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Wood stove vs gas stove for winter backpacking.
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Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
Wood stove vs gas stove for winter backpacking. on 12/11/2012 19:05:52 MST Print View

I really love my emberlit wood stove. It's super lightweight and works well and has essentially infinite fuel.

Is a gas stove required for winter backpacking? What if I don't intend on going above the tree line?

The advantage of having infinite fuel seems like a nice perk. The only downside I can think of is that that I need a stable place to set the stove so that it doesn't melt the snow and start sinking.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
wood v. gas in winter on 12/11/2012 19:28:12 MST Print View

Keeping a self-contained wood burner from melting into the snow is pretty easy, a layer or two of green sticks will do.

The disadvantages of the bushbuddy et al in winter is in the speed with which you can melt snow. If you'll be melting snow for water, use a gas stove of some type. If not, the wood stove can be fine, though under certain conditions collecting decent fuel becomes more trouble than it is worth. Almost all the time in winter I bring a remote inverted canister stove (Primus Express Spider) as it is easy and fiddle-proof.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
melting snow on 12/11/2012 20:14:23 MST Print View

I'm not certain how much snow I'm going to melt but I am obviously going to need to make tea and boiling water for food.

This isn't such a pain in the summer. In the winter it might be a bit more painful.

I usually have to use two fires. I need to dump out the embers between as it will end up choking out the fire.

If I have to do this in the winter it would be somewhat painful.

I guess this is the only upgrade I'd like. Some way to easily dump out ash.

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
harder on 12/11/2012 20:21:29 MST Print View

remember that everything including collecting wood and fire starting is harder in winter ...

you can be cold, tired, hungry, borderline hypothermic ... and need heat NOW

have full confidence in that before committing ...

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Wood stove vs gas stove for winter backpacking on 12/12/2012 14:00:02 MST Print View

Kevin, you could also go late winter or early spring when snow has settled nicely to go. Everything is better then, you can walk over the snow easier, wood will be drier then. Use the suggested gas stoves now. I was out along the PCT close to home last weekend, what snow we had has melted off again, I took a couple vintage stoves to use as I have a bunch. Just get out! :)

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Wood stove vs gas stove for winter backpacking on 12/12/2012 14:29:35 MST Print View

My choice would depend on how much camping is involved as opposite to hiking.
If you intend to spend a lot of time at camp , say mid afternoon onward, then a wood stove may just be good enough to keep you busy .
keep in mind that there is a huge difference between heating water and melting snow.
Starting with snow (well you should always have some water to add to it...) takes a lot longer than just heating water.
A big difference would be in the morning if you are the sort of guy that needs a cup of coffee 5 minutes after waking up.
Again here would be useful if you had some water and sticks/kindling ready if depending on a wood stove.
Make sure that you have some fire starters and the skill to start a fire...
I would suggest to either be close to the trailhead or to camp next to a hut for the first few times and with someone that already has the skills required.

"I usually have to use two fires. I need to dump out the embers between as it will end up choking out the fire. "
That suggests the need for a larger wood burning stove for winter.
To melt snow I would not bother with a pot smaller than about 1.3L capacity.
(a 1.3L pot full of compressed snow will give you about 300-400ml of water )

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: harder on 12/12/2012 14:48:38 MST Print View

Reic said "remember that everything including collecting wood and fire starting is harder in winter ..."

Carry some cedar kindling and a light saw, like the 3.5oz Gerber Sportsman's saw. If there is a lot of snow, you are effectively taller and can reach more dead branches. With a group, carry a couple road flares and you can get ANY wood burning quickly.

Robert Kelly
(QiWiz) - MLife

Locale: UL gear @
Wood stoves in winter on 12/13/2012 09:56:17 MST Print View

As long as I'm below tree line and just cooking/melting for myself, I bring a woodburner as my primary stove for cooking and melting snow. I bring additional fire starting materials in winter. I'm using a FireFly stove, which can be struck with a stick or my spork to release accumulated ash out of the bottom so I don't have to dump it all out and start over as ash accumulates.

With a group, I would probably be tempted to share the weight of a white gas stove like an MSR Dragonfly and the fuel for it.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
MSR Dragonfly v.s. TD Sidewinder Inferno on 12/13/2012 16:45:14 MST Print View

I have both the stoves in the subject heading but I prefer my Sidewinder W/ the Inferno gassifier woodburner for winter. Plus I have a well-contained campfire when I'm done cooking.

Not only is the Sidewinder 1/8 the weight of the Dragonfly but I have to carry only ESBIT for firestarting. Fuel is readily available in the mountains.

BTW, My JetBoil 1 liter pot will fit the small (3 cup pot) Sidewinder with the JB heat exchanger fins fitting just outside the Sidewinder's top. The larger pot is great for melting snow.

Edited by Danepacker on 12/13/2012 16:46:02 MST.

John G
(JohnG10) - F

Locale: Mid-Atlantic via Upstate NY
wood stoves on 12/13/2012 17:51:08 MST Print View

Back when white gas backpacking stoves were novel and only used by ”serious mountaineers” (ie: multiple days above tree line), us mere backpackers used camp fires to cook and melt water in the winter with no problem.

The secret is to split the wet/frozen wood (that was covered with snow) into pencil to thumb thick pieces, and use a cotton ball plus a hat full of shavings from the inside of one of the split pieces to get the fire started. 2 vaseline coated cotton balls per fire should ensure success even for damp wood as long as you make lots of shavings.

Wrist thick branches can be split with a sturdy hunting knife. Hatchets are heavy :) A folding pruning saw is great for removing limbs from downed trees when shoveling down to the ground to find wood is too much work.

Ps: Stoves are lots more convenient, and lots faster. But making a fire in rainy or snow covered conditions isn't rocket science ;)

Devon Cloud

Locale: Southwest
stick with the emberlit, add an esbit attachment on 12/14/2012 07:54:20 MST Print View

I would stick with the wood burner and bring esbit cubes. They are light, do not take up a lot of space, can burn in cold and very high altitudes. They can also help you to start your fire if you are not over the treeline and the wood around you is a bit damp, and can be used solely if you do not have any wood to burn due to being over the treeline.