In the mountains with a Kovea Spider Stove, Flat Cat Gear and blueberries

In January I posted my first impressions and tests of the Kovea Spider stove.  I tested it in my backyard with my collection of pots and windscreens to bake bread and make reasonable pancakes.  This summer, the stove has accompanied me on a number of climbs and backpack trips and I have used it with some of Jon Fong’s Flat Cat Gear accessories.  It’s good stuff.

If you spend time in the field, you know that many things must come together for a good kitchen kit.  Weight, of course, is important.  Packing volume also counts.  And you must be able to do the cooking you want in real backcountry and mountain conditions.  My kitchen is built around three pots, the 1 L and .78 L Ti pots of a Snow Peak Multicompact set and a 0.6 L Snow Peak Ti mug.  I need windscreens to match the pots and the stoves I plan to use for any particular trip.  For solo and individual cooking on group trips, I usually stick with the .78 L Snow Peak pot.  For couples backpacking, the 1 L pot does most of the work, and I often take a second pot to have something clean for heating water after cooking.  So any new stove must be properly introduced to these pots and find a way to work and travel efficiently with them.

My first trials with the Kovea Spider were focused on baking and I used the big 1 L Snow Peak pot and its matching Trail Designs Caldera Cone Ti windscreen.  It worked well, but the windscreen doesn’t pack into a pot.  On some higher alpine climbs this summer, I took the Spider and my smaller .78 L pot, together with a split cone windscreen I had been using with an alcohol burner.  It worked, sort of.  Then I had a chance to try out some Flat Cat Gear windscreens designed just for the Kovea stove for a much better solution.

For larger pots, the Flat Cat Bobcat Kovea windscreen is a winner. Continue reading

Ultralight Backpacking Fuels, Alcohol and Esbit – Insights from the field

Alcohol stove fuel and Esbit tablets really can be the workhorses of ultralight cooking. The usual canister vs. alcohol vs. Esbit review doesn’t really capture practical or best practices approaches to these two fuels.  Here are my tips on how I make these fuels work well for me in my backcountry kitchen to boil water, to rehydrate a freeze dried meal or bake a chocolate cake. Even in the rain.

It’s not just the fuel, but really the whole system that counts.  That includes fuel, burner, pot support, windscreen, simmer control, stove lighting and extinguishing, burn time, outdoor temperature sensitivity, refueling ease, fuel storage and some factor for operating fussiness.  Add to this weight and cost considerations for both the basic system and for fuel and you will be well on your way to making choices.  Some popular stove products do a good job on addressing most issues, think Jet-Boil.  See how I do better. Continue reading

Popcorn!

PopcornI was reading an old back country cookbook recently and came across the concept of making popcorn in the woods.  For some reason, the idea had never occurred to me, but a quick check of the cyber sphere revealed many YouTube posts of the process.  O.K then, I had to try it with my setup.  As you can seem, it works, but more about that later.

Some posts ago I blogged about the “Price of Nothing”.  Look it up in the Archives if you’re interested, but it was about the money spent to save a little weight.  The spirit of this post is the opposite – how little extra weight can you carry to enjoy something new or additional in the outdoors.  Popcorn is classic “comfort light” at just 2.7 oz. for the trip and 1.1 oz. per serving.  Here’s how. Continue reading

End of season review

New snow - RainierMt. Rainier is now wearing a new coat of snow and the high country is making the transition to winter.  Days are short, the rain is arriving and it is time to look ahead to ski season.  This is  a good time to reflect on this year’s outings.  What worked well?  What didn’t?

Comfort light delivered for me this season.  Good, light weight equipment continues to open opportunities.  My wife and I are backpacking again, without me as the mule.  I am able to do grab and go trips to support climbs requiring a base camp.  Bake a load of Logan bread.  Take a quick shopping trip and I am off.  With less gear, packing is quicker.  In the past even overnight trips seemed to have packing drama. Continue reading

Favorites, part 1

This section covers my “people’s choice awards”. Items here just really work and show outstanding design.

Long handled titanium spoon

P1010982I have owned this spoon for a number of years. I originally found it on a cottage ultra-light website, but now even REI carries something similar. Mine is polished, which I like better than darker, unfinished titanium.

The design allows you to eat out of freezer bags. I don’t do this, but I will eat out of pots, where the long handle helps. I like the hard titanium for stirring food off the bottom of pots during simmering. The spoon is tough and cleans up easily. It is too long to pack into most cooking kits, but I always have somewhere to keep it. At 1.2 oz. it earns it’s keep in my kitchen. Continue reading

Dry baking

P1010157Freshly baked food is a hit in the outdoors. The means to this delicious end are many.  I remember twisting dough onto a stick and roasting it over an open fire as a Boy Scout. With open fires, reflector ovens and Dutch Ovens have a great history. Fry bread and bannock cooked over open fires or stoves also have their place. However, when open fires and heavier cooking gear are no longer part of the picture, baking becomes more difficult.

The reward for solving this problem – fresh baked backpacked food – is so compelling that a number of light weight solutions have emerged. Continue reading

Stoves and fuel

Surf's upThough hardly a kid any more, I still like to play with fire. I have cooked on wood, white gas, kerosene, butane, alcohol and Esbit tablets. I have owned a lot of stoves, used and built a bunch more. Making fire to heat and/or cook food is so central to backpacking that a large acreage of blogosphere is devoted to it. So here are my current and recent solutions, appropriately in a very long post.

I really like Caldera cones, made by Trail Designs. I like them so much that I build custom cone shaped windscreens to fit my favorite stove and pot combinations. The cone windscreen design protects the stove from wind, vastly improves heat transfer to the pot and provides a temperature protected environment for combustion. Cold weather performance loss is much less. And the cone shaped windscreen/pot support is stable – no more noodles spilled on the ground.

My kitchen goal is the ability to cook, including simmering and dry baking with a stove/windscreen setup that will stow inside the pot. Continue reading