Editing Down: camp stoves
It’s time to start editing down my gear again! Spring is coming and I will be moving back to the Appalachians soon…which means ample hiking opportunities. If you lived in a town that the Appalachian Trail went through you’d probably hike a lot too! Even though I will not be embarking on any thru-hikes in 2012, I plan to do my fair share of over-nighters. That being said, I learned a thing or two from my recent thru-hike and have decided to make some changes. I will remind all you outdoor adventure lovers:
It is always a good idea for hikers to review, evaluate, and edit (if necessary) their gear from time to time!
Way back when, during the infancy of my thru-hike planning, I decided on a white fuel powered camp stove. I had strong convictions about this item, which is why I initially chose to carry its weight and forgo other lighter alternatives.
I started my hike with the MSR WhisperLight, a white fuel-powered stove. It came in at 11 oz., minus the weight of the fuel. I chose this stove because I had worked with it in the past and was comfortable using it in a wilderness setting. Another huge factor in choosing this particular stove was the fact that white fuel is common and readily available everywhere. I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not people carried that type of fuel since it has been around for so long. Meanwhile, alcohol-powered stoves were becoming more and more popular; however, I wasn’t sure that denatured alcohol would be available everywhere on the trail. When you choose your gear for a thru-hike you want to know that it will be reliable and solid. I was fearful about the availability of denatured alcohol and chose what I knew would always be there.
I will admit that my suspicions were wrong. I was actually amazed at the number of hikers who utilized alcohol stoves and had zero issues acquiring denatured alcohol. I often came across Trail Magic in the form of free denatured alcohol. Moreover, many hikers utilized hand-crafted alcohol stoves–you know, the ones fashioned out of beer cans. I asked many of them how they made these creations and they all had the same response–the best part of making these stoves was drinking the beer to get the empty cans : )
Nonetheless, I have decided to go a new route, using a hand-crafted beer can stove. They weigh about 2 oz., are small and compact. Another benefit to these stoves, is that they have no mechanical or moving parts. I found that my WhisperLight required regular maintenance, cleaning, and tweaking to function properly. After a long day of hiking, who wants to mess around with their stove? So I did a little research and very quickly found numerous online videos demonstrating how to build one of these stoves.
In terms of cooking, I find these stoves very easy to use. It takes a bit of practice, but it is easy to learn the tricks of the trade. The above video does a great job demonstrating the construction of the stove; however, I would like to address some things about lighting and using the stove.
Tips & Tricks on this particular model of alcohol stove:
- BEFORE you pour the denatured alcohol into the stove, you need to heat the bottom of the stove with your lighter. Just run your lighter back-and-forth across the bottom surface of the stove for a few seconds. This creates a vacuum between the inner stabilizing wall and the outside wall of the stove. This makes lighting the stove MUCH EASIER!
- It only takes about 3/4 of an ounce denatured alcohol to boil water. These stoves don’t have the luxury of control–there’s no simmer option here, but in the wilderness we usually only need to boil water.
- Pour the fuel into the center of the stove and light. Give it a few seconds for the excess flame to burn off and then… voila! Blue flames should shoot from the sides.
One last tip:
This video demonstrates the stove without a pot holder. I will suggest the use of a pot holder as placing a pot directly onto the stove can cut-off the oxygen flow and snuff out the flame. Here is an easy way to make a light-weight, compact pot holder.
Go to the hardware or home improvement store and ask for a scrap of square wire mesh. You only need a small piece, wide enough to be just higher than the stove itself and about 6 to 7 inches in length. Simply curve the mesh into a circle shape and place around the stove. That single piece of mesh will only weigh about an ounce, but will have the stability to support a pot full of boiling water. When you are finished cooking, just flatten the mesh out and store flat in your pack.