Theologically and philosophically informed ecletic ruminations on everything between summit to shore, especially cycling, hiking and backpacking, kayaking, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, poetry, and creative writing by John Edward Harris, a progressive Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Minister of the Word and Sacrament.
Monday, May 8, 2017
I started backpacking
decades ago; therefore I have gone through several stoves and have seen
backpacking stoves evolve. Because I don’t like throwing functional things
away, I now have quite a collection of stoves.
My first backpacking
stove was a Primus Ranger, similar to the Grasshopper, which used a removable
butane fuel cartridge. I used that stove in some pretty cold conditions but the
pot support wasn’t very stable. Pots could be easily knocked off. Nor did it
come with a windscreen and I didn’t know much about windscreens back then. I
don’t know what ever happened to that stove. It is not part of my collection.
During a few warmer
weather trips in my early days of backpacking, which were also my minimalist
days, I carried and used an old Boy Scout folding aluminum heat tab stove. I
used it only to boil water for tea and to rehydrate freeze dried meals, using
an old Maxwell House International Coffee tin to hold water for boiling. I once
made the mistake of loaning that stove to someone for a canoeing trip. The
person’s canoe flipped and he lost my stove as well as a cook set I had loaned
L to R, 8R, 111B, Gaz, Stesco
L to R, Whisperlite, PocketRocket
The Optimus 8R with a
detachable mini pump was my first liquid fuel stove. Though a bit heavy by
today’s standards, it nests inside a 2 liter Sigg pot. I used a 2 liter bottle
of Coleman white gas for long trips involving a lot of stove use, a ½ liter
bottle for short trips when I did not expect to make much use of the stove, and
a 1 liter bottle for those in between trips.
When I started doing
more winter backpacking, I upgraded from the Optimus 8R to the Optimus 111B.
The 111B has a larger fuel tank than the 8R plus a built in pump. Maybe it is
my imagination, but the 111B, while larger and heavier than the 8R, seems to crank
out more heat and thus melt snow and boil water faster than the 8R. On group
trips of six or more people, I often used both the 8R and the 111B so that we
could boil water and cook/fry food at the same time.
Even though I do not
use them much anymore, both the 8R and the 111B are workhorses. They served me
well for about twenty years in some pretty rough conditions. They are my oldest
stoves, but I have kept them because when their brass is cleaned up and shiny,
they are almost works of art. Maybe someday they can be placed in a museum.
When I started doing
more summer car camping at the beach rather than all season backpacking, I
picked up a Gaz Twister on sale. A fuel canister stove, it was less prone to
flare ups and didn’t need to be occasionally pressurized like the 8R and 111B.
I also had a couple Gaz lanterns that would attach to the same canisters. I
used those lanterns in the late evenings for light. The stove, lanterns, and
canisters were a little bulky, but hey, I was car camping.
After my car camping
days ended, I started hiking and backpacking again. I still use the Gaz Twister
with the smallest fuel canister available. The canister nests inside a small
pot, and the stove fits inside the top of the stuff sack with the pot.
Because it is almost
impossible now to find Gaz fuel canisters in the U.S., I recently purchased a
MSR Whisperlite International and a MSR PocketRocket. I use the PocketRocket on
shorter trips in warmer weather and the Whisperlite for longer trips and in
cold weather. When I take the Whisperlite I use an 11oz bottle of MSR SuperFuel
for shorter trips and a 20oz bottle for longer trips. I carry the
Whisperlite inside an MSR Alpine Stowaway 1.6 Liter Pot which I use for boiling
water. I carry a MSR fuel canister for the PocketRocket in a metal cup I also
use for boiling water and eating out of.
I have played around
making my own alcohol stoves out of Coke cans and have tried them around the
house but have not yet taken one with me to use as my primary stove for heating
water. I am still experimenting with finding a good pot support for the alcohol
stove, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know.
Although I have never
taken it camping, my stove collection includes an antique/vintage/rare British
manufactured Stesco Hikers Stove. This white gas burning stove is indeed a work
of art and an engineering marvel. It has no moving parts other than the screw
on lead lined cap and removable pot supports, which means the flame is not
adjustable. A cork placed through the burner coil seals in the gas when not in
use. I was fortunate that a colleague gave it to me after he retired and was
cleaning out the garage in preparation for a move.
Yes, I have more backpacking stoves than I will
ever need, but each one seems to fill a niche. Each one also reminds me
of memorable trips, including backpacking trips to Dolly Sods, the White
Mountains, the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, and on the Appalachian Trail in
Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
This post has been slightly edited from a version that originally appeared on The Trek.