I've been interested in all things Appalachian Trail and one of the interesting challenges seems to be a cooking fire. Hikers have written, blogged and vlogged that it's a challenge because [a] restrictions on where you can burn and frankly not all shelters are friendly. [b] dead fall may be picked clean [c] some areas do not permit specific tools like a saw [d] white gas stoves appear to have risks.
- ring or fireplace usually found close to the shelters
- white gas; think about the old coleman where the tank has to be slightly preasurized
- butane+propane; ie jetboil or pocketrocket
- gassified wood stove like a bush buddy or solo stove
- non-gassification wood stove
- alcohol stove
side note: when I was researching campfires in US national parks they are all but restricted to specific locations typically a proper fireplace or fire ring. And any other fire must have an instant off which I think means something like a jetboil although an alcohol stove might be ok if you have a snuffer.
I have a SoloStove and a Campfire SoloStove. I like them both very much except they use wood and leave a lot of soot on my cook pots. With some AT videos and demos I started to develop some interest in alcohol and tablet stoves. I like the tablets because they are easy carry. Half an esbit will warm a can of soup. The only aggravation is soot.
There are a number of alcohol stove designs out there. Many use soda cans and fiberglass. Here is a howto. Rather than build one I decided to buy a RUCAS on eBay. The construction was a lot better than I could do or would be willing to do. The easiest alcohol stove is just an open bean dip can and soda can. But the RUCAS looks great.
My RUCAS arrived a few days ago and I finally managed to get to the hardware store to get some fuel. Here are my notes on the first burn:
- I needed the funnel to transfer the fuel from the can to the bottle. The bottle came with my kit. The demonstration convinced me it was not going to give me any trouble although the bottle will have to be inside my kit to prevent accidental spillage inside my pack.
- I did a test fit to make sure the stove was level and secure and that the cup I was planning to cook with was also stable.
- squeezing fuel into the stove was simple enough. I relied on my internal measuring cup to make sure I was only dispensing one fluid ounce. The information sheet suggested how much to squirt in and that there may be a line inside the stove. But not that I could see.
- I decided to ignite the stove with my firesteel. I'm not sure that was a good idea as I could have knocked over the stove and ignited it all at once.
- It took about 2 to 3 minutes for the mechanism to ignite the jets but once they started the heat was intense. I quickly determined that my fuel reserves and tools were just too close.
- I had opened a can of chili into my cup and placed it on the stove. In about 1 to 2 minutes the food started bubbling along the wall of the cup.
- I stirred constantly to prevent the food from [a] splattering all over the place [b] heating unevenly or burning [c] or sticking to the side of the pot
The BAD news.
While I like the RUCAS and the pocketrocket they have their challenges. My pot got hot very quickly. My spoon got hot. My insulated square oven mitt was useless and almost caused the stove to spill.
- buy a proper fire glove
- use a wooden spoon (something to do at night when resting)
- I probably want to limit my cooking to boiling water instead of cans of soup and the like. Boiling water requires very little monitoring