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Cook system recommendations
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Erica Ruch
(skrapp138) - M
Cook system recommendations on 05/02/2013 22:16:20 MDT Print View

I'm new to backpacking (and therefore, backcountry cooking) - and I suppose from my research the one thing I'm grateful for is that I have no pre-concieved notion of a backcountry cooking experience). I've investigated everything - from Skurka's cat can stoves, Esbit, different canisters - and I simply cannot decide. I know people recommend trying them to see what you like best, but I'd like to finally be able to pick one to start with!

My thoughts on my stove so far:

- I am hesitant to use a self-made stove at this point - I think I want to start with something manufactured to get my feet wet
- I need something that I can use on the trail for 14+ days - probably carrying 7 days of fuel max(I'll be doing the JMT this year)
- I'm an avid cook, and I'm planning on preparing/dehydrating my own meals - I don't anticipate doing much 'cooking' on the trail, but it would be nice to be able to simmer quinoa, pasta, etc...but I can probably deal with boil-only if needed
- I may need to share this stove with friends on my hikes
- I don't anticipate needing to melt snow
- I've been leaning toward Esbit fuel overall...until I smelled them at REI the other day! Is there a way to pack them without any smell? Does this fuel need to go in a bear canister?
- I like the idea of having a canister stove for shorter trips - and Esbit or alcohol for longer trips. Thoughts?
- I'm not in the UL - more the lightweight category

For cookware - I'd love to buy the appropriate pot/mug whatever for my stove decision is - recommendations for this would be great as well!

Thank you!

Erica Ruch
(skrapp138) - M
Re: Cook system recommendations on 05/02/2013 22:19:24 MDT Print View

I should mention that I've had my eye on this stove - if anyone has experience with it (or if I should avoid it) let me know!

Esbit 5-Piece Trekking Cook Set Includes Brass Alcohol Burner Stove and 2 Anodized Aluminum Pots

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Cook system recommendations on 05/02/2013 23:05:19 MDT Print View

> but it would be nice to be able to simmer quinoa, pasta, etc

it's possible to simmer with esbits, but it's not as strait forward as with a canister. Often,boiling water and then letting the "cooking" happen in a cozy can work reasonably well.

Personally, as soon as I need to "share" I switch to a canister (or liquid gas). I have found that I just don't have the patiences for full on multi-person cooking over esbits or alcohol. That said, I have cooked for 2 in a pinch with my esbits.

> pack without any smell... bear canister?

No way to get rid of the smell. They are so small (and are typically packed next to the meal they are going to cook with, so mine have always been in the canister.

> canister for short trips, esbits or alcohol longer trips

a reasonable approach. I love the simplicity of esbits. Number of dinners... that's the number of tablets I need. No trying to figure out how much fuel is in the canister or should I start a new one. For me, canisters are pulled out for multi-person cooking and/or when I want to do "fancy" cooking.

My recommendation if you don't want to make your own stove is something from Traildesigns. They make a system that just works. Until I used a Caldera Cone, I had mixed (mostly bad) experiences with esbits. Personally, I think the perfect combo is the MLD 850ml pot/mug and the Tail Designs ULC Caldera Cone which is short enough to fully fit inside the MLD pot. The ULC isn't a standard offering... maybe they will do a special order, or upgrade to the Fusion Ti-Tri which enables burning wood.

I wrote up my complete thoughts on my recommended stoves page.


Edited by verber on 05/02/2013 23:06:30 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Cook system recommendations on 05/03/2013 00:10:02 MDT Print View

I would suggest to get any good butane canister stove and use it for an entire season before you make your assessment. You can always shift to alcohol or Esbit next year if you need.

I can go a long way on quinoa and Gatorade.


Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Cook system recommendations on 05/03/2013 00:59:12 MDT Print View

Agree with Bob.

Two kinds of canister stoves (1) upright and (2) remote. Uprights can be plagued by wind. Remotes come with windscreens. Good starter stoves would be a Snow Peak GigaPower (upright) or a MSR WindPro, a remote (also good for 2 people and snow).

If you want to actually cook, aluminum pots are best. Titanium pots for just boiling.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Here is what I'm Using at the Moment on 05/03/2013 01:02:48 MDT Print View

I think the stove you were looking at on amazon is not bad - its very economical. It is heavy but not crazily so. If you make your own pot cozies you should be in business. You may eventually rebel at the weight if you "catch the UL bug" but it might be a good place to start. I can think of a few non-weight issues, but nothing to harp on. There are loads of real experts on here, so they might have something more interesting to say about it.

Here is what I'm using at the moment (about 1/2 the weight, but probably a bit more than twice the initial expenditure). I spent a lot of time thinking about it as a complete system, but I'm sure it is nearly identical to what a number of people here use. I have used a mini canister stove for most of my "career" but wanted to put together something more adaptable as well as less ecologically wasteful without the used canisters. Full disclosure, I still have limited actual experience using this system by comparison, but I like it a lot already.

The criteria I tried to integrate were (0) matching windscreen (goes without saying), (1) light as possible, (2) pot sized large enough, with room to spare, for nearly all "2-person" size dehydrated meals when cooked and eaten IN the pot, (3) multi-fuel options including wood for "emergencies", (4) good fuel efficiency as well as the ability to recover unspent fuel if desired, (5) pot cosy for keeping food warmed, but more importantly for performing jobs that are typically done by simmering (e.g. rice, pasta) by boiling water, sealing up tight, and waiting for long enough. Lastly (6 - the hard one, for me at least) I wanted to have it all fit inside the pot in a neat single package.

I can say if I also intended to do the above AND to share with others my head would have exploded. To do all the above AND share with others you may end up having to serially boil water for them. If you don't care about time then it will be fine, but that can be said for any stove setup. If you want to just boil a big honkin' load of water quickly and share then maybe go with a Jetboil. On the other hand, everything below is built around the pot. You could size up to the 1.3L Evernew pot (or another larger pot) and matching Tri-Ti and then you could probably "cook" for 2-3 people.

As mentioned above, with a creatively used good-quality pot cosy you can perform a wider variety of cooking tasks than re-hydration (e.g. making pasta, rice, and so on), though of course not everything. Simmering is not easy, but possibly unnecessary if you use a pot cosy creatively. So there is that part of your criteria - you will have more cooking options that just re-hydration. Plus in the system described below you can use alcohol (my preference), esbit with only a tiny 3 gm (I think) additional hit for adding a gram cracker, and wood in a pinch, all quite efficiently. I thought a long time about esbit and finally decided because of the smell and residue I would not use it with this system unless I had no other options, just Alcohol with the option of using wood if I somehow ran out of fuel, or to use wood to extend the range of my fuel when using found wood was possible (and legal).

Here is what I came up with. It is mostly intended as food for thought. Maybe it will help you figure a few things out you will like, and that fit your needs.

Total package (7.2 oz):


Packing Picture:


Contents - Evernew 0.9L Ti pot w/handles removed, matching Tri-Ti sidewinder stove, tyvek, storage envelope, 12-10 Alcohol stove (last 3 all from trail designs, and you could add the gram cracker that comes with the set for esbit if desired), Ti tent stakes for wood use with Tri-Ti(not shown - multi-use,in my stake bag), homemade pot cosy, potgragger (I use this instead of the original handles because I need it to ALSO grab the windscreen and move it while hot in order to snuff out the stove and retrieved the remaining Alcohol, if any.), Ti spoon, cut-down lexan fork, foil snuffer, plastic bag for stove to keep any fuel residue out of pot, cuben stuff sack:


"In Use" config (OK, should have had lid on as well):


With DIY Pot Cosy (refletix and reflectix tape), not sure the lid cosy will make a huge difference here LOL:


Add fuel bottle of choice (or esbit sealed in a bag). A small one can be stored in the pot (inside the sidewinder) but to my mind not really a good idea. I keep all the fuel separate, and double bagged, in my pack.

Edited by millonas on 05/03/2013 02:49:16 MDT.

Erica Ruch
(skrapp138) - M
Re: Re: Cook system recommendations on 05/03/2013 09:39:08 MDT Print View

Thank you, Mark! Your Recommended Stove page was a god read!

I agree that the temptation to use esbits based on the easy fuel planning, is hard to resist. I'm not thrilled about using a canister stove for a long haul and not knowing exactly how much fuel I'll need to carry - and having the waste of the used canisters.

Erica Ruch
(skrapp138) - M
Re: Here is what I'm Using at the Moment on 05/03/2013 09:41:54 MDT Print View

Mark - thanks for sharing your system - this looks awesome! I love how it fits in one package as well. Where can you purchase refletix?

Zorg Zumo
(BurnNotice) - F
Simmering is where the Trangia really shines on 05/03/2013 10:02:26 MDT Print View

I agree that a canister stove is a really good choice when everything works right. Call me paranoid though because I always gravitate towards solutions with the greatest reliability.

A Trangia burner is self-storing and will simmer for at least 1.5hrs. There are a lot of ways to use the burner, and there are newer, lighter versions of the basic burner for those who worry about such things. But the key is that (a) the burner body holds 3.5oz of fuel so it will run a long time unattended. (b) it has a simmer-ring and can be throttled down quite low to avoid burning the meal. (c) is self-storing so you don't have to fiddle around with unused fuel (d) there's no design more reliable and it will literally run when frozen in a block of ice. No fiddling, just light it and forget about it.

The main downside is that alcohol has only about 60% of the BTUs/weight of other fuels, so you'll use more of it in general and the raw BTU output of a alky burner is gonna be much less than that of a comparable size canister or white gas stove. That is why the Jetboil SOL Al will boil water in 2.5minutes while my Trangia/Tea Kettle takes about 8 minutes. The Jetboil user just gets to bank all those "saved" minutes I guess.

My pack could get run over by a truck and the one thing I'm pretty confident of is that I would still be able to fire up the Trangia and make some coffee. That to me makes carrying the little brass hockey-puck worth it.

Edited by BurnNotice on 05/03/2013 10:06:20 MDT.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Here is what I'm Using at the Moment on 05/03/2013 10:27:27 MDT Print View

"Where can you purchase refletix?"

You can find it at most hardware stores, as well as some form of the aluminized tape. Only problem is you have to buy a whole roll. You can buy it on amazon as well in a pinch. If you have a water heater that needs new insulation then you are in luck. LOL Here in the DIY forums, and on youtube (and all over the place basically) people have shared their own designs/techniques.

robert van putten

Locale: Planet Bob
+1 trangia on 05/03/2013 10:37:58 MDT Print View

Ya might want to take a gander at the Trangia 28 on amazon.
It's a few ounces lighter, a few dollars cheaper, I like the pot better, and the Trangia burner has been around longer than I have been (which is saying something...).

It doesn't really matter though, whatever you pick, just practice cooking with it - as much as you can - before you go anywhere with it.

A few years back I went on a cycle tour and for various reasons I was taking an old stove of mine that I'd never actually used for long term cooking ( several weeks )before.
So I set it up out on the porch and cooked every single meal I ate for a week on it, carefully noting fuel usage and what-not. It helped allot!

Just make sure you have allot of time with whatever stove you pick before you hit the trail for 14 days.

K Magz
(lapedestrienne) - F

Locale: somewhere without screens
+1 Tri-Ti on 05/03/2013 11:05:25 MDT Print View

Trail Designs Tri-Ti stove systems are great; they allow you to experiment with multiple fuel options and vary what you use depending on season, weather conditions, length of trip, etc. In the regions where I hike most of the time, I can reliably build wood fires when I want to cook, which allows me to carry very little fuel, usually just a couple of Esbit tabs (and some cottonballs soaked in vaseline to use as tinder).

I have the Evernew .9-liter version, the same one Mark pictures above, and find that it works pretty well cooking for two people, but you would definitely need a larger pot for a group any larger than that.

The only drawback to the Tri-Ti is that if you do burn wood fires often, everything gets pretty sooty--meaning you probably won't want to pack everything back inside the pot, unless you don't mind cleaning the soot out before cooking.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
Re: Re: Cook system recommendations on 05/03/2013 12:17:40 MDT Print View

I should mention that I've had my eye on this stove - if anyone has experience with it (or if I should avoid it) let me know!

Esbit 5-Piece Trekking Cook Set Includes Brass Alcohol Burner Stove and 2 Anodized Aluminum Pots
14.7 ounces/417g seems a little heavy for an alcohol/ESBIT system, particularly since this one has no windscreen. Alcohol and ESBIT systems really need a windscreen to work well. This pot is also tall and skinny. Wide, squat pots are typically more efficient. I haven't tested this particular system, but absent information to the contrary, I'd say it's not going to work particularly well and that you could do a lot better on weight.

I think both Marks have mentioned ESBIT/alcohol systems from Trail Designs. I'll add my +1 to that. They're making really good stuff. Flat Cat Gear also has some good stuff.

My set up from Trail Designs (I weighed it last night) comes in at 238g/8.4 oz for a 1.3L Ti pot, stove, windscreen, & lid insulator. Everything fits inside the pot. The lid insulator is a carbon felt "Flat Cat Hat" from Flat Cat Gear. I use it for kozy cooking. I heat everything up. Leave it set up with the "Flat Cat Hat" on top, and everything steeps inside. Works great with noodles and rice.

I had my Trail Designs set up out this weekend:

The black thing on top of the lid is the insulator; 12 grams.

Adventures in Stoving

Erica Ruch
(skrapp138) - M
Digging the Ti-Tri - alternatives? on 05/03/2013 15:03:11 MDT Print View

I'm really digging the Ti-Tri systems - thanks for the recommendation! Admittedly, all the pieces do seem a bit intimidating - is there much of a learning curve in getting it going with alcohol or esbit?

Also - the price at $125+ is a little more than I was hoping to spend - but it does have everything I should need (minus fuel). Is there anything comparable for less cost (a bit more weight is not a worry)

Dan Yeruski
(zelph) - MLife

ReCaldera Cone for the K-Mart Grease pot on 05/03/2013 15:38:15 MDT Print View

I recommend the Caldera System for the K-Mart Grease pot. It's a good starter kit and is in your price range.

Edited by zelph on 05/03/2013 15:40:15 MDT.

Paul Ashton
(PDA123) - F

Locale: Eastern Mass
Cook system on 05/03/2013 16:14:03 MDT Print View

First, there is no need to simmer quinoa, pasta, rice etc on the trail. Cook it at home and dehydrate, then all you need to do is rehydrate and heat on the trail. Like the OP I am an avid cook, but I do it in the comfort of my home kitchen, then dehydrate. If serious hiking is the aim of the outdoor experience, then the less time cooking the better. Canister stoves are, perhaps, the easiest to use. I prefer Alcohol, probably because I can make them myself for next to no money. The only exception being when I have a short trip (or car camping) when I may take my SVEA 123 for old times sake. As others have said, Trail Designs and Flat Cat gear look to be making really nice systems, but I object to the price when I can make a kit just as effective for less than $10. Trangia systems are really good, and can simmer if required, but are a bit heavy compared with TD and FCG kits. A final tip, whichever you choose, practice using it at home (outdoors though) or in the local park (as you will no doubt do with whatever shelter system you choose) before going out into the hills/forests. All of our gear has a learning curve, and this is better done when safety is just a few feet away rather than a few miles.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: ReCaldera Cone for the K-Mart Grease pot on 05/03/2013 16:20:53 MDT Print View

My first stove was a Snowpeak Gigapower (same one Nick mentions) and I still use it 95% of the time. Primarily because it just works, no matter what, and was cheap and light. Secondly because canister stoves are the only cooking allowed for about 6 months out here in the American Southwest (and summer most every where else west of the great plains) where wildfires are a serious concern. I can't get enough of it.

I'm beginning to play with alcohol and esbit. Making an alcohol stove is surprisingly simple and they pretty much all "just work" too. Your homemade may not be as efficient as some of the more advanced designs out there, but even a terrible homemade pot still usually only needs no more than an ounce of alcohol to boil. Esbit is similarly simple and cheap to make. Just make sure you use windscreens because these stoves are more wind sensitive.

If you're going to spend money instead of making your own stove, spend it on a canister stove. The Gigapower is basically the BMW 3 series of stoves. It's not the best in any category, but it excels in all categories so the only real compromise it that it's marginally heavier than other products. If you want a remote stove (read up on the advantages) you can grab a Kovea spider much cheaper than other products. It's also one of the lightest offerings. The Fire Maple stoves are also light and quality, but not sure on price (both are somewhat difficult since they aren't widely available in the US yet, ebay is a good bet).

Like Bob and Nick I suggest getting a butane stove first, then experiment with esbit or alcohol. Not every canister user plays with alcohol or esbit, but nearly every diehard esbit/alcohol advocate still owns a canister stove, and with good reason.

Dan Yeruski
(zelph) - MLife

Re: Digging the Ti-Tri - alternatives? on 05/03/2013 17:15:28 MDT Print View

This Trail Designs partial kit looks pretty good.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Canister Stoves (stoves part deux) on 05/03/2013 19:02:00 MDT Print View

Yes, I agree. I guess a lot of us have used canister stoves so much over the years that we have internalized all their conveniences and limitations. If this really is literally your first stove, then you may well want to go with one of them. I don't have anything negative to say about them worth mentioning in this context. Probably I (and a lot of those here) have grown a bit bored with them, but that is not even in the top ten worst things you can say about gear - bored is probably a good thing. Especially as the opposite of bored where gear is concerning is usually not ecstatic enlightenment, but red-faced seething frustration, chuck that stuff at a tree or throw it off a 3000 foot mountainside anger.

Canister stoves are easily the simplest - turn knob - light - adjust knob. Just like your gas stove at home. They are already the most efficient, or very close to most efficient, in most situation where extremes of temperature are not an issue - not taking account of the canister weight itself which you can not get rid of except a trail heads. They can be fairly compact, you can use the canister as a "tripod", and very clean. Almost no learning curve, though you should still try it out before day 1 of your JMT adventure. The canisters are somewhat bulky but not too terribly so - until you start going so light that you start to count SPACE taken in your pack almost as important as weight.

Again, just some pictures to spark your imagination. This is basically what I have (almost) literally been using for the last ten years. Again this is for solo. You can use a bigger pot and windscreen if you want to cater to more people. On the other hand canister stoves are FAST, especially with a good windscreen, so you can easily just pass a solo one around without people crying in hunger pains while waiting - get your friends to carry their own canisters.

Packed (12.3 oz total w/out the gas canister. Small canisters can be packet inside this mug, Large one must be packed separately):


Contents: Snow Peak 0.7L mug & Lid, Snow peak Ti gigapower stove with igniter, windscreen base (DIY Al sheeting or basting pan, really need this to use windscreen and keep heat from the canister), Al foil windscreen, Cozy made out of ziplock covered container with reflectix super glued on, Ti spoon, cut down lexan fork, table-cloth/ pot grip, canister (size varies depending on needs):


Working Configuration: Stove on canister windscreen base on stove, windscreen on base, pot on stove, lid on pot.


Others may have a different set of tea ceremony steps, I usually boil the water for my food then dump it and the dehydrated food into the zip-lock cozy and lid and wait the requisite time. While that is going on I boil water to satiate my coffee monster, and drink that out of the mug.

Edited by millonas on 05/03/2013 23:41:00 MDT.