Friday, April 1, 2016

Gear Review: MSR Flex Skillet

For a while now I've looked for a decent skillet for fishing and camping trips that would be light enough for extended camping and backpacking trips. It needed to be robust, lightweight and non stick. That pretty much removed any stainless or cast iron cook wear. I already have some MSR items that work well, so I decided to try the Flex Skillet. At 7oz and $30, it wasn't a large investment in weight or cost. I bought it last summer and have been bringing it with me on the many trips I've taken.

In the real world, it has worked flawlessly as a serving dish, frying pan, stove base, warming dish, water pot and sauce pan. I've cooked more than 50 different items in it from Bacon to mashed potatoes. I've fried fish, squirrel, eggs, venison and pork chops in it. Most of this cooking was over an open flame, which requires careful vigilance when your supplies are finite in the field. The aluminum pan disperses hot spots faster than a steel pan could, so it's easy to pull it off the flame and not burn your dish.

This last trip we took saw a lot of cooking with this pan. We pan fried some Asian noodles, fried bacon twice, fixed pancakes, eggs, made taco meat and made chicken and noodles in it. All of this was done over the coals of an open fire without any signs of wear or abuse.

So far, the skillet had held up famously. When it first arrived, I was dubious of the plastic pieces on the handle as well as the attachment system. I've burnt this thing to a crisp and blackened the areas that the plastic resides without any deformity or loosening of those plastic bits. Must be some type of Teflon or space age polymer to take that kind of heat without showing signs of melting. The non stick coating is wearing thin at the top edge where it rest in my pack, and except for a few nicks it's 100% there inside the pan cooking surface.

The handle is a polymer so it doesn't get too hot unless you leave the handle in the fire. I've lost all the hair on my hand and never felt the handle was too hot to touch. The removable handle fits inside the 9 inch skillet with ease. It's made of polymer and aluminum with a detachment slide to allow it to fold or be removed. A 9 inch skillet is perfectly sized for the needs of a backpacker. It won't serve more than a few people, but it will be easily packed and cleaned, the two things a backpacker like myself looks for.

Over all, it's been a great investment. I don't have a single complaint due to knowing that a lightweight pan wouldn't heat as evenly as a thick pan. You improvise and control the heat with the fire lay instead. Even pancakes turned out flawless on an open fire.

The good: Light weight, Moderately priced, non stick, removable handle, polymer handle stays cool, anodized outer coating.
The bad: Still a thin gauge Aluminum sheet, gets hot spots.
The ugly: I didn't buy this years ago.

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