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Wood stove hikers...do you carry a "real" knife?
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Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Wood stove hikers...do you carry a "real" knife? on 12/03/2011 08:07:34 MST Print View

I currently use esbit for cooking. I am considering picking up a wood stove for winter backpacking in the NE because I don't want to carry the weight of fuel when melting snow.

I currently carry a Stanley Mitey Knife:
http://www.stanleytools.com/default.asp?TYPE=PRODUCT&PARTNUMBER=10-039

Do wood stove users feel the need to beef up their knives? I'm hoping to grab small dead wood from the low branches of trees on the trail. I also find snow tends to dry out sticks on the ground.

Thanks!

Edited by bster13 on 12/03/2011 10:33:24 MST.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Depends on your location on 12/03/2011 09:42:47 MST Print View

For hikes in dry southern California mountains, I've never had to use my knife to get my Bushbuddy going. but it tends to be quite dry here.

When I lived in Oregon, it was a different story. Other than in the dead of summer, wetness was always an issue, and I used my knife for getting to dry wood on more than one occasion.

How wet is it likely to be where you'll be going?


BTW, I love using a little wood stove, and do so anywhere it's allowed. The stove itself is very low weight, and the fuel is weightless! A bit more fussing than a cartridge stove, but still quicker than you might think.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Wood stove hikers...do you carry a "real" knife?" on 12/03/2011 10:02:44 MST Print View

I don't have any difficulty foraging for tinder to use in my wood stove, so packing a "real" knife isn't really necessary for me, but I do like taking my mora along for kicks. Keep a small baggie and procure dry pieces of tinder along the trail as you hike throughout the day- you should be able to have enough fuel for supper without having to go hunting and cutting into things. I don't know what wood stove you're intending to use, but many of them require such minuscule amounts of tinder to get a boil going, vienna sausage sized bits really.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Re: "Wood stove hikers...do you carry a "real" knife?" on 12/03/2011 10:34:01 MST Print View

I am considering the Littlebug JR. and the Vargo Ti Hexagon wood stove. Hiking in the NE.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Wood stove hikers...do you carry a "real" knife? on 12/03/2011 10:41:46 MST Print View

A Victorinox Trekker, Hiker, or Farmer knife will have a small saw that you might find useful. The Gerber Sportsman's Saw is just 3oz and will cut wood like crazy.

+1 on a Mora for a good light and inexpensive knife. The Allround models have slightly thicker blades.

You want dead lower branches that you can usually break up with your hands and feet. Green stuff will smoke you and your gear :)

Gerry Volpe
(gvolpe)

Locale: Vermont
Knives and wood stove hiking on 12/03/2011 11:22:31 MST Print View

First off I am one of those guys who likes to have at least an ounce or two of knife, probably because all my outdoor passions were sparked by "My Side of the Mountain" so take my thoughts for what they are. I usually take a tiny folding Gerber (can't remember the model) or when I want more for whatever reason a CRKT Stiff Kiss (skeleton handled neck knife). All of my winter wood stove camping has been with my tipi base camping style so a sled full of supplies including knife, hatchet, and even some dry wood is not out of the question. I have done some three season hiking cooking over a cook fire however.

I think it is nice to have a decent knife to get a fire going in wet or frozen NE conditions. There are some great skeleton handled knives out there and they are light (especially if you replace the sheath). I have been wanting a Mora because they are cheap, very light for a full knife and have a great reputation. For me if I am relying on wood fire I would also take some good tinder like esbit chips or vaseline cotton balls. This practice probably borders on paranoia given the context of this website however.

From what I have seen of your posts you are about SUL and I would think that the most efficient choice weight wise (especially for shorter trips) would be to have enough good tinder and maybe upgrade your knife by just a little. Something that would be able to take off the outer layer of wet/frozen wood would be enough you don't really need to be able to split chunks of wood. I don't know anything about them but I think there are some really light folders out there (Baledo?). You would probably be all right with your stanley, tinder, and excellent fire starting skills but that is out of my personal comfort range. Enjoy and post your experience, I have been drooling over a ti-tri and am very interested in UL wood stove winter camping.

Erin McKittrick
(mckittre) - MLife

Locale: Seldovia, Alaska
Yes (where I live) on 12/03/2011 11:34:57 MST Print View

In wet coastal Alaska, yes. Our last expedition was September-November on the Gulf of Alaska coast, which is about the hardest place to find dry wood you can find. So we had sheath knives (fairly light, one blade, non-foldable), and a bow saw blade, which we put together into a saw with wood found at the campsite.
But we were also burning wood to heat our tent, not just to cook with, so we needed a lot.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Wood stove hikers...do you carry a "real" knife?" on 12/03/2011 11:41:36 MST Print View

The Traildesigns Sidewinder setup for the 1.3L Evernew pot is pretty rock solid. I'm pleased with it. It boils for one and can double as a two person cook setup, handles larger hearty meals without spilling over, it's fairly light and not overly bulky since all the kit stores inside.

Bryce,

Do you have much experience just cooking/boiling over a small open fire? If you're going to be utilizing a fire in the evening you may as well just get a pot and throw in there, this above all is my favorite method for "cooking".

Edited by Eugeneius on 12/03/2011 11:44:30 MST.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Camp fire vs. Wood stove on 12/03/2011 12:39:14 MST Print View

Are there any tests out there for burn time, temp output and efficiency?

I was under the impression a wood stove is much better at concentrating the heat, thus snow would be melted faster and use less fuel (less time looking for fool). Thoughts?

Duy Tam Nguyen
(Totoro85)

Locale: Northern Ontario (middle actually)
Pretty simple on 12/03/2011 18:28:10 MST Print View

Can you go hiking and start a fire without a knife? If yes, don't bring a knife. If no, learn how to start fires. Afterwards, decide if you want to bring a knife or not.

Cooking over a fire is the simplest way, but it will probably use larger pieces of wood than a wood stove. That's the difference, really.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Re: Pretty simple on 12/03/2011 18:34:09 MST Print View

I can, but generally in good weather. Fire has been for campfire entertainment, not necessity (cooking). So when wet, skip the fire.

Ryan Smith
(ViolentGreen) - F

Locale: Southeast
Me too! on 12/03/2011 19:11:58 MST Print View

"all my outdoor passions were sparked by "My Side of the Mountain"

That makes two of us Gerry. Even today, I would love to live in a hollowed out tree and have a pet falcon.

Ryan

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
As a safety Item on 12/03/2011 22:53:30 MST Print View

On a training campout in New York I was the only one who could reliably start fires during three days of almost constant rain. I did it because I split my kindling down to where it was dry on the inside. My friends just kept trying to burn wet sticks. Since I was tired of splitting sticks I tried all the tricks I knew of looking under dense evergreens for dead twigs etc. but I just couldn't find anything dry. I can usually start a fire even when no one else can, I just beat an Eagle Scout starting a fire with moist sicks. If I couldn't find dry tinder on that trip I don't anyone else would.
After that experience I always carry a sturdy pocket knife with me. I've never needed to baton wood but my knife is sturdy enough to split smaller sticks down so I can start a fire with the dry insides. I also carry some cotton balls in a plastic bag with a lighter (usally in my pocket so I always have them). In my opinion its just a safety thing. I want to be able to reliably start a fire in a hurry if I have a problem. Its great to have the skills to start fires with minimal tools or materials but I don't want to rely on that if I'm about to get hypothermia.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Wood stove hikers...do you carry a "real" knife? on 12/03/2011 23:13:27 MST Print View

I have only been carrying a razor blade for the past few years.

I am now using esbit or a bushbuddy.

I carry tinder tabs or cotton balls, both coated in petroleum jelly, which I find lights up every time for me.

However, I am hiking in the Sierras where the wood is pretty dry and rain does not happen all that often.

Maybe, if I was in really wet weather, I might want a mora type knife to be able to shave sticks and twigs to get to the dry wood a layer by shaving off the wet stuff.

-Tony

David Lutz
(davidlutz)

Locale: Bay Area
"My Side of the Mountain" on 12/03/2011 23:45:20 MST Print View

Thread drift alert....

"My Side of the Mountain" = all-time favorite book.

Return to your regularly scheduled programming.....

William Chilton
(WilliamC3) - MLife

Locale: Antakya
Re: "My Side of the Mountain" on 12/04/2011 02:09:12 MST Print View

Must have read this book at least 5 times when I was growing up.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
My Side of the Mountain and Firewoods Issues on 12/04/2011 07:05:00 MST Print View

I liked My Side of the Mountain too when I was a kid. My only quibble is the chapter where Sam makes a complete coat out of a single deerskin. Having worked with real deerskins I can tell you no single whitetail hide is big enough to make a coat big enough for anyone bigger than a toddler, 3 or 4 might be more accurate. Other than that I think the book was fairly accurate as far as I can recall. I think the author had a camping background and most of the survival skills where real.

Tony I agree having some good firestarters helps a lot too. I can start a fire using my cotton balls that I couldn't strart without them.
I think the OP might have a harder time getting wood in the NE versus the Sierras or rockies. First in a hardwood forest there just isn't as much wood. Look at the branch density on a lodgepole pine and compare it to that of a oak of equal size. Conifers also tend to have more tiny branches so there are more dead twigs compared to hardwoods which don't have all those little matchstick sized branches. Also coniferous trees always have nettles so thats going to provide a somewhat sheltered spot underneath where you can usually find enough dry twigs to get a fire going. If the leaves are off a hardwood forest you have nothing like that.

Bryce F.
(bster13) - MLife

Locale: Norwalk, CT
Fire Starters on 12/05/2011 17:41:31 MST Print View

I guess w/ Vasoline soaked cotton balls, I may not need the ability to make a feather stick or split wood when you have that sort of ace in the hole. Also, not sure how much wood splitting I'd be doing with such tiny sticks:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XE1FNmAWOoY

Thoughts?

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: fire starters on 12/05/2011 18:13:47 MST Print View

First rule of firestarting: cheat.

I bring chemical tinder and kindling for security. Tinder = lint and denatured alc in a little nalgene. Kindling = esbit. Using both will get the job done in truly grim situations.

Brian UL
(MAYNARD76)

Locale: New England
Re: Fire Starters on 12/05/2011 19:31:58 MST Print View

Here is the deal for wood stoves in NE: only experience will tell you what YOU want to do.
As you know it can get really wet. Sometimes it rains for days even weeks nonstop. That leaves most everything soaking wet.

pros of no knife:
-You can get good at figuring out where dry wood is and go out after camp and search for it. A classic places is under fir trees.
-no knife to carry!

pros of the knife:
- you don't need to spend that much time looking and searching. You just find the driest sticks you can and split them in to piles -dry wood!
- you can split the wood into bigger or smaller pieces as you need without having to search for the right size.
-Knife is useful for other things.

Either way I would carry plenty of WATERPROOF tinder I think its a safety issue if nothing else! I am torn between leaving the knife home myself. I would like to have less stuff to carry and deal with- but I know from experience that it can be a big deal to me after hiking in the rain for a few days. Being completely soaked in a completely soaked forest I am very glad I have my Mora. It means I can have complete confidence Ill have dry wood to burn and I will have the stove burning much quicker.
of coarse you can bring a back-up esbit or alcohol stove to use when things are really wet and you don't want to deal with wood gathering. I think the length of the trip can change things. A Mora is like 20 bucks so your not out a lot of money if you decide you don't need it.
I would recommend the larger TI-TRI Caldera cone for winter- plenty of fire for warmth and snow melting. For 3 season use I would recommend the backcountry boiler. Its what I use and I think its the best, most practical design out there now.

Edited by MAYNARD76 on 12/05/2011 19:38:42 MST.