Keeping Your Pot Handles Cool: A Different Approach

Like many backpackers, I have an MSR Titan Kettle in my cooking arsenal that I take when I need more capacity than my Snow Peak 600 will handle.  I've always thought that the Titan Kettle was one of the best titanium pots ever designed.  It's the perfect size to boil a significant amount of water yet still remain functional as a multi-purpose mug and bowl.  Plus, it's durable, has a tight-fitting lid, spout, and the lid handle is insulated and stays upright so you can grab the lid without burning your fingers.  However, like all titanium pots, it has one Achilles heel:  the handles get HOT!

Many people use a pot grabber of some sort--anything from a bandanna to a folded silicone disc to protect their fingers from the hot handles but I find that it actually makes it awkward and harder to get a good grip on your pot full of boiling water.  If you look at the picture above, you'll see a more clever solution which involves removing the handles and sliding silicone tubing onto them to provide built-in insulation.

This might not be a new idea to you but look at the picture again (specifically, at the MSR Titan Kettle).  Notice anything strange?  The handles are upside down!  
Gear Talk reader Judd Swanson came up with the brilliant idea of not just adding the silicone tubing, but also inverting the handles so there is less surface area near the stove to absorb heat.  This not only keeps the handles cooler, but also makes them more comfortable and secure to hold.  Kudos to Judd on an excellent idea!  I already have the tubing and will be inverting the handles of my Titan Kettle tonight.

If you want to insulate your handles, Judd got his Du-Bro 222 3/32" x 2' Medium Super Blue Silicone Tubing for $1.80 on Amazon.  

Do the rest of you have any pot handle insulation tips or tricks?
Keeping Your Pot Handles Cool: A Different Approach Keeping Your Pot Handles Cool:  A Different Approach Reviewed by Jason Klass on November 03, 2010 Rating: 5


Carl D said...

Hey Jason

I don't think you should be espousing ways for people to handle your pot. Just say'n. :)

Nice post,



Jason Klass said...

Hey Carl, good point since prop 19 didn't pass! ;)

Basti said...

Hey Jason,
Some years ago during the first ultralight backpackers meeting in germany me and some friends developed an other simple but very efficient method to grap your pot. (and lighten up a bit, too)

We've modified our pots to enable our spoons to work as removable handles. Don't know why no one else had this idea before.

Just took some pictures to show you how it works. Have a look:

Unknown said...

Keep the handles apart. It works quite well!

Anonymous said...

With a plain pot (no handle) and a pot gripper you solve the heating problem. You also stop heat leaving the pot through the handle, and the pot is lighter. My DIY pot gripper is made from 1 mm alumin(i)um and weighs 15 grams: Tallabomba's DIY Pot Gripper

Jolly Green Giant said...

There are also many dipping compounds that can be purchased from hardware stores which are used to put a grip/texture on tools. I've used them for several different applications to include camping crockery and find they work very well. They also come in different colors and the thickness of the handle can be decided by the person doing the dipping.

Eileen said...

Nice tip, I just might try this with mine.

Basti, that's a pretty nice spoon mod if you have the right spoon, though I'd be a little leery of spilling water through the holes.

Kathy Handyside said...

Cool! (Literally and figuratively! LOL) My Snow Peak 600 has the same shape handles as the MSR kettle, so I'll be able to invert them. Thanks for this great tip!

Unknown said...

Athletic Tape. Also good for that inpromptu knive cut while cooking

Unknown said...

Jason, great idea. I wonder if the silicone will have any issues with melting, especially if using the system with a wood fire?

That's brilliant Basti! A great ultralight solution!

Chris said...

I've used it on converted Zebra billy pots over stainless wire handles for years. Works quite well. I never thought to put it up on my blog so I'm glad you did.

btw.. new item is coming very soon.

Jason Klass said...

Awesome mod. Can I ask how you cut into the titanium walls as titanium is notoriously difficult to work with (I know first hand).

Jolly Green Giant-
That's a great tip too. I have tried tool dip and it works very well. I guess the main point of my post wasn't necessarily about handle insulation but about inverting the handles on the Titan Kettle to keep them cooler.

There's no need to invert the handles on your 600. They already have the thin part at the bottom and the thick part at the top. The Titan is the opposite and so it really only makes sense for this specific pot. Though, the 600 could certainly benefit from insulated handles.

I haven't tried it over a wood fire yet but can't imagine the results would be much different than using it over an alcohol stove. The reason for using silicone is that it's much more heat resistant than other materials.

Basti said...

@Jason: Thank you. It was indeed a little bit tricky to get the holes through the titanium. I just used a normal metal driller. After drilling four holes (two on each side) I used a rasp to remove the part between the holes and smoothed the edges.

@ Eileen: I've got no problems with spilling water through the holes as they are just below the rim and rather small.
But if you want to you could always use them to pour water out of the pot. For eg. when cooking pasta.

@John Roan: Thanks. But it was not only my idea. there where two friends of mine included.
( )

Fredmax said...

Hey Jason,
I bought some silicon tubing that you recommended. I was wondering how you got it to slide onto the handle? I was going to try wetting it with water.

Jason Klass said...

I tried using water and it didn't really seem to help much. What I did was twist and push the tubing onto the handles. It was very time consuming and gave me bad blisters on my thumb and index finger (read: WEAR GLOVES). I couldn't think of a good lubricant that wasn't flammable so I just decided to tough it out and go the slow and steady route. Here's another tip: leave a gap at both ends of the handles. This will help keep the hottest areas from melting. Let us know how you make out.

Fredmax said...

Hi Jason,
I silicone spray lubricant sprayed into the tubing. I was able to slide it onto the handles of my Snowpeak 600 mug with a little effort. The Snowpeak handles are much thicker than my MSR kettle.

Unknown said...

Nice one, Jason! I hadn't thought of that. My Snow Peak could use some silicon tubing on it.

Redwood Outdoors said...

I used some aquarium fish tubing and it has worked very well - plus I had it sitting around the house already.

Carol said...

I tried, but wasn't able to slide the silicone tubing you suggested on the handles of my Snowpeak 700, it was way too tight. So I was poking around at Lowe's and bought "heat shrink tubing" from Ideal, cost of a package is $2.70 and it contains enough to do several pots. Slid this tubing on much easier, then held the handle over my gas stove at home with tongs for a few seconds, moving it around for even heating, and it shrunk right up. The handles look great - like it was professionally done! I'll be testing its insulating properties this weekend out in Anza-Borrego.

Greg said...

Great tip, Jason.

I used a drop of dish soap in end of the tubing before starting & it went on without a struggle. Did the lid handle of my Titan pot as well (the handle comes off if you use two sets of pliers to spread it apart).

I bought my tubing from ebay seller luvrc. That was the cheapest place I could find it $1.60 for the tubing & $1.56 for shipping. The tubing from ebay was blue (like the stuff you used), not yellow (like shown in the ebay listing).

David Wright said...

I did the same thing as Carol. I bought some heat-shrink tubing from Lowes (electrical isle). It's very inexpensive and easy to install since it's loose on the install then shrinks to fit. Plus, it's heat resistant by definition.

I haven't actually tried it out yet but it looks good and adds grip with no added bulk or weight.

Anonymous said...

I have a suggestion for your handles... use Sugru. Google it- it's a mouldable glue that cures in 24 hours to a flexible silicone rubber, and its temp safe to 180°C/356°F. I always keep a small pack in my grab-bag.
Hope this helps!!

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