Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Simple Chicken Can Esbit Stove

As you can tell I've been off the trail for a few weeks.   That doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about my next hike.  Fall is the perfect time to get out and hike but somehow every year life seems to throw me a curve that becomes more pressing than a good walk.  Yesterday I found out my dog Bonnie has a tear in her knee joint.  A 73 pound Golden Retriever needs good joints so later today I'll call to set an appointment with the vet for our next visit.

Anyway I've been working on an idea for some time for a new stove.  Last year BSA decided to ban homemade alcohol stoves and discourage the use of alcohol as a fuel.  Over the years alcohol has been my fuel of choice.  First it burns clean.  There is no soot on the pot at the end of supper to scrub off.  It is readily available.  I have never walked into a town and not found alcohol.  Either an outfitter had some behind the counter, the hardware store had a can or in one town in Vermont I got it at an auto supply.  But I can understand BSA's decision.  Methyl alcohol is a serious poison not only when ingested but can over time be absorbed through the skin.   Another problem is that because it burns so clean it is hard to tell if the stove is lit.  I had a friend injured when someone attempted to refuel a stove that was still burning.  No the stove did not explode but flames traveled up to the fuel container and created a fire that landed my friend in the burn ward.  so for these reasons I no longer cook with alcohol.

however one of my favorite alcohol stove I made over the years had a damper in it to lower the heat and simmer a pot for 20+ minutes.  Talk about a hit at an AT shelter.  Everyone there wanted to know how I could cook so long on so little fuel.  That stove cooked meal after meal for Trail Trash and me when we thru hiked the AT in 2010.  So the quest has become to find a reasonably safe fuel that is light in weight and a stove that will simmer.

Looking at the more popular fuels didn't do much to inspire me.  I don't like propane stoves.  While lighter than some others I just can't get past dropping those steel canisters in a garbage can.  They are easy to use and very fast but that one obstacle has steered me away from them.  Yes they can be recycled but not easily where I live.  Seems the local government here thinks landfills are still the way to go.

For a short time I pulled out my old Whisperlite.  Enough said there.

I tried a Bush Buddy stove.  Yes is does solve a number of problems but unfortunately I'm not a great fire builder.  I lack the patients it takes to collect all the little pieces of wood to start and maintain a fire for that long.  One of my assistant scoutmasters cooks on nothing else but it just wasn't what I required to replace my old alcohol set up.

So decided to try Esbit.  It gives a fast hot flame and is a very light fuel.  A tab weighs about a half ounce in the package and burns for 13 minutes.  Now all I needed was a way slow the down the burn.  A review of a small stove that allows you to simmer with Esbit seemed to how the answer.  I purchased one of the tiny titanium stoves and gave it a try.  It worked great!  Just one problem, it requires a separate pot stand.  No that may not seem like much of a problem but after a couple of different set ups I decided it was time to make my own stove that would also act as a pot stand and fit easily into my MSR kettle for transportation.

After several attempts I came up with this design.  It is a chicken can from the canned meats department.  I've drilled 15 half inch holes around the top and 2 quarter inch holes at the bottom of the can to allow air to circulate.  A half cube burned for over 12 minutes and raised the temperature of a pint of water 110 degrees.  That should be enough to bring one of my dehydrated meals to a nice simmer.  I've got an over night coming up in just over a week. I'll let you know how it performs in camp.