Saturday, 23 April 2011

Stove and Eating Utensils

I love titanium stuff. It's true. If you gave me a choice between aluminium and titanium, I would choose titanium every time. Of course that is only true if the items were the same price. I won't pay a premium just so I can shave a few grams off my cup. Titanium utensils and ultra light weight stoves have the cool factor that's for sure, but I am just a humble bush bum that does not have a limitless supply of cash. For this reason I try to be practical about my choice of cooking and eating tools and try squeeze out every drop of value I can. here's a look at what I use and can recommend.

The Stove

Coleman Feather 442 Review

I love this stove. I think it represents the ultimate value for money ideal. It is sturdy and well built, and given the choice of materials, it will take a beating before it needs any repairs.

Operation: All you need to do is unscrew the primer and pump it between 20 - 30 times. Be sure to hold your thumb over the hole. Screw the primer back in. Next, pour a little fuel over the bowl and light it. Wait until the fuel is nearly burnt off and slowly open the valve. The vapour will ignite and after 10 - 20 seconds you will be presented with a lovely blue flame.

Maintenance: Other than putting a few drops of oil to keep the primer cup moistened, there is little that needs doing. If you notice a drop in performance, you just have to wriggle the valve and a self cleaning nozzle will take care of the rest. This is as easy as it gets.

Why a Feather 442? I use a Trangia alcohol stove too and love it. Alcohol does have it's limitations though. At high altitudes it's a poor choice as it takes a great deal longer to burn properly and in the cold there is greatly reduced performance. This was the initial reason I bought the Coleman. Since it can be pressurised by hand, I can compensate for altitude and cold. Many people advocate the use of heating paste in the cold but I just use either a cotton ball with vaseline or just pour fuel over the bowl and light. That's the beauty of this stove. Easy to light and tough as nails. It has been used by military forces the world over and only recently has been replaced by the Whisper-lite series of stoves. Here is a youtube review i did of the stove:

The Cook Set
Like I said, I love titanium. I just don't love the cost. I have used aluminium cook sets most of my life and have found them to be light, robust and easy to repair. I prefer anodized sets as they are tougher. This is a cheapie set I bought here in Norway:

As you can see it has a frying pan and a pot and it is sold under the name Rast. I rarely take the frying pan but I guess it's nice to have the option. The pot itself holds 1.2 litres which I find ample for one and in a pinch it could hold enough for two. The set has plastic handles which requires some thought when using. I make a fire and just put the pot on the ground with the handles pointing away from the fire. I push it up to the fire so that the edge is up against the coals. There is a little hole in the lid so once it starts to boil I can see the steam hissing out. It's not fancy but then again, it doesn't have to be.

If you choose aluminium, just be sure to understand it's limits. Don't let the water boil out so that it sits empty on the fire. This is a sure-fire way to destroy the set. If used on the open fire (which I mostly cook on), it will take on creasote and blacken. Don't let this bother you too much. Once it gets thick enough it can be chipped off. just be sure to give it a rinse and put it in a storage sack before packing it or else all your other gear will be black.

Eating Utensils
I do most of my camping alone so I don't bother to take a plate or bowl with me. I just eat straight from the pot. This has several advantages.
  1. Less washing up
  2. Less equipment to carry
  3. Easier to reheat food
The disadvantage is that you need to think about boiling water before hand as your pot will be in use longer. Also, if someone comes along to bum food you have no way of sharing. If I think i will have company, I will take an extra fold-a-cup. This cup can be seen in the picture above and is an ingenious cup that hails from Sweden.
Like most of my gear, I dummy chord mine so I can hang it to dry. It also makes organising your camp kitchen as easy as finding the nearest tree and hanging your things from it. In the Summer I use this cup a great deal however in the Winter I use the lid from my thermos.

I love my spork. Again, you can get titanium sporks and aluminium sporks. I chose a poly carbonate one. It's cheap and more importantly, won't burn your lip when eating hot foods. This particular example has the right mix of volume for soups, and handle length for stirring the pot. Mine is in bright orange because these little buggers are so easy to lose. It is made by Sea to Summit  and is dirt cheap:

Cheaper than chips at $.75

I always have a spare too in case unexpected company shows up for meal times. Again, my personal spork is dummy chorded for obvious reasons.

Water Storage
In Australia water storage is a tricky business. The lack of water in the environment means that any water you plan on using has to be carried with you. In Norway this is not such a big deal. there is water everywhere and for the most part, it is safe to drink straight from the source since most is fresh snow melt. I use several methods to store liquids here in Norway.

In the Summer I mainly use the Platy bag from Cascade Designs. This little device weighs next to nothing and once empty, can be rolled up. It takes up little room in the back pack. I chose a 1litre bag because the abundance of streams and lakes means I don't need anything more. I like the sip lid version as it means I have no cap to lose and I can adjust the flow if I am using it to wash my hands.

How to fill: These bags can be tricky to fill so here is how I fill mine. After taking the lid off, I inflate it. By holding it on the seams, I can maintain it's shape as I dip into the water source. This is by far the most effective way of filling this bag that I have found.

BPA free: I am not a fan of cancer or dud reproductive organs. It's just something I can live without and as such, avoid products that contain BPA. If you don't know what that is, it's time to get educated:

BPA as birthcontrol

Nearly all plastics still leach synthetic hormones though so we still have a long way to go until we are safe. For this reason, I try avoid using plastic to store hot or acidic liquids (except for my fold-a-cup).

Nalgene Bottle
I like my Nalgene which is also BPA free. It's tough and holds a litre of liquid. It has been made nearly redundant by the Platy Bag however if I think my bag will get knocked around, I take the Nalgene instead. I know it can take the abuse without leaking.

In Winter the Thermos is a must. Mine is a 750ml model which I bought cheap. I don't know what brand it is and to be honest it probably does not matter much. Most are now made in China and have pretty similar performance. My routine when I make camp in Winter is to start a fire ASAP and boil water. I fill my thermos with boiling water and 2 tea bags. While I make dinner and eat, the tea steeps. I mix a couple spoon fulls of sugar and enjoy. I'll drink the whole thing before bed to warm me up. While the fire is dying down, I boil some more water and refill the thermos. This is placed in my sleeping bag so I will have water to make coffe and porridge for breakfast.

So there you have it. This is what i use and it's about as simple as I have been able to get. None of it is fancy or expensive. It is functional and robust though and in all the time I have been using these items (roughly 3 - 4 years), I have not broke or damaged any of them. You don't need the fanciest or most expensive because after all, getting the warm tasty stuff into the mouth shouldn't be made more complex than it needs to be.

1 comment:

  1. I actually enjoyed reading through this posting. Many thanks.
    Cooking Equipment