Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Picking The Right Stove for a Destination Camping Trip

We've got a camping trip coming up in a few weeks, but there's a wrinkle: we're flying to the location. Most of our gear can be taken on the plane without a problem; the big exception being the stove fuel. What's a traveling camper to do?

1. Go Stoveless. I'd be all over this option, except this violates Rule #3, which isn't acceptable.

2. Rely on a campfire. Again, this would be my preference, but I'm not quite sure what the destination will have in terms of wood availability (I do know the fires are allowed in designated areas). Better to bring a stove, then chance it.

3. Bring our MSR Pocket Rocket stove. This bad boy is remarkably effective, but I'm not sure how easy it's going to be to get fuel. Again, I don't want to leave our meals to chance. Shipping the IsoPro fuel appears to be a no-no.

4. Bring an alcohol stove. Finding HEET, the readily available fuel alcohol stoves typically use, shouldn't be too tricky. Between gas stations, Auto Parts stores and Walmart someone has to have it. On the other hand, HEET is an anti-freeze product, so it's not exactly in season. While probably available, it's still not a sure thing.

5. Hit WalMart and buy a cheap Coleman stove and propane canister. I seriously considered this option, especially because this camping trip isn't exactly backpacking (though, it's not exactly car camping either). But, what would I do with the supplies when I was done? Seems like a waste / hassle for one weekend.

6. Use an Esbit Stove. I experimented with one a couple of trips ago, and was pleased at how effective it was. Most importantly, they use the one fuel that we can ship ahead of time. There are other advantages to Esbit: they don't spill like alcohol, they're easy to take inventory of, and they are naturally lightweight. The cons, is that they are a crude method of cooking, and there's some variation in burn time and efficiency. You can definitely cook on these guys, so I know that they aren't purely a gimmick.

The winner: the Esbit Stove. I love that I can ship the fuel ahead of time and know exactly where I stand with it. The 12 tablets I ordered should be more than enough for 2 dinners, and 2 breakfasts. This setup should also work because I planning to use the stove as more of a backup, than a primary cooking option (at least for dinners).

While I'm at it, I'll also keep an eye open for a bottle of HEET when we land at our destination. If I can find such a bottle, creating a field expedient alcohol stove should be easy enough. (Just pick up a couple of cans of soda at the same time and there are your raw materials.)

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