2018 A.T. Back-Packing trip

Discussion in 'Backpacking' started by WILL, Jun 8, 2018.

  1. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    Just got back yesterday from 5 days on the trail. My daughter and I hiked about 42 miles, Devil's Fork Gap to just north of Erwin Tennessee. It was a great trip. The best views were atop Big Bald. My daughter crashed for a while there....

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    View attachment 549294
    Then we moved on to little bald, a flower covered mountain next door...
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    There were a few other mountain views, but these were the best by far. I challenged myself to make our three meals a day over the fire. It was a success, taking about an additional 1/2 hour per meal to build the fire. Here you can see our approach to Big Bald....


    IMG_1860.JPG
    Another new trick this year was moving away from chemicals to treat out water. My new 2 liter C-Noc bags and a Sawyer mini-filter gravity system worked fast and the water tasted great. As two of the water sources were very far from the shelter, this system was very appreciated.
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    Continued….
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2018
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  2. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    I love being in the mountains. I enjoyed the views, spending time in nature, working in some outdoors skills, the physical and mental challenge, bonding with my daughter, fraternizing with other hikers at the shelter while enjoying a cigar and some whiskey and the grounding and reality check you get from being disconnected for a week. There's that, and a lot more to like about the experience. We spent time with quite a few through hikers. While I appreciate what they're trying to do, I couldn't help notice that the experience didn't seem as enjoyable to them, but was more like a mission they had to complete.

    Anyhow, we changed up from mountain house meals to potato flakes with dried meat cut into it, dried rice packets with a chicken packet mixed in, oatmeal for breakfast and mac n cheese. Here's meal time...
    IMG_1906.JPG IMG_1907.JPG


    Here we came across a spring bubbling right out of the ground. We just drank it right out of the ground like a water fountain...

    IMG_1933.JPG
     
  3. UAHiker

    UAHiker Supporter Supporter

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    Nice trip, how did the cnoc do?
     
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  4. MJGEGB

    MJGEGB Guide

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    Great trip, there is something about the mountains. Couldn't imagine life without them. I'm hoping to do a loop later this month that will be a personal challenge. Doing a 5 day trip would be great. When the kids get a little older hopefully that will be a regular occurrence.

    I don't worry about filtering springs at their source either. Found one that someone had dammed up a bit at the source. My neighbor dunked hist Smart water bottle directly in it.
     
  5. PAcanis

    PAcanis Supporter Supporter

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    Nice report.

    Was it the plan to go from just add water freeze dried meals to more preparing your own meals, or did it just work out that way?
     
  6. MJGEGB

    MJGEGB Guide

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    Oh just to add since this is your first time with the Sawyer. Back flush it then run some bleach water through it before shaking it out and letting it air dry. Then store it. I didn't used to use the bleach water on my old one. That might be part of why it slowed down so much. Or at least it seems slow compared to my new Squeeze. I did a splash (less than a cap full) in about a liter of water after my last trip.
     
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  7. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    The main motivation was to save some money and try something different. I was happy to see our cheaper choices also had more calories. Enough so that we weren't always hungry like we've been on past trips. IMHO the flavors were also better. The down side was the new eating plan weighed more and clean-up was more involved since we cooking the food in our pots. All in all, we both agreed we would do it again and won't be going back to Mountain House.

    Thanks, I didn't know that.
     
  8. TerBear

    TerBear Scout

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    I just did my first backpacking trip with my sons Boy Scout troop. We did all of our meals in freezer bags which kept us from having to clean anything. Boil the water, pour it in the bag, seal it up and drop it in a cozy to keep it hot while it cooks. Instant rice, instant potatoes, instant oatmeal and quick cooking noodles like ramen. Just add a protein. We had five meals each (total of ten) and I probably spent not much more than two Mountain House. I did splurge for dinner on the 2nd night and had this https://www.amazon.com/Thai-Kitchen...&qid=1528505669&sr=1-43&keywords=thai+kitchen But it was made in a freezer bag. Soak the noodles until cooked and then poured out leftover water, then poured the sauce packet in. The pad thai had over 700 calories without adding a protein.
     
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  9. blind & lost

    blind & lost Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Nice trip report, was on that section many years ago. The balds in that area and north of Roan Man are spectacular. Thank you for sharing.
     
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  10. Vilke

    Vilke Guide

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    Glad to see that you and your daughter had a great trip! Good job dad!
     
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  11. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    I was just admiring pics of our trip and thought I'd add a few more....
    IMG_1869.JPG IMG_1888.JPG IMG_1899.JPG IMG_1900.JPG IMG_1905.JPG IMG_1908.JPG IMG_1915.JPG
     
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  12. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    Some more... IMG_1922.JPG IMG_1923.JPG IMG_1924.JPG IMG_1929.JPG
     
  13. gohammergo

    gohammergo I like sharp things.... Supporter

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    Looks like an incredible time. I would love to spend some time on the AT with my daughter. :)
     
  14. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    Thanks,

    Every year I try to learn and improve. We both really enjoyed the experience of cooking meals over the fire. I think we'll continue that in the future, but still bring a stove as back-up in case it's raining, no available wood, too tired, ect. So I decided to try to lighten my load with a minimalist stove set-up. I purchased a Vargo 8 oz fuel bottle (1 0z) which holds 9 oz of denatured alcohol. A Toaks titanium wind screen w/ 2 paper clips (3/4 oz) Vargo titanium alcohol stove (1.5 oz). After many years of service I retired the Walmart greese pot. I upgraded to a Toaks titanium 1600 ml pot, giving me a sturdier pot with more capacity and no weight penalty. All together my cook kit weighs in at 19.75 oz.

    My old 8 oz canister stove with the pot weighed 22 oz, so I shaved roughly 2.25 oz. I honestly thought there would be more weight savings.

    I tested the alcohol stove out today. Here's the kit...

    IMG_2324.JPG
    The Vargo alcohol bottle has 1 oz striations on it, which were very handy and filled to the rim holds about 9 oz. I've found it doesn't leak. I filled the stove up to the top with a little more than an ounce of alcohol and set it afire. It took 5:30 before it gasified(flames shot out the tiny holes in the sides). I figured I'd boil 4 cups of water because that's the typical recipe for the Idahoan potato flakes or rice pouch meals we'd eaten on this trip. It took a total of 20:30 to get a simmer going. I tried for a full boil. At about 28 minutes I had an aggressive simmer, but hadn't reached rolling boil when I ran out of fuel.

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    So bottom line, I'm not impressed at all. I could cook a maximum of maybe 9 meals with this set-up as it stands. That's not counting coffee or tea. With my 8 oz canister stove I didn't even need to count how many meals I had cooked. I've done 5 day trips cooking for me and my two kids, 2-3 meals a day, and still came back with spare fuel. If I'd of cut back to a 4 oz canister I'd weigh less (15.9 oz total) than this alcohol stove set-up (19.75 oz) and still probably be able to cook more meals. Oh yeah, the canister boils the water in like 5 minutes. The only advantage the alcohol stove may have is cold weather camping. Live and learn I guess, at least the Toaks titanium pot is a winner.
     
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  15. GoKartz

    GoKartz Sharpaholic

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    Hi @WILL ,

    Just a couple comments from my experience:
    1. I cannot get a alcohol stove to match my canister stove set up for convenience (here defined as ease of use, speed of cooking, all-weather reliability, and packing). Canister stoves are just quicker and borderline dummy proof.
    2. Weight savings on the stoves themselves can be virtually nonexistent. My Trangia weighs more than my pocket rocket, but there are a variety of alcohol stoves out there that are equivalent in weight.
    3. Stove fuel weight for weight: I figure about 1/4 oz of canister fuel to boil 2 cups of water, and about 1 oz of alcohol to boil the same. I've never tried boiling or cooking in larger quantities. A full 8oz canister weighs about 15oz, but a full 8oz bottle of alcohol weighs about 9oz. This can add up to a substantial difference, depending on how much you're carrying. This also means that an 8oz canister will last me 16 boils, but an 8oz bottle will only last me 8 boils... Two 8 oz bottles of of alcohol (18oz) will yield the same number of boils as that canister, and weigh 3oz more. (Only?)

    What are the pros of an alcohol stove then? Ease of resupply along the trail (this is only an issue on long hikes), quieter, cheaper, sustainable and environmentally friendly (the environmental cost of canister stoves is ridiculous, if that matters to you; it does me, and it boggles my mind how many LNT people love them).

    What are the pros of a canister stove? Speed and convenience.

    Where are they a wash? Weight and cold-weather camping. Both alcohol and canister stoves should sleep with you in your bag.

    What's a supposed benefit? Well, an alcohol stove can't stop working. You can break one, like you can anything else, but there's nothing to malfunction. I say "supposed" because I've never had an issue with my MSR Pocket Rocket. The brief time I had a Jetboil the only issue I had was the self-igniter stopped working - which just meant I "had" to use a lighter or a match or a ferro rod.

    Its kinda a pick-your-poison sort of situation. I like them both. I also like cold soaking. I like mixing it up. I got caught up in the "alcohol is better" thing and got a bit disappointed and disillusioned, so I can feel your frustration. Loved your trip though!
     
  16. blind & lost

    blind & lost Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    Thanks for more great pictures @WILL.
     
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  17. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    I'm doing the math on what you just said and coming up different.

    An 8 oz canister stove (1/4 oz of canister fuel to boil 2 cups of water) will last you 32 boils.
    An 8 oz alcohol bottle ( 1 oz of alcohol to boil the same) will only last about 8 boils. That's a significant difference.
     
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  18. GoKartz

    GoKartz Sharpaholic

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    Um... So... Math... Haha you're 100% correct, totally screwed that one up! Maybe I was thinking about this 4 oz canisters... Or maybe I just failed math... :54:
     
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  19. mtwarden

    mtwarden roaming the Big Sky Supporter

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    Will- nice trip w/ your daughter, something she will always remember :)

    I keep coming back to canisters for backpacking- so much quicker and easier, that even w/ a small weight hit- it's still worth it

    I usually figure 5 full days on a 110g canister (that's slightly conservative, as I usually have some fuel left)- boiling water in the morning for coffee/hot cereal and at night for supper
     
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  20. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    Same for me, thanks. I'm figuring the 4 oz canister stove set-up may actually be lighter than an 8 oz alcohol stove set up, but do twice the work. I need to buy a fresh canister and get some batteries for my scale and I'll let you know for sure. Right now I'm running off manufacturer spec weights.
     
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  21. darodalaf

    darodalaf Guide

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    That looks like a great trip! The AT sure passes through some beautiful country.

    I want to thruhike it so I can not enjoy just it like the thruhikers you met :)
     
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  22. MJGEGB

    MJGEGB Guide

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    When comparing canister stoves to alcohol you have to account for other weights as well. A light canister stove is the BRS Titanium at .9 oz compared to the 1 gram tealight stove however it may seem heavy until you consider the tealight requires a potstand and windscreen. The big difference is in the fuel container. A canister is 3.5oz empty I believe vs .4 oz for alcohol.

    But for me the biggest difference is being able to carry as much or as little fuel as I need, and not having to deal with almost spent canisters. For that reason alcohol is more convenient to me. One could go white gas for the same reason, but it gets heavier and more expensive. You also can't pick up fuel at any gas station you happen across.

    Also it's a half oz of alcohol to boil two cups, not a whole.
     
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  23. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    Turns out the 110 gram canister stove is lighter than the alcohol burner....

    IMG_2328.JPG IMG_2329.JPG

    I'll do a test later to see which stove I get more cook efficiency out of. I have a preconceived opinion, but I'll wait to see the official results before passing judgement. As far as spent canisters go, I just run a .22 round through the empty and throw it away. Never had a problem with it. Same as throwing out an empty bottle of distilled alcohol.
     
  24. GoKartz

    GoKartz Sharpaholic

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    Hmm I have now learned why I always have so much spare fuel (alcohol and canister) on my trips...
     
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  25. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    Final test results were surprising to me;
    About sea level.
    77 degrees inside my house.
    no wind.

    The Vargo titanium alcohol stove with wind screen was tested first. I started by using a cough syrup measuring cup, filling it with exactly 1/2 oz of alcohol using my digital scale. After being lit, it finally bloomed/ gasified at the 12 minute mark. That didn't sit well with me so I re-read the instructions. The manfacturer said to fill the stove up to the top. Maybe my Vargo titanium is a crappy design, but I figured I better follow their directions. I put the flame out and tried to pour the remaining alcohol back into the bottle. I spilled about 1/2 in the process. Starting over, I filled the measuring cup up to the lip, which was exactly 1 oz. I spilled a bit filling up the stove. Starting over. I saw where it filled to with one ounce (the top) and just squirted the alcohol into the stove from the bottle to that mark. I lit it and it bloomed in 6 minutes. The 2 cups of water were simmering at the 11 minute mark. I put out the flame and was able to capture all unused fuel in the measuring cup and measure it. It weighed .4 oz. I was able to carefully pour it all back into the bottle without spillage. So I used .6 oz of fuel to simmer 2 cups of water. 2 simmered cups of water is very typically what's needed to make a Mountain House or other freeze dried back-packers pouch meal. Unfortunately, I periodically enjoy meals on the trail that require additional cups of boiling water or actual cook time. My Vargo alcohol stove may have issues with those types of cooking chores. So extrapolating, 9 0z of alcohol makes 15 - 2 cup meals under ideal conditions and not spilling any. So on a 5 day back-packing trip like I just did, I may be able to cook all my meals and morning coffee with 9 0z of alcohol, but there would be no margin for error.

    Next up, the 110 gram GSI Isobutane canister stove. Brick simple to make ready. Simmered 4 cups of water in 5 minutes, and brought it to a boil in 7:38. Starting over with room temp pot and 2 cups of water, I was simmering at the 3:30 mark. I just let it keep running. The total run time of this canister was.... brace yourself..... two hours and twenty eight minutes. So extrapolating, a new 110 gram canister stove will cook 42 - 2 cup meals or 29 - 4 cup meals. I can only assume you would double these numbers for an 8 oz canister. The empty canister weighed 3.5 oz.

    Long story short, the canister stove turned out to be lighter and much more efficient. One could argue for the alcohol stove saying that for an overnighter I could bring less fuel so I'd be carrying less weight. Problem is, I'm really not that worried about pack weight on an overnighter. I'm already like 10 pounds lighter from carrying less food, clothing and other support gear, so shaving 5 oz off my stove weight is totally inconsequential. I also usually have a 1/2 empty canister laying around so there goes that idea. The only advantage I can think of for the alcohol stove is camping in weather below 20 degrees. I hear they work better then, but can't speak from experience there. Other than that, I have no idea why folks carry them. I wish someone would have shared this information with me before I wasted my money. Hope it helps.
     
  26. GoKartz

    GoKartz Sharpaholic

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    I’m glad you ran this test, but I’m sorry you feel you wasted your money. I definitely know how frustrating that can be. It is interesting how they’re super popular among some circles and touted as being lighter and more efficient - although I recently came across an ultra lite hiker who said ultra lite was both safer and cheaper.... I know I like alcohol because it’s quieter and it’s less destructive to the environment than canister stoves, but that’s me. It’s crazy how when you run the numbers there’s just no comparison... I’ll have to cycle my pocket rocket back in for longer trips.
     
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  27. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    Most folks use the 8 oz Heat bottles to refuel their alcohol stoves. Think about how many plastic bottles you go through compared to one 8 oz canister. The environmentally friendly angle may not be there either.
     
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  28. GoKartz

    GoKartz Sharpaholic

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    You may be right. I suppose there’s always a trade off there. I suppose I think of it thusly - alcohol is, for the most part, a fairly renewable resource, and often generated relatively locally. The gases in those canister stoves are generated from very destructive mining practices, then transported across the world in giant freighters, packaged into metal canisters (which are also mined and produced from somewhere), before finally being shipped to wherever you buy them. I’m not trying to say canister stoves are bad; I use them. I guess while both leave some sort of mark - in their production, in their transportation, in their use, and in their disposal - alcohol seems to leave less of a mark. I could be wrong, and I’m not at all saying canister stoves are evil or we shouldn’t use them or anything like that. I don’t know, I’m not trying to be on some high horse. I suppose it’s a matter of convenience for me - it isn’t inconvenient to use an alcohol stove for a 3 day trip, but it definitely seems more convenient to use a canister for a two week trip. Haha when I think of it in those terms I think my high horse is standing in a ditch!

    One of the things I read a while ago that made me start questioning (but not abandoning) my LNT roots was this - http://masterwoodsman.com/2015/leave-no-trace/ - and he mentions (briefly) about stoves.
     
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  29. MJGEGB

    MJGEGB Guide

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    Just like anything, not all alcohol stoves are equal. Seems like that Vargo might not be a good design. I like @zelph's stoves. I've been using a couple of home made Fancee Feest stoves .5 oz with a .4 oz fuel bottle which is just one of those mini water bottles the super thin pet kind. And an aluminum foil windscreen made from a baking sheet. No priming, light it and go or light it with the pot in place if you want. I'm not a huge fan of the stoves that require priming. I have some super cat stoves and a Trangia and I've run into issues with both.

    20180531_081407.jpg

    I want to pick up a modified Starlight for my smaller pots. Currently I'm using a lid off of a monster energy drink. Doesn't get much more simple than that, but I perfer a bit more fuel capacity for some things, and integrated pot stands.

    20180704_103017.jpg

    Fuel bottle is pictured below to the right.

    20180704_103039.jpg

    If you just want to boil water as fast as possible then a canister stove is the way to go. That and their adjustable flame are their biggest advantages.

    Alcohol stoves do have their advantages though. For me it's not having to deal with the canisters and keeping up with how much fuel is left. All of my trips at this point are limited to one or two nights so for me being able to toss what fuel I need plus a day or so extra in a bottle and being able to see what I have works better. It's sort of like hydration bladder vs water bottle.

    Canister Advantages
    • Adjustable flame
    • Wind screen optional
    • Speed
    Alcohol Advantages
    Alcohol stoves originally became popular due the the scarcity of canisters along trails like the AT, PCT, and CDT. Through Hikers would use alcohol stoves so that they could refuel along the trial without having canisters shipped to them. Of course this is no longer as big of an issue as it once was. Canister fuel is now more widely available, though still not to the point of alcohol.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2018
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  30. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    I paid $5 for the canister at Dick's Sporting Goods. They also sell them at Wal-Mart. 12 oz of Heet runs between $1.75-$2.50 at Wal-Mart.
    Cost break-down;

    110 gram Canister
    42 -2 cup meals costs $5

    Alcohol stove
    With no spillage, (1) 12 oz. Heet bottle makes 20 meals. To make 40 meals you would need at least 2 Heet containers costing $3.50-$5.

    I buy 1 canister a year for our 4-6 day trip and a few scattered overnighters before our next annual trip comes around again. I actually forgot to buy a new canister for this years trip, so I'll get two years out of this canister. So it works out that the possible $1.50 cost savings per year isn't a deciding factor for me. I guess if I was through hiking, the availability of alcohol stove fuel may be more of an issue. I'm not a distance hiker though. Kind of a worn out saying but I guess we all have to "hike our own hike."
     
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  31. GoKartz

    GoKartz Sharpaholic

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    I hope I didn’t come off otherwise, but I was more just “talking shop” than anything else.
     
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  32. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    Same here. It's just a friendly discussion s far as I'm concerned.
     
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  33. wizard

    wizard Guide

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    Great pics of a nice hike, thank you for sharing with us. Especially with those of us that can't seem to get out as much these days. I really enjoyed the stove information from all as well. I have a few thoughts to share on that subject.

    I have to add from my experience, the whole stove debate is to me like politics, you either like alcohol or canisters and some people think alcohol is some voodoo LNT thing that is capable of all things cooking wise and others know that a little canister stove will light easier, boil faster and allow nearly infinite flame adjustment.

    While I have decades of experience with white gas stoves, like MSR, Coleman, Svea and others, I also have a love for canister stoves. The ability to have a stove that light and simple, combined with the ability to simmer or rapidly boil is very attractive. A white gas stove requires some assembly, knowledge and patience and is hard to beat in the winter time. A canister is pretty foolproof and capable in most backpacking scenarios.

    In my mind, the alcohol stoves were more of a picnic warmer that suddenly became popular with a certain group of backpackers. It is simple but very fiddly too. It requires skill in pouring and certainly patience in cooking time. It has no flame adjustment, is a little inefficient in fuel usage and although light is not very capable in colder conditions. I guess if a person was on a very long trip in mild weather and only needed to boil water, the alcohol stove might be a good choice. In a variety of conditions and on shorter hikes, where actual cooking might be involved, the canister stove has the advantage.

    Bottom line, I own 23 backpacking stoves, some just collectables, some users. Most of mine are white gas, several canister stoves and not a single alcohol stove in my gear, anywhere. I do use alcohol to prime my white gas stoves, keeps soot down and is easier. Most of my backpacking trips these days are done using a Snow Peak Gig-a-Power stove with various size canisters, using a titanium pot. I do own an MSR Pocket Rocket but the pot support is really poor on that stove compared to the Snow Peak and I always knocked the MSR over, the Snow Peak is pretty steady.
     
    WILL likes this.
  34. FIELDCRAFTLTC

    FIELDCRAFTLTC Supporter Supporter Bushclass I

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    Excellent father & daughter trip, thanks for bringing us along!
     
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