Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Kupilka kuksa and alternative drinking strategies

So what is behind the recent resurgence in these weird little old fashioned Scandinavian drinking cups, especially in the often technologically 'early adopter' UL world? Hendrik has to take some of the blame/credit. While everyone else was drinking out of the UL standard drinking vessels such as Platypus bottles and recycled soda/smoothie bottles Hendrik was enjoying his beverages and drinking water from his small traditional wooden 'kuksa'. It caught on quickly after a couple of international UL backpacking trips and it seems to have snowballed from there.

The kuksa is perfect for drinking water in most of Scandinavia. Instead of filling a Platypus bottle and sipping from it along the trail you just drink a couple of cups of fresh drinking water from the abundant, clean water sources that fill this part of the world. You never seem to be more than an hour from potable water, even in late Autumn when all the snow from the previous winter has melted and many small streams have dried up. The mug also doubles as your camp drinking vessel. I know we all like to go ultra-light and drinking and eating from your cooking pot is a way to save weight but the little kuksa is far more civilised and if I have to consider it one of my 'luxuries' then so be it.

When friends visited me here in Bergen in the summer two of us went to the local sports store to stock up on some things before a camping trip. I bought myself a mass produced wooden kuksa and my friend did the same. When we joined the rest of the group on the camping trip there was much mug envy. Kuksa's are just neater, nicer to drink from and more in harmony with the surroundings than any of the titanium or plastic mugs that the rest of the group had.

So the recent release of Kupilka's new range of innovative but reassuringly retro outdoor crockery and cutlery caused quite a stir in blogdom, helped in no small part to Hendrik's fine piece here.

I have been lucky enough to receive one of the new '21' kuksas from Michael at Kupilka. It's manufactured from a 'Natural Fibre Composite' which is 50% pine wood fibre and 50% polypropylene plastic that doesn't contain those nasty plasticizers that have caused health scares in recent years. The composite material has several advantages over cups made with either wood or plastic. It's dishwasher proof, doesn't absorb odours or flavours and yet is comfortable to hold and it's colouring is in tune with nature. Actually this can be a minor disadvantage in that it could be easy to lose the '21' around camp so like Hendrik I've replaced the stock natural cord with some bright 2mm dyneema cord. The '21's thermal insulating characteristics are just about spot on for me, keeping beverages warm enough while you drink them without insulating your lips too much which can lead to surprise mouth burn as happened to me using a double walled titanium mug.

Another nice feature is that the composite material is strong which allows the kuksa to be thinner walled than my traditional kuksa, saving weight and increasing volume. The '21' weighs 82g and has a volume of 210ml. Perfect for a good cup of coffee in the morning. The products can all be recycled at the end of their life and all the packaging is made from recycled materials. It would make a great Christmas gift.

The humble kuksa has changed the way I drink in the mountains and the Kupilka '21' kuksa has changed my perception of these little cups. Thankfully here in Norway we don't have to worry about treating our water in the majority of the country so I will continue to stop at bubbling streams and savour the clean, cold revitalising water. I've never been ill from drinking this way.Touch wood... or Natural Fibre Composites.

11 comments:

Thomas W. Gauperaa said...

Nice review, they look neat, but I think I'll hold on to my mass produced kuuksa a little longer - lord knows I have enough redundancy in my gear collection already! :)

Maz said...

They are rather gorgeous, aren't they?

Shed Dweller said...

More gear I don't need but MUST have! You're a bad man.

Joe Newton said...

Thomas - 'accidently' give your old one away and get one of the Kupilkas for Christmas ;-)

Maz - they are indeed.

Shed Dweller - Christmas is coming, tell Santa you've been a good boy and want a kuksa as a stocking filler!

Hendrik M said...

Some fine photos you took there, Jedi Joe. Mine is coming to Scotland on Sunday!

Anonymous said...

My little cup holds a little under175ml and its been filled with just about anything drinkable even water! After 6yrs I can still taste the salt used in its production. Surley in the UL world of the gram weeny there is room for the real thing. However your right of course and I wouldn't say no to a modern vesion turning up in my christmas stocking!
'The Old Man'

stick13 said...

Nice review and great pictures! I first came across a review of the Kupilka over at hrxxlight.com and then at Hendriks site. After seeing thier reviews, well I wanted one. After seeing another review of it on a US site (briangreen.net) I realized it was time I got one. So I did. Just arrived a few days ago, and I like it.
I would love to get a real (wooden) kuksa, but I am perfectly happy with the Kupilka 21 for now. I must say though, that I am seeing more about these over the net. (Or maybe I am just noticing them now that I have one...)

Chris (i-cjw.com) said...

I can absolutely see why you'd want one of these along. As you say, metal mugs are either so insulated that you get mouth-burn, or so conductive that you get heat-scalded lips...

Martin Nordesjö said...

I think the most important point here is that you don't need to carry water in the Scandinavian mountains. You just need a mug.

The freedom of drinking directly from nature when you want is central for me. The trip hasn't officially started until you take that first sacred sip.

I've used a modern plastic "kåsa" since I was a kid, and now I'm quite happy with my folding plastic kåsa: http://www.getout.se/sv/artiklar/vikbar-kasa.html
Not as nice as a wooden one, of course, but very practical pocketable and lightweight.

A bunch of these are also a standard part of my family picnic equipment.

Joe Newton said...

Hendrik - aye, have fun in Scotland!

The Old Man - the entire, if somewhat hidden, meaning of the post was supposed to relay that it is perfectly ok to use a kuksa, even if you are a 'gram weenie'. As for using the real thing, I have no problem with that either. I changed my kuksa because I felt there were certain advantages to the Kupilka kuksa over a traditional one and I knew I had a grateful recipient waiting for my old one. As for getting one for a Christmas present, I like your subtlety!

stick13 - Kupilka were very smart to build a fan base amongst the outdoor bloggers. They knew we'd give our impartial opinions to our not insignificant audiences and were already using kuksas.

Chris - I loved my Snowpeak Double Wall. She was so pretty. But she burned my mouth one time too many...

Joe Newton said...

Martin - yes, the basic premise of my article got somewhat lost! You don't need a bottle to keep hydrated in most of Scandinavia (except during winter...).

"The trip hasn't officially started until you take that first sacred sip" is a good legend to live by but I prefer "The trip hasn't officially started until cold water pours in through your unlined trail runners" ;-)

I've been using a folding 'kåsa' up until recently and love that they can be folded up and stored in your pocket or cook pot. I find them a little small though and the handle a bit flimsy. Be interesting to know if there are any 'plasticizers' in their construction too...