thoughts on meths stoves

Tue, Feb 5, 2013

I’ve been wanting to get back to a meths stove for ages. Gas is of course the ultimate in user friendliness but I always end up with a load of almost empty or could actually be empty little cannisters so end up carrying two. I used a Trangia for years and even lugged it up the hills as a youf as I liked a brew on the summits. I’ve even used it inside the tent in winter with the simmer ring on and the door open a little to let fresh air in. The pans eventually started to have a sort of ‘bloom’ grow on them and after the Pyrenees I moved to a remote cannister gas stove. These are pretty much essential in winter as you can invert the cannister to get at the denser liquid plus being very careful, I could pop the cannister on top of the pan for a bit to get it going. But I’ve been hankering for the simplicity of meths and the market has expanded exponentially in the last few years, so a heavy Trangia isn’t the only option these days.

The first one that caught my eye was the Evernew bundle from BPL. But it looked a little unstable with that narrow chimney thing balancing a pan of boiling water on top. Also, from this video you can see the flame is about a foot high once it gets going! So it’s not really for tent use I wouldn’t think.

I normally camp and bivvy above around 800m where it’s more or less windy all the time and I wouldn’t want that flame blowing around like a light sabre in the tent porch! Even with the pan on top the flames leap up the sides. It’s a right inferno of a stove. Reading reviews of it seemed to point to it being quite inefficient due to its ‘shouty’ nature and the fact that titanium loses heat rapidly. So the end result is a conflagration engulfing the pot which is so high up it catches the wind and cools down quite rapidly. Add to that the titanium burner losing heat too and most of the fuel seems to go on keeping the components hot rather than the contents. Of course you could use a windshield but it would have to be pretty high and a gust of wind could easily knock it over onto the stove and the whole lot coup into the tent. It’s beautifully made but I suspect it’s not for mountain camping.

So next up on the list was the Vargo Triad. A curious little thing and quite appealing in its simplicity. It turned out to be deceptively menacing though according to this review. Just far too messy and faffy. I loved the size and the looks and pretty much everything about it, apart from the use! Getting it going seems to involve setting everything round about it on fire and then cooking your grub as quickly as possible before the tiny reservoir burns out.

There’s a lot of ‘ultralight’ (UL) gear on the go these days but they all seem to have some flaw or other. More specifically, the UL stuff is designed for a specific use case. Whereas the Trangia is heavy (relatively speaking), durable, dependable and can be used anywhere, this gear seems to be designed for a specific environment, Mostly wind free from what I can see. Woods, forests, Low level? Neither of them were ‘mountain’ stoves.

So next I found the Caldera Cone system. I started to get excited. I know a certain outdoors beardy person likes this stove and from a first look it is indeed wonderful. Completely enclosed, stable and easy to carry. UL too of course! I was specifically drawn to the Sidewinder. But a few problems then appeared. Watching the videos on the site it was obvious what could happen. You unpack the gear and a puff of wind sends the cone into the tent just as you’re about to park your bahookie on the mat. Bang! You’ve squashed it flat and it’s useless. You’ve no stove and your arse has a ragged hole in it from the titanium edges. This stove is so fragile they even tell you not to put the tiny plastic fuel bottle in the rolled up cone in case it flattens the joining bits. I started to get the impression they’d taken UL too far. Why not have press studs instead of a far too easily damaged sliding joint thing? A few more grams, come on! But a less breakable stove. The other niggle I didn’t like about it was the single pot use. You can only buy it for use with a specific pot and as we all know, two identical pots don’t stack. So you’re stuck with one pot and I like to have two different sized pots. That’s not possible with the Caldera, unless you carry two Calderas. One last point before it fell off the radar. It’s from the ‘states and the customs charge lottery could be anything and the only UK supplier I could find only had the Sidewinder with a load of guff I didn’t want. I mean, what on earth is an inferno insert? I didn’t want the foot long flame of the Evernew so something conflagrationally greater is a definite no-no. Plus the price, once I’d got a pot, was approaching 200 quid. For a stove and a pot. I ask you!

I was running out of options by now and not all that impressed with UL gear. Wood burning seems all the rage at the moment but there is no wood in the mountains. A rock burning stove, now that would be handy.

Eventually I stumbled on the Pocket Stove from BPL. There’s also a stainless steel version which is more robust. It’s designed by Bob Rose of BPL and it takes a Trangia burner and hugs it in a wind protecting sturdy metal jacket. Add a trivet (sounds like something that eats hedges!) and you’ve got a very versatile system. And cheap(ish) too. I say cheapish as I fancied the titanium stove and pot. It would be cheap for the steel versions. The whole lot looks like it will go inside an Evernew 900ml pan, apart from the fuel bottle, which is fine and best kept away from anything that goes near your mouth. The stove isn’t too high and looks pretty stable and it can be surrounded by the pot cosy material BPL sell as a windshield or I suppose some kitchen foil. I just love the simplicity. It’s toty wee, and looks sturdy and dependable. It’s the Trangia’s wee Glasgow brother!

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