Trail Designs Caldera Keg-H (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009)

Heineken beer can based Caldera system capable of cooking for two people.

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by Alan Dixon and Alison Simon | 2009-07-28 00:09:00-06

Editor's Note: This article was opened to the public on July 22, 2010. To subscribe and see Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2010 articles as they are published, click here.

Trail Designs Caldera Keg-H (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009) - 1
5.9-ounce Trail Designs Caldera Keg-H System as field-tested.

One of the new products Trail Designs showed at us was their Caldera Keg-H cooking system:

  • Light: At 3 ounces per person and capable of boiling 2.5 to 2.75 cups of water, the Keg-H may be the lightest complete two-person-capable alcohol cooking system on the market. It is almost half the weight of the similar boil capacity Trail Designs/Anti Gravity Gear 3-cup Caldera Kitchen (approx 5.7 ounces per person).
  • Fuel efficient: We cooked for two people (5 days, 4 nights) on 8 fluid ounces of fuel.
  • Compact: The whole Keg-H system is just slightly larger than a standard 24-ounce Heineken beer can.
  • Easy to use: We found the Keg-H system as easy to use as the AGG 3-cup Caldera Kitchen; possibly easier, since it requires no pot holder.

After the Show, Alison and I had an opportunity to field test the Keg-H system on a five-day backpacking trip at 11,000 feet. While a smidge less fuel efficient than the AGG 3-cup Caldera (our reference standard for an alcohol system), it did quite well. We cooked for two people, 5 days and 4 nights, on 8 fluid ounces of alcohol; with the weight savings over the AGG 3-cup Caldera system, you can easily carry more fuel and come out ahead on boils per trip. The Keg-H will probably be our couple's cooking system in the future, and may well be Alan's solo cooking system as well. It retails for $60.00.

System Weight as Field Tested - Caldera Keg-H for Two People
Item g oz
Trail Designs Caldera Cone 26 0.92
Trail Designs Stove 15 0.53
Self-supplied 8 fl oz fuel bottle + fuel measure 31 1.09
TD Heineken pot w/bands (cup for one person) 41 1.45
Lid 6 0.21
Self-supplied Glad 14-oz bowl (cup for second person) 38 1.34
Bag 10 0.35
Total Weight 167 5.89
Weight per person 84 2.95

Fuel Consumption per day 11,000 feet (50-60s F evening, 40s F morning)
19 ml PM boil 2 cups for two-person freeze dried meal
15 ml PM heat 2.75 cups treated water for two-person hot chocolate
26 ml AM boil 2.5 to 2.75 cups hot water for two-person tea
60 ml Total ml alcohol per hiking day (2 fluid ounces)

Trail Designs Caldera Keg-H (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009) - 2

 Keg-H System Weight as purchased from Anti Gravity Gear
Item g oz
Standard Caldera Cone 26 0.92
Stove 15 0.53
5 fl oz capacity Fuel Bottle (note smaller capacity) 18 0.63
TD Heineken pot w bands (cup for one person) 41 1.45
Lid 6 0.21
Anti Gravity Gear Cozy 18 0.63
Anti Gravity Gear Cup (cup/bowl for second person) 38 1.34
Anti Gravity Gear Bag 10 0.35
Total Weight 172 6.07

Trail Designs Caldera Keg-H (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009) - 3
The Caldera Keg-H system packed.


Citation

"Trail Designs Caldera Keg-H (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009)," by Alan Dixon and Alison Simon. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/orsm09_caldera_keg_h.html, 2009-07-28 00:09:00-06.

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Forum Index » Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009 » Trail Designs Caldera Keg-H (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009)


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Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Questions on 07/29/2009 16:06:54 MDT Print View

Maximum heat transfer occurs when the water level is right at the top of the cone. Slide the band up or down accordingly.
However, efficiency depends on the height of the Keg above the stove. So, operate as close to the design height as possible.

A second band rests at the top of the Keg to prevent burning your lips. It also serves as a 'grip ring' to lift the Keg out of the Cone. With a tight fit you may have to hold the Cone via one of the vent holes at the bottom.

Brad Fisher
(wufpackfn) - M

Locale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
Re: Re: Questions on 07/29/2009 17:20:47 MDT Print View

Couple additional thing to consider when discussing the price.

- It is not a hobby, but a business
- Don't forget taxes (federal, state, social security/medicare, SS match if self employed.
- Cost for business tax return prep, business license, business insurance (liability to protect himself if someone gets hurt using product)
- Cash out of his pocket to buy materials.

I own my own business, so I live in this world. All the extras add up fast.

Just food for thought.

BTW, I have the Keg and love.

Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Questions on 07/29/2009 17:33:33 MDT Print View

The Heineken is 24 oz to very near the brim. It is not practical to boil 24 oz as you would have significant boil over and spillage. Somewhere around 2.5 to 2.75 cups is the limit you can boil (even then you can have a smidge of boil over but IMO not enough to worry about).

We only warm treated water to around 130-140 F for our "hot" drink. In this mode you could heat as much water as the can holds.

As to handling the pot with boiled water, you can hold it with fingertips (using both hands) around the middle band. I just pour with the cone still attached. The cone is so light this is not a problem. And it is a bit iffy to try and separate the can and cone when the can is full of hot water.

I think TD is going to make the cone to can fit a little less snug so it will be easier to separate the two.

Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Re: Questions on 07/29/2009 17:41:20 MDT Print View

>Maximum heat transfer occurs when the water level is right at the top of the cone. Slide the band up or down accordingly.

Sliding the band up and down is not a great idea. To operate efficiently the height between the can and stove needs to be in a fairly tight range. For the cone shipped with the KEG-H, you should have the band right around the middle of the can as shipped. This is maintains the bottom of the can the optimal height above the stove.

But you are right on one point. The lower the can sits in the cone the greater the heat transfer area and the greater the efficiency. But to do that you need a taller cone to maintain the height above the stove. I actually have a taller cone to do just this with the KEG-H system. The increased efficiency is not earth shattering. And the packability of the system decreases as the cone no longer fits neatly into the can.

The top band is not a great "pot holder." It may work for some but the middle band is what is supposed to act pot holder.

Edited by alandixon on 07/29/2009 17:42:40 MDT.

Elizabeth Zaffarano
(buteo35)
Re: Re: Questions on 07/29/2009 17:43:41 MDT Print View

Thanks, Alan and Greg for your replies.
I am looking for something fast and light for when I have to drag around a bear can, and I'd like to be able to heat at ~ 2 cups of water at a shot. Looks like I can do that with this system, also taking into account that "hot" beverages do not necessarily need boiling water (thx for that reminder Alan!).

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Re: Questions on 07/29/2009 17:59:25 MDT Print View

"Sliding the band up and down is not a great idea. To operate efficiently the height between the can and stove needs to be in a fairly tight range. For the cone shipped with the KEG-H, you should have the band right around the middle of the can as shipped. This is maintains the bottom of the can the optimal height above the stove."

I have been experimenting with digging a hole to sink my Gram Cracker down below the bottom of the cone, thus allowing me to also lower the "pot". It's a very effective solution provided the ground is soft enough to dig a hole. The main thing is to keep the distance between the bottom of the pot and stove at around a 50 to 75 mm (2-3 inches) for the Gram Cracker, and 75 mm (3 inches) for the 12-10.

Gregory Kaye
(fellraven) - F
Re: Pffft.... on 07/30/2009 15:02:23 MDT Print View

I found Tinny to be very money orientated. I questioned some of his figures on his forum and was instantly banned . I am British and was very impressed by the so called American free speech. On the other hand when I enquired about a Caldera cone the bloke at Trail designs couldnt have been more helpful. Perhaps because they are genuine backpackers and not just a commercial enterprise.

Ken Charpie
(kencharpie) - MLife

Locale: Western Oregon
Re: Main Point... on 07/31/2009 00:26:16 MDT Print View

Your not paying $60 for a stove; you're paying $60 for a complete kitchen set. You can always try to make one yourself, but putting together a tight fitting cone, companion cozy, sewing a bag, and finding the perfect size cup for the system is a fair amount of work. I think the price is very reasonable for the time, effort, and research that has gone into this system.

If you're willing to save some money and do the work yourself, go for it. But I'm not gonna knock any small company for their work on a project like this. I think we need more companies (like trail designs) out there coming up with lightweight innovations like these kitchens.

Jeff Moody
(BigTiki) - F
Value on 07/31/2009 17:32:14 MDT Print View

I don't mean to sound harsh but........I take that back, I do mean to sound harsh. I really wish people would just keep their mouth shut if they have nothing of value to add to a discussion. Especially those that admit after the fact that they were ill informed. If you don't like the product, think it costs to much, you can make it yourself or whatever.....just move along. I want to have an intelligent and meaningful discussion about a product. That discussion can include your dislikes and reasoning but to just bash something is BS.

Edwin Short
(shortdottedline@comcast.net) - F
Re: Tested System is Lighter: Trail Designs Caldera Keg-H (Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2009) on 07/31/2009 19:47:32 MDT Print View

re caldera cone, it is very simple to make one out of doubled al. foil and punch holes wher you need too. You can fold it and make a new on very quickly. I use a very light wgt. hdwre cloth pot stand with the cone. The cone does not need to hold the pot!...gnome

Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
Re: Value on 08/01/2009 15:15:30 MDT Print View

Jeff wrote: "I really wish people would just keep their mouth shut if they have nothing of value to add to a discussion. If you don't like the product, think it costs to much, you can make it yourself or whatever.....just move along. I want to have an intelligent and meaningful discussion about a product. That discussion can include your dislikes and reasoning but to just bash something is BS."

I think it can add value to the conversation to discuss pricing. If the manufacturer sees there is some resistance to pricing he might be able to re-think the way he is offering the product to lower the price, and thereby sell more product. If not, at least he might be aware that he really needs to sell the value.

I might be wrong, but I think the idea behind this forum is to discuss and share ideas. So, as long as ideas and opinions are presented in a courteous manner, and at least generally stay on topic, everyone is entitled to post. Just as everyone is entitled not to read the post if they don't agree.

Jeff Moody
(BigTiki) - F
Value on 08/01/2009 16:55:10 MDT Print View

Pamela,

Pretty much agree 100% with what you said. The person my comment was mainly directed at neither added value to the conversation nor was it presented in a courteous manner. I still stand by the last line of my post.

In regards to pricing I don't mind paying a little more to the so called "little" guys. It is often that you see the most innovation from these companies. If the extra $10 or whatever helps keep them profitable and in the game I'm all for it. Who knows? By not keeping them in the game we just might miss out on the next great innovation.

This community is pretty unique. There are not many places where you can go to a forum and actually converse with the people behind the gear. I find it pretty cool that if I really needed to I could speak with Henry about his tents, the guys at TD about cooking systems or Sarah and Laurie about trail food and cooking methods.

Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
Re: Value on 08/01/2009 21:50:17 MDT Print View

"This community is pretty unique. There are not many places where you can go to a forum and actually converse with the people behind the gear. I find it pretty cool that if I really needed to I could speak with Henry about his tents, the guys at TD about cooking systems or Sarah and Laurie about trail food and cooking methods."

And I will 100% agree with that.

I also agree it is worth a little more to support the innovative cottage industry. Although I think their gear is often less expensive that the more mainline gear of the same general quality. I'm sometimes amazed at how inexpensively they can sell it given the low volume and intense labor costs.

Tom Caldwell
(Coldspring) - F

Locale: Ozarks
Re: Re: Value on 08/01/2009 22:07:23 MDT Print View

"I also agree it is worth a little more to support the innovative cottage industry."

I did my part for them. I just wish I could have ordered a cone w/o having to pay for a whole kit.

It is a pretty good deal for a kit, I gotta admit. I think I have over $90 in my ti pot, cone, and stove now.

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F - M

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Re: Re: Value on 08/03/2009 23:26:56 MDT Print View

Just as a guess, I bet the profit margin on a Snow Peak or MSR canister stove is higher than the Caldera Cone. And that's not to knock Snow Peak or MSR.

I've noticed a few folks who used to make inexpensive alki stoves to sell no longer do--I'm guessing after a while, spending weekends in the garage making very little money instead of being out hiking got old. When cottage gear makers charge enough that they can stay in business, we all benefit.

I make my own stoves, and enjoy it. I've spent at least $60 worth of my time (okay, maybe $600) fiddling with different windscreens, painting pots with stove black, etc, and I didn't do the basic R&D on any of it. Even so, the efficiency reported for the two person Caldera Keg is at least twice what my setup will ever do.

For me, having a key piece of gear that works well enough, and that I can point to and say, "I made that" is important enough that the inefficiency vs. a Caldera Keg is worth it--I guess the extra fuel is one of my "luxuries."

But I completely understand why a whole lot of other folks would rather just spend $60 for a system they know will work perfectly.

Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Pot height for GramCraker and Esbit on 08/04/2009 08:54:22 MDT Print View

Lynn wrote:
>I have been experimenting with digging a hole to sink my Gram Cracker down below the bottom of the cone, thus allowing me to also lower the "pot". It's a very effective solution provided the ground is soft enough to dig a hole. The main thing is to keep the distance between the bottom of the pot and stove at around a 50 to 75 mm (2-3 inches) for the Gram Cracker, and 75 mm (3 inches) for the 12-10.

Actually, this makes sense as long as you are still practicing "no trace." Also, the Esbit is less sensitive to the hight of of the pot. The pot can be lower (than for the alcohol 12-10 burner) and still be efficient.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
Re: Re: Re: Value on 08/04/2009 10:10:53 MDT Print View

"I also agree it is worth a little more to support the innovative cottage industry."
you can continue your quest to support the cottage industry by purchasing one of my underquilts for that hammock of yours :P

this keg system looks to be overall a fairly great idea, despite its minor flaws (claiming that 1.5 cups is "ideal" for "most" backcountry meals, its my understanding that "most" of them require 2 cups)
however im not ready to squeeze the trigger yet, since i already have all of the components save for the cone. the Lance "livestrong" bracelets are about $1, stoves are easy to come by and i have about 5 designs laying about..so for now im going to stick with my Zelph Cobalt Blue made just for beer cans*. If in the future i get this caldera system and it proves to be the answer to all of life's questions... then i guess i'll have learned not to be so cheap :P
as a cottage gear maker, i understand the principle of asking a fair price, but also covering your expenses and then there's this little thing called eating.. a guy's gotta eat!
$60 doesnt sound unfair. im just cheap. Mike
*the cobalt would work on any small dia. pot

Edited by mikeinfhaz on 08/06/2009 17:58:54 MDT.

Matthew Robinson
(mcjhrobinson) - F

Locale: Waaay West
re: TD keg H on 08/10/2009 00:35:11 MDT Print View

i think $60 is a steal if you ask me. my free time is worth ALOT of money.

im glad to see TD coming out with new stuff. i got their system for the 550 and love it! wish i had an excuse to pick one up and try it out.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: re: TD keg H on 08/10/2009 08:26:39 MDT Print View

I just got back from yet another trip using my Caldera Keg system. It's brilliant.

I've owned at least 12-15 different alcohol stoves including 3 from MiniBullDesigns and one that I made. Nothing that I've used comes close to this setup. The big difference is that it works the same every time, regardless of wind. It's fast and efficient, and one of the best purchases I've made. In wind it outperforms every canister stove I own as well.

This is an extremely well engineered piece of equipment. And when looking at the actual cone, I would be hard pressed to find someone who could make one like this. Further, everything works as a system- the stove and cone are made to go together.

To each his own, but background research is a good idea prior to making inflammatory remarks.

Greg Vaillancourt
(gsv454) - F
Love the 2 Caldera Cones I have on 11/09/2009 21:30:56 MST Print View

I've made quite a few stoves and bought a few as well.

What makes these Caldera systems special is they are a "system". They are miserly in their use of alcohol and are more immune to the wind than anything else I've tried.