Product Manager Steve Grind answers a few questions about the design and performance of the various sets of kitchen tools offered by MSR.
What is the process behind deciding which utensils go into each set (Ultralight, Alpine, Alpine Deluxe)?
We’re always working to understand our customers as well as we can, and the customer for one product is often different in some ways from the customer for another product, even within a single product line. In the case of a kitchen set, we know that users are likely to cook differently in a base camp or car-camping scenario than they are in an ultralight backpacking one, and this informs what we design and what is included in each kit.
Whom is each kit designed for and why?
The Ultralight Kitchen Set is designed for backpackers and minimalist campers who are still doing some actual cooking, and not simply boiling water to reheat freeze-dried food. In the backcountry, this set might be considered slightly gourmet by some, as it does contain a cutting board and group prep utensils. It is still super compact and light, which makes it ideal if you need to put it in your pack and you’re serving a group of 2-4 people.
The Alpine Deluxe Kitchen set is our most comprehensive set and is designed to do it all. This is for serious backcountry chefs or for anyone desiring a complete kit for their car or river camping chuck box. We’ve had some great feedback from people preparing very involved meals with this set, which includes nearly everything you’ll need to whip up a fancy feast. We’ve even heard from people who rely on this set for small apartments, RVs, or boats. It’s so versatile. The molded case is designed with some extra room, too, in case you want to augment the set with additional tools.
The Alpine Kitchen Set lands somewhere in the middle, offering more than the Ultralight set but not quite as comprehensive as the Deluxe set. Something for everyone.
What inspired the innovations for the combination pot strainer/cheese grate, folding cutting board, and moisture resistant salt and pepper shaker?
Wherever we can make something that is multipurpose and more versatile, we will. Many backcountry chefs are space and weight-constrained, so we strive to design things that are small and light without compromising their intended purpose. Like anything, this can be a balancing act: We don’t want to build a one-size-fits-all (or, as is more often the case, one-size-fits-none) product that fails to perform its primary function well.
What materials and design innovations make these products so lightweight and effective?
Plastic gets a bad rap, but there are some incredibly durable, safe and long-lasting plastic materials available today. Our utensils are molded from a special food-grade, high-temperature Nylon that won’t scratch your non-stick pots. Our salt and pepper shakers are overmolded with a tiny rubber gasket that adds virtually no weight, can’t be separated or lost, and provides a watertight seal. I love seeing our designers go above and beyond in their quest for design elegance; many of these small features go unnoticed, which is sometimes the highest praise. Simplicity is often a wonderful thing.
If you had to choose 2 kitchen items to take on any trip what would they be and why?
Topping my list (beyond the basic essentials like stove, pot, and spoon) would be our Alpine Dish Brush/Scraper. This thing is so handy, and doesn’t add much to my pack. It actually has sort of a cult following: check out the Amazon.com reviews sometime, where you’ll find the word “perfect” used over and over. I love that thing. Second on my list would probably by our Alpine Salt and Pepper Shaker. So small and light, but just the right size for two backpackers.