Carry Less – a few gear changes to lighten the backcountry kit

Gear is always a great topic, and I can safely say that I enjoy reading about it, using it, modifying it and finding out what I can incorporate to be a bit more efficient in the woods.

One thing I am trying to simplify and lighten up is my stove/cooking system. I have been reading a lot lately on ultralight backpacking sites about alcohol stoves, everything from a $1 homemade cat food can stove to full production models, all designed to quietly and easily burn denatured alcohol. Coming from the school of jet-roaring canister stoves, piezo igniters, screw-on fuel canisters rattling around my pack, and using them exclusively for all backcountry hunts, I was a little suspect of these dinky little cans, supposedly able to boil water, and do it with something that weighs less than 2 ounces. I was skeptical at first.

After looking at a few DIY plans and making a few alcohol stoves of my own, I really started to like what I was seeing. Easy, quick, clean, no moving parts, lighter than you can imagine, and with a fuel “container” (read: empty plastic soda bottle) adding zero to the cost and weight, I was just about sold on these little things. The true test was for me, can it boil water in a decent amount of time, in a variety of conditions? This test is because I never actually “cook” my food on backcountry hunts, but just boil water for Mountain House meals, instant oatmeal and instant coffee. No frying bacon or elaborate meals. Simple. Quick. Light.

After a few timing tests, I was able to bring 16 oz. of water to a good boil in about 5 minutes with just over one ounce of fuel. Not bad. One thing I noticed though, was a windscreen was required for any breeze; I used a cut-down MSR aluminum windscreen, just to keep the flames protected.

After working on my own designs, and those of others, for the best bang for the buck and best speed of boiling, light weight, durability and design, I went with the Evernew DX stove and stand. It has proven to be a great little stove, puts out a considerable amount of heat, and fits snugly in my pot, and a good boil only takes 1.2 ounces of fuel. Total weight: 7 ounces. Stove, stand, cook pot. Perfect. Also, in a pinch, it can be used as a “multi-fuel” stove, meaning, you can load it up with small twigs and sticks, and have a contained, tidy wood stove. Boil times in this mode are considerably longer, but you have the option if you run out of alcohol fuel.

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