10 April 2016

MYOG: alcohol stove

I realize I posted a cat can stove before, but that one did not last all that long.  All the parts are good and strong, but I stopped using it after the loop from Cuchuma Saddle.  Even when I swapped out the chimney piece, it would not reliably simmer.  The surface the stove is on is never perfect enough.  So I decided I did not need something so complicated after all and played with a couple candy tins until I got something I liked.

This is everything in the kit that I put together.  Most of it has been in use for a couple years with well over a month's worth of use days.  I experimented with other stoves when car camping, but now I just grab this one for everything.  So, what is in the kit?

1L Snowpeak titanium pot.  Pot is 101g, lid is 65g.  This pot comes in a set with a 0.75L pot.  I boil 20oz of water for morning and evening and it can, just barely, fit in the smaller pot with much greater boil over risk while cooking.  I have never used the lid for a frying pan like it claims to be usable as and should trade it in for something lighter.

Aluminum foil windscreen.  16g.  This is just a folded over piece of heavy duty aluminum foil from the cupboard.  Holes were added with a hole punch.  It was meant to be temporary, but it has not failed yet.  The height is dictated by the height of the pot that it sits inside.  The length is enough to go around the pot plus a little to get a half inch or more room.  It has a small paperclip to hold the ends together.  It needs to be short enough to clear the pot handle when in use and tall enough to get an inch or more up the pot when it is on the stand.

Candy tin, ~2.5 inches, lidded.  Bottom with fiberglass is 12g, lid is 9g.  Hinged candy tins are much easier to find, but the hinges are holes.  With this one, I can see that it is brimming over before it is actually spilling.  With hinged tins, it just spills out the side being wasteful.  It is filled with a piece of fiberglass (Pink Panther, but long since lost the pink) insulation cut to size.  This is meant as a wick, but also serves to make it hard to pour or spill the fuel.  The lid may be extra, but I keep it and put it on when warming stove and fuel by hand in the morning.

Titanium Esbit (or similar) stand.  14g.  It holds the stove and the pot up.  It would probably burn more efficiently with more room between the stove level and the pot level, but it works and it is solid.

Light My Fire toddler spork.  8g.  It stirs and it shovels and it fits in the pot.  Apparently this is luxury, because when something stole my spoon, I was able to get by without it.  I much prefer having a spoon to eating with tent stakes and granola bar wrappers.

8 oz drinking water bottle.  209g filled to the brim.  Not sure what it is empty, there is stuff in it.  The stuff is Klean Strip denatured alcohol from a local hardware store.  (This stove has been used enough to burn through 1 gallon already.)  It is roughly 50/50 methanol and ethanol with a little bit of even nastier stuff thrown in.  Methanol will go through the skin and has a low LD50, so it is best not to come into contact with this.  (Low LD50 means it is deadly in small quantities.  Gossip in the lab held it at a few mL, but it looks like it might be more like 5mL/kg when ingested orally.)  This is usually enough for at least five nights out, at least for me.  You would think that such a bottle would not last long, but after some initial attempts to use a collapsible bottle, I piked this one up quite early on in use, and it is well over a year old now.  Maybe I should replace it.  The poor thing shrinks and bloats with elevation and temperature.  It is not showing wear particularly.

Scoop.  2g.  It came with some creatine powder for free.  This one is 6cc.  I had one that was 9cc out of a different brand and this is what I learned how much fuel to use with and I do not seem to be adapting well.  I need 3 scoops for every 2, that should not be very hard.  The old one melted when I did something very stupid.

Exotac PolyStriker.  14g.  The fuel needs to be warm enough to get enough gas over the top to light with sparks.  It usually is plenty warm at the end of the day, but mornings can require warming by hand.  Some people sleep with their fuel bottle to keep it warn enough to light.  (I do not.)  If the air is still enough, enough alcohol gas will build up in a minute even when the air is near freezing.  Matches are lighter and do not need the fuel warmed for use, but they run out.  I used to have some cardboard matches in a tiny ziplock with my set, but they vanished.  I think they thing that stole my spoon stole them too.

Heat shield.  0g (does not register).  This is a new addition.  I think it is the foil from the top of a nut container.  People tell me I need one.  I have my doubts.

Hot pad (bandanna).  31g.  Honestly, I have rarely had a use for this.  It is nice to keep between the pot and myself when I am eating.  Sometimes I am foolish enough to put the handles of the pot or lid downwind and they get hot enough to need it.  In full disclosure, when I came down with a cold out in the wilderness alone for days, this one became my snot rag.  (It was washed by hand and twice through the washer after that.)

Bag.  12g.  Probably not needed.  It came with the pots and it keeps the lid on when everything is packed up.

All together: 287g without fuel.  Everything fits in the pot.

Safety: Never, ever add fuel to the stove when it is lit.  The fuel will ignite before you finish pouring and Bad Things will happen.  Stay with the stove as long as it is lit.  No, do not go off and set up camp while the water heats up.  It can wait five minutes.

I basically heat water for breakfast.  I heat and cook for dinner.  I make a guess at how much fuel I need based on temperature and elevation.  Lower temperatures need more fuel since you will need a certain amount per degree you want to heat the water and the water is also at a lower temperature.  More fuel is needed just to change water from ice to liquid even before it starts to warm, if that is how cold things are.  Higher elevations need more too.  I suspect it is just that inefficiency coming back to haunt me.  When I camped at 12,600 feet, I needed a bit more fuel than when bouncing around the local forest that tops out at 9,000 feet.  The little tin works great for heat and cook meals.  As the fuel burns down, it burns lower, so it burns high when bringing things to a boil and lower when just keeping them there.  It is out long before the 10 minute cook time is up, though.  That is alright, the pot can be left to sit and cooking will continue just fine with the residual heat.  This is the time to get up and set up camp.  I do not have a cozy and usually that is not a problem.  If I am really worried about things getting too cold to cook, I can just toss in another scoop of fuel and light it up again.

Some forests are starting to ban alcohol stoves.  I have been told that people have been known to kick the things over.  Personally, I have never come close to kicking a stove over, but then I have this belief that I need to be a responsible human being for the time that a fire I have lit is burning.  I have been told that it is some worry over having the fuel in a bowl.  This seems silly when it is just enough fuel for one burn and it does not spill with the fiberglass in it.  I have tried to pour a full tin back into the bottle.  I got a single drop out.  The fiberglass holds it in place.

I have used the Esbit tablets that came with my stand and quickly found out I could not stand the things.  I tried one of another brand and found that it was even worse.  Maybe if I used them as much as the candy tin, I would get to know them and love them.  I doubt it.

So that is my current and cutest stove.

(Since I mentioned the creatine, I will say this: Whatever it is you want to try creatine for, that is not why I use it.  I have no opinion about its efficacy for energy or bulking up muscle or sharper mind or whatever else it is supposed to do.  I take about 1/2 teaspoon a day.  It does seem to have a side effect of causing my muscles to cramp more easily.  When I finally read the Wikipedia entry, I found it interesting that this specific side effect was mentioned to claim it is not real.  I did try it in the higher quantities suggested for bulking up and it physically wired me in a funny way which I did not like.  I did not try it like that a second time.)

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