All backpackers or extended trip trekkers likely know what dehydrated food, trail mix and Astronaut Icecream taste like. Not bad right? In fact, when you figure out the exact amount of water and time required, these meals can almost pass for mom’s cooking on a lazy weekend evening, the outdoor patio speakers thumping the classic rock of your parents youth. That is, after a long day of hoofing a 40lb. plus pack through the foothills of Appalachia on a rainy October day, these meals taste like this. A day that you haven’t eaten, and you’ve been chased a quarter mile by a ornery Mountain Lioness. Ok, lets be honest, dehydrated meals often leave much to be desired in the savoriness department. While they excel in weight and space savings, they usually fall flat when it comes to taste. So what is a intrepid backcountry chef to do? Invest in some purpose built light weight cooking apparatuses for the bush. One prime example, collapsible lightweight backpacking grill for cooking over a bed of coals. Enter the UCO Grilliput Duo.
UCO is a outdoor gear company founded in Washington in 1971. The company acronym, UCO, stands for Utility, Comfort and Originality and they design and produce products that satisfy those themes. The Grilliput Duo is their answer to minimalist outdoor grilling. Crafted out of stainless steel the Grilliput Duo is a compact, collapsible, backcountry grilling grate. It can be assembled in a couple of minutes and used for on site gourmet grilling action. You will no longer be relegated to cooking your first night’s steak in a tinfoil wrap on the coals of your fire. (You don’t all have a tradition of steak and beers the first night of a backpacking trip? For shame. Get on that.)
The Grilliput Duo is fairly lightweight at only 19.8 oz (560g) and when collapsed into itself it has dimensions of 11.4″ x 0.9″ (29 cm x 2.2 cm). It is easily packed into the main compartment of your trip bag but personally, I use the key ring attached on the end to hang the collapsed grill on the outside of my pack via a carabiner. The packability of the Grilliput Duo is a result of its ingenious design. Out of the package it is one stainless steel tube. One end is permanently sealed with a key ring attached, the other has a stainless steel screw-on cap. When you unscrew the cap you find a perfectly nested second steel tube that contains the grill bars and legs neatly inside of it. It all fits together elegantly like a Russian Matryoshka doll. There is little play between the separate pieces and this prevents it from rattling around annoyingly as you walk but there is enough that it is not impossible to pack it all back together again.
The Grilliput Duo is not difficult to put together when you read the instructions and follow them step by step the first time. I know, read and follow the instructions, what a novel idea. Assembly is not a long process either and subsequent attempts take less and less time. Generally it only takes a couple of minutes. It is important to reiterate that you should follow the directions when putting the grill together because apart from making the process much easier, it also makes the grill more secure.
The grill is fairly stable but I won’t lie and tell you that it can hold a full turkey. That said, it doesn’t have much play to it when complete and it will hold a appropriate amount of food for its grilling space without worry of it collapsing. It grilling area is 9.1″ x 10.2″ (23 cm x 26 cm). Much of your ability to balance round foods like hot dogs or sausages on the grilling surface has much less to do with the design of the grill itself and more to do with the surface that you are balancing it on. In testing I was able to make fish and peppers on the grill in one case and two steaks and mushrooms in another without any real balance problems. (I did lose a couple of peppers, but it wasn’t the grills fault) The weight of these amounts of food didn’t pose a problem for the grill either and I never felt it was in any danger of collapsing. I should also note that the steel used is very easy to clean. This is true even if you only have some camp soap and your hands. You could always put off cleaning it till you get back home (depending on how long you are out and your worries about bacteria growth) and the whole grill is of course dishwasher safe.
In other reviews the durability of the steel used in the production of the grill was called into question in regards to its ability to withstand heat and fire exposure. The descriptions in these reviews indicated that the users were cooking directly over open fires. They did mention that these were not big fires but none the less they were exposing the grill directly to open flames. In MY experience this was not an issue. First, I did expose the grill to flames in one instance, my fire was very small, and I noticed no warping of the steel bars or any loss of structural integrity despite that heat exposure. In the other instance I was cooking over a bed of coals and the grill was subjected to no direct flame exposure, only heat, and still no problems. I imagine that given enough heat or under a long enough duration there would be issues but the proper way to cook over such a grill would be over a bed of coals anyways. This method cooks your food more evenly, prevents charring and inordinate smoke exposure.
If you would like to step up your backcountry cooking game the Grilliput Duo is a great way to expand the range of recipes available to you. With the packability and low weight of the grill it makes the idea of cooking food from scratch far away from your home kitchen a much more doable option. You are going to take a weight penalty because of the grill, and obviously whole food does weigh more than its dehydrated version, but the feeling of sitting back and enjoying a real cooked meal under a blanket of stars far away from the drone of the city is well worth it. Plus the utility that it provides may help you to convince your backpacking adverse buddies to get out on the trail with you, now that you can bribe them with your (hopefully) gourmet cooking as a reward after a long days hike under weight. If they still say no? No worries, more steak and beer for you! Happy grilling!