Calling All Wood Stove Users

7:01 p.m. on February 23, 2014 (EST)
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Hey, folks.

Just bought a used Element SS wood stove.

Nope, it isn't light at 11 oz.

And no, it's not the be-all-end-all. This makes the third stove in my active collection. However, it does have a lot going for it:

1.) Replaces the need to pack a stove, windscreen, priming plate, pot stand, and fuel bottle (with fuel) all separately. 

2.) Access to dry wood = endless fuel supply. No fuel to carry in, no empty containers to pack out. Saves ounces and dollars, there.

3.) No dry wood? Can pop in a firestarter cake (or even my alcohol stove) and it still makes a solid pot stand/windscreen.

4.) Always love a good campfire. It's an activity that keeps me busy and is a free light source, no batteries required. 

5.) Finally can stop relying on expensive, high-sodium FD meals and actually COOK. 

I'd consider it worth it. 

Anyone out there using a wood stove on their hikes, and if so, any tips, tricks, or lessons you'd mind sharing?

11:12 p.m. on February 23, 2014 (EST)
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Wood stoves may be the next best thing, but wood fires are not allowed everywhere. Unless one is hiking in a wilderness many national parks like Grand Teton and the Grand Canyon don't allow wood fires. And wood is not available everywhere. I often camp in the slick rock country of Utah where tree's are often far and few in between.  

I use a MSR Pocket Rocket which with the fuel canister weighs less than 11 oz. I cook once a day and don't simmer anything, I heat the pasta or rice to a boil and then turn off the heat and cover the pot and insulate it if necessary  for 10-20 minutes which gives the pasta or rice time to cook in the water that doesn't loose enough heat temperature to not cook the food.

By only bringing my water to a boil, then turning off the stove I can make a 8 oz canister last two weeks or more of daily cooking. I have been a cook for 40+ years.

I also like the convenience of my stove which allows me to cook in my tents vestibule on cold, rainy or windy days. It doesn't flare up and cools down very quickly after turning it off, making it usually pack-able in minutes. Plus I don't have to pack it in a bag to keep the soot from a wood stove off all my other gear.

You may like your wood stove idea but I like my stove and cook set I have been using for 12 years and been cooking on butane stoves for 40+years. I am not trying to disagree with you but unless I am living in a cabin I don't use wood stoves. I use something different at times depending on where I am. 

A soup can with holes punched in with a church key can opener top and bottom and a standard briquette inside the bottom makes a excellent wood like stove. I use the easy lighting kind kind and after the briquette burns out it like wood is usually just a crumbly piece of ash. I use the large can like the chunky soups come in. And the empty can weighs less than a few ounces. I carry the used briquettes in Ziploc bags. One briquette per meal.

I also used to teach myself cooking methods first at home or in the many places I have professionally cooked since the early 70's. 

Many foods that require a long cooking time can be cooked before you go on a trip, then dehydrated to soak and reheat in camp. Beans for example take hours to soak,boil,simmer and cook. But cooking them at home before a trip then drying them as they cool by spreading them on a sheet in the sun or in a oven with just the pilot light on or the electric element turned on as low as possible then dried for as long as it takes. The put them into sealable bags, I use ziplocs  and then add the cooked dry beans to hot water or vise-versa and they are done. 

Home made soups can be done the same way saving cooking time outdoors. Food dehydrators dry soups faster as well. Just takes some experimentation at home before you head out into the wilds.

I take either home made pasta noodles or buy egg noodles which are light and cook easily. Rice can also be precooked and dried, that all Instant Rice in the store is and you can make it with whole grain rice at home not just the white inner part.

11:37 p.m. on February 23, 2014 (EST)
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Different strokes for different folks, Gary. No worries. Your hike out there in the west is a lot different from mine here in the midwest. 

There's no shortage of dead and downed wood here, and rarely if ever does it get dry enough to put a burn ban in place. 

Never in my hiking life have I been in such a rush, or felt so lazy, that I needed a dinner in less than 20 minutes. Even if I did, I'd have had snacks to tide me over until my cooking was done. Up until now, most my backpacking meals have been made in an unnecessary rush paying for a convenience I didn't necessarily need. Basically spent money I didn't have to.

I like building a fire.

I like having something to do with myself - especially on solo trips.

I build a fire anyhow - why not make one with which I can cook?

Another difference being in the woodlands, here - I sleep under a tarp in a hammock. May get a little smoky, but so long as the hammock itself is out of the way, I can manage a small wood fire under the tarp. 

Freeze dried meals have become too expensive and not something I can afford any longer. A package of instant mashed potatoes is less than a buck, and a stick of jerky from the gas station is about the same...much less than a $10 package of Mountain House. Ramen? Even less. 

Fuel's free. Food is cheaper.

Got this wood stove for $25 shipped - lot cheaper than a dehydrator!

Make require a little more time, and a little more work, but I don't mind either. 

Have made note that it gets messy, and am going to try and find a lightweight solution - ironically I think the USPS Priority Mail envelopes (made from Tyvek) are the perfect solution. :)

12:22 a.m. on February 24, 2014 (EST)
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I agree food is cheap. I live on about $5 a day or less, have all my hiking experience. I rarely hike the parks anymore as many out here anyway have started charging for permit, $5 a night is not in my budget. I live on about $1200 during the 9 months a year average I have been hiking and bicycle touring since 1977. Course in 77 it was more like half that. But I like to prepare my foods ahead of time. Being a chef since I was 16 I know how to prepare from scratch just about anything from all the 3 months a year jobs I have had the last 37 years. I have spent more time out door than indoors (what I call working and renting) or about 10,200 nights since I was 21. Now a days I work even less depending on where I am and what my outdoor goals are. In 2012 I worked almost 7 weeks the whole year.

Wood fires are nice, I have them every time I camp in the wilderness area's I go to in Wyoming my usual summer home. Sept-May I am outside backpacking and bike touring, never owned or learned how to drive a machine except a 49cc moped I had when I was 16 in high school in 1972. I have cycle toured for 32  of my 37 years, hitchhiked before that. 

I also am in no hurry to cook, I do the way the three bears did in the Goldilocks story. Cook it and let it cool down while I do other things like go on a before dinner sunset walk.

I usually only eat one cooked meal a day, the rest is snacks or I also like dry oatmeal rolled in honey, eaten raw. 

I have never used a dehydrator myself, just mentioned them as some do. I use the sun and air outdoors and a warm room in working seasons. Something as simple as a bandana spread out in the sun with my home made pasta (water.flour and wood ash). 

1:18 p.m. on February 24, 2014 (EST)
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Eric Labanauskas said:

5.) Finally can stop relying on expensive, high-sodium FD meals and actually COOK. 

 Cook it at home. Dehydrate it at home. Rehydrate it with your 0.4oz catfood can alcohol stove! :D

But I get you. Cooking is a pleasure missing from a alcohol stove.

1:45 p.m. on February 24, 2014 (EST)
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G00SE said:

But I get you. Cooking is a pleasure missing from a alcohol stove.

Right on, Goose!

Feeling the financial hurt from my 2013 gear purchases, have run out of things to return to REI (I actually like what I use, finally!) and trying to do 2014 "on the cheap."

$8 for a can of denatured alcohol doesn't sound like much, but I may be able to buy my weekend's groceries with that much dough - or at least reserve my campsite!

2:09 p.m. on February 24, 2014 (EST)
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Using a couple different wood stoves sometimes carrying a canister stove for backup. Been known to roast coffee on the porch with an emberlit or four dog both titanium... my favorite being a parabolic titanium grill of my own design which works as a standalone, tripod, or with three strut prism tensegrity structures. More for big fires or larger groups but it does collapse into a triangular package and even becomes an oven. Sorry if my site is lacking information, just getting around to populating it while developing a disaster relief program for the Buckminster Institute challenge.

Be sure to keep an eye out for birchbark on your outings in the Midwest. It makes great firestarter but does create a bit of soot. A couple other good tinder choices are Muellin, Cattail, or most any fuzzy plant material. Of course a bit of alcohol will do the trick as well. Spanish Moss is awesome too wherever it is encountered. Sometime in the very near future I would like to start selling fire building tools and supplies but right now I'm focused on humanitarian efforts.

 

2:10 p.m. on February 24, 2014 (EST)
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Sounds like you eat pretty well on your hikes Eric? And like you I spent way too much on new gear last year, this summer I hope to spend no more than what I need to eat. But $8 sounds good for me on two days of food.

Like I said before I like pasta for supper. Breakfast is either granola or dry oatmeal. Lunch is generally crackers and cheese. I use either Gatorade or Tang for my liquids.

My fuel costs about $6 for a 8 oz fuel canister which lasts me about two weeks cooking once a day for only long enough to bring the water to a boil. I recently bought 6 eight ounce canisters for $36 and they will last me all summer.

In the past when trying to save cooking time in winter I have found I can presoak pasta in cold water about 30-45 minutes and then only have to heat it to simmer and eat.  

Cooking to me is not a long measured out process. Unless I am camping for the weekend close to home where I can take raw potatoes,onions and pasta to cook over a campfire slowly and make real cooked oatmeal, I rarely bother to cook for longer than 20 minutes.

3:15 p.m. on February 24, 2014 (EST)
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Well? Don't know about that - but I have made it as simple on myself as is humanly possible, unless there's a hike-through window at McDonald's I'm unaware of.

But walking through the grocery store the other day, I realized I could put together a full meal for a couple bucks. Have to admit it made me feel a little foolish about buying FD meals that sometimes cost more than $10 a piece. 

It served a purpose, and while I was still learning the fundamentals of backpacking, FD meals became something of a security blanket. I've been aware of ramen and instant noodles/rice/potatoes for awhile, but it really wasn't until this year I started crunching numbers and realizing the cost of it all. 

Like you, Gary, I don't cook until suppertime - otherwise it's non-perishable snacks that get me through the day. I do boil water for morning coffee, but a trip with Joseph last fall taught me that the same can be accomplished by making a small morning fire, too.

I don't mind the process. Don't think there's been a single time I've been in such a rush that I needed a meal in less than a half-hour. Partnering-up this year with a friend I made who's well-versed in bushcraft, and figure - if nothing else - it's an easy opportunity to work on my firemaking skills. 

Right on, shapeshifter. Natural firestarters are the best kind, and was lucky enough on my first solo backpack to find birch bark littered about. 

Know these wood stoves get messy - gonna start by packing the stove into a Tyvek envelope and see how that works out. Only initial downsides seem to be the packed size (doesn't even fit in my 1.4L pot) and weight (11 oz). 

9:11 p.m. on February 24, 2014 (EST)
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Try a large Ziploc bag for your stove.

I never used FD foods. Never! Just could not see the price for it being worth it. In my earl years on the road hitchhiking and backpacking in the late 70s to mid 80's I ate tons of macaroni and cheese the cheapest brands I could find. Then one job I had I learned to make fresh pasta from scratch, basically just pie dough sliced into as thick of strips as I like, thinner ones dry better but any size works.

While on a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon I met a German guy who made what he called Jamaican Pancake bread. he made every morning or two a dozen simply pancakes and let them cool, then packed them in wax paper separated by sheets of it in baggies/Ziplocs and this was his daily bread. 

Ever cooked on a flat rock? One of my first Camp Kitchen posts here at TS I did was to show how in Boy Scouts (1968) at scout camp we learned to cook without any pots and pans.

Take a flat stone/rock lay it in the campfire letting it get hot. Take two strips of bacon lay them in an X pattern on the rocks middle, take a slice of bread and take a small 2 inch circle of the bread from its middle, lay this one the rock with the center of the bacon X in the middle, then break a raw egg into the hole in the bread. Makes your egg toast and bacon all in one. 

Or take a raw egg, make a hole in both ends (small) and shove a green stick through the hole and out the other side, bend the sticks end sticking out so it doesn't come out easily. Lay the egg in the edge of the campfire coals and let the egg shell turn black. Pull it out and peel its like a fried egg in its own shell.

I hiked with a guy in Yosemite that made coffee every night. But instead of boiling the water he had a tall juice can painted black on the outside, he would leave it in  a place where it would be in the sun all day. When he wanted his evening hot drink the water was fairly hot from being in the sun all day.

Restaurants get their canned food in huge #10 cans. Most will give you one or find them in the dumpster. Wash it out, cut one end off with a rim can opener, With a old fashion church key can opener make four holes around the end with the lid still on. I make them around the outer edge at 12,3,6 and 9 o'clock like a watch/clock face. And then do the same on the other open end. Then when in use set the can up either upside down or open side up depending on how you want your simple wood stove to be. Fill with firewood light and cook over it. Upside down with the closed end up it make a good place for setting smaller cooking containers on.

When I am going out into area for long periods and don't want to have to carry all the food everywhere I use the 5 gallon pails that foods also come in in restaurants, get them free or some places charge $5 for one. The lid snaps on tightly and keep rodents out. Not bear proof but leave the bail on and haul it into a tree like you would a stuff sack of food. Empty they weigh about a pound maybe. I carry them with the food I am taking and stash many of them along the trails and routes I will be following. I once did a 4 week hike in the grand Canyon by leaving four pails of food at one week intervals along my routes. Then all I had to carry was a weeks worth or food/gear at a time and resupply at each cache.I hiked 256 miles in 28 days doing that. They also make 5 gallon pails to haul water to camp, seats and other item storage containers. I use them too for panniers on my touring bike. These I made from recycled Kitty Litter pails from a friend who has lots of cats. I put reflective tape on them, left the bails to make them easy to haul. I can set on one use the other for a table and used bent L shaped shelf brackets to make them hang on my rear bike rack. They are water proof and hold up very well to bumps and scratches. The walls are about an 1/8 of an inch thick. 


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The lids are on a hinge where the flame striped areas are. The grooves on the bottom allow them to stack easily.

10:58 p.m. on February 24, 2014 (EST)
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The whole caveman take on "fire cooking" came out of a phone conversation with a friend.

I shouldn't depend on gear, rather, it should be an aid. Make things simpler, quicker, cleaner...what have ya. But there's a danger in expecting it to do all the work for me. 

Guarantee that you'll never hear an REI team member (is that what they call them?) tell you a flat rock and some foraged wood will accomplish the same as a canister stove. 

Is the flat rock a long-term means of cooking? Probably not. But it is the means to an end. And, without doubt, a heck of a lot cheaper: it's free.

After establishing a base familiarity in my first few months on the trail, I want to make this year more about skills, and good ol' fashioned "know how" than anything else. 

I guess it starts with leaving the alcohol and canister stoves at home, and learning how to make fire with my own two hands.

And saving money doing so.

The cost of gear is a huge barrier to entry, and while I was fortunate enough to get myself started, I want to make sure it's a hobby that stays affordable, with a focus on the activity itself over "stuff." 

You've got an admirable spirit, Gary, and always appreciate your input here on TS. Your insight's very important: folks need to know you can still backpack without spending a fortune doing so, and more importantly, enjoy it just as much. Thanks for the tips, too!

6:05 a.m. on February 25, 2014 (EST)
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A square patch of aluminized Kevlar is the packaging material for the fold-down parabolic grill. It also doubles as an ash catcher/ground cover protector.

Been making it a habit of foraging my foods supplemented with small game but not relying 100% on what's free for the takin'. Next month I'm planning to spend some time in the jungle with a net and a knife... been lucky enough to be eating healthy using this technique at home in an urban area. Looking forward to coming back and having some more of the rattlers which can be found along one part of the river here in Chicago... so many raccoons along the lake and our pigeons are quite healthy too.

9:55 a.m. on February 25, 2014 (EST)
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I grew up on a self sufficent farm in upstate NY near Lake Ontario. As a kid I learned early how to build leanto's and other wooden structures in the 2 acree woods behind our house.

In winter I piled up snow and made a snow cave inside pretended I was an Eskimo. 

In summer i caught every known species of animal from amphibian,fish,crustacean (crawdad's),turtles and rabbits. I learned early how to make traps from wood and my mothers old nylons. BY my sophomore year of high school I was donating animals to my biology classes and knew as much as the books told us about anatomy. I raised baby bird that had fallen out of their nests to adulthood, had snakes in homemade terrariums in my bedroom. I had snapping turtles,painted turtles and soft shelled ones as pets.

My great grand mother was a Mohawk Indian so I grew up with the idea's that I could be a Indian. I built a wigwam when I was 12 for a school project when we were studying different Indians of New England in elementary school.

WE lived in the country and I spent all my free time in the woods and fruit orchards near my home and in the creeks and ponds and along Lake Ontario.

I have been freelance studying how to live in the woods all my life. After high school,college and the US Navy I hit the road in 1977 at age 21. I hitchhiked 10,000 miles from June to October all around the USA ending up in Anchorage AK. I lived there two years then returned to the states to make a life now of 37 years on the road. 

I have always had this idea that someday when I knew the time was right, I would retire from the world and live like an Indian.

I have hunted with thrown rocks and sticks, made fish traps, dead fall traps, made very primitive stone tools, spear and arrowheads, only perfected to the fact that they were sharp enough to be blades and kill upon impact with animal flesh. 

Now after 58 years of honing my wild skills I am about ready to make the life I have wanted since I was old enough to think about it. I once was going to do it at age 40 and told my brother I was going to retire at that age, he asked knowing that I don't have any 401k plans how I could retire with no money. I told him where I was going to retire was not in the society world but back to the animals world and be free in the wilderness.

I think now he finally believes me as he asked recently that I carry his and my sisters address and phone numbers in my wallet so in case someday someone find my body in the wilderness they will have closure.

11:08 a.m. on February 25, 2014 (EST)
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The only hunting I care to do is bargain-hunting at the grocery store, Gary. :) Power to ya, and anyone else able to live off the land!

Shapeshifter - whereabouts in Chicago are ya from (and which river are you referring to)?

Aluminized Kevlar!

Can't exactly run over to the Ace Hardware and pick up some of that stuff! :)

Alright, fellas - gotta try and keep this thread on topic so I can learn some more about wood stoves.

Anybody else out there currently using a wood stove, or use one in the past?

11:21 a.m. on February 25, 2014 (EST)
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You've lived a life most can only dream of and continue to follow a kinder path for living Gary. Much respect for having shared so much of it with us! Always look forward to your observations.

I often wonder about how certain traditions come to pass and only recently resumed a practice long let go during my youth. Occasionally a stone smoking pipe serves to build a coal to set a bundle of tinder on fire or it's contents the tinder to set the kindling ablaze. Could this practice be something early man explored only later to develop into a more ceremonial application?

I've often heard of the first peoples' gathering of exudations from plant and earth which was called something like Seneca Oil. This was used for fuel and medication. Somewhere on the Internet it's mentioned that the term "snake oil" could have been a bastardization of the naturaly sourced.

Speaking of which, pine sap is a natural exudation which can be a vitamin supplement, fuel, even repair material. Mixed with alcohol it creates an incredible wasp disabler when sprayed... which also becomes a blow torch if sprayed close to a flame.

One handy tool for fire starting is something most of us carry in the form of a hydration system. The tube we use to sip on can be employed as a flexible straw to redirect our breath and not have to squat down so close to the ground to blow into the embers.

1:30 p.m. on February 25, 2014 (EST)
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Sorry Eric, didn't see your post while responding before. I've got a few places I stay at when I'm in town but most of them are in the city proper. I keep boats all along the lakefront and some at several river locations too. I do own properties but am not a stranger to life on the streets. The Desplaines River has sections up north where snakes can be easily bagged.

As a water trail keeper I found that a folding crosscut saw often comes in handy for clearing fallen trees over a foot in diameter. Mine is about 5' long and designed for two people to pull from either side like the ol' logging saws, believe it was made in 1942 and because it rolls up like a chain, it is very packable. Since it can bend a full 180° one person can cut with it too. Came in handy for building fires on Cumberland Island, GA during the government shutdown.

BTW Aluminized Kevlar can be sourced from worn out and discarded firefighting or industrial manufacturing equipment more often found at army surplus stores.

3:02 p.m. on February 25, 2014 (EST)
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Eric...I've cooked a lot by fire...and a little with wood-stoves (bio-lite + canteen stove). I really enjoy cooking by fire (the taste and smells are so good)...but if you're going to do anything more than boil water you need some good cooking-chops and well-practiced fire skills to ensure that you can cook different foods in weather of all types. If you have not done a lot of cooking by fire you should try cooking with your pot indoors with one of the burners set to high. This will mimic the difficulty of cooking with the high levels of heat wood-stoves produce...specifically when to move your pot on and off the heat as needed. Simmering can be very difficult to do with a wood-stove...but if weather permits...you can position your pot just-so to the fire...or even better...rig up an adjustable pot-holder. When I think of cooking by fire...I almost think entirely of dry-baking. I make windscreens from large sheets of heavy-foil folded over several times...so to bake I unfold my windscreen and create a make-shift reflector oven. Folding the foil so that one section can be placed on the ground works as a baking sheet for things like cookies and pizza...and my titanium coffee-mug makes great super-sized muffins of cornbread and cake. To my knowledge dry-baking cannot be done with a wood-stove due to the intensity of heat...but because water boils at a stable temp you can steam-bake. When it comes to steam-baking not everything steam-bakes equally well. Cakes work really well for steam-baking...scrambled eggs and faux quiche are also amazing...but I am less thrilled with brownies and cinnamon rolls. In short...there is a lot you can do with wood-cooking...but it takes a lot more skill and practice than other methods. Of course...once you get good at it...you have some great lightweight options available to you.

3:57 p.m. on February 25, 2014 (EST)
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Out in the western states there are endless places one can use a wood fire or wood stove unless there is the occasional fire ban or it is a National Park.

Your Element SS wood stove looks a lot like the Emberlit design. I have a ti Emberlit and you can vary the simmer fairly easy with this type stove even down to real low simmer.

To get started it is best to fire it up with pencil sized sticks and let them burn down to coals, then start feeding your long, thumb sized sticks through the fuel gate. You can vary the heat by feeding up to three thumb sized sticks or just one or two at a time. The rate you feed them in will vary the heat in the stove too. I found it takes very little practice and is quite intuitive. It does not take very much wood.

It is a lot of fun.

4:54 p.m. on February 25, 2014 (EST)
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To us, fire is something almost sacred. We live up north and heat only with fire. The first person out of bed kindles our daily fire, and we have one nine months out of the year.  We're very good at it. 

 

I quite often use fire to cook with, but always over ( or under http://www.trailspace.com/forums/camp-kitchen/topics/120074.html#120074 ) an open fire. 

Now I don't normally carry canned food but when camping in the local hills with my nephews we just toss whatever is available into our packs, and that sometimes means canned goods. 

So one day on the trail with my nephews I dumped the contents of a can into our communal pot, then used the can to support the pot itself, and built a tiny twig fire under the pot. The fire was right in the middle of an old hard packed logging road, not danger of fire spreading. My nephews were suitably impressed and maybe learned something.


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Otherwise I’m fond of the one-stick support method as seen here.


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5:11 p.m. on February 25, 2014 (EST)
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Thanks, gents.

Right-o, ghostdog: I actually saw the Emberlit Mini (Ti) first, but couldn't afford it. The whole point of buying a wood stove was to save money (no need to buy fuel or FD meals), and that would've just defeated the purpose from the get-go. Had to look elsewhere. You're a lucky dude! I heard they weren't always so expensive - hopefully you got yours earlier on.

After putting out a call on the "Want To Buy" thread over at HammockForums, someone was nice enough to message me and offer up his SS Element (which, shipped, was less than 1/3rd the price of the EL). It's a cool little unit, and I appreciate the fact A.) it's hinged, and B.) it comes with a built-in door for side feeding.

Sounds like the right approach, starting with a "low and slow" feed, building up as needed. It's a small unit, and can only burn so much at a time (don't think I'll ever get a raging inferno out of it, Joseph!) but my concerns lie less in the fire and more in my titanium cookpot.

Can you season titanium? Or is it best just to be mindful of the heat, toss some butter or oil in, and go about it that way?

Firemaking in general is an aim for the coming season, and this wood stove will make for a nice little hobby when I'm not out hiking. Really excited for it, actually.

5:12 p.m. on February 25, 2014 (EST)
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jrenow said:

To my knowledge dry-baking cannot be done with a wood-stove due to the intensity of heat...

 

A diffuser plate would resolve this issue.

6:09 p.m. on February 25, 2014 (EST)
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I just checked and yes, Emberlit stoves have gone through the roof. Mine was much less expensive, much less! Well it is not going to wear out so I probably have a good wood burning unit for life. I keep it in my vehicle for a backup stove in case I run out of fuel over a long trip or just for an at hand travel tool.

In any case your stove looks great. You find your fuel as you hike now and keep a couple dry branches wrapped in wet weather if you have to.

As for the titanium pot, I never had much luck sauteing over titanium and the thin stock of most backpacking pans is not great for that anyway. But I have used low heat and coconut oil to do a fair job so you might find a way to finesse it. What I do most is make soup dishes or used to make things like rice and lentils, veggies, lots of things. That works very well on a little wood stove like you have and a titanium pot. I even made Chocolate pudding with a lot of whisking and stirring so it would not burn. That was always good. I do the same on an alcohol stove but can't regulate the flame like you can with a wood stove.

Some have gone on long trips with a wood stove only for cooking. I have seen one guy who did it for a month in a rain forest. That took him a few days to get a handle on it as the fuel was all wet but he did, found a way to make it work real well.

11:51 p.m. on February 25, 2014 (EST)
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I know so much as to never put an empty titanium pot over an open flame. 

In the past I did try cooking some Zatarain's inside an SP Hybrid Summit mug. It was over the high, center-focused flame of an MSR MicroRocket. Suffice it to say, neglecting to stir ALL the way down to the bottom meant I burned my meal. 

Now, say I'm cooking something like Lipton's Pasta Sides - it first requires a boil, and then a simmer to complete the dish.

Is there an efficient way to achieve the same effect with a wood stove?

Surely can - and will - find this out for myself come the start of the season, but trying to learn as much as I can beforehand to avoid any culinary crises.

6:15 a.m. on February 26, 2014 (EST)
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Eric says: Now, say I'm cooking something like Lipton's Pasta Sides - it first requires a boil, and then a simmer to complete the dish.

Now that's one product I have used. Instead of simmering the noodle mix, after they come to a gentle boil, remove from the stove, cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes. The heat loss is minimum. They will still be done and ready to eat.

I tested this method cooking pasta in a restaurant boiled water with noodles in it looses less than 30 degrees of heat from the 212 degree boiling point every 30 minutes.

This is what I was talking about when I use my stove. You may not be wasting fuel, but there is no need to simmer!

And if you carry a small can of compressed cooking oil spray and spray the inside bottom of your mug before cooking the meat it will not stick. Works better than liquid oils and does not burn at high temperatures.

One problem with cooking on an open wood stove or campfire is soot. For easy cleaning, take a bar of soap and wipe it all over the bottom and outside edges of the cook pot, when the soot gets on it and the meal is eaten the soot will wipe right off. Another Boy Scout method learned in the late 1960's. It always amazes me that the soap does not just melt off. Liquid soap can also be used.

I have been a Chef/cook by profession for 45 years when I work summers.

12:04 p.m. on February 26, 2014 (EST)
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What I love about food preparation is that it can be such a wonderful artistic expression of applied science. Chemistry and fluid dynamics play a major part of infusing flavors while transforming a combination of several sources of nourishment into a palatable concoction. Remember that recipes are only rules and sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

There are many options other than using heat for cooking as foods can also be processed through fermentation and acidic chemical reaction.

Some plant material only require water to create nourishment. Some seeds can be sprouted and are edible during several stages of development providing different flavors, textures and energy profiles.

Pollen can only be properly processed if it is "cooked" in honey, that's what bees do when they serve it to their young. It takes the minute amounts of hydrogen peroxide in the honey to break the bond of the hard shell of the plant material.

The salt in certain preserved foods can be utilized by cooking them along with ingredients which can absorb the flavors while providing an essential nutrient.

What's left stuck on the pot or dish after everything else has been consumed can be used for building the next meal like sauce or a gravy from deglazing a fry pan or roasting pot.

With adequate preparation the fire can be cooking the meal(s) for the following day long after the flames have died down. Buried or stacked rocks for a hangi or imu (roasting pit) of small to moderate size will slowly cook a great meal overnight. This technique can also be simulated by the careful (re)placement of coals on and around containments throughout the cooking cycle.

I find the small wood stove indispensable on outings for cooking whether for just myself or groups of over a dozen people. It can be used alone or as the easiest way to concentrate the heat for starting and supporting the larger cooking fire all the while heating liquids for extracting flavors (hot drinks, coffee, teas, and soups).

1:32 p.m. on February 26, 2014 (EST)
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Is there an efficient way to achieve the same effect with a wood stove?

Surely can - and will - find this out for myself come the start of the season, but trying to learn as much as I can beforehand to avoid any culinary crises.

 

Yes, and you will find it with some use. The gate is for longer thumb sized sticks, up to around 15” long. You find some straight dry sticks and just feed them in bit by bit. This a much easier than breaking them up into small stove sized pieces and you can regulate your heat easier this way by how many you put through at a time and how fast you keep pushing them in as they burn. A low long simmer is easily within reach with this stove.

The entire stove box will heat up with that first burn of the pencil sized twigs and then the thumb sized sticks will combust from this heat and light up sort of like candles, burn and eventually you just push them in further to expose the stove to fresh fuel. It is far different from a camp fire, something that I have cooked over thousands of times in my youth.

I bet after you do this three times you will really see the amazing efficiency and performance of a wood stove of this design. I also like how they pack flat, taking up no space in a pack.

For cooking with a quick boil and then letting the food sit in the hot pot to finish, I use a Refletix cozy I made from materials I bought at the hardware store, a couple feet of Reflectix and some aluminum tape. After an hour the food still steams big when the lid is removed and it is too hot to eat without some cooling. You can do it either way.

1:40 p.m. on February 26, 2014 (EST)
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Ghostdog...you make me want to try one of these new wood-stoves:-) I am sure that I will still prefer my canister stove and new DIY alcohol stove (look for upcoming reveal) for serious cooking for pure convenience reasons...but I like to try new things...and given the level of control you claim wood-stoves have I could see myself enjoying the experience instead of just wanting to toss the stove aside and building a fire to hang my pot over it:-)

1:54 p.m. on February 26, 2014 (EST)
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Ghostdog...you make me want to try one of these new wood-stoves:-) I am sure that I will still prefer my canister stove and new DIY alcohol stove (look for upcoming reveal) for serious cooking for pure convenience reasons...but I like to try new things...and given the level of control you claim wood-stoves have I could see myself enjoying the experience instead of just wanting to toss the stove aside and building a fire to hang my pot over it:-)

 

For overall convenience and the quick clean interface I like my Whitebox alcohol stove above all. It is just too easy to set up, fire up and enjoy the complete silence and performance of this kind of stove. That is what we use the most with that Reflectix cozy. It will cook just about anything but no good for frying, just to hot and not able to regulate it. I like that I can top off my alcohol bottle unlike the Iso/Bustane canisters. The system is super clean like canister stoves.

But I like my Snowpeak Giga Power canister stove too, just don't use it much anymore after taking to the Whitebox so well. Canister stoves are very convenient with not much fuss as you all know. No messy white gas liquid but I have used those too and like my MSR Dragonfly so like you I like to try it all I guess. I just prefer the Whitebox now and have for the past several years.

But those woodstoves are super fun and they do what they are supposed to do in a very efficient way. You will not run out of fuel. You just have to deal with soot which is not much of a problem with a couple plastic produce bags to stick your pot and your stove parts in.

3:14 p.m. on February 26, 2014 (EST)
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"Now, say I'm cooking something like Lipton's Pasta Sides"

Never used that product and forgive the thread drift, but I have started using allot of these - http://www.bearcreekcountrykitchens.com/rice.php

Bear Creek rice side dishes. They have a high calorie content and are quite cheap in my local supermarket right now. Some are supposed to have up to to eight servings, so that is great for two hungry hikers. 

What we do is first buy and dry chicken breasts over our wood stove, or dry something we shot/caught.

They get pounded flat and maybe a little salt added.


SAM_2740.jpg

Then, when it gets time to eat, we dump the broken up dried chicken and the Bear Creek stuff into Our Biggest Pot with the water, set it over our Trangia alcohols stove and let it heat. It need not boil, and at the most they take 3-1/2 cups water so it doesn't take long. 

So when it is hot but not boiling we take it off the stove, dump a quart of water and two tea bags into our little pot and set that on the stove ( here is the trick so pay attention now ) and set the big pot over the little double boiler fashion with the fry pan lid on top to keep the heat in.

The tea also need not boil, just heat to perhaps 180 degrees and because the tea bags were put in at the start so the brew is good and strong as well as piping hot. When the tea is done the food on top is done. So we never actually waste fuel to boil anything. 

Heating the tea also finished off the meal!

Double boiler method in a Trangia 25-3. Little pot, big pot then frypan/lid


SAM_3008.jpg

And here a similar meal made the same way ready to eat. The "soup" is bear creek creamy potato to which we added a pile of home dried fish. Eight servings says the package but we ate it all and washed it down with the quart of tea.  The big pot holds 1.75 liters, so that is a hearty meal.


SAM_2945.jpg

4:00 p.m. on February 26, 2014 (EST)
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Just read up on the Bear Creek lines: looks like they've moved onto Pasta and Rice, in addition to their soups. Nice! I've tried the soups before - they sure give you your money's-worth (and then some) and provided you can democratically dibby it up, I'd venture to say you could get at least a couple meals for a solo hiker from one package.

Not too shabby, considering last I bought one of these, it cost me less than three bucks!

Soups would be nice for the new wood stove setup - longer they cook, the more they reduce down. Liquid-based meals (i.e., soup) probably run a lower risk of burning, too.

Thanks for the tips, guys! Keep 'em comin'!

9:06 a.m. on March 2, 2014 (EST)
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I have used an old Sierra stove.  It definitely gets very hot and takes some practice to manage the heat by managing the amount of fuel used.  Everybody puts too much fuel in at first.  Little pieces of charcoal scavenged from campfires makes good fuel, especially for starting. The Sierra stove has a small battery powered fan, so the heat can also be managed by switching off the fan, too. 

I don't find the soot on the pots to be too much of a problem - after a while it becomes more like a black coating that doesn't come off easily.  I learned the thing about soaping the pots ahead of time in the scouts, too but don't generally do it.  If the soot is on so good it doesn't want to come off, then let it stay.  I find 409 to be very good for removing the soot when I get home if I want to. 

As far as burn bans go, they generally don't apply to fires in stoves (any types of stoves), just as they often don't apply to grills or fires in other types of stoves.      

11:09 a.m. on March 2, 2014 (EST)
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You must not backpack in the western US. The ban is usually "no open flames", which means wood and charcoal. Sometimes fires in fire rings and grills are allowed, but last summer through a week ago, the bans in California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and other states, also banned backpacking stoves in some areas, including white gas, propane, and canister stoves. This past season saw the second worst fire in recorded history in California (started as a campfire by a careless hunter).

2:35 p.m. on March 2, 2014 (EST)
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We usually have a fire ban for at least a short time in summer, sometimes longer. All wood fires are banned in the first tier. This includes any wood stove. The only stoves that are allowed are the ones that have a shutoff valve, like canister stoves or white gas. In this first tier ban alcohol stoves are also technically banned. Same with most National Parks and some State parks, only canister and white gas stoves are allowed. Next they even ban those when it gets more extreme and finally they ban all people when it is at its most extreme.

I have seen the most extreme people ban only a couple times, most of the time it is simply an open fire ban. If you are caught with a wood stove fired up, you are going to get a ticket, maybe arrested. After that fellow burned down half of Colorado last year by tipping over his alcohol stove, they really take a dim view on those during fire bans too as they have no shutoff valve. So don't throw out the canister and white gas stoves just yet.

But there are plenty of times a wood stove is legal. I won't use one even when allowed if there is high wind or very dry conditions where an errant spark could ignite and burn the place down. I am extra careful with gas stoves then as well.

6:25 p.m. on March 2, 2014 (EST)
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I did not mean to imply that wood or charcoal fires are always banned in the West, nor that there are always restrictions on stoves. Usually during the November to April windows (what passes for a "rainy season"), there are no restrictions. Hikers on the JMT usually do not have a problem with liquid fuel or compressed gas stoves, and I have only occasionally run into restrictions in Utah or Colorado.

This past year has been unusual with the severe drought conditions leaving the western states really dry, with the forests like tinderboxes, ready to explode into flame at a second's notice, whether trough lightning strikes (plenty of those) or a careless camper. The Rim Fire (second largest fire in California on record, plus it burned into Yosemite NP)) was due to a careless hunter. The big fire in the LA Basis was due to careless campers.

In these conditions, the authorities put down all sorts of restrictions, ranging, as ghostdog said, from allowing fires only in established fire rings and grates to a complete ban on all stoves - not only woodburning, but alcohol, white gas, and canisters.

9:53 a.m. on March 4, 2014 (EST)
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Ive been debating the purchase of a Firebox Nano. It makes a good stand and windscreen for my Trangia and will double as a wood burner if I run out of methanol. Anybody have one of these puppies ?

 


nano.jpg

12:11 p.m. on March 4, 2014 (EST)
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The light weight and small size make it appealing to pack, but I ultimately decided against this stove because of the smaller size of the side-feed ports in addition to the fact there aren't doors and this allows wind to pick up inside the stove.

However, I did like the one-piece design that keeps it all hinged together.

My SS Element is a compromise, having one hinged piece for the sides (held together with a pin) and a bottom panel that's inserted via tabs. Also much cheaper, too!

Emberlit stoves are made from independent pieces that have to be assembled together. More work. More to lose, I figure. Their price point is a deal-breaker, too.

If anyone picks one up (or better yet, owns/uses one), let me to the contrary, but those're just my reasons behind the purchase.

5:51 p.m. on March 4, 2014 (EST)
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"...let me know to the contrary*..."

11:23 a.m. on March 5, 2014 (EST)
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You can always make one of your own, out of a large soup can or a #10 sized can from a restaurant dumpster. 


Soup-Can-woodstove.jpg

In my picture above the dark V area's are the church key can opener cuts with one at 12,3,6 and 9 o'clock around both the inner top of the can and the upper bottom sides. Leave the bottom or at least one end of the can intact, remove the other completely. The V cut holes are to allow the air to circulate allowing the fire to breathe.

Then take a standard fire grate or a oven grate to cover the top for your cook pot to set on. The above can is based on the #10 sized can.


10can.jpg

This shows the can example as restaurants get their foods in


empty-can2.jpg

This is what the cans look like when the label is removed, the rims running around the can make it very sturdy and long lasting.

You may wish to buy a manufactured woodstove but a homemade one works just as good. I have used them in the past on longer wilderness camping trips.

I have also made woodstove style ones from a small soup can with the same 8 holes cut and then carried self lighting briquettes as the heat source, one will bring a quart of water to boil fairly quickly.

3:00 p.m. on March 5, 2014 (EST)
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Gary your advice and methods are fascinating. The outdoor stores do not benefit from your information. I also admire your minimalist lifestyle. I enjoy the wilderness very much and am along with my wife striving for a more self sufficient life on our 10 acres. We are still a long way off and waste money regularly on things we don't need. I'm a carpenter and business owner and we have horses my wife and daughter ride. My son regularly feeds our family with fish caught on a lake on the rear of my property. He also took a deer that we made into bacon, burger and summer sausage with the help from a friend. You have inspired me to make better use of the resources I'm blessed with.

3:03 p.m. on March 5, 2014 (EST)
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My son is 11 he is an excellent scout and outdoorsman in the making. I have never hunted until going with him

4:39 p.m. on March 5, 2014 (EST)
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jock said:

The outdoor stores do not benefit from your information.

 Don't get me started on them!

Things I've been told by outdoor store staff (REI, etc.):


~Alcohol stoves don't really work.

~I've never heard of alcohol stoves.

~It's not safe to use denatured alcohol to cook with.

~You can't carry denatured alcohol in a plastic bottle.

~You can use a tent foot print as a hammock tarp.

~You can't camp in a hammock when it's cold.

~You can't backpack in low hikers. You must have over the ankle boots.

~You're not hiking safe if your baseweight is under 20lbs.

~Our 3lb pack is "Ultralight;" it is one of the lightest packs made.

Okay, you got me started....

5:45 p.m. on March 5, 2014 (EST)
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Goose...I have apparently never hiked safely:-(

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