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My not -so -light cook sysem and how I build a fire
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Brian UL

Locale: New England
My not-so-light cook system and how I build a fire on 04/02/2009 15:14:11 MDT Print View

This year Im doing things a little different. Ive always had trouble with getting my food right on a trip. I never want to eat anything I bring except the jerky and peanut M&Ms. This is because Im a picky eater at home and I like whole foods so its hard to find something appetizing in powder form. So Im just going bring some "real' food for now on and take a heavy cook system.
I'm going to use my TiTri Caldera cone system with AGG 2qt pot and a MSR frypan. I usually used the Ti-Tri for winter day hikes as an emergency water melter and cook pot but now its coming with me year round. My usual 3 season cook set up is a Caldera cone w/ my SP 600.
SP600- 2.8
cone system- 2.0 (gram cracker)
AGG 2 qt 5.9
MSR frypan 5.4
gripper- 1.4
TI cone- 3.5 (with 2 stakes and plastic case.)
difference of 11.4 oz.
good thing my BPL subscription expired!

the new setup!

Edited by MAYNARD76 on 04/02/2009 16:33:54 MDT.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: My not -so -light cook sysem and how I build a fire on 04/02/2009 15:59:47 MDT Print View

This is a demonstration of how I go about building a minimum impact fire using the Ti-Tri Caldera cone. The concept applies without a cone as well.
I do not pretend to know the best way to make a small responsible cook fire but this is how I do it. Its pretty simple and straight forward. A lot more could be written but I cant cover everything so I suggest "Bushcraft" by Mors Kochanski. This is how one would go about fire building in the North East and it may not make sense in every environment.Feel free to comment and give constructive advise.
On sustainability, I believe using wood as a fuel source is usually the best choice as far as environmental impact goes. This is assuming that the site you choose is not heavily used or over used causing the available wood to be consumed faster than it can be replaced. A small cook fire in an environment with a surplus of downed wood has less impact I believe than a canister stove using precious metals that are mined and petroleum fuel that is drilled not to mention the manufacture, transportation and marketing of said products.
Here is a pic of most (but not all) of the wood a single oak tree had shed in my yard over the winter months just to give an idea of how potentially fast wood fuel can be regenerated. Admittedly this an old and big tree.
tree shedding

step 1
selecting the site
Try to find somewhere free of roots and rocks near the surface of the ground. Roots can catch fire under ground and rocks can hold an amazing amount of heat for a long time. Keep a distance from trees,bushes and fire hazards as well. This is mostly common sense!!
the site

step 2
prepare the site
Simply push aside the top layer of duff exposing bare soil. In some places it may be nice to remove the top soil as well, but here the top soil is so thick I would have to dig a ditch so its unnecessary.

preparing the ground

Step 3
gather the wood. You could of course have gathered the wood before hand-like on your way to camp. You need a tinder bundle, fine kindling,coarse kindling,and fuel. It makes sense to have this at the ready before you start the fire!
fuel pile

Here Iam using my Mora to split a damp piece of wood. I also need to spit it up so as to make it small enough to fit in the Ti cone.

Here is a comparison of the wood I split with my Mora and some found sticks, both thumb thick but the split wood is free of most bark and the drier wood in the center is exposed.


Light the tinder bundle. I used matches but it easy to use tinder/firesteel as well. You need to move fast in this step. Have half of the main fuel on the bottom (in the cone if you want).

As you lay the bundle on the fuel pile get ready to throw on the fine kindling so the initial flame-up of the bundle will be able to catch the fine kindling and in turn throw on the coarse kindling. Now the fire should be established- it happens pretty fast if done right. now its just a matter of adding kindling/fuel to keep it going.


Here are my scrambled eggs I cooked on the cone. I would normally cook twice as much but this is just a test.


Final Step
Putting the fire out!
Time to get messy! Oh yes, you didn't think this would be that easy did you? This is probably the most important part. If you are cooking dinner and staying a while you can let the fire burn down to fine ashes, if you need or want to get moving its still possible. You need to be sure that the fire is out. This is how I do it.
First remove the cone exposing the ashes. Then dump water on the coals until they are cool enough to handle. Then I get my 2 qt pot full of water and I put all the ashes and coals in the pot and stir them around making sure they are all soaked and completely out.



ashes 3

ashes in pot

Next you need to use your hands and get dirty clawing and digging around the wet dirt where the fire was. Its critical that you use your bare hands so you can feel the warmth of the earth where the fire was and be sure that there are no more coals or roots that can start a fire later when your gone. Move around the top layer of mud until its no longer very warm to the touch and you can be confident that its cool enough that their is no longer any possible fire hazard.


Now that the coals and ashes in the pot are cold and the ground where the fire was is wet and cool you can dump the pot on the fire spot and smooth it out.
its out

Now you are done and can return the duff back were it was like no one was ever there and no one will ever know. Now go to bed with sweet and peaceful dreams.

the site doused


Edited by MAYNARD76 on 04/02/2009 19:30:23 MDT.

Art Sandt
(artsandt) - F
Re: Re: My not -so -light cook sysem and how I build a fire on 04/02/2009 22:41:46 MDT Print View

I applaud you for practicing LNT fire-building and clean up. Now if only everybody else (read: folk who leave enormous fire rings and piles of half-charred logs at their campsites thinking that the clean-up-fairy will put everything back to normal after they leave the site, somehow) could figure it out I think we'd be in good shape. Seeing the remains of peoples' campfires and fire rings alongside the trail, particularly in LNT-designated areas, is one of my few pet peeves, if you can't tell.

Do you really bring eggs on backpacking trips?

Edited by artsandt on 04/02/2009 22:43:04 MDT.

Dan Cunningham

Locale: Land of 12,000 Loons
bushbuddy on 04/03/2009 07:30:23 MDT Print View

Nice job on the LNT fire. Cooking over a fire is a great experience - much different than just boiling water with an alcohol stove or canister stove. the fact that you have an almost unlimited supply of fuel for your purpose expands your cooking options quite a bit.

Seeing the mess makes me happy I have a bushbuddy to serve the same purpose. The bushbuddy leaves only a tiny bit of ash in the bottom that you just dump out. No need to get your hands all nasty. It also uses way less fuel. That said, it looks like you have your system pretty well worked out.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: My not -so -light cook sysem and how I build a fire on 04/03/2009 08:17:22 MDT Print View

Brian, very nice job. I wish they posted that photo sequence at the start of some of the trails around here.

Do you really bring eggs on backpacking trips?

You should see what I bring when I go with my girlfriend :)...bacon, eggs, pizza, spiducci...even a small flexible cooler strapped to the top of my Arctic Drypack!

Brian UL

Locale: New England
low impact fire on 04/03/2009 10:58:01 MDT Print View

You can get a "floor" for the Caldera cone but this demonstration shows how one can build a cook fire even without a cone or another device. Before I had a Ti cone I did the same thing but instead of using the cone I pushed aside the burning fuel to expose a bed of coals where you can put the mug on and let it boil. The Cone is much more efficient and allows you to use a pot or a fry pan.
Remember this cone is for a 2QUART pot so it will use more fuel than a bush buddy a smaller cone will use less.

Even though the bush buddy may burn the fuel to fine ash it would still be prudent to dump the ash in a pot of water to make sure its out. I would also still feel around the ground where the stove was to see if its hot enough to potentially start a fire (roots and rocks) and I would dump the soaked ash on the spot the stove was as another line of defense.
Though it is a little messy, in practice its no big deal because the pot with the ash in it will have to be cleaned anyway and wood ash is caustic so it actually helps get food off. You probably will wash your hands anyway or at least your hand will get washed as you clean your pots/mugs so its really not a big deal.
-and yes I intend to bring eggs on future trips! Ive heard some AT thrus bring eggs. You can cover the shells in wax or Vaseline and they will stay fresh for weeks! Eggs are the perfect food.

Steven Hanlon
(asciibaron) - F

Locale: Mid Atlantic
wet weather and snow on 04/23/2009 10:48:38 MDT Print View

i'm wondering how you intend to use your system after a few days of rain has soaked the fuel supply. in snow, this might be an even larger hurdle to overcome. i'm guessing about the tree line you would bring a different system?

Dan Cunningham

Locale: Land of 12,000 Loons
Re: wet weather and snow on 04/23/2009 11:12:02 MDT Print View

Steven, I was worried about getting wet wood going for use in my BushBuddy, so I went out in the rain to give it a try. It had been raining for a solid day. There are no leaves on the trees in MN yet, so all ground sticks and twigs were soaked.

I just used my knife to remove about 50% of the bark off each twig/stick. One half a cotton ball with vaseline did the trick no problem. The BushBuddy fired up and kept going until I stopped feeding it. Once it was going, I didn't even have to peel off the wet bark. It was not much different than using dry, other than a little bark peeling in the beginning.