Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Backcountry Cookfires: Overview and Techniques for Cooking Over an Open Flame


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Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Counterproductive environmentalism on 03/31/2008 01:09:18 MDT Print View

When I commented on many "environmental" fuel sources being counterproductive, my major shining example is the way that hydrogen has been embraced as the fuel of the future.

The issue is this: where do we get the hydrogen from? Answer: we crack it from water, using fossil fuels.

So until we are running the entire country on sustainable power sources the hydrogen cars are as bad as gas burners (or worse, due to <100% efficiency in changing fossil fuel energy to hydrogen energy). I will admit that I haven't looked up data on this, but it seems intuitive. If anyone has data send it my way.

Similar argument for electric cars. The charge comes from coal-fired power plants, unless you're one of the few people who have access to a massive solar array or something. And then, you have to do something with the batteries, which are a HAZMAT nightmare. At least they can be recycled.

These are green solutions for some individuals, but not for a country or the human race. This is one reason that I'm somewhat of an oddity: a pro-nuke environmentalist.

Edited by acrosome on 03/31/2008 01:56:03 MDT.

Max Hoagland
(maxhoagland) - F
More prius/ hummer stuff on 03/31/2008 01:37:44 MDT Print View

http://www.thecarconnection.com/Auto_News/Green_Car_News/Prius_Versus_HUMMER_Exploding_the_Myth.S196.A12220.html

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Re: Re: Carbon, AGAIN on 03/31/2008 01:53:52 MDT Print View

Brian James wrote:
"Dean, I'm not interested in a debate. I humbly and sincerely concede defeat in all categories."

I don't want to 'defeat' anyone, dude. (I've been trying to walk away from this discussion or at least move it to a new thread for days now.) I just want to understand what you're saying because if we're talking about two different things then we're talking about two different things, but if we're talking about the same thing then I think you're wrong, but I can leave it at that.

I also got touchy and took the offensive because I thought I was being insulted. If you weren't trying to call me some sort of mindless enviro-fascist, well, mea culpa.

And if you don't want to be mean to each other any more, I'm all for it. I certainly love hiking in B.C. and I don't need you out in the woods waiting for me with a club. :)

Truce.

Edited by acrosome on 03/31/2008 01:54:27 MDT.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Re: More prius/ hummer stuff on 04/02/2008 01:11:05 MDT Print View

Max Hoagland wrote:
"http://www.thecarconnection.com/Auto_News/Green_Car_News/Prius_Versus_HUMMER_Exploding_the_Myth.S196.A12220.html"

Whew! The bottom line of this article seems to be that the experts are still disagreeing, basically with CNW pitted against the Clean Vehicle Program guy. I'll reserve judgment for after they've got it figured out, because economics on this scale is WAY above my pay grade. I'm a science guy not a business guy, and most of the argument revolves around "energy costs," which some are using as a surrogate for energy consumption.

I'll stand behind my statements on hydrogen- and battery-powered cars, though. At least as long as we're burning oil to generate electricity...

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Re: Re: More prius/ hummer stuff on 04/02/2008 09:20:44 MDT Print View

"I'll reserve judgment for after they've got it figured out, because economics on this scale is WAY above my pay grade."

Actually, for individuals, it's a fairly simple answer... it's the answer that has always been around: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Note, no place in that mantra does it say throw out the stuff you already have and consume more stuff.

In reality, reducing your need for transportation (don't drive when you can walk or bike), reusing your transportation (keep whatever you have properly maintained and running as long as possible)... does far more than trading your old whatever in for the newest 'green' car.

Now, when something breaks beyond reuse, then it's time to consider which 'new' thing to buy to replace. Think in terms of only buying what you need (reducing), buying pre-owned if possible (reusing), and finally buying with green materials / construction in mind (recycling).

No one will ever get to no-impact (as Thom well put it, even bikes have SOME impact - though his use of his bike rather than his hummer is certainly reducing his consumption). However, it's all about relative degrees of impact. Always choose the lesser of two impacts and most people already have the facilities to make that choice, as long as they keep RRR in mind.

PS - there's a reason the 3Rs are in the order they are in, they are in decreasing order of potential, reducing your current consumption is more effective than reusing something... etc. (note reducing =/= buy something more 'green' to replace what you already own)

Matthew Swierkowski
(Berserker) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Backcountry Cookfires: Overview and Techniques for Cooking Over an Open Flame on 04/02/2008 11:02:37 MDT Print View

Good grief this thread got way off topic. I had to read through all that stuff to see what comments were actually made on the article.

Anyway, I actually have a comment on the article. Someone already mentioned three rocks with the pot straddling the rocks and the fire underneath. Now I don't use a cook fire, and don't intend to so take this comment for what it's worth. I was surprised not to see something similar to this as one of the options in the article. On a mission trip to Peru a few years ago I witnessed the natives (Quechua) cooking on cook fires. They usually had a few rocks close together with the pot straddling the rocks and the fire underneath. They would feed in minimal amounts of fuel (usually small pieces of wood...like maybe finger diameter), and the method was extremely efficient (it had to be cause fuel was not abundant where we were at). So anyway, like I said I was just surprised to see the big fire ring with the pot in it, and not something smaller like I described above. Not only does that seem more efficient, but I would think it would be faster to assemble/disassemble and would work better in the wind.

Edited by Berserker on 04/02/2008 11:07:30 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Re: Backcountry Cookfires: Overview and Techniques for Cooking Over an Open Flame on 04/02/2008 11:08:45 MDT Print View

There are more philosophical threads up in here than I can throw a stick at these days...

Plato

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Re: Backcountry Cookfires: Overview and Techniques for Cooking Over an Open Flame on 04/02/2008 14:47:15 MDT Print View

I agree that chaff makes it difficult and time-consuming to actually find comments relevant to the thread's true topic. Hope the practice of packing irrelevant comments (chaff) into a thread doesn't spread to other threads.

Perhaps I'm just too dense to appreciate how and why the relative merits of the Hummer or Prius automobile have anything to do with a thread for an article on how to build campfires responsibly.

On the other hand, perhaps the concept of "chaff" is too abstract to recognize and moderate in practice, aggravated by the chaffer's sense that writing graffi on a wall labelled "write graffiti here" loses its impact -- and limits its potential "chaffees" to the lovers of chaff.

Aside from obfuscation, the injection of chaff into a thread foregoes basic courtesy in favor of the chaffer's personal gratification, similar to:

lighting up in non-smoking areas;
talking aloud in theaters;
tossing litter;
or creating a fire ring in the wilderness.

On that final note, this post attempts to be more relevant to campfire building than Hummers and Prius automobiles.

JRS

J Phillips
(backcountry9) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountain Nat'l Park
Re: Some Comments from the Author: on 04/02/2008 21:26:54 MDT Print View

Rocks DO 'explode'- I was eye witness to a friend receiving an inch long cut above the eye from 'exploding' rock shrapnel. Culprit was the fire ring. I cannot vouch for where the rock come from before inclusion in the fire ring and we were within a couple of hundred feet of a body of water (may have come from the shoreline?). I also can't tell you what type of rock it was as I arrived after dark. However given the distance to the water, how lazy my friends are who built the ring, the sheer number of nearby available rocks, and the fact I live in a semi-arid area that had not received unusual rainfall- I do not accept that it has to be a water logged rock. On the other side of the coin, that was one event out of many, many opportunities. I lean toward the belief that if smooth, uniform, nonporous stones are used there will be no problem. But then again, I don't build fires anymore- I take the weight hit for the 4 or 5 days I'm out and use a stove.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Re: Re: Backcountry Cookfires: Overview and Techniques for Cooking Over an Open Flame on 04/09/2008 13:41:33 MDT Print View

Matthew Swierkowski wrote:
"They usually had a few rocks close together with the pot straddling the rocks and the fire underneath. They would feed in minimal amounts of fuel (usually small pieces of wood...like maybe finger diameter), and the method was extremely efficient..."

That sounds similar, in principle, to a Rocket Stove:

http://www.crest.org/discussiongroups/resources/stoves/Wilmes/Buildjusta.html

This site describes a rocket stove designed for use in third world countries. From other reading on the subject I know that they are very efficient, but it takes a lot of attention to keep it properly fueled to maximize that efficiency.

Richard Scruggs wrote:
"Aside from obfuscation, the injection of chaff into a thread foregoes basic courtesy in favor of the chaffer's personal gratification"

So, does your entire post count as "chaff", too? Don't go casting stones, He-Who-Dwells-in-Glass-Houses. No one likes a scold, either, so you can add that to your list of unacceptable behavior. I agree that things got WAY off topic, which was why I moved it, so please don't lecture. We environmental jihadists are now happily attacking one another in a very civilized manner on another thread, where we won't upset the masses.

So, in the spirit of what we both just wrote, please respond if at all on "The Carbon Flame War", under, appropriately, "Chaff."
(*humor*)

Edited by acrosome on 04/09/2008 13:57:14 MDT.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
A non "carbon flame" downside to wood fires on 04/09/2008 16:51:16 MDT Print View

As a once-upon-a-time user of wood fires only, I would observe that burning dead branches, pine cones, etc deprives the soil of nutrient and water holding compost that results from the natural decomposition process. Stable organic matter is a relatively small but vital, component of any healthy soil, but assumes even greater importance in the marginal soils typically found in alpine environments. I started out building relatively large fires to produce a bed of coals for baking fish, then migrated to small, twig fed fires enclosed by a compact horseshoe of rocks spaced out just enough to hold a pot, then to a gas stove as the impact of what I was a party to gradually began to sink in. This journey paralleled my immersion in serious organic gardening and the resulting acute appreciation of the importance of healthy soil to healthy plants. But, darn, I do miss having a fire, for all of the reasons that have been mentioned in this thread. It's in our genes, methinks.

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Group Dynamics and Campfires on 04/09/2008 17:20:08 MDT Print View

Our Boy Scout troop camps during fire season (really "no fires allowed" season) in California, so I get to see the group with and without campfires.

The article talks about cooking and eating together around a campfire. Preparing food and eating it together is a very powerful thing, very different from one person cooking at a stove then everyone finding their own comfortable rock to sit on. It is possible to cook and eat together without a campfire. One of the (desired) effects of the NOLS cooking style is to require cooperation in the cook group. With or without a wood fire, cooking and eating together is one of the fastest ways to build a group.

Sitting around a fire is not as powerful as food, but is a great way to end the day. With a group, it is a good time for "thorns and roses", for planning the next day, or telling jokes.

In fire season, I pack an "LNT campfire", several votive candles and a sheet of aluminum foil. It won't keep you warm, but it is enough to provide a focus and gather the group.

Our local campsites forbid wood gathering. Packing in firewood changes the weight equation just a bit.

Personally, I find campfire smoke to be one of the least pleasant parts of camping, but the guys love a campfire and it works well to end the day.