Recently on this blog I made a brief mention of the Yugoslavian Mess Kit. Since then I have the opportunity to examine a couple of examples so I can now provide some additional details.
The first thing you notice about this mess kit is the pouch that it comes in. There is an old joke that an elephant is a horse designed to military specifications and there is an element of truth in such witticisms. I have a British ’58 pattern water bottle pouch that I suspect weighs more than many rucksacs I own! The pouch for the Yugoslav mess kit is therefore a pleasant surprise, being simple and made of a reasonable weight of robust canvas. It is provided with two closed loop attachment points on the back. These appear to be approximately 2″ so will accommodate many types of belt you may want to use with it.
I got to examine two examples, both of dull green but differing in shade. The mess kit slid easily out of the first one I examined but the second stubbornly refused to yield its contents at first! Mystified by this I discovered the slot moulding on the bowl was catching under the fastening for the pouch top. This just seems to be a variation in cut and once freed the problem has not reoccurred.
The lower, metal part of the mess kit I will call “the pot”. Construction is quite sturdy and the metal used is of a good thickness. Capacity is about 800 mls. The pot lid fold upwards and holds the bowl in place when the kit is in the pouch.
The “bowl” is rectangular in section and appears of similar size and shape to the pot. Capacity is actually about 700 mls and wall thickness seems to be at least 3-4 mm. The bowl fits over a lip on the top of the pan and is a good friction fit but is also secured by the pan handle. The bowl has no handle but a slot moulded on one side is designed to be hooked over the upturned end of the pot handle. In this manner both pot and bowl can be held in one hand, for example while queuing in a mess line. Like all other plastic parts of the kit it is marked “NE DRŽATI NA VATRI” (“Do not place in Fire”).
Inside the bowl and pot is a water bottle. This is slightly unusual for a military water bottle in that it is rectangular in section to fit efficiently within the pot. Capacity is a splash over one litre. The plastic is a little softer than for the other items and has a degree of spring to it. It appears to be intelligently designed and constructed for its intended role. Fitting over the spout of the bottle is a rectangular section “beaker”. This fits over a raised lip on the top of the bottle and forms a secure friction fit. Capacity of the beaker is approximately 150 mls.
The Yugoslavian mess kit is often marketed as an “eight-piece kit”. The final three components are a Knife, Fork and Spoon set (KFS). This fits in the side of pouch in what appears to be an internal pocket but is in fact just two flat loops of cloth. It is easier to fit the kit back in the pouch if the KFS is replaced after the eating and drinking vessels.
The KFS is somewhat different to the camping KFS I grew up with. The grip of the knife is formed into a sleeve into which the handles of the spoon and fork are inserted. An inscription inside the knife handle includes the word “ROSTFREI” which I know is German for “rust-free” aka “stainless steel”. Odd that, since two tiny specks that appear to be rust are near the inscription. A quick check with a magnet reveals the fork and spoon are not magnetic, but the knife is!
The knife blade has both a serrated section and a straight, apparently chisel-edged, part. As I reported in a previous blog, the knife has a bottle opener cut-out. I now discover it is provided with a can-opener beak as well. The spoon is quite generously sized. Fork and spoon are both “full-sized” implements which might disappoint the “ultra-light” travellers but be welcome to those with larger hands. Warning: The serrated part of the blade is surprisingly sharp!
One of the kit’s virtues is also the chief objection. Everything fits neatly together in one package. It is, however, very difficult to access the water bottle without first removing the bowl and pot from the pouch, removing the bottle from within them removing the beaker. Admittedly it may be possible with some pouches to push the pot handle back far enough to remove the bowl while keeping the pot in the pouch, but this is fiddly and not something I would like to try when it is on a belt and I am on the move. Don’t use this as your primary water bottle. Use it to complement a system such as one with a drinking tube you can drink from while walking.
The Yugoslavian mess kit on its own would not be my first choice for camping/ bushcraft needs. It does, however provide you with some very nice components to build a kit around at a very reasonable price. Many military water bottles or camping KFS kits on sale cost more than the entire Yugoslavian kit. In fact, many belt pouches on their own cost more!