By Skeeno and Michael Morris
I discovered lightweight adventure stoves while collecting my bike packing kit. These little stoves are great for backpacking, bike packing, camping, and generally any outdoor adventure you have planned. What I’ve learned is that these little stoves are also great when paired with Axial scale vehicles. Nothing is better than a hot meal while out on the trail to keep your energy levels up. The following is the collection of stoves and cooking kit accessories that my RC and bike packing buddy, Mike, and I have collected over the past few years.
The first backpacking stoves I used were made from aluminum cans. There are numerous variations of these alcohol burning stoves, but this one is my favorite because it is uber easy and mega fast to construct. You can build this stove in less than 5 minutes, even out in the wild. Look for instructions on how to build this stove at the end of this blog.
This little soda/beer/hops can stove is great because it weighs and costs nothing. The downside is that it is not as efficient as some of the other stoves I have, so it burns more fuel than some of my others. Also, like many of these stoves, there is no adjusting the flame, so you only have on or off with the flame.
One thing I really like about this stove is that you do not need a separate pot stand. You can place your pot directly on top of the stove. You can find many different types of soda can stoves at www.zenstoves.net
The second stove I acquired is this Vargo Triad. This stove is really cool because it’s so small. It collapses down into this tiny package. It’s also made from titanium, so it’s ultralight.
This stove is super efficient, but can be a little finicky to get to bloom into full flame. It took me some practice to learn the nuances of its filling/lighting/blooming process.
I really like that it has a built-in pot stand. You can find this stove at www.vargooutdoors.com
The third stove in my collection is this Esbit spirit burner. This is a copy of the timeless Trangia spirit burner stove that has been in production for over 60 years. This is the stove that is currently in my bike packing kit.
There are several reasons I like this stove. One reason is that it has a gasketed cap, so you can store your fuel in your stove for transport. Another reason is the snuffer/simmering ring that not only makes snuffing the flame easy, but also allows you to modulate your flame.
But the best part of this stove is how easy it is to light and how quickly it reaches full bloom.
This stove has two drawbacks. The first is that it is made of brass, so it’s a little heavier than the aluminum and titanium options. The second is that it requires a separate pot stand. There are a few pot stand option on the market for this stove, but I fabricated one out of some wire mesh I had laying around the shop.
This little stove is called the RUCUS, I believe. Mike found it on eBay for pretty cheap. It’s similar to the Trangia in that it lights easily and requires a pot stand. It’s lighter than the Trangia, but doesn’t have a lid.
It worked out pretty well for Mike, but he found another option that he is currently using.
Mike found this tiny stove on www.toaksoutdoor.com. This stove is awesome because not only is it tiny (about the size of a shot glass), but it’s also made out of titanium.
It has an awesome flame pattern that directs the heat into the center of the stove.
This is the stove I’d be rocking, if I didn’t have my Trangia. I really dig it.
All of the above stoves burn denatured alcohol. You can find denatured alcohol at your local home improvement store’s paint department. You can also find it at auto parts stores or gas stations labeled as HEET fuel treatment.
The following stoves use a different style of fuel, isopropyl alcohol and white gas.
This stove is the MSR Pocket Rocket. It uses compressed isopropyl alcohol in these canisters. I got this as a Christmas present one year. It’s not as compact as my other stoves, so I use it at events where I can cook out of the back of my car.
Here it is in action. I added the silicone nitro fuel line to the lid handle. It makes removing the lid when hot much more pleasant on the fingers.
This stove is great because it is ultra efficient and can boil my water in under three minutes and incorporates a nice large pot stand. It also has an adjustable valve that allows the user to control the flame temperatures. This would be good if you were cooking food directly on the stove.
This stove is Mike’s MSR Whisperlite. This one burns Coleman white gas, but there are other versions that are multi-fuel compatible and will burn gasoline, kerosene, white gas, and even isopropyl canisters like the ones the MSR Pocket Rocket above uses.
Once It’s lit, it has a very efficient flame, but as you can see it requires a fairly large external fuel bottle.
It does have a nice large pot stand and adjustable flame, so this is the stove of choice if you are trying to cook bacon, eggs, and hash browns out on the trail.
Pots are an important part of your adventure stove kit. Just like the stoves, there are countless pot and pan options on the market.
The first pot I used was this Brunton coffee cup I had in my other camping supplies. It holds 2 cups/16oz. of water at the fill line, which is perfect since almost all dehydrated backpacking meals require around 2 cups of water. It also has silicone covered handles to keep your fingers from burning. The downside was it does not have a lid.
I used this Stanley cook put for a little while. It does have a lid and even comes with these two insulated plastic cups that nest inside the pot. It has graduated markings for measuring, but was a bit on the tall and narrow side for me.
So, now I’ve settled on this Snow Peak Mini Solo cook set. I like this one because it has a nesting cup for sipping coffee while my meal cooks.
The cup is graduated, so I can measure my water accurately. It’s also made from Titanium, so it’s very lightweight.
Mike also uses titanium cups for his cooking pots. He got these from the same company that makes his tiny stove, Toaks Outdoors.
The smaller cup nests inside the larger one, and his stove fits inside the smaller cup, so it all fits together in one compact package.
A pro tip is to get one of these silicone Hot Lips covers for your drinking cups. They prevent burned lips while drinking your pipping hot coffee.
As I said, a separate pot stand is sometimes necessary. Here is a collection of some different sizes Mike and I have tried. It’s important to test the boiling times of your stove, because the distance the pot sits from the flame can drastically effect boiling times. If these stands aren’t Gucci enough, there are aluminum and titanium pot stands available commercially.
As with pot stands and pot/flame distance ratio, wind can greatly effect these stoves. It’s important to use a windscreen on all of these stoves. I’ve used aluminum foil and aluminum baking pans to make my own, but now Mike and I both use the Vargo aluminum windscreens. They fold flat and easily fit in our kits. The large orange Fire Maple screen I use with my MSR Pocket Rocket.
Don’t forget to bring something to light your stoves. I usually carry a flint striker and a back up option of either matches or a lighter. On really cold mornings, denatured alcohol can be difficult to start, so having a solid flame from a match makes things easier.
The last important part of your cooking kit is your eating utensils. Since I only eat dehydrated meals, I really only need a spoon and this long handled titanium spoon from Vargo is just the ticket to reach the bottom of the bags without getting my fingers dirty.
So, that’s the stuff that Mike and I use when out bike packing and out scaling There are tons of options out there, so don’t be afraid to do a little looking around to find the items that fit your style the best. We’ll see you out scaling or maybe out on in the wildness while on a bike packing trip.
Keep reading if you want to learn how to build the first stove in this blog. It will take you less than 5 minutes to construct. You will need the following items to build it: Aluminum can and scissors or knife, and a marker. A can opener is recommended, but not necessary.
Step 1: Acquire an aluminum can. You can use pretty much any beer or soda can. Here, I’m using a sparkling water can sourced from my wife.
Step 2: Cut the top out. You can use a razor blade or utility knife, but a can opener makes extra quick work of it.
Step 3: Mark the top and bottom and cut on the lines. The top is 1 3/4″, the bottom is 1 1/4″. The sizes don’t have to be perfect, but the top needs top be a little longer than the bottom.
Step 4: Use a straight object to score ‘jets’ in the can. I used a file in my shop, but you can also use the blades of the scissors or knife. Placing two fingers in the can and scoring between your fingers is what I do. Rotate the can until you have evenly spaced creases all around. I usually end up with 8 or 9, but it will depend on your finger sizes.
Your top can will look something like this when you are finished.
Step 5: Slide the top part of the can into the bottom part of the can, so it looks like the picture above. It may take a little finagling to get them to slip together.
Step 6: Pop a small air hole into the top of the can. I used a nail, but the scissors or knife can also be used. The hole doesn’t have to be pretty.
Now light it up and get cooking!