The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 18: Lightweight Stove Reviews

This is a supplementary transcript of our audio program. CLICK HERE to listen to the original program, and see the associated show notes.

The right stove for your style of backcountry cooking can weight just a few ounces. Listen next, to lightweight stove reviews, on The WildeBeat.

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number eighteen.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: This week on The WildeBeat, I talked to three testers from Backpack Gear Test about lightweight stoves. Each of these stoves are very different. Each excels at different things.

Our first reviewer is Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd, from Los Altos, California. As in all Backpack Gear Test reviews, Rebecca starts out by describing her own relevant experience.

REBECCA SOWARDS-EMMERD: I've been backpacking since the wummer of two thousand. I grew up car camping, but never really had an interest in doing the backpacking thing until I moved to California that year. We pretty much stick to doing overnight trips, and almost all of our hiking is done in the Sierra Nevada. We go year-round. We're summer backpackers and we're also snow campers. We snowshoe and we do a bit of skiing. My pack weight tends to be on the light side, but not ultralight side. I tend to cut corners with weight where I can so that I can carry a few luxury items in camp.

STEVE: Rebecca reviewed what might be the most convenient of these stoves.

REBECCA SOWARDS-EMMERD: I tested the Jetboil Personal Cooking System. It's a canister-style stove, in that it's got a stove that screws onto a canister. But to make it a little different than the normal canister stoves that are out there, it comes with an integrated cooking cup. It's a metal cup that snaps on to the actual stove base. The cup also has a nice neoprene sleeve that keeps it insulated, and it also has a lid that you can snap on to use as a pouring lip and to keep it insulated further. It's mostly a one-person cook system. Most of the cooking that I do is in freezer bags or is simple like ramen, soups, and things like that. I'm not a very fancy backcountry chef, so for me the Jetboil was a perfect backcountry cook system because it boils water. That's what it does, it boils water so fast! I actually found myself changing the way that I was performing my camp tasks. I used to get my water starting to boil, set up my stove and the pot, and then I would go and get out my food and my utensils and anything I would need to make my dinner. And by the time I had everything organized then my water might be warm enough to get close to a boil. With the Jetboil, I have to have everything ready before I turn it on. If I'm still digging through my stuff sacks to find my spoon, or to find my freezer bag of cous cous, or whatever I'm having for dinner, then the water's boiling before I'm even ready for my dinner. I think really the great thing about the Jetboil is the simplicity for the people who like the simplicity of boiling-water cooking. Anyone who likes to get fancy isn't going to find this to be a very useful cook system.

STEVE: Our next reviewer is Will Rietveld [REET-veld] of Durango, Colorado.

WILL RIETVELD: I've been a backpacker for forty seven years. I've been backpacking mostly in the western states. My favorite kinds of trips are in the high-altitude alpine country. I like to hike off trail above timberline. I switched to ultralight about six years ago, and in my former career I was a research scientist, so my analytical skills from doing research and my writing experience blends pretty well with my interest in outdoor gear and testing gear while getting out on backpacking trips.

STEVE: Will reviewed the lightest stove of the three.

WILL RIETVELD: This was the Brasslite Turbo two "D" alcohol stove. It's a little unique among alcohol stoves in that this one is made of brass rather than aluminum. It's other features are it's a little larger alcohol stove. It works well for two people. It has a built-in stainless steel mesh-type pot holder, and it also has a simmer ring which will enable it to simmer. It's slightly heavier than a lot of other alcohol stoves. It weighs two point six ounces by itself. I was less experienced with alcohol stoves when I tested the Brasslite, and it really kind of made a believer out of me. I found that the alcohol stoves and in particular the Brasslite is very dependable. It's quiet. Basically you have to estimate the amount of fuel that you put into it, and try and get the right amount for the amount of water that you're going to boil, and the conditions you're going to boil it under. And so it takes the development of a little bit of skill in order to use an alcohol stove. But generally alcohol stoves just simply do best if you use them just to boil water, and then use a simple cooking method. An alcohol stove really is a great match for an ultralight backpacker, and through-hikers — people who do large distances on trails. They're basically the lightest stove that you can get, and you carry just the amount of fuel that you need. You don't have to carry like a whole canister of fuel like you do with a canister stove. But for somebody who wants just to be able to light the stove without any complication, they may not like an alcohol stove. A canister stove may be better for people like that.

STEVE: Our third reviewer is Leesa Joiner, who lives in rural southwestern Maine.

LEESA JOINER: I do some camping and backpacking. Mostly with my children. Sometimes we let my husband come along too. Some of our trips are setting up camp somewhere and hiking out from there, doing day hikes or whatever, and sometimes we backpack into an area to camp. We also do some winter camping and snowshoeing and things like that. Luckily we live in western Maine where we have pretty good access to the white mountains and other great outdoors spots.

STEVE: Leesa reviewed the Brunton Raptor stove.

LEESA JOINER: It's a small butane stove. It's got an ignition. It worked fantastically; it's very easy to start. I do dehydrate my own foods. So we went on a trip, I took some of the dehydrated foods, boiled up some water, put them in everybody's little bowl, added the water, and did that. It was very quick; very easy. And because the flame is adjustable, then I decided to see what else it could do. I made scrambled eggs, and it was very nice because the flame is so easy to adjust; it stays right where you set it. I was able to do things like pan-fry fish that the kids had caught, and cook many different things on it that normally I probably wouldn't try to do on a small stove like that, just because with a lot of stoves the heat covers such a small area on the bottom of your pan. But with this you can spread the flame out more, and it makes it much easier to heat pans evenly when you're trying to cook without burning things. It's fairly light weight, you know, five ounces, that's not much weight in your pack. It's very easy to adjust the flame, there's a wide range of what — you can have a low simmer to a full boil. It's a nice sturdy little stove. And in the colder weather it worked out fine. A lot of that was either re-hydrating dehydrated foods, or we cooked fish and we did cook some other things. When we are out we're usually not in a huge hurry. We don't count how many miles we hike. So we take the time to sit down and cook different things. So it worked out adequately for us. I think if we were going for an extended period of time I would probably take two stoves. And that way somebody can be making one part of the meal while somebody is making another part.

STEVE: To read the complete text of the original reviews, follow the links on our web site. Please remember that the opinions expressed are those of the individual reviewers, and are not necessarily those of Backpack Gear Test, or The WildeBeat.

My thanks to Rebecca Sowards-Emmerd, Will Rietveld, Leesa Joiner, and the editors at Backpack Gear Test, for assisting with this show.

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Next time - Taking back a forest gone to pot.

The Wildebeat is produced by Steve Sergeant for Effable Communications. Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. Please see our website for ways to ensure future editions of The WildeBeat. Send your comments to webmaster at wildebeat dot net, or call our comment line at 866-590-7373.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number eighteen. Thank you for listening.

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