Rating: 5 / 5
Using a Caldera cone is a convenient way to integrate a pot holder with a windscreen when using an alcohol burner. Now that I have these, I doubt I will ever cook over alcohol without it again.
Previous to getting my caldera cones, heating water with alcohol was inconvenient and wasteful for me. There were too many components, and too much heat loss with my amateurish windscreens. None of the common windscreen designes using mesh, wires, bicycle spokes, tent stakes, etc appealed to my asthetics. Setup and takedown was also not comparable to the convenience of my jetboil; the industry standard in 'human factors engineering' for stoves, IMO.
Now that I own a caldera, I can actually consider using alcohol again. I have only three stove components, my pot, the caldera cone, and an alcohol burner of my choice. Not a bunch of fragile screens, holders, wire mesh supports, grips, etc..
Regarding choice of burner, my first choice is to reach for my Trangia because of its bombproof durability, but if you are more careful than I; the TD included stove is probably just as efficient, and much lighter.
Setup with the Caldera literally takes seconds, just like with a Jetboil. You curve the stove, insert the tabs, light your burner, then drop the Caldera and pot on top. 5 minutes later 600ml of water is boiling. It is probably obvious by looking at it, but the design of the cone traps the hot air as it chimneys up the bottom and sides of the pot, transferring more heat to that pot than an open-top windscreen could do.
I am sort of ashamed to admit this, but another reason I like the Caldera is that it doesn't look like I made it from kitchen aluminum foil and old beer cans. I know, MYOG gurus would get upset at that comment, but I mean no offense. With the pot in place and steam rising out, it looks like a well engineered and precicely manufactured industrial product- which it is, just made in small quantities.
I bought Caldera cones sized for the Snowpeak 600 and 1400ml pots. At that time there was no cone for my SP 900ml, but word is they will soon offer one. That would be the optimum size for preparing water for one meal and one drink for a solo hiker, or two meals for a couple. I intend on buying the 900ml version as soon as it is ready. They might have a cone for your favorite pot, email them to find out.
Bottom line.. The Caldera cone makes alcohol cooking convenient, efficient, and dare I say, attractive. I doubt I will ever use an alcohol stove without a cone again. T.D. has models for many popular cup/pots, and seem to be working on more as I write this.
edit: people have commented about the difficulty of storage, and found various ways to roll and secure this stove. Best storage method I found is to open it flat and slide it in the hydration sleeve, or next to the sit pad/internal frame. takes up almost no volume this way and adds to the virtual frame capability; maybe 10 cubic inches volume this way?
Trail Designs has a new type of tabbed closure for the cones, as shown in a picture below. The older design was more prone to breakage in my experience; whereas the new design is sealed for the entire length of the cone. This new design does not require any spring tension to keep the cone closed, and seems more secure.
Just received the new Caldera Cookset which integrates several items,
a 3 (600ml) pot and lid,
Caldera Cone and alcohol stove for that pot,
a 4 cup (800ml) cup and lid,
cozys for pot, cup, and their lids,
nylon stack to store it all.
These components nest together in a compact form factor which protects the caldera cone from damage. The cone, handle, stove, and fuel bottle all fit in the 4 cup ziplock screwtop container.
Quality of construction is really excellent. The lid fits the pot, cozys are snug but come off easily, and the stove shows no warping or poor construction as found on say, a Brasslite Turbo.
Total weight of everything in the photos, minus wrapping, is 325 grams. A lighter fuel bottle could be substituted for the one provided.
I did a quick test of the setup by boiling 500ml of cold water for ramen. Conditions were indoors, on a stove top for safety. The water boiled in 4 minutes 15 seconds, at which time I removed the pot and put it, and the ramen, in the cozy to cook. The stove continued to burn for 3:30 more, indicating I could have used 20ml of fuel instead of the 30ml I started with.
After 5 minutes in the cozy the ramen was ready to eat, but still too hot to do so (about 95'C!)
The 4 cup screwtop container provided in the kit can be used for boil in a bag meals, leaving the pot free for a second course/person. Assuming you carry bulk food in a ziplock, pour one meals worth into the cup, add boiling water from the pot, and return the pot to the stove to heat more water for another meal or beverage.
In this way, this set can be used to prepare meals and drinks for two; just add two styrofoam cups for the drinks.
I now have a few cones fitting my Snowpeak pots and AGG pot; I really would not cook outdoors without a cone around my pot for the added efficiency it provides.
Using a screwtop container, or even a plastic cup (all cones come with one or the other from AGG), pretty much solves the storage problem.
Edit: some pictures were enlarged, some were shrunk when uploaded, not sure why..