This is a pet peeve of mine. I see many Scouts go out and get those metal military mess kits that also can be used to cook in. I hate these things. Not only do I know some old time leaders that have witnessed first hand some nasty burns as a result of using these mess kits to cook with, generally from the small pot with the handle in the middle of many of these kits. They are also bulky and heavy making them a bad choose for backpacking for example. I have also witnessed so many Scouts struggle after each meal to properly put them back together correctly. Yeah yeah, I know they are not that hard to fold back up, but all the same I see Scouts fight them all the time. You get the point I don't like them.
What I personally recommend, especially to new Scouts, is to simply take a large zip lock bag, put into it 1 plastic plate, 1 plastic bowl, 1 plastic coffee cup, and 1 plastic fork and spoon. All marked clearly and permanently with the Scouts name. If these items get lost or broken, its no big deal. Also these items tend to be pretty easy to wash after a meal.
I have also heard of people substituting the plate for a Frisbee. The idea behind the Frisbee is not only does it make a good plate, the ones with a rim can act as a mini bowl. Also when it comes to say Backpacking, one item is better then several, which in this case would be a plate, bowl and a toy. I should point out after using it for eating or playing it needs to be cleaned properly.
What I have outlined above is just a cheap way to get started. Personally, I use a metal Colman coffee like cup. I know many who swear by the Sierra cups. I encourage each of you to leave comments. Some of you may like and swear by the metal mess gear – tell us why. Some of you may have other ideas for good mess kits – please tell us.