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Archive for June, 2009

After many happy years with the Sierra Zip Stove I’m investigating lighter alternatives.  The Zip Stove uses a wood fueled fire whipped into a roaring blaze by a little fan, powered by an AA battery.zip stove The titanium version I use weighs in at 10.4 oz including the battery.  I use a Litech 0.9 Liter Kettle to boil water weighing 5.5 oz for a total of 15.9 oz, darn close to a pound.

This set up boils water about as fast as a traditional canister stove.  It has the advantage of unlimited weightless fuel and no empties to deal with.  It is a contained fire, leaving no burn scar, yet you get the ambiance and comfort of a real wood  fire.  It’s quieter than a jet fuel canister too.  It weighs about the same as  a Jetboil BTW.

The first lighter replacement candidate is a Caldera Cone Ti-Tri with a REI Ti-Ware 1.3 liter Pot.  Cone 2.3 oz including (2) titanium tent stakes, pot 6.3 oz with bag.  Total 8.6 oz.  Half the weight of my Zip set up!

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IMG_5617The cones are made to fit many different pots.  You specify the pot to fit when you order.  The Caldera Cone is a multi-fuel stove.  It can use alcohol, es-bit or wood.  It acts as it’s own wind screen.  When using alcohol or es-bit the pot sits down into the cone and doesn’t require the ti-stakes.  This makes it lighter and more efficient, but requires one to carry fuel.  I only tested the wood burning mode, because I don’t want to carry my fuel.

Cut to the chase:  the Caldera Cone took 2-3x as long to boil water and 2-3x as much wood and most importantly 3-4x as much operator attention.  This may be in part due to my lack of practice with this unit, but it was way harder to keep it going.IMG_5732

I found my Platypus hose to be an invaluble fire stoking tool.  This saved my trip.  We had damp conditions and little dry tinder.  My fire starting skills are better than average and I did have some Vaseline cotton balls on hand.  I ended up using my breath as a fan for the fire.  I don’t mind the wait for a boil or the extra fuel, but I prefer the ease of the battery driven fan on the Zip Stove. Even with the 7.3 oz penalty.pic 2-3

Next up: The Bush Buddy;  A stove that claims to create a fan-like airflow.  I’m hopeful.

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The Blackbird Hammock (single layer 1.7 od green: 25 oz $160) went with me for a week into the Siskiyou Wilderness of Northwestern California.  We had partly cloudy skies, a frosty morning and a few thunderstorms.  In short; great testing conditions.  Coupled with the JRB No Sniveller under-quilt and my homemade Rayway tarp it worked great.IMG_5658

I was surprised that by simply adding a panel of fabric to the foot box my ability to lay flat was improved and the thing felt downright roomy.  I wore my down booties at night since I was concerned my feet positioned in the extra foot-box space would not be enclosed in the under-quilt’s cocoon of warmth.  My feet were toasty.  On the warmer nights perhaps I could have done without the booties.  update: I now use the Yeti Under Quilt by Warbonnet Outdoors with my Blackbird Hammock.

The gear shelf positioned right about hand level seemed small, but it swallowed everything I shoved it’s way.  It seemed to stretch as needed to accommodate more gear without effecting the rest of the hammock.  I found it handier than the two under pockets on my Clark Ultralight.  By just lifting my head slightly I could immediately see everything rather than fumbling around in the pockets, finding things by feel.  When outside the hammock I could see items in the loft through the bug netting.

I also liked that it only took two knots to hang.IMG_5648 And the rope used was easy to tie and untie.  However the ropes could have been a little longer for our big trees here in the northwest.  The trees in this photo were fine but I had to use some additional rope at some campsites to reach around the 3 foot diameter trees.  I realize this is quibbling.  Maybe I should just order a couple more hanging ropes from Brandon to use as extensions.

What I really didn’t like was that I couldn’t get in/out on either side, but only on the non-shelf side.  And my sky view on tarp-less nights was limited to the non-shelf half of the sky.  So I would pick which side I wanted to get in/out on and that would determine which end my head would go and my day and night view.  I’m big on the night sky and waking up to see my surroundings.  With the Clark and many other hammocks I can pick my view direction and get in/out on either side.  The innovative shelf takes it’s toll while improving gear access.

But, the Blackbird will be my go to hammock.  I’m willing to give up the sky view ascetics of the double sided exit/entry of the Clark for the additional comfort and lighter weight (minus about 7 oz) of the Blackbird.   I’ve tried many other hammocks including some homemade jobbies.  The only major offering I’ve not tried is the Hennessey, because I want at least a view of half of the sky. Like I said, I’m big on the night sky.

I’m happy someone has come up with what I consider to be a better AND lighter design.  Good job Brandon!  Simply elegant.IMG_5728

That’s a tarp set up on the sand/gravel bar.  The Blackbird is hidden back in the tree shadows mid picture.  Nice remote off trail campsite.  We saw no one for days.

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Here’s my new hammock hung in my backyard with the Jacks R Better No Sniveller underquilt.IMG_5590

I’m excited about this one (I have many) because it’s about 7 oz lighter than my current favorite the Clark Jungle Hammock Ultralight.  Including the stuff sack it weighs 20.5 oz.  The cool thing about this hammock is it has extra foot room and a gear shelf right handy by your side.IMG_5591

I’ll be field testing this next trip.  Preliminary impressions are all favorable.

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