I like food. I like being in the backcountry with no civilized amenities. So, those two things in combination mean that I’m frequently thinking about my mess kit, or how I make food in the back country. Generally, I’m kind of a lightweight person, so I’m usually just boiling water for freeze-dried pouch food. Easy, light-ish, and the only thing to “cook” is heating water. There are times, however, when I actually want FOOD, not a chemistry experiment. So, I try cooking over a stove and over a fire. For the stoves, here’s what I use. Context – the pots in this tale are Evernew 700, 900, and a GSI Ketalist – a pretty nifty approach, if your focus is just boiling water.
I used to use (and still own) an MSR canister stove. The weight of the stove wasn’t too bad, but the canisters were heavy, and you packed out nearly the same weight that you packed in. For cooking however, the canister stove simmers nicely … ;-)
So, I started looking at alcohol stoves. I read a whole bunch of stuff about DIY, and even joined BPL in order to get access to articles on it (which turned out to be unnecessary). I was a little leery of the DIY approach initially, which explains why I purchased the Great Brass Boat Anchor, aka the Trangia. But the brass base stove is pretty heavy. I did have it on an outing and it did successfully boil water, but not without some effort and supplementary wind screening with my pack. Note to self – pay attention to windscreens.
After that, I started to see the virtues in a lighter format, so I started researching the DIY options. I decided on a SuperCat, mostly because it’s easy. I also picked-up a small roll of aluminum flashing to use for windscreen material (see – I DID learn something!). The SuperCat worked well with the Evernew 900 and 700 pots. I had a windscreen set-up that was directional, and light. I didn’t have a base for the stove, but I am capable of paying attention to where I put the hot stuff. The SuperCat was very light, to the astonishment of my friends on a BWCA trip in the spring of 2010 – they were pretty impressed that a cat food can with some holes performed on-par with their $50 canister stoves. :-P
Like everybody, I did observe the fuel issue. To wit, you still need to carry it. But it’s light, it’s enviro-friendly, and you use it up and the bottle is light weight (unlike empty steel canisters). Sometimes, however, you might run out of alcohol, or spill it or some other travesty. So I started researching wood fuel stoves. You might see a pattern here. My family refers to it as an “illness”, but I prefer to refer to it as “curiosity”. I thought about a Caldera Cone, but, frankly, it’s big-ish. I’ve seen one in action, and they are certainly a nice set-up, but still bigger than I wanted. Still pondering, I came across the Vargo TI Hexagon. So, I had to pick it up. It works remarkably well for such a simple device. And it seems to work fine as a base for a pop-can AL stove. So, it can do double duty. Then I noticed something else – the folded Vargo is the same size as the bottom of the Ketalist. Eureka! I store the Hexagon under the Ketalist in the Ketalist’s sack, with a pop-can stove inside the Ketalist. Pretty slick – I have a system that boils water, and can use AL or wood fuel, all in a package no bigger than the kettle! In theory, a decent system. Next, to try it out …