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Archive for August, 2009

I have yet to find rain gear that really keeps me dry while hiking.  When I get aerobic, I sweat and no matter how breathable my jacket is, I get wet from condensation on the inside.  So when hiking, I often wear my Possumdown Sweater over my BPL Thorofare UL Shirt and just let them get wet.

When it’s really cold, I’m at camp or on easy terrain I wear my Patagonia Spector (9 oz) rain jacket, a discontinued breathable model.  I’ve tried a few lighter, breathable alternatives, but they’ve all leaked from the outside as well as condensing on the inside.  The Spector is the lightest jacket I’ve found that actually keeps the rain out.  You can find them on eBay for around $50 once in a while.

But I decided, since the breath-ability factor rarely works for me, to try a non-breathable cheaper, lighter alternative.  Enter the AntiGravityGear Ultralight Rain Jacket (4.6 oz).

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It works very well in non-aerobic situations.  I used it around camp and found it to be comfortable and roomy.  Being essentially a vapor barrier, it provides quite a bit of warmth too.  It comes with a hood, full zipper and no pockets.  Made of sil-nylon, like a tarp, cost is only about $60.

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I’ll be carrying this jacket until the next generation of breathable fabrics comes along to tempt me.

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This is the funnest way to start a fire ever!  This tool includes the fuel and the spark in one stroke.  It works when it’s wet.  Weighs only 1.13 oz.  I really enjoy using it.  I’ve tried a few fire starting tools and have always gone back to your basic book matches.  This is just as easy, almost as light and way safer since it’s waterproof.

This video shows the ignition of just a single untreated cotton ball.

Developed by the Swedish Army and used by armies around the globe, the Light My Fire Firesteel creates a 5500 degree F spark.  And it’s good for 3000 strikes.  That should last me a couple summers, at least.  Too heavy for you at 1.13?  Try it’s 0.5 oz baby bro.

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Here’s the matrix of the wood burning stoves I’ve tested this season.  The weight is for just the stove, not the pot or carrying sack.  The costs are approximate.

The boil time is for one liter of water.   Tests were performed in my backyard starting from a cold stove.

Stove                                               oz.  Boil Time  Cost       Comments

Bushbuddy Ultra

4.90

12.0

$110

Easiest, perfect for 1 or 2 people, my top pick
Bushcooker Lt II

3.20

23.0

$90

Slow
Caldera Inferno Ti-Tri and (2) ti stakes

4.05

10.5

NA

Most stable, fastest, best for 3+  people, more parts to assemble than BB Ultra
Caldera Ti-Tri and (2) ti stakes

2.30

slow

$30-40

Hardest to keep fire going, lightest
Sierra Zip Stove Titanium w/battery

10.40

fast

$130

Heaviest by far

I will fill in the missing boiling time data when I have time to run the tests.

Please read the comments for more information on the Bushcooker LT II.  Other testers using this stove show much shorter boil times.  This is due to those testers using 2 cups of water rather than the 1 liter volume used in my tests on all the stoves.

Also please note that you can get the Bushbuddy Ultra for less by going straight to the source.

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This is another innovation from Warbonnet Outdoors.  A 2/3 under quilt.  It covers you from the shoulders to about the knees.   Like their Blackbird Hammock it’s a winner.  Innovative, functional and light.IMG_6257

It has kept me just as warm as my Jacks R Better No Sniveller at about 3/4 the weight.  JRB No Sniveller 20.1 oz, BB Yeti 12.5 oz.  It also packs down smaller.  It’s all black shell is 1.1 dwr ripstop.  It has 800+ fill goose down, measures 40W x46L and is on sale for $175.

The shock cord hanging method keeps it nice and tight around the hammock.  It even worked well for me in 40 MPH winds one night.  You do need something to insulate from your knees down.  But, you may already have an item in your pack that will serve the purpose.  Like say, the pack itself.  Most packs have a cushy back panel that works great as under leg insulation.

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I use a NeoAir small that I have along as a chair in conjunction with the Big Agnes Chair Kit.  It’s a little big to go under my legs, so I fold it over and deflate it down quite a bit.  (I also use the NeoAir as a flotation device for cruising mountain lakes.)  For under leg warmth you could also use a piece of the standard blue foam cut to size or a Thermarest Lite Seat.  Or even Reflectix.

I found no down side to the Yeti.  It’s now a regular part of my kit.

BTW, at press time the Yeti was not listed on Warbonnet’s website.  But, just email Brandon and request one.  You may have to wait a bit.  It’s a small place.  And people like their products.  update:  Great new website at Warbonnet now includes Yeti and much more!

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Dubbed the Inferno, this add-on for the Ti-Tri is especially made for wood burning.  It takes the cone a step farther, into double walled construction where preheated air re-enters the fire box for secondary combustion.  This means a faster more complete burn.  Other double walled stoves I’ve tried include the Bush Buddy Ultra, Sierra Zip Stove and the Bushcooker Lt II.

My previous review of the Caldera Cone Ti-Tri vs. the Sierra Zip Stove found the Cone, although much lighter, required too much attention to keep going and was slow at best.  Those problems are solved with the Inferno add-on!IMG_6423

Inferno add-on components:

1.  An inverted smaller cone that fits inside the original cone.

2.  A wire grate for the bottom of the fire box.

3.  A small wire stand for the above mentioned grate, to allow airflow.

4.  A circular piece of titanium for use as a fire pan, to protect the ground

Add-on weight is:  1.75 oz.  The original Caldera Cone Ti-Tri (with 2 titanium tent stakes for pot supports) weighs 2.3 oz.,  for a total of 4.05 oz.   Bush Buddy Ultra: 4.9 oz.  (a complete matrix of wood stoves here).

With this add-on unit in place I had absolutely no problem keeping the fire going.  In fact, once I loaded it with wood, I could walk away while it boiled a liter of water unattended.  And it was fast too.  My backyard test, from cold stove to boiling 1 liter of water, gave me a time of 10.5 minutes.IMG_6424

There are a couple of things though.  Like, this is a prototype that’s never been offered for sale from Trail Designs, makers of the Caldera Cone.  The Beta testers didn’t think it was worth the extra weight and fuss factor.  The guys at Trail Designs sent me this unit at my request after I heard of it’s existence.  It had been designed especially for wood, my fuel of choice.  Maybe, if there’s interest, they’ll make it more widely available.

Another thing is the thin foil material is sharp and, after a few fires, dirty.  Could be a problem inside the pack.  IMG_6462They thought of this and designed a carrying case that works great.  But, it adds another 2.25 oz. to the package.  I store mine in my big plastic drinking glass, so no additional weight for me.  The carrying case is pretty trick though.IMG_6442

The CC TT Inferno is the most stable of the wood burners I’ve tried.  It can act as a food and hand warmer at the same time.  Multi-use is always a good thing.

In the end, I still like the Bush Buddy Ultra the best.  It’s simpler, uses less wood and is more compact.  But I found it too small for more than 2 people.  On the other hand, the CC Inferno has no problem with multiple pots of water.  I’ll be carrying it on outings where there’s a crowd.  As in, three’s a crowd.  Or four…  Not as wildernessy for sure, but still fun.

Here’s a couple of my amateur videos showing the process.  The first one is short, showing just the set up.

The second longer one shows starting the fire and the burn. 

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Okay, so I liked the Bushbuddy Ultra.  And the Bushcooker Lt II is built on the same principle and even lighter.  I decided to give it a try.IMG_6311

The Bushcooker Lt II multi-fuel stove, on the right, is one solid unit with no moving parts.  It looks like a little rocket ship.  Very cute and very light.  Made of titanium, on my scales it weighs only 3.2 oz.  It can burn Esbit, alcohol, wood or charcoal.  I tested only wood, as it is my fuel of choice.  The Bushbuddy, my favorite stove at 4.9 oz, burns only wood.  See my review of the Bushbuddy here.

IMG_6300The Bushcooker Lt II started right up with cotton ball and spark and I had a nice fire in just seconds.  I placed the pan of water on top and let the fire do it’s work.

Although I was able to keep the fire going no problem by removing the pot and adding small twigs, it did not seem very hot.  It burned better when the pot was off while I was re-filling the chamber than when the pot was over the fire.  When the pot was in place the fire seemed to simmer down as if needing oxygen.  IMG_6260As the coals accumulated this appeared to also limit the air flow, weakening the fire further.  By stirring the coals occasionally I could increase the air flow and get the fire cranking again.   I was able to boil water, but it was slower than the Bushbuddy by a long shot.  I used this stove for 2 people over a 3 day backpacking trip.

The Bushcooker Lt II works much like the Bushbuddy, but delivers less air to the fire.  Looking at IMG_6309the bottom grate on each unit it is clear that the Bushbuddy allows significantly more air into the burn box.  Also the perimeter holes around the bottom of the Bushbuddy are larger.  It may be that the Bushcooker Lt II’s big brother the Bushcooker Lt III at 5.5 oz would be a more even comparison with the Bushbuddy Ultra.  Since it’s larger it should allow more air to circulate.  However, I did not test the larger unit.  I also think the Bushcooker Lt II may be excellent as an alcohol burner, but I did not test that either.

For now I find the Bushbuddy Ultra to be the best wood-burner of the two for two people.  It’s faster and keeps a steady hot fire burning when fed small sticks.  The Bushcooker Lt II is lighter, but I found it’s design did not allow enough airflow to the fire at 6000 ft.

In my back yard at 2500 ft. I had these results:IMG_6307

Time to boil 1 liter of water starting from a cold stove :

Bushbuddy Ultra 4.9 oz: 12 minutes  (BPL claimed time 8-10 minutes)

Bushcooker Lt II 3.2 oz: 23 minutes (Four Dog Stove claimed time 6 minutes)

Clearly, I’m not a champion fire builder, but I’m at least average, probably a little better than average. In any case, my skills were equally brought to bear on both stoves.

The two main differences in these stoves are time and weight.  In this case, time wins over weight for me.  I’ll stick with the Bushbuddy Ultra as my curent favorite wood-burner.

Check out my

Wood Burning Stove Matrix

for an easy side-by-side comparison of several stoves I’ve tested this season.

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Montana – Gotta Love It!

Look no people.  Or very few anyway.  Lots of fish and sky.  My kind of country.IMG_6039

I’ve been out of internet access for a couple weeks enjoying the wide open spaces of Montana.  Now that I’m back, I’ll be playing with some new gear and posting reviews.  I’ve got a couple of stoves to try and a new under quilt for my hammock.IMG_6208

Big sky for sure!IMG_6184

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