Monday, 28 October 2013

cooking stoves for the JOGLE and end to end unsupported

And so its starts!

I spent most of the weekend looking through globetrotter (a local outdoor equipment shop) and some other climbing and hiking gear shops trying to find the best, cheapest and most reliable equipment to take on my walk.

I have decided to separate this down into what i think are the important areas of equipment planning and research. Firstly for me is the idea of food. I have to be able to heat up water to use the freeze dried variety of foods which will be the only way of carrying enough food for the trip, without the weight being too much. So the cooker is a rather important part of what I will be carrying. I will be having a hot breakfast with drink, and an evening meal with hot drink. Lunches will be snacks and biscuits, and possibly a pot noodle, if I am feeling like having a break.

now, there are many different types of cookers on the market, using different types of fuels. Some are heavier than others, some lighter, but all do the same thing. They all heat up water. What I have to decide is what is the best stove for my specific use. I want something that is extremely lightweight, burns clean, and will last over the 20 days unsupported.

Liquid fuel

Now, If I take a stove that requires liquid fuel, then, for the most part I have to carry enough liquid fuel for all of the journey. One of the most popular stoves on the market is the MSR whisper lite stove, which requires a fuel bottle, weighing in around 112gramms (600ml version). With the fuel added this would be a full weight of around 0.750kg, then adding the weight of the cooker itself, and some spares for the cooker to make sure it all works safely (along with a bag to keep it all in etc), then we are looking at a cool 1kg, for the lot. So, will this be enough for me cooking breakfast, lunch and evening meal? well, no. So I would have to take a lot more fuel on board for the trip and this would, in total weigh around 1.5kg for the lot. But as the journey goes on, the weight will be reduced and for the final week, the weight would be negligible. I worked out my consumption around 62ml per day, for the three meals, so a total of 1240ml for the 20 days.

The MSR whisperlite stove - great for winter trips
MSR whisperlite
unfortunately, this is a bit on the heavy side for my trip, but does come into its own when you want to do high altitude trips such as climbing Everest. Its also incredibly fast at boiling water, and in certain circumstances could work out lighter weight than other cookers, unfortunately not mine...

Gas canisters

For ease of use, generally, the gas canister type bottles come out quite well, and burn very cleanly.

Primus stove in location on top of a screw type gas bottle
Primus stove and packing sack

These gas canister type cookers have a good efficiency for heating water, and weight for weight, should be considered for an expedition such as mine. Overall I would require two 227 gram canisters, equalling around 50 meals capability. So each canister would be able to heat 25 meals. Additionally I would also add the weight of a windshield to this, and the weight of the cooker itself. So for around 800gramms, I have full cooking ability for the whole trip, breakfast and dinner only - not bad at all really. I also have an extra ability here, which is only mentioned as a safety. I can take another canister for back-up and still be under the weight of the MSR setup, but with redundancy built into my planning.

Esbit and hexamine

The next fuel I looked at was the "cheap" solid fuel style burners that many of the older soldiers would be used to. These come in quite a lot of different named brands, the soldiers knowing them as hexamine stoves, and the brand usually selling them is Esbit.

Esbit or Hexamine solid fuel stove
Esbit solid fuel or "Hexamine" type stove

These stoves burn dirty, meaning that you will have to clean the equipment (apart from stove) after use. Not the case with some of the other burners, which burn a lot cleaner. Weight for weight, this is the lightest system for boiling water on the go. However, canisters will catch up around the 21 meal mark (and after that would be better weight for weight). My personal opinion on these are they are for emergencies only. They smell very bad when unlit - like rotting fish. They sometimes can burn with poisonous gas, which makes them unsafe, and the cleaning involved on your pots and pans after is not worth the effort, and requires taking along cleaning equipment. And especially for my trip, gas canisters catch up as I said, around the 21 meal mark.

Esbit or hexamine solid fuel types
Esbit solid fuel

No stoves

This is returning back to the basics of cooking on a campfire. So, no stove weight, no fuel weight, no storage problems. However, what we do get with this is the fire starting problems, difficult to light in wet weather, fuel finding problems. After a hard day do I want to spend an extra half and hour foraging for fuel for my fire? and also, it burns rather dirty, so I have the cleaning issues also.

no stove required - free fuel for cooking
Free fuel

For these reasons alone, I am ignoring the use of a normal campfire as a cooking tool, but will build campfires for moral boosting and atmosphere when required.

So, my choice will be the gas bottles. But that doesn't mean that other types of burners are of no use, just that for my specific use, the gas canisters suit the purpose. For example, in winter trips, the gas canisters would become useless, and the MSR whisper lite comes into its own.


Following on to my research I have had some good comments on my facebook page from some very experienced adventurers, recommending trangia fuel stoves. These look simply like an oil burner that you fill with liquid fuel and light.

full trangia cooking system shown with super light pots and pans
Trangia cooking system

trangia burner with lid stop and cap
Trangia burner

Researching these type of burners, how much the fuel costs and the weight is a difficult task. The actual burners are very cheap, coming in around the 12 pounds mark, and the fuel is comparable to any other type. Unfortunately, for full efficiency of the burners, then you really need to buy the full trangia cooking system and for a good lightweight one, it comes in around 60 pounds. These however, have a great fuel efficiency and are very very close to gas bottles for weight (actually a little lighter once you have added the "just in case" factor with gas bottles). 

So what have i decided and why?

I have decided to go for the gas canisters, but it was a very close decision between the trangia cooking system and gas. My main concerns with the Trangia are the fact that I have to carry liquid fuel, which, if the bottle gets damaged, could ruin my trip and a lot of my equipment. Also the Trangia burns dirty, and I would have to do more cleaning than I wish (although not a big problem).

So after a fair amount of research I chose the Primus Express Stove, in conjunction with the wind shield (as it looks like it needs one due to its high mounting on the canister) and an esbit 600ml kettle.

primus express stove shown in location on gas bottle
Primus express stove shown on gas canister
This is the stove in location on the gas bottle. 
primus express stove shown in the folded position
Primus express shown folded
And this is the stove folded for storage - incredibly small and lightweight with a great pack size. Also at 30 pounds its a fairly cheap and robust option. 
information and data on the primus express stove from their website
primus website data
This was taken from the Primus website, quoting that the cooker weighs 124g, however, I weighed mine last night and it came in at 83 grams, not sure how that happened, although mine does not have the integrated lighter, so that could be why. 

the primus express stove shown packed into its handy bag
Primus express stove packed

This is the stove folded and packed away in its handy little pouch. Doesn't take up much room at all, which I feel grateful for. 

Esbit 600ml Hard anodised aluminium kettle
Esbit Hard anodised Aluminium 600ml Kettle - 140 grams

And this is the Esbit kettle I went for. It has a capacity of 600ml, which is just enough for most freeze dried meals, and weighs in around 140 grams. I might have to boil twice for a cup of coffee on top of the meal, but I am not too concerned about that due to the equipment already being warm from the first burn. I also have to wait 5 mins for the food to rehydrate, so it gives me something to do.

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