I continue to be a big fan of titanium for ultralight applications. A cylindrical titanium windscreen might make a ultralight, minimalist cooking kit. This one was easy to build, weighs just 52 g. with two titanium stakes that serve as pot support and pin the windscreen closed. It is sized to work with a Toaks 750 ml. titanium pot and either an Esbit tablet or alcohol burner. On the trail, it seems a rugged and solid performer
I started with some titanium sheet from Ruta Locura. The windscreen has 5/8″ holes around the base on the handle cutout side. When the windscreen is rolled and pinned, 3 of the 8 holes overlap to give adequate combustion air inlet. Stake height is set at 3″ to place the pot high enough above the tablet for good combustion. Overall, the windscreen is 6″ tall by 24″ long, with a 5″ diameter as assembled. In use, place the handle cutout and combustion holes away from any wind.
A bottom sheet of folded kitchen aluminum foil completes the combustion space. The Esbit tablet sits in a Trail Designs Gram Cracker holder. Under the holder is a little Ti pan, folded out of Ti scrap from the windscreen stock to contain any Esbit flare ups.
I can also use my Trail Designs 12-10 alcohol stove instead of the Esbit burner. Rolled up, the windscreen stows inside the Toaks pot and integrates with the nesting kitchen system covered in a recent post. I use the same snuffer that works with my alcohol burner, cut from a 24 oz. beer can to extinguish a lit Esbit tab for later use.
The windscreen dimensions are set to match the typical output of my choice of Esbit and alcohol burners. The air inlet holes and annular exhaust ring around the pot provide for combustion and exhaust. A 3″ pot mounting height gives sufficient volume in the windscreen while limiting thermal feedback that could cause runaway alcohol or Esbit burns.
One frustration I have had using Esbit tabs is the difficulty lighting them. Usually I hold a tab by one corner, ignite another corner with a lighter, then carefully place the burning tablet down in the holder. A Gram Cracker style holder makes this task a little easier, but still almost impossible with any wind. Adding a Wall Lenk Turbo-Lite Torch solves the problem. This 44 g. butane lighter has a piezo ignition and a jet flame that fires an Esbit tablet in seconds. When my water boils, I extinguish the tablet with my beer can snuffer. The torch relights the tablet when I need it again. Tablet remnants, too small to deliver significant heat, are placed on top of a fresh tablet, and the combination relight.
I have been making cone style windscreens, with the top mouth of the cone sized to support the pot rim. They are geometrically a little complicated to design and need to be made in two parts to stow easily inside a small pot. They take a bigger sheet of foil to lay out as well. I liked the simplicity of the Flat Cat windscreens used with my remote canister stoves. But I wanted to see where the tradeoff might be for a simple, ultralight alcohol or Esbit setup vs. a more efficient canister stove. Titanium offers strength, weight savings and resistance to high temperatures. My aluminum windscreens discolor and get banged up with use. While boil times are a bit longer than with cone windscreens, I can use either a 750 ml. Toaks pot or my 600 ml. Snow Peak pot.
My Kovea spider canister stove, with the windscreen that fits the Toaks 750 pot, weighs 416 g. including a full 4 oz. canister. Equivalently my Ti windscreen, foil ground sheet, Esbit holder and snuffer weigh 256 g. To that I add 10 g. for a small OpSak I use to carry Esbit tabs and contain their fishy smell. I can boil a typical 1-1/2 cups of water with about 6 g. of canister fuel, 10 g. of Esbit or 12 g. of alcohol. So matching the fuel content of a 4 oz. isobutane canister (110 g.), would take 12 Esbit tabs (192 g.) or 10 fl. oz. of alcohol (230 g,). I carry alcohol in a 32 g. bottle with a spout, and I use my Trail Designs 12-10 alcohol stove. These quantities get me about 18 burns (boiling 1-1/2 c. water).
My typical solo backcountry fuel use is 4 to 5 burns per day, so 18 burns will be good for a 4 or 5 day trip. With each fuel choice, I will use my Toaks 750 ml. pot as my main pot with the appropriate matching windscreen. Any additional kitchen or eating gear will be the same. Remember my base starting weight for canister fuel is 416 g. Comparable starting weight for Esbit use is 266 g. or 337 g. for alcohol. With all the fuel gone, my empty weight is 306 g. for canister, 74 g. for Esbit and 107 g. for alcohol.
When the math is done, my savings for a full canister using Esbit or alcohol will be 5 or 3 oz. starting weight, growing to 8 or 7 oz. savings by the end of the trip. For shorter trips, the savings are greater. And with tablets or alcohol, I can easily monitor my fuel use as the trip progresses. Granted that I could narrow this difference by using a lightweight canister top burner, but at the loss of pot stability and any performance in a wind. Alternatively I can easily stow the windscreen, Esbit burner, and a few tablets as a 100 g. backup stove option or extension when springing for the extra weight of canister cooking.