cooking

Many people ask what is the best stove to  buy for camping. Put simply there are different types some suited to better to different situations. Varying factors can be cost to purchase, fuel cost to run, weight, conditions of use ie summer, winter, extreme cold or just simplicity and ease.

Solid fuel/esbit

Simple stove on which one puts a little flammable fuel block in and stick a pan on top, simple, but the fuel can be hard to come by if not near hiking shops.

Alcohol StovesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The simplest and most basic stove with no moving parts, just a little dish in which to pour fuel and some holes to let alcohol vapour escape from. The can be as cheap as a can of coke or go into the hundereds for a full titanium set with pot supports. The simplicity of these is the best part, they will last your life. A little burner can be purchased for 3-4 pounds from

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Evernew Appalachian spirit burner with surround/pot stand

ebay. You can burn denatured alcohol, methylated spirits or yellow heat.  The downside (debatably) is you have to carry much more fuel to boil water. You have to decide do you want one morning coffee, or will you be boiling water for breakfast, brunch, lunch and evening tea. My experience is you use (in field conditions) 30ml alcohol to boil 2 cups of water, that done 3 times a day and your working on around 100ml a day, half a litre every 5days , so generally for a solo backpacker who likes coffee not the most suitable if the intention is to go for over say 5-6 days, however, cheap. There is also the small risk of burning yourself or starting fires. If your on a budget or want a lightweight system for 1-3days, it’s the one to go for. In cold weather below freezing, it can be harder to get the alcohol to vaporise and use of a wick or carrying the fuel inside a jacket may be required to light them. Little flame control, you just light and it goes.

Gas Stoves

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starting from the left-stainless wood stove, BRS 3000T mini stove, MSR PocketRocket, Alpkit Brewkit

Most gas stoves now use a standardised cansiter onto which you stove will screw. Varying in weight from tiny 25g mini burners, upto 6-700g per unit efficient burning fast heating stoves(jetboil, brukit, msr windpro). Easy to use, just turn the gas on and your cooking. Turn off when your finished, no mess, clean, no spills. Variable flame control(except Brew

Disadvantages- Its not very environmental using disposable canisters. In some places its hard to get hold of gas canisters. In lower temperatures (below freezing) gas doesn’t vaporise as well. You can buy butane/propane mixes designed for cold as low as -27c(lowest rated canister i have found) at slight more cost. Cost is the biggest issue with gas, while it is gram for gram the most energy efficient burn it is also the most expensive cooking option. I love the sound of a gas stove burning in the morning, smells like….a victory brew.

Multi fuel

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MSR Whisperlite universal stove complete with heat reflectors takes just about any liquid or gas fuel

Stoves that burn kerosene, petrol, just about anything you can get your hands on, which is great for international travel and cheap to fuel. Burns brilliant once going, great for melting snow, variable flame control. Expedition choice to third world countries/remote areas where gas canisters/alcohol may not be widely available.

Disadvantages- heavier than most other setups. Much more maintenance required cleaning lines and jets, can be sooty and a pain to prime, however, burns brilliantly.

Wood Stove

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above:stainless wood stove, left:titanium stove

Stainless or titanium, little boxes into which you can feed twigs and cook on top. It feels great carrying no fuel, but its also a pain if its raining and you need dry twigs. You also smell slightly of burning after a few days use. One of my happiest hikes was 200OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA miles of
wilderness without
carrying any fuel, just a 96g twig stove. But its rare weather is so kind and dry twigs so plentiful on most hikes.

Improvise 

Bushcraft is a forgotten skill and I’m certainly no expert, but if you can light a fire for camping chances are you can just as easily cook. a few simple ideas from regular outings-

Preference

Its down to you.  People will argue all day long one or the other is better, more reliable, more fuel efficient, lighter weight. If you can borrow from friends and try a few types and decide which you prefer. There are a lot of tri use stoves designed for alcohol, esbit or twigs which can be great for thru hikes or overseas adventures due to flexibility of fuel sources.  You can now buy multifuel stoves that also take gas canisters for added flexibility (whisperlite universal).

Pots– stainless, aluminium, titanium. Stainless is heaviest. Just get something of reasonable quality and it will last your life. I have found a 750ml pot is more than big enough for a small meal or a couple of coffees. I would say definately get something with handles. My preference is titanium as the handle stays cool while the contents is hot. Aluminium and Stainless tranfer heat.

Wind Shield – a simple wind shield utilising the ground around you, rocks or walls can reduce boiling time dramatically. Even better a foil around the stove and pot to contain more heat. I know of people who claim with a Caldera Stove they can use 15ml of alcohol per boil and boil 2 cups of water water in around 7 minutes. Not far off a gas stove due to increased efficiency. This would certainly be a winner.

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