I typicaly use charcoal and a little but of water. The only coating I know that would be damaged is teflon. But I don't use teflon for my cookware.
I have used ashes out of the fire pit on occasion with good success. This will only really work if you are cooking things like bacon. The fat mixed with ash makes a natural soap because of the lye found in wood ash.
Most often though, due to not cooking fatty meats, I use a little sponge scrub pad I found in the camping isle of Wal-Mart. It's about half the size of the ones used in the kitchen, and they come with soap already in them. Pretty handy to have in a pack, and light weight too. Scroll down to my pic of the roll up grill. I have the package with one of these scrubbers in it so you can see what brand it is.
I have also on occasion, carried a small travel sized container of dish soap, about the size of the shampoo bottles found in motels. In fact, these work great to carry dish soap in. And a few years back I found some camping towels in a gas station that are really awesome. I have no clue who makes them, or where to find them today, but I thought they were so cool, I bought half a dozen of them.
These towels are super compressed and wrapped in heat shrink plastic, sandwiched between two cardboard disks. The package is about the size of a half dollar, and maybe half an inch thick. To use them, you open the package and drop it in water. As it soaks up the water, the towel becomes uncompressed, quickly turning into a full size washcloth. I haven't found out how to put them back in their packages yet though.
I decided to see if I could find a link for these towels. I found one:
Amazon.com: Camp Compressed Towels, 4 Pack
Now back to the original subject
I don't mean to sound rude to all of you who have been so kind as to share your input with me, but seriously... plastic utensils is all you suggest to carry with you?!? Why do so many of you suggest plastic kits as a mess kit? How do you fry an egg on that?!?! That can't agree too well with a camp stove, now can it?
Well, I finally found the time to snap some pics and upload them to share with everyone so you can see what I am dealing with. What follows is a series of pictures of my cooking/eating tools, and why I am looking to find something better. So without further adieu, I give you, The Mess Kit:
This kit is just too much to pack in on my back, so I usually just take the BSA kit with, along with some other items stashed away inside the pot. Here is what the kit consists of:
As you can see, there is quite a bit of stuff here. The standard BSA style kit is self explanatory,, so I will explain the pot. It contains four nested bowls, four double sided spice shakers, one isobutane canister, a folding fork, spoon, and spatula(my knife stays on my side), a Brunton Raptor cook stove with piezoelectric-electric ignition, and a fire starting kit. The fire starting kit consists of tinder and char cloth,(real)flint, steel striker, a magnesium bar with flint rod on the side, and a razor blade.
When I camp close to my vehicle, I like to use this grill:
It's sturdy, and it makes a mean steak. It's also great for holding my pots and pans so I can cook my stew, fry bacon and eggs, or whatever else I feel like cooking. If I am hiking into the back country, Which I do more often than not, I like to use my roll up grill:
As you can see, it seems rather flimsy. And for all practical purposes it is. I have considered making a pair of steel rods that will snap into it to give some support along the sides, but it usually works good enough for what I cook on it. The trick is to use it in soft soil over a Dakota Fire Hole. Make the hole small enough to fit easily between the legs, then stick the legs into the ground while the grill is stretched to it's most stable position. It's strong enough to hold the blue pot filled with stew, so that's good enough for me. I have also used it quite successfully with the BSA style kit. This is how the grill rolls up:
I wrap it in a towel to keep the soot from getting all over everything, then I stuff it inside it's orange bag and toss it in my backpack.
Now, I know what you're thinking, this is outrageous overkill. I am packing too much stuff with me, and I could just as easily use a few rocks to set my pots and pans on while cooking. I should utilize my surroundings to do my cooking, thus lightening my load. In a SHTF situation, I'd wear myself out after a mile if I was running for the hills. Well, that's why I am asking what the best kit is. I know I have too much. I know I am over-prepared. I want to break this stuff down to only what I need.
But like I said, I'm not always carrying everything with me. I do pick and choose what to take, depending on where I am going and what I am doing. I'm just hoping there is some kind of kit out there that is light, compact, and will be able to carry everything I need to cook and eat with. But you can't cook on plastic. I'd just like to maintain the abilities of this kit while being able to hold all of the same items. I guess what would be optimal for me would be a kit similar to the way the BSA kit packs up, but with a pot similar in size to the blue one I have.
I would like to see a large pot with a nested plate and smaller pot like the BSA kit has, a drinking/measuring cup, a lid for both pots, and a frying pan that can be turned over and latched to the top of the package. Optimally, I would like this kit to have enough extra room to store my stove, fuel, and utensils. I'm sure I am asking way too much though. I have yet to run across anything like this that doesn't cater to four or more people.