Equipment for back-country cookery: Tramping/Hiking stoves
|Camp-fire cooking...as old as humankind.|
So many types of outdoor cooker...
Iso-butane or gas canister stoves
|Kovea Titanium Tramping Stove|
|MSR Windpro free standing gas stove for tramping|
They are also expensive and heavy which is why more trampers, anglers and MTB riders don't use them.
|The Jetboil outdoor 'cooking system'|
Iso-butane gas canisters are pressurised so the canisters must be made of steel to contain the gas. This means the canisters are heavy. An empty 225ml canister weighs 145gms so that is a lot of wasted weight you have to lug around.
Disposing of empty canisters can be problematic. The empty canisters cannot be recycled in New Zealand unless they are punctured- they need a hole in them to allow residual gas to escape. If not completely empty they are liable to explode during the recycling process.
|Various sizes of MSR iso-butane gas: 100gms, 225gms and 550gms canisters|
Aside from the weight, gas canisters can also be expensive- they currently cost from $15-$20 for a medium sized canister. They do not perform well in cold conditions, as the gas can freeze if it is very cold. If using one in a cold alpine environment it needs to be kept warm in a sleeping bag overnight.
|The MSR Whisperlite multi fuel hiking stove: Both fuel bottle and gas canister shown|
Multi-fuel stoves are excellent for alpine conditions as the fuel is not affected by altitude or cold. Their ability to use a multitude of fuels also makes them practical: gasoline is available everywhere in the world while gas canisters are sometimes difficult to locate.
|A MSR multi-fuel cooker service kit|
I have to say though, there is nothing like the sound of a multi fuel stove blasting away on a cold morning...to a lot of us older trampers it is the sound of tramping itself.
Pros: Able to utilise many different fuels, much hotter flame, better flame/heat control, work well at altitude and in cold conditions, sound awesome when fired up
Methylated - Spirit stoves
|Reproduction of a World War One "Tommy cooker'|
Alcohol stoves can be commercially produced or home-made and have a burner unit with a series of holes in the top and sides. They normally have a stand to hold your pot above the flame and sometimes a wind-shield. Once lit the heating flame will come out of the holes providing the means to cook/ heat water.
|A Trangia brand outdoor alcohol stove in action|
They are also easily extinguished by wind, you really need a wind shield if using a spirit cooker.
|Home-made outdoor alcohol stoves made from aluminium cans|
De natured alcohol is usually only found in the larger outdoor equipment shops. It costs approximately $10-$20 NZ dollars per 1 litre bottle.
Just use meths' bro....
Solid fuel tablets- Esbit Stoves
The most renown brand of solid fuel stoves are made by the German company Esbit, so in Europe these cookers are called 'Esbit stoves'.
|Classic Esbit stove from Germany|
|Classic Esbit fuel cubes- one cube = 12 minutes of burn time|
Oh my god... the smell of a 'hexie' tablet cooking some 'Spag and Snarlers' 'Corned Beef Hash' or 'Meat and Vegetables' is something every ex service person will remember fondly...morning time means hexie time!
|Esbit stove, fuel tablets and cookpot, from Esbit website|
|Esbit type stove in use, from Australian Hiker|
Pros:No parts to break, can be stored till the end of time, need no cooker, slow steady heat, relatively light, can be lit when wet, fuel makes excellent fire starter so dual purpose, cheap (a stove and fuel is usually less that $10 NZ dollars.
Portable wood stoves
One of the newer forms of stove in use are those that use wood as their fuel...much as our ancestors have done for the last 40 000 years. These are commonly aluminium or titanium and burn paper, sticks, leaves and small wood chips.
|Typical lightweight outdoor wood stove in action|
Pros: No need to carry fuel, relatively lightweight, inexpensive if home-made, can be used in most outdoor situations, fold down versions take up little space, environmental impact slight
Cons: They require dry wood, can get very sooty on the outside, fire risk- cannot be used if there is a fire ban, cannot be used in huts, bulky unless fold down design, commercial versions are expensive
Flameless Ration Heaters or FRH's
Flameless Ration Heaters (or FRH's) are a by-product of military style Meals Ready To Eat (MRE's). MRE's first came into use with the US Army in the late 1980's to replace heavy canned rations.
|US military FRH from a Meals Ready to Eat (MRE)|
An MRE (jokingly called, with usual soldierly humour: Meals Rarely Eaten) is a thermo stabilised retort pouch of food, with the addition of various drink powders, snacks, side dishes and accessories.
|Flameless Ration Heater: the chemical heater pad in a FRH|
They are a one meal item i.e. you would need to eat three a day to get your recommended calories. The FRH they contain uses a thermo-chemical reaction to warm the main meals and any hot drinks. Most of the military forces of the world are now using these.
|A US military MRE: Beef Pasta with Tomato Sauce|
FRH's were specific to military circles until about 10 years ago when a number of outdoor companies started to produce them for hikers and campers. Back Country Cuisine are the only indigenous manufacturer of FRH's. You have to be careful with an FRH, these can get really hot to the touch- don't leave them on an unprotected tent floor!
|A Back Country Cuisine Flameless Ration Heater|
In New Zealand the commercial food ranges these FRH's can be used with are Kaweka Meals (also used by the NZ Defence Forces), Sun Rice meals and the MTR range of Indian meals. All of these come in thermo stabilised pouches. Freeze dried meals can also be heated if the contents are rehydrated with cold water first.
Pros: Very lightweight (less than 20gms each), easy to use, you require no stove/fuel or pot if not heating water, can be used in a well ventilated tent, not affected by cold/wet/windy conditions
Cons:Horrible environmental impact, very slow heating, expensive, limited uses- only good with thermo stabilised retort pouches, hard to source in New Zealand, need salt and a cup of clean water to work
No heat/no cook tramping
Typical 'no cook' foods might include: cold meats, canned fish, cheese, jerky, wraps/tortillas/bread/crackers, various spreads, energy bars, cereals, dried fruit or it could be dehydrated meals reconstituted with cold water.
Basically the sort of stuff you eat for lunch!
|Some no-cook menu items: cereals, scroggin, energy bars, tuna, salami, drink powders, dried fruit etc.|
I meet a guy on the St James a couple of years ago who had scroggin, whiskey and 24 peanut butter sandwiches for food- he had six sarnies per day- two per meal. Hey...it would keep you going, but....
|Do you fancy this at every meal for four days....|
Pros: Lightweight (no stove/pot/fuel/cutlery), cheaper option as not buying fuel, stove or cook-pot, easy to sustain yourself for short periods this way
My personal choice of tramping stove
|The Kovea Backpacker stove...this is the 2016 version|
I usually couple this stove with a medium size MSR gas cannister, this combination allows me to boil water for both breakfast and dinner for 4-6 days. This stove cools fast and has a larger diameter burner head which I find advantageous when heating speed is of the essence.
|My Kovea Backpacker stove in use at Nina Hut in 2016|
|Fixing dinner with my Kovea tramping stove at Mid Robinson Hut, 2015|
|The Jetboil Crunchit recycling tool|
|My Esbit cubes: firestarter and emergency cook tool|
I have not had cause to use them for about 2 years now.
A gallery of other tramping stoves I own...I have an Esbit methylated spirits cooker which I will be using when I do some of my longer Te Araroa Trail sections because it is ideal for that kind of tramping. The fuel is cheaper and more readily available in out of the way places.
|My Esbit cooker looks like this...|
|Kovea Hiker stove, mine does not have a piezo|
|An Outer Limits Huntsman stand alone stove|