Not everything new is good and not everything old is bad. Case in point, the venerable Sierra Cup. It is often maligned and even ridiculed when I bring it up during my “Tips from a Thousand Trips” lecture, and I cannot understand why. Okay, hooking it on your belt is hokey, but beyond that, the Sierra Cup has a lot to recommend it.
It’s crafted either out of stainless steel or more recently titanium and herein lies advantage number one. When compared to a plastic or lexan cup there is a big difference in hygiene. In the bush it is difficult to get a plastic cup clean. In my experience plastic cups often retain a greasy film that I find repulsive. Steel? Squeaky clean, even when washed without soap. The older the plastic cup, the deeper the scratches which are just traps for grease and germs. Plastic also gets brittle with age, my steel Sierra cups are still in great shape after 30 years.
I can make a cup of tea on top of my three candle lantern, can’t do that with plastic. The bowl-like shape of the Sierra Cup also makes it more versatile than most other cups. It’s great for oatmeal, soup or stew and much easier to clean than a cylinder shaped cup. One of the hallmarks of the Sierra Cup is the wire beneath the cup’s lip. This pulls heat away from the rim. Typical tin cups can easily burn your lips but not the Sierra Cup. The “belt hook” handle on the Sierra Cup makes it easy to hang them on a rigid length of p-cord strung between two trees. In this way it stows the cups in one place, and in a position to dry quickly, and out of reach of rodents.
It’s getting difficult to find Sierra Cups to purchase at retail. There have also been some permutations of Sierra Cups that should be avoided. One innovation that is desirable is the 25% deeper Sierra Cup, but avoid the giant Sierra Cups, these bloated giants have no place in your wanigan. Do not buy the REI Sierra Cup it does not have the cooling rim or the hooked handle. It’s a good example of, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. If you do an Internet search you can find the real deal and also some made of titanium, often they are on sale. At the Midwest Expo last week I did see a few of them on clearance. Garage sales are another source.
One final advantage of the Sierra Cup is it conducts heat quickly. Your crew won’t be standing around sipping from their insulated plastic mugs and savoring that cup of coffee in the morning when paddling is at its best.