Reducing Winter Pack Weight: Wood Fire Cooking in the Snow
Display Avatars Sort By:
Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Reducing Winter Pack Weight: Wood Fire Cooking in the Snow on 03/26/2008 00:49:09 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Reducing Winter Pack Weight: Wood Fire Cooking in the Snow

Shawn Taylor
(staylor310) - F

Locale: Sierra
Caldera Cone Wood Cooking on 03/26/2008 08:41:54 MDT Print View

Great Article.
I have been using a Caldera Cone system for a while now, and love it. I just purchased my second one, which is a 2 qt titanium model, with a alum. AGG pot. I used it on a winter trip for 2 people a few weeks ago, and it worked great. I, regrettably, brought enough alcohol, and esbit to use the stove without wood for the whole trip. I ended up using a wood fire for almost every boil. Next time out I'm going to bring only enough esbit to start fires in the event of wet wood sources.

I have found wood cooking to be quite simple, and enjoyable. As mentioned, it does provide a much more primitive feel.

I try to save weight where ever I can, but when I see some people talking about an alcohol stove that weighs 2 grams less than another, I find it kind ridiculous, when they will be carrying 8oz of fuel anyway. As long as there is a source of wood, The Caldera Cone seems to be the best stove/windscreen for the weight.

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Cooking in the Snow on 03/27/2008 11:30:21 MDT Print View

Well written article and the bits of humor appreciated! One thing I find myself doing when winter camping here in the PNW is to find a rather large tree with a large, roomy tree-well beneath and cook there. Using a base made of a slab of bark from a dead and down tree, the stove is stable and in a natural wind shelter...works great!

Frank Deland
(rambler) - M

Locale: On the AT in VA
Caldera Melt Down on 03/27/2008 18:27:51 MDT Print View

Using a Caldera Cone as a wood burner did not work for me. The heat melted the joint making it very difficult to slide open and also the heat weakened one of the sides making it almost paper thin. I set the stove over a titanium plate which I thought might help result with less fire burn left on the ground. That did not happen either. I had quite a furnace going that got he water boiling in no time. Another drawback to using the Caldera or other bottom less stoves is the burn mark it leaves on the ground The ground also needs to be thoroughly dosed to prevent a fire hazard which means one has to collect extra water just for that purpose. Not a problem with a lot of snow around, however. Meanwhile I am back to the Bush Buddy. When dry tinder is scarce, I use the cotton ball in valseline mehtod igniting it with a spark maker.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Caldera Melt Down on 03/27/2008 20:59:55 MDT Print View

Frank,

The aluminum Caldera is not designed to use wood. I assume you had problems using a wood fire in the aluminum Caldera and not the titanium Caldera. Is this correct?

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Re: Re: Caldera Melt Down on 03/28/2008 07:43:31 MDT Print View

"The aluminum Caldera is not designed to use wood. I assume you had problems using a wood fire in the aluminum Caldera and not the titanium Caldera. Is this correct?"

Gah... this is why we need a gear-wiki... I bet this is the 100th time I've heard reference to someone either using the Al Cone on wood or at least asking about it.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
gear wiki (was Caldera Melt Down) on 03/28/2008 09:46:03 MDT Print View

I think a wiki would be a great idea. I have thought that it would be great if the BPL overviews became wiki entries so they could be updated and stay relevant. Forgoing that, I have been hoping one of the existing backpacking waterholes would add one rather than having yet another place to look.

The reason I maintain my personal web pages is to have a place to collect the things I learn and organize things topically rather than by the date things are discovered (forum posts or blog). I have periodically thought about dumping my outdoor pages into a wiki and throwing it open for others to edit. I haven't done it because I have mixed too much opinion with objective facts. As a thought experiment I copied my shelter recommendations page into wikispaces and the started to remove the personal editorization. It took me around 2 minutes to realize that would take a huge amount of time to remove "mark" from those pages. Just count the number of "I"s and "you"s. I decided personal and factual was just too closely mixed to quickly undo.

Once I have finished up some other projects (not related to light weight backpacking) I am planning on pouring in objective data related to the outdoors into http://www.freebase.com/ which has wiki like capabilities as well as providing a way to store and search rich meta data. For example, you would be able to say show me a shelter that weights less than X, has Y footprint, reports of it being using in at least Z mph winds. Alas, that is most likely not going to even start for a few months.

Back to the original topic... people knowing not to using the caldera windscreen as part of a firebox system... this is the sort of thing I have tried to keep track of. My stove recommendations section warns people not to do a wood fire in Caldera under "alky stove" and in the section of "wood stove" I once again warn about aluminum noting that steel and titanium are the appropriate materials.

Edited by verber on 03/28/2008 09:54:42 MDT.

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Re: gear wiki (was Caldera Melt Down) on 03/28/2008 12:22:51 MDT Print View

Somewhat unrelated, but I've really liked the info you've collected at your site for a while, Mark.

Rand Lindsly
(randlindsly) - MLife

Locale: Yosemite
Caldera - proper fuels on 03/28/2008 13:39:59 MDT Print View

All:

Thanks for jumping in and helping to clarify the proper fuels for the Caldera. At the risk of beating this horse again, wood or petroleum based fires inside the Caldera Cone will damage it and could be dangerous. This warning is provided in the literature and now on the website.

On the other hand, the Ti-Tri works fine with wood fires and has not shown any heat related issues over all the testing we, or Kevin, or BPL have done.

Thanks again for all your support!

Rand :)

Jeffrey Loso
(Vagabon) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
easy clean up. on 03/29/2008 08:20:22 MDT Print View

The soaping of the pot works really well if you keep applying and cleaning off the soap. By removing the sooty soap after each use you end up with just a small amount of soot that can be transfered to your gear. This is a common practice for pots used in the BWCAW where fire grates are provided.

Darin Banner
(dbanner) - MLife

Locale: Pacific North West
Re: Caldera Melt Down on 03/30/2008 17:39:34 MDT Print View

You're right. An aluminum Caldera Cone will not support a wood fire--nor was it intended to. The cone that Kevin was using in the article is the Trail Designed titanium cone with a titanium floor plate to protect the ground from the fire.

Caldera Ti-Tri

We used prototypes of these cones during with Wilderness Trekking III course and they worked great. Trail Designs has made to improvements to the cone's design based upon our feedback. These are a great way to avoid some of the concerns people have with open fires in the wilderness.

Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: Cooking in the Snow on 04/01/2008 10:16:13 MDT Print View

Thanks Monty--Just make sure you camp away from dead "widow maker" trees--they are most likely to fall when laden with snow and buffeted by the winds of winter.

Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Caldera Melt Down on 04/01/2008 10:17:33 MDT Print View

Aluminum is not made for wood burning--it can't take the heat. All the stoves for wood are made of titanium.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
There can be problems ... on 04/02/2008 04:49:29 MDT Print View

My wife and I are just back from a week-long trip in the mountains here in Oz. It was meant to be an early autumn trip (in Australia), but we had sub-zero conditions most nights with winds up to 50 mph. No snow, fortunately, but no forest cover and no wind-shelter either. Ice on Mt Jagungal. No trees some nights as well: we were out on the High Plains. Boy we were glad of our double-skin winter tent and our liquid-feed canister stove inside the vestibule of the tent. However, in a heavy pine forest with little wind I can see some possibilities.

However, I have to take strong exception to the claim of needing 5 oz (140 g) of fuel per person per day. That's 280 g for 2 people per day! I cannot believe that!

I normally budget 30 g per day for the two of us (my wife and I) in summer and 50 g per day in winter. OK, add a bit more if you expect to have to melt all your water from very cold snow - maybe 80 g per day for 2 people.

Technical background: to boil two cups of water (0.5 litres) takes me about 8 g of canister gas in summer. Double that if you have to start with cold snow to get boiling water. So 80 g will allow you to BOIL 2.5 litres from snow at -20 C. 40 g will let you boil 1.25 litres for cooking and another 40 g will let you melt another 2.5 litres for drinking etc.

Cheers
Roger

Kevin Sawchuk
(ksawchuk) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Re: There can be problems ... on 04/02/2008 14:20:19 MDT Print View

Thanks for your experiences and comments Roger. I thought the 5oz pppd (per person per day) was a bit high of an estimate as well. It is what is quoted. It probably is most accurate for those melting all water from snow, having hot dinners (perhaps requiring actual cooking) and hot breakfasts/coffee in the morning with a winter safety factor built in.

In a Sierra winter you generally need to get all of your water from melting snow. I melt all of my water for dinner and the next day at night which generally comes to 5L per person but would boil only 1-1.5L per person for dinner. (I leave camp with 3L for drinking in the day so I don't have to stop. I force myself to drink a liter in camp before I leave and use a liter plus for cooking and drinking at night.) I personally eat cold breakfasts. With this conservative usage you get pretty close to 100g of fuel pppd. Add the weight savings up over a 7-10 day trip and they are still substantial.

Edited by ksawchuk on 04/02/2008 14:21:08 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: There can be problems ... on 04/02/2008 21:50:29 MDT Print View

Hi Kevin

> I thought the 5oz pppd (per person per day) was a bit high of an estimate as well. It is what is quoted.
You know, after I posted my comment and mentioned the 5 oz figure to my wife, we both wondered whether the figure relates to alcohol use with a poorly-designed alky stove without a good windshield. That I could almost believe.

> I melt all of my water for dinner and the next day at night which generally comes to 5L per person but would boil only 1-1.5L per person for dinner.
I agree about melting water at night, but we would probably have some left over from 5 L per day for the TWO of us. Yeah, as some have noted before, we don't drink as much as some, especially in the cold. Our last trip (last week) had sub-zero nights, and I think we ran on under 5 L per day for the two of us.

Over 6 days of fairly hard walking we used a not-quite-new 230 g canister of gas while experimenting with a new winter stove.

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Caldera - proper fuels on 04/05/2008 01:34:41 MDT Print View

Do the concerns about using an aluminum Caldera with a wood fire carry over to also cause any concern for using an aluminum pot with a wood fire?

I assume not, since folks apparently use aluminum pots with wood-fired titanium Calderas with apparently no problem reported -- as in the AGG 3 cup and 2 quart pots which are aluminum, or any other aluminum pot.

But, given the clear opinion of experts that the aluminum Calderas do not hold up to wood fires, it occurs to me that adverse effects might also arise if an aluminum pot is used with a wood fire -- whether with a titanium caldera, bush buddy, zip, or other wood fire stove.

JRS

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Caldera - proper fuels on 04/05/2008 04:03:53 MDT Print View

Aluminium pots are quite OK on a wood flame - provided they are full of water ! ! ! The water in a pot limits how hot the pot gets, but the Caldera Cone has no water of course.

Generations of walkers have used Al pots and frypans over a wood fire without problems, although there have been a few melted ones when the water ran out. :-)

Tim Kropf
(tkoutdoor) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Caldera - proper fuels on 12/03/2008 20:20:25 MST Print View

I'm told that one can boil water in a styrofoam cup, but that's just for show as it doesn't leave enough structure in the cup to be useful. The aluminum pot then will do fine with water in it as the water keeps the aluminum from reaching temperatures where it would be combustible. It's the same principle as the styrofoam cup. The cup will burn away down to a thin layer that is protected by the water temp.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Caldera - proper fuels on 12/03/2008 23:03:10 MST Print View

Styrofoam? Dunno about that one!
But I have done it with a brown paper bag over a wood fire.