Thursday, September 15, 2011

Am I a campstove ho'?

On our recent fall trip to the Canadian north shore, the BadHatter brought along the most ridiculous camp stove that I think I've ever seen on a kayak trip. It was actually one of those butane burning chafing dish warmers that is seen on a buffet line. Its about the size of an attache case and was in a plastic case that had to be lashed to the back deck of his trusty Prijon. It was bulky but I have to admit it was like cooking on the burner at home. Complete flame control from simmer to boil, a large stable base, and a reliable fuel supply. As I mentally compared it against the campstoves I own and have used I came to a startling realization. I think I might be a camp stove whore.
I dug out the majority of stoves that I have around the joint and came up with a nice collection. I still have the old man's WWII Coleman one burner that he used pretty much exclusively to make hot coffee while ice fishing. Next was the Svea, state of the art in 1970 and still in everyday use by my buddy LoneRangerRob. The Svea used the warmth of your hands to force the gas through the orifice to light and warm the generator. There was a Peak One in there for quite awhile but it died and was buried. The MSR, the one that sounds like a F-14 Tomcat fighter warming up for a carrier takeoff, is in the mix as is the minimalist alcohol burning soda pop can rig. Last but not least is the MSR butane stove, my current 'state of the art'.For car camping nothing beats the venerable two burner Coleman, a stove that can't be broken. The stove I brought on this recent trip for backup was yet another permutation, one that would complement the BadHatter's buffet special, RangerMark's MSR, and RickH's JetBoil. It's called the LittleBug Senior.

The LittleBug is made in Bemidji, MN and can burn either wood or denatured alcohol. It folds down to a shape that conforms almost perfectly to the hull of a sea kayak. If you paddle a hard chined boat the shape can easily be shimmed to fit your hull with a full can of beer under either side. She packs down pretty small. In an area where deadfalls or driftwood are plentiful there is no need for alcohol, as stove fuel anyway. With the alcohol option and/or a fire pan it can be the prefect Leave No Trace stove. For we pyromaniacs that need a fire when camping this will fulfill that need as well. While it does require tending, as any fire worth its salt does, its' pretty darn efficient and a good choice if you have fire ready cookware. I carry it in a brown paper bag with a light nylon cover. A quick rub in the sand and most of the soot is off and the bag protects the nylon cover from what's left. The company also donates a percentage of its profit to environmantal causes, just another good reason to support them.

While the JetBoil is interesting and super efficient, it needs the specialized cookware and doesn't really seem to like to simmer, a crucial trait if a person wants to actually cook versus dumping Mountain House School Paste Stroganoff into the water and waiting 5 minutes for it to coagulate. Maybe when we '60's Boy Scout-type dinosaurs that need a fire and a cast iron dutch oven become extinct the JetBoil will rule the roost. For the time being however, I'll stick to the butane MSR with frequent wood backup. I think it makes the camping experience.

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