when they no longer felt warm to the mouth).

Outside Temp (°F) Time to Cool (min)
37°F 35 min
18°F 18 min

This isn’t a problem for my family as hot drinks disappear quickly when cold, however, it may be an issue for some.  If you only need to use the set for one or two people, you can use the bowls to keep your drinks warmer longer as described below.  Another testament to the multiple functionalities capable with this set.

Use Bowl to Double Insulate Your Cup

On a cold day, if there is no need for a bowl and a cup, you can just use the cup and keep it nested in the bowl to give you an extra layer of insulation keeping your drink warmer, longer.  Granted, this does limit you to only two person use.

Welded Stuff Sack for Multiple Uses

Washing With Stuff SackIn addition to being used to stow the cook set during transport, the GSI Dualist stuff sack has welded seams and will hold water allowing you to use it as a sink.  This is a brilliant feature allowing you to the capability to clean dishes in an area where you may have limited options to contain water for cleaning (i.e. not using your drinking containers).

For those with pets, the stuff sack makes a great pet bowl!  Aside from storing the cook set, this is my primary planned use for the stuff sack.  Although I primarily use it for serving water, it works great for dry pet food as well.  Now I no longer have to plan additional space in my bag for some type of dog bowl, it just fits nice and snug as part of my mess kit.

Whether you are using it to feed your pet in an emergency evacuation or just cleaning your dishes after a meal, the stuff sacks semi-rigid sides help to maintain its form and keep it from collapsing.   All in all, this is an ingenious bag design by GSI allowing for an additional tool in the same amount of space wasted by other manufactures.  Well done, GSI.

Additional Items

The Stove Bag

The cook system also includes a small felt stove bag designed for ultralight stoves.  It easily fits the MSR Pocket Rocket allowing a small layer of felt fabric protection when stowing your stove in the cooking system.

The “Foons”

About now you are probably wondering, what the heck is a “Foon”?  You are not the only one. Basically it is what GSI calls their sporks that are included with the kit. They are a telescoping sporks that folds into half size for stow.  Unfortunately, you should remove them from your kit and get something else of better quality.  This is the only piece of gear in this kit that is less than stellar.

When new, the “Foon” comes with a warning sticker showing you to watch your thumb when closing it up.  This quickly gets ripped off and forgotten.  And what happens?  Your guests, or worse, your kids go to close up the “Foon” and close it right down on the back of their thumb cuticle cutting it up.  Just what you want to deal with during your attempt at your serene and peaceful mealtime.  In addition, while I have not had mine fail, there are numerous reviews of them breaking during use.

Granted most other comparable kits of this class don’t come with any type of utensils at all, so the kit is still a great value. My recommendation is to take them out, keep them as a spare, and spend a few extra dollars on something else as your primary utensil such as the Toaks Narrow Titanium Spork (Note: the Toaks Spork will not nest in the GSI Dualist kit and will have to be stored elsewhere).

Storage to Boot

The GSI Dualist nested design for the bowls and cups allows for a large area of storage in the middle of the cook set while in stow.  We recommend you keep it filled to make efficient use of pack space, and also to keep it from rattling while on the go.

Include Your Micro-Stove and some Seasonings

Depending on how you pack it, you can hold all the included cook set pieces, a micro-stove, and up to an 8oz canister of isobutane.

Usually I carry an MSR Pocket Rocket while hiking with a 4oz canister of isobutane as it gives me storage room for tea, coffee, seasoning packs, or other items with room to spare.  I have carried an 8oz bottle more than once but it gets a little tight when packing up and you do not have room for additional packets of seasoning, etc.  Only the included pieces of the kit.

Isobutane Size Difference

Isobutane canister nested with Dualist components. 8oz Cylinder (left) is snug while 4oz Cylinder (right) allows additional storage for accessory items.

Wood Burning Stove or Alcohol Stove Also A Go

If a micro-stove isn’t your thing, the space is large enough to carry a wood burning stove like the Solo Stove or alcohol stove such as the Trangia Spirit Burner with additional fuel.

Wood and Spirit Stove

Solo Stove Lite (left) Trangia Spirit Stove (right) each nested in Dualist ready for Storage

Protect Your Assets

All of this storage is possible while still protecting the Teflon non-stick coating, as the plastic cups and bowls cocoon around your additional items to keep them from touching the cooking surface of the pot.  Again, well done GSI.

Multiple Configurations, Multiple Weights

The table below shows the overall weight of the cook set in different configurations and with different stove systems so you have an idea of the total weight impact on your pack.

Weight (ounces) Cook Set With..
19.4 oz Foons Removed
35.2 oz MSR Pocket Rocket and 8oz Isobutane
29.8 oz MSR Pocket Rocket and 4oz Isobutane
33 oz Trangia Stove and 4oz Fuel
28.6 oz Solo Stove Kit

Final Thoughts

GSI Dualist StoredThe GSI Pinnacle Dualist cookset serves its role well as a backpack cooking system.  Though it is designed to serve two people, it can serve a family of four and even a pet with minimal sacrifice.  If you are looking for a single system to serve multiple people on a hike or planning to cook for your family after bugging out, the GSI Dualist is up to the task.  For a full cook system under 30 ounces and a durable, multi-functional design, it is an impressive cooking system from GSI and should have a place in your backpack.

If this review helps you with your hunt for a backpack cook set, checkout the system on Amazon by using our links in the article.  This helps support us at no additional cost to you so we can bring you additional reviews.

Our Search for the Best Backpacking Cookware

Best Backpacking Cookware

When assembling your emergency go-bags, it can be quite a challenge to be ready to provide meals for a family as dishes and cookware add in bulk quickly.  Meeting the needs for a family of four while still having a lightweight minimalist cook set profile is not an easy balance.  Here we are sharing what we found during our search to hopefully save you some time.

The Mission

The cookware kit was meant to serve in our INCH Bags (I’m Never Coming Home Bag – which is built to allow self-sustainability or up to 7 days). We also wanted the kit to be packable and lightweight enough for day to day camping and hiking trips.  The goal was to place one kit in each adult pack.  If a family could be supported with one kit, this would allow for either a back-up to be carried or for one adult to be able to lighten their loadout if needed.

To meet this method of use, the cookware had to fulfill the following requirements:

  • Lightweight as possible
  • Easily packable with no sharp edges
  • Provide good cooking experience with minimal clean-up
  • Meet the cooking needs for minimum of two, but up to 4 people
  • Make the most efficient and effective use of space in the pack

The Line Up

Most of the initial models we tested are designed primarily for backpacking and or camping.  These industries put a large amount of research and engineering into their design to make a lightweight yet sturdy product that is packable.  This was a great start for the requirements we were looking to satisfy.  We initially started our search for a cookware set with the following models.  Weight and details on the pieces included in each set are also listed in the tables below.

Cooksets Reviewed with Weight

Cook Set Weight (ounces)
GSI Pinnacle Dualist 21.6
MSR Trail Lite Duo 21.6
GSI Glacier Stainless Dualist 24.7
GSI Pinnacle Backpacker 28.8
GSI Pinnacle Base Camper Small 32.2
MSR Alpine 2 22.6
MSR Quick 2 28
Snow Peak 1400 Titanium 7.4
Snow Peak Multi Compact Titanium 11.6
Snow Peak Trek 900 Titanium 6

 

Cookset Contents (what is included)

Cook Set Pot Cup Bowl Lid Sink Pan Additional Items
GSI Pinnacle Dualist 1 2 2 3 1 2 Sporks
MSR Trail Lite Duo 1 2 2 3 None
GSI Glacier Stainless Dualist 1 2 2 3 1 2 Sporks
GSI Pinnacle Backpacker 1 2 2 3 1 1 2 Spoons, Forks, Knives
GSI Pinnacle Base Camper Small 2 2 1 1 1 Cutting Board
MSR Alpine 2 2 1 None
MSR Quick 2 2 2 3 2 Plates
Snow Peak 1400 Titanium 1 1 1 Note: Pan is the Lid
Snow Peak Multi Compact Titanium 2 2 2 Note: Pan is the Lid
Snow Peak Trek 900 Titanium 1 1 1 Note: Pan is the Lid

Narrowing It Down

Almost all of the units felt quality made when in hand.  Some systems were designed by the manufacturer with more car camping in mind, while others were explicitly for ultralight backpacking.  So where do we start?

It’s All about the Weight

As you may already know from our Bag Selection Series articles, weight has a direct correlation to the amount of stress and fatigue placed on your body.  The lighter the load, the easier to carry, or more weight allowance to add something else.  Because of this, one of the main factors in narrowing out the cooking systems was weight.

While some systems were heavier because the materials used, others included more than one cooking pan.  Following the minimalist size method of use, we did not have the need for a skillet, as most all the cooking could be done with the proper size pot.  While some meals would be easier in a skillet with lower sides, the packing needs trumped the additional pots due to the added weight.

 

Snow Peak Micro Cookset

Why Not Titanium?

As you can see we looked at a couple titanium models of cook sets.  Titanium is durable and super lightweight (approximately 45% lighter than steel), however we narrowed these out for a few reasons:

  • Malleable Cookware
  • Titanium Heat Conductivity
  • Tough Cleanup
  • Weight Adds Up

Malleable Cookware

All of the titanium cookware we tested was very malleable meaning it deformed its shape rather easily when compared to the aluminum or steel cookware.  This doesn’t mean it loses its structural ability to hold food or water, but you could easily turn a circular opening of a pot to an oval opening.  Although more of a personal preference, I did not want cookware that could easily be bent or deformed.

Titanium Heat Conductivity

Titanium conducts heat well, similar to stainless steel but does not heat evenly and can develop hot spots when cooking.  It is great for boiling water but can be difficult when cooking more delicate foods such as eggs.

Tough Cleanup

With no non-stick coating and being prone to hot spots, when you are cooking foods rather than just boiling water, it can make for a difficult clean-up with lots of scrubbing.  This means more time, more soap, and more elbow grease when energy conservation is a key concern.

No Lids or Insulation

Since there are no lids available, dropping and spilling easily is an increased concern with children.  If planning to drink a hot beverage, you are drinking out of a pot or pan, there is no hand protection on any of the titanium cookware other than the small movable metal handles.

Weight Adds Up, Even with Titanium

Since our primary method of use was to serve 2 to 4 people, this was only possible with one of the titanium systems we tested, the Snow Peak Multi Compact Cookset.  Even with it, someone is eating either out of a pot or pan (including the one you cooked the food in).  So much for seconds or keeping things warm.  To bridge this, you would have to add additional cook ware to your kit.  Even if looking at additional titanium, you are ranging from 3-10+ ounces added weight, bringing you closer and closer to the weight of aluminum cook systems which offer more features.

These issues with titanium may not be deal breakers for some, especially if you need the ultimate in ultralight gear, but they were ruled out based on personal preference and needs.

The Finalists

GSI Pinnacle Dualist CooksetAfter lots of research and use, the search finally came down to the GSI Dualist and MSR Trail Lite Duo.  Both of which are made of hard-anodized aluminum with a non-stick coating. Both systems weigh in at 21.6 ounces and are also very similar in concept.  While the Dualist features a Teflon coating and the Trail Lite offers a white ceramic PTFE free coating, they both include the following:

  • 1 Pot
  • 1 Pot Lid
  • 2 Bowls
  • 2 Insulated Cups
  • 2 Cup Lids
  • Carry Bag

Add the IsoButane!

Both are robust cook systems, perform well, and provide a great package with a small form factor.  You are able to store an MSR Pocket Rocket or other micro-stove stove in each.  The GSI Dualist also allows you to carry up to an 8oz isobutane canister within the kit while still carrying all the items it comes with.

Coating Comparison

The coating on the GSI Dualist also was more blemish resistant with its Teflon black color.  The MSR Trail Lite ceramic coating is white in color and I was unable to find a unit in store that did not already have blemishes from the way the contents store in the pot.  This did not affect cooking performance of the MSR, but did raise some concerns on overall durability and scratch resistance.

The Winner

GSI Dualist Cookset All PiecesThe overall winner was the GSI Pinnacle Dualist Cookset.  While quite close in comparison to the Trail Lite, the GSI Pinnacle Dualist just seems a little sturdier in hand and offers additional features.  The ingenious design allows multiple uses of many items in the kit, while not sacrificing performance.  For a 21.6 ounce package (without the stove or isobutane canister), it truly offers a great lightweight cooking experience.  To see what brought the Dualist to the top of the pack, check out our dedicated review of the GSI Pinnacle Dualist cook set here.

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