Backcountry bread and pancakes with a Kovea Spider Stove

The Kovea Spider remote canister stove looks like a pretty neat concept.  It is compact and lightweight at 6.1 oz.  The remote canister setup works with a cone style wind screen.  Invert the canister for a cold weather liquid feed mode, enabled by the stove’s preheater tube.  Use two medium size binder clip handles support the inverted canister – a trick gleaned from the Internet.  With the legs folded for storage, it is compact enough to fit inside my titanium pots.

The stove is not widely available in the US, although Jon Fong at Flat Cat Gear carries it and sells integrated cooking systems for it.  My stove was made for the domestic home market and came with  Korean language instructions.  No big deal, it works just like a canister stove.  But it shines in its ability to integrate with ultra light cooking gear, pulling off tricks likes making pancakes and bread!  I had tried both these cooking chores with alcohol stoves getting somewhat mixed results. The Kovea Spider adds just the right final touch to make it all work.

Backcountry dry baking is a craft I learned from Jon Fong’s website and his YouTube videos.  I have used it with alcohol and Esbit cooking in the past, most successfully for biscuits as discussed in my old post: Dry baking.  But for good pancakes and bread, you need some additional help.

So here is all the stuff I would take to be a chef in the woods.  It looks like a lot, but the total weight is still only 39 oz. with a full 4 oz. canister.  The stove fits nicely inside the Trail Designs, Ti Caldera Cone windscreen. Cut a slot in the base of the screen for the hose.  I bake in a Snow Peak Multi Compact large Ti pot.  I bring along a pot cozy made of reflective attic insulation and a GSI mug that becomes the top of the cone caddy, holding the rolled up windscreen.  There is also a Fat Daddios, 4″  pan for bread baking and a small stainless steel spatula for turning pancakes.  All packed up, it looks like this, with a water bottle shown for scale.

My previous attempts at pan cooking with titanium gear had been frustrated by poor heat distribution – pancakes burnt on the bottom and raw at the edges.  The key was making a good heat diffuser plate.  My diffuser is made from a scrap of 1/16″ aluminum.  I tapped three #6 stainless steel machine screws into it to form a tripod base for pots and pans, held 1/16″ above the plate.  The finished plate weighs 1.9 oz.  Interestingly I found that Jon Fong offers a similar product.  Physics works the same in Washington and Southern California.

For pan frying, the plate sits on two Ti tent stakes, inserted into holes drilled in the windscreen.  My pot lid/frying pan sits on top.  I can tune the simmer on the Kovea stove to get a perfect cooking temperature with no hot spots.  For dry baking, the heat diffuser plate sits in the bottom of the Ti pot, which rests on the stove supports.   The 4″ baking pan with the bread dough sits on the diffuser plate supports. Cover the pot with the lid and adjust the stove simmer so that you can see steam rising from the baking bread when you peek.  I used Jon Fong’s bread recipe, letting the dough rise overnight in a ziplock bag before placing in the baking pan to rise some more before cooking.  After an hour and 18 g. of fuel, the bread was good enough for dinner.

So where does the Kovea Spider stove fit into the overall “Comfort Light” scheme of things?  The stove is clearly a lot heaver than the 1 oz. and less alcohol and Esbit alternatives.  But canister fuel is light and very efficient. With extended fuel use, the fuel weight difference offsets the stove and canister weight penalty.  Fancy cooking uses more fuel, and the ability to fine tune the simmer on the Kovea Spider makes it a good choice for this.  With the inverted canister, liquid fuel feed option, it’s good for snow melting on winter and high altitude adventures.  You get a lot of burn time, even with a small, 4oz. fuel canister.  Using my 0.6 L. Snow Peak Ti pot and a cone windscreen, I need 6 g. of iso-butane to boil 1.5 cups of water.  That’s 18 burns in a canister.  Chose it for a longer, light weight, no fuss cooking trip.  Including a pot cozy, this setup weighs 18 oz. with a full canister and packs up small.  If I leave the cozy behind, I have a cold weather, emergency stove with the 0.6 L pot, folding spork and cup that packs even smaller and less than 18 oz.

How does it stack up with the ubiquitous integrated canister stoves?  With a 1 L pot, comparable to a JetBoil MiniMo, the Kovea, my windscreen, pot and lid weigh just under 14 oz., almost the same as the MiniMo and 1.5 oz. less than an MSR Windburner.  My burn tests suggest that fuel use by my Kovea Spider system is maybe 15% higher than the integrated stoves with built in heat exchangers.  The heat output seems lower, with a bit longer boil times, 6 minutes for 1 L, vs. 4.5 minutes.  But I expect good wind performance with the cone windscreen and of course a very stable pot base.  If you only boil water, one of the integrated stoves provides a no-fuss solution.  But your cooking options beyond that are very limited.  The Kovea Spider with a compatible windscreen gives a lot of food prep choices with the benefit of reliable cold weather performance inverting the canister.  This is definitely an interesting choice for backcountry cooks.

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