Continuing on my gear hacking spree, the next unwilling victim is my aluminum pot lifter. I've been using an Open Country aluminum pot lifter for the past two years and really like the added security and safety it affords me when lifting my hot Snow Peak 600 cup up off of a stove or out of a fire. No one likes to burn their pinkies.
The Open Country pot lifter costs just $3.25 from REI which is just about the cheapest pot lifter/grabber on the market that I am aware of, but it's far from the lightest. Weighing in at 57g it's almost twice the weight of the MSR LiteLifter which weighs a mere 28.3g and costs a whopping $15. The MSR version is lighter simply because of the design which uses less aluminum - less metal means less weight.
A popular weight reduction technique seen in pocket knives/tools is called skeletonizing and even if you're not familiar with the term, chances are you've seen examples of it such as the Leatherman Skeletool - probably the best example I can think of. It's a simple process; you drill out or remove as much of the material (in most cases that's metal) as you can without reducing the strength or stability of the item. Which got me thinking... hands up if you know where I'm going with this.
Heck I can drill holes! The Open Country pot lifter is made from aluminum, which is one of the softest and easiest metals to work with, and I have a drill press, files, wire wool, and pretty much all the tools I would need in my garage - sounds like a perfect DIY project to me.
The target weight to beat, or get as close to as I can, is that of the pricy MSR LiteLifter (28.3g). I didn't know if that was possible but I was certainly willing to drill the crap out of my $3 pot lifter in order to give it a shot. Being the OCD geek that I am, I took a little time to mark out a center line on the top handle and eyeball roughly where I wanted the holes to go. I used an automatic center-punch to mark where each of the holes would go and to help stop the drill from skipping on the surface of the metal. I also got a little creative with the positioning and size of the holes I wanted to make.
As you can see from the photos, I drilled a lot of holes in both the top and the bottom handle to reduce the weight. Even without the benefit of making the gripper lighter weight, I actually think that my skeletonized version looks a lot cooler than the original - maybe Open Country could think about doing this themselves to compete with MSR. You're welcome Open Country, I'm looking forward to my first royalty check.
Drilling holes in any type of metal will create a lot razor sharp burs, which will shred your hands and fingers (the voice of experience). So, I took some time to clean up all the edges of the drilled holes on both sides with some very small jeweler's files that I have. Once the sharp edges were removed I gave the entire surface a good rub down with fine wire wool to give a clean, satin-brushed finish.
Oh the new weight? After drilling all of the holes and tidying up, the final weight of my $3 pot lifter was an amazing 28g exactly! That was a hair under the weight of the more expensive MSR LiteLifter (28.3g). I'm pretty sure that I could remove an awful lot more metal without jeopardizing the integrity of the gripper or impeding its function, but for now I'm really happy with the results and will definitely be carrying this with me from now on. I think it looks really great, what do you think?
Disclosure: The author owns this product and paid for it using their own funds.
Brian is a Charlotte based backpacker, gear junkie, runner, and CrossFit(er). Originally from Southampton, England, Brian has lived in the US for over 20 years, finally settling in North Carolina. He spends as much time backpacking as his busy work schedule and family life will allow.