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Welcome to this edition of Process. This is where we get into the how-to of outdoor adventures.
Today we’re going to jump into some details about camp stoves and what you’ll want to consider when getting a new one.
Let’s get cookin’.
You’ve just spent all day hiking. You’re exhausted. All you want to is that giant burger to stuff in your face. But you don’t have a giant burger in your pack, backpacking food is all you’ve got. Chances are you need to heat water or food before you can eat it. And you probably want to heat things up anyways. A hot meal after a long day hiking, especially in cold, miserable weather, could be the best part about backpacking. The wait while you’re cooking can be excruciating but that warm satisfied feeling laying around camp after a good meal can’t be beat.
With so many stoves on the market right now, how do you choose one? We’ll walk you some of the basics of stoves and which one to go with for your situation.
First a few questions.
Questions to Ask Yourself
The first thing we need to do is look at how you’re going to use your stove. There are some questions you should answer before even looking at any stoves. The answers to these will direct you to the type of stove you’ll be happy with. Stoves are just like tents, there are many options but many not be only 1 best choice. Most of the time you can narrow it down to a small number of choices that will suit you best and then you can decide from there. So grab a piece of paper (or computer or tablet or phone) and write out your answers to these questions. These are also nice to remind yourself what exactly you are buying your stove for when you go looking at new shiny gear.
What are you going to cook?
How many people are you cooking for?
Where are you going to use it?
Where will you get fuel from?
How much weight do you want to carry?
How much space do you have?
Now that we’ve got those questions out of the way, we can move on to the features of the stoves and how they relate to your questions. Keep your answers from the questions above handy as you go through the features and examples at the end.
Major Features of Stoves
Now we’re into the major features of all the stoves. These specifications or features are different on every stove so watch for these when you are buying.Type of fuel and canister
There are a few different types of fuel on the market for stoves these days. Most stoves only have the required parts for one type of fuel. It may be important to be able to use different kinds of fuel because you travel or like different types for different applications.IsoButane Canisters
These are the small metal canisters you can get from outdoor gear stores. They are very convenient to use and light weight. These stoves are fast and easy to light. You cannot refill the containers though and it can be tough to see know how much you have left. Many backpackers have a pile of half-used canisters because they don’t know how much are in them. Some canister manufacturers are starting to put measurements on the canisters so you can float them in water and see where the fuel level is.Liquid White Gas
White gas has been used in camping stoves for a long time. It’s a mix of [what kind of fuel?]. The benefit to white gas stoves is that you can see how much you have left and refill the fuel bottles. These are heavier to carry though. Bigger, more powerful stoves are often white gas. White Gas stoves are great for big groups or melting snow.Alcohol
If you’re looking to go ultra lightweight, a small alcohol stove may be your best option. You can make one out of a pop can[link to instructions?]. These can be finicky to light [that true?] but are nice and light.Others
Some stoves are able to use fuels like diesel or other liquids that burn so it’s easier to find something you can cook with. Others, like the BioLite stove, are turning to wood you’d find on the trail to keep your fire going.Weight of stove
Always in the mind of every backpacker, the weight of the stove can be important. Do you want to carry a big stove around with you or a tiny little pocket-sized cooker. There are perks to each size. It just depends on what you want to do with it. If you’re going to be cooking gourmet meals for large groups then you’ll be getting a bigger stove with more space on top. If you need to be fast and light and are just boiling water with the occasional soup, then something tiny and fast might be the way to go.Boiling speed
Every stove has a different speed at which it can boil water. It all depends on the size of the flame under the pot, the intensity of that flame and amount of wind protection you can give it. If all the heat is going out the side with the wind, you’ll be waiting a long time for your food! Boiling speeds range from 3 minutes up to 5 or 6 minutes. The boil times will range with a given stove depending on the temperature, windspeed and fuel canister pressure. IsoButane canister pressure drops as you use the so your boil time will increase as you use the canister. White Gas fuel bottles can be pressurized whenever you use them so the boil times will stay more constant.Operation at Altitude and in Weather
These factors will affect how much pressure is in your canister and how much heat is getting to your pot. Some stoves like the MSR Reactor have a bunch of special parts and a special pot to conserve all that heat and direct as much of it as possible straight into the pot. Wind and bad conditions will slow that process down.Size of Pot
If you’re pot is going to be for 1 or 2 people then you can get a smaller stove but if you are going to be cooking giant meals for a group of 10 you’ll want something bigger. A small stove with a lot of people will work in a pinch but it’s much more convenient to get something bigger. Some stoves require special pots so keep that in mind. The MSR Reactor pot doesn’t fit on any other stove and you can’t use any other pot on the Reactor so keep that in mind if you get a specialized setup like this. Aside from a few specialized options, most pots and stoves work very well together.Type of controls
Some stoves have multiple adjustments on them to make it easier to simmer. If that’s important to you add it to your list.Location of Canister
The location of IsoButane canisters can be different on the stoves. Some are attached directly to the stove with the stove sitting on top of the canisters. Some canisters are attached remotely and connect through a gas tube.Specialized attachments
Some stoves have special features on them and other attachments that only fit with that stove. That can be good or bad depending on how you look at it. Some have special pots, battery chargers, or wind screens. The MSR Reactor, for example, has special pots that fit onto it’s burner. It’s very fast at boiling but you can’t use other pots with it.
It would be a good idea to order these in priority for yourself when you are picking one. Is the type of fuel more important to you than the size of the stove? Is the weight of the stove more important than the size of the pots it can hold. Think about your questions above and then prioritize the features to fit what you want to do.Stove Examples
Liquid White Gas
This article can’t cover the topic of stoves entirely so here are a few other good links about stoves
What did I miss? Is there anything else you’d add to the list of stoves? Do you have any good stove resources I can add to the list?
Bonnell Creek Falls - A short hike to a set of waterfalls in Nanoose
Mount De Cosmos - The mountain behind Mount Benson. An relatively easy hike when the gates are open.
Cable Bay Trail - A dog-offleash trail to Dodd’s Narrows in Nanaimo
Morrell Sanctuary - A network of single track for hiking in Nanaimo. Connects to Westwood Lake park.
Note from Ross: I haven’t done much stand up paddle boarding but it’s definitely on my list of things to do more of. My friend, Jen Vroom, started Van Isle Paddle Board Co.this year and has done tours all summer. I asked her to explain a bit about what paddle boarding is.
Stand up paddle boarding is one of the fastest growing water sports in the world. It is not only a recreational pass time but also a competitive sport. It is a zero impact sport which allows for participation for any person of any age. Paddle boarding offers greater versatility than other paddle sports in addition to providing a more intimate relationship with the water due to the simplistic nature of the sport.
While the origins of paddle boarding are contested it is believed to have originated in tropical locations such as Polynesia and Hawaii, we do know that is served as the initial mode of transportation for people in water. Due to this early heritage the connection that an individual has with their external environment while paddle boarding is unlike any other water sport activity. It is an eco-friendly sport that will only burn calories. A majority of the workout focuses primarily on the core muscle groups while utilizing stabilizer muscles to maintain your balance and your upper body to propel you further.
Being based out of the coastal community of Nanaimo, I find it incredible that people rarely spend time on the water. We are presented with fantastic opportunities to enjoy the biodiversity of the ocean while being able to just as easily paddle down a river. The protected environments of the local lakes also provide a different experience as they offer a perfect opportunity for people to practice their skills before heading out onto the ocean.
The paddle boards we offer weigh roughly 23 pounds and vary between 11’0 and 12’0 which makes them easy to transport. The stability of the boards is incredibly high but still leaves the need for a skill to be acquired. I always find it interesting whenever we come across people on tours who assume that it is incredibly challenging. Typically people are up and running after only 15 minutes. The fear for most people is that they will fall off, but we have noticed that the involuntary fall rate we have encountered is close to 1 out of every 20 people.
Ultimately, this is an activity that re-establishes an individual’s connection with nature. It brings a peaceful awareness of the environment in a non-intrusive manner. There’s something to be said about a person who is floating on the ocean with little more than a board and a paddle because it’s a feeling that needs to be experienced.
Jennifer Vroom is an outdoor adventure enthusiast. She started stand up paddleboarding in Nanaimo a few years ago and loved it so much I decided to share my passion with others. She now runs Van Isle Paddle Board Co.
See more about Van Isle Paddle Board Co. at http://www.vanislepaddleboardco.com/
Welcome to this edition of Picks. This is where we pick the best new articles, videos and music from around the interwebs to keep you pumped for your next adventure.
The CampSiteBlog by Meghan J. Ward
Inner Journeys. Outdoor World. Meghan talks about the inner more intellectual side of the outdoor world we love.
Garmin Fenix GPS Watch
A new GPS watch from Garmin
Garmin Virb Action Camera
Lookout GoPro Garmin has a new action camera
Suunto Ambit GPS Watch
Suunto competitor to the Fenix
Van Isle Paddleboard Co on Facebook
These guys are Vancouver Island’s newest paddleboarding tour and less company
New Satellite phone from Spot
Call wherever you need to.
A new video from Leo Zuckerman about playing in the snow. It was shot and edited in 7 days for the World Ski and Snowboard Festival in Whistler this year.
Modern day life can be so noisy. Traffic, alarms, phones, music, talking. Can we get away from it? Often skiers, runners and climbers are trying to do just that.
Outdoors Online: Google to map trails, historical sites in national parks
Google will be mapping some of our national parks and trails with a backpack-mounted camera rig.
Wild Isle Adventure from Rumon Carter
A multi-sport adventure across Vancouver Island
Music: Greyhound by Swedish House Mafia
What a song to get pumped up for a run with.
Submit your Picks for the next edition. We’d love to hear them.
Featured MapVI Trails
Heather Mountain - A bumpy drive to an easy double-track trail with great views near Lake Cowichan.
Heart Lake - Steep well-maintained single track up to Heart Lake in Ladysmith.
Christie Falls - Easy logging road walking in Ladysmith.
Trans Canada Trail: Nanaimo River Road to Nanaimo River - A short but scenic trail to Nanaimo River in Nanaimo.
That’s it for this edition of Picks. See you next week for the first edition of Process where we dive into camp stoves.
Welcome to this edition of Picture. This is where we highlight the best photos from recent trips.
The light winds and fair weather of the 2013 Southern Straights Yacht race made for slow sailing but beautiful views.
Do you have a great sunset picture from somewhere? Share it in the comments!
Green Mountain can be a tough mountain to hike but if you can it’s worth it. Between Second and Fourth Lake Green Mountain hosts some of the nicest spring wildflowers I’ve seen on the island.
Read more on Green Mountain on Trackr.
Hope you enjoyed this edition of Picture. Stay tuned for the first edition of Process next week where we look at something important for hiking trips, cooking on the trail.
Welcome to this edition of Place. In Place articles we talk about the best places to get your adventure on. This edition is about one of my favourite hikes on Vancouver Island.
The Juan de Fuca trail is a 47km hike along the west coast of Vancouver Island. It runs from just north of Victoria at Sooke to Port Renfew up the coast. Port Renfrew is the north end of the Juan de Fuca Trail and also the south end of the West Coast Trail, the famous 75km hike that skirts the coast north to Bamfield.
The Juan de Fuca features beautiful (and often muddy) single track trail through the coastal forest and along the rock and sand beaches. Portions of the trail can be done along the forest trail or the beach. Multiple areas of the trail are cut off at high-tide which can make timing important.
Campsites are in designated spots along the trail or on a few of the beaches. Distances hiking between the campsites range from 9km to 14km. Most people take between 4 and 6 days on the trail. 5 days is a perfect pace to hike the trail at but you may have to squish it into 4 to fit into the pesky schedule of those day jobs.
The south end of the trail undulates up and down adding up to hundreds of metres of elevation gain and loss over the trail. One particular hill up out of a creek and over a ridge near the middle of the trail felt so long, I dubbed it “the neverending hill”. The north end flattens out considerably and is a relaxing hike through the coastal forest over boardwalk and soft spongy ground.
You’ll see a huge variety of plant, tree and animal life along the trail. The plants range from tiny shrubs all the way to massive old growth cedars. Most of the forest is spacious and open but parts grow so tightly hardly any light hits the trail. Birds and and other animals are often on the trail and may get into your food. Most of the campsites have bear caches where you can store your food overnight to prevent any issues. It’s always a good idea to bring some rope to hang it from a tree just in case. You probably don’t want to fight a bear over your food in the middle of the night. Cougars and bears are fairly common on this part of the island so it’s recommended you make noise or carry bear bells to warn them of your arrival. Animals sightings are advertised at each information board along the trail.
If you’re really up for a speedy hike, a group from Victoria runs the 47km long single track trail in less than one day. Some of the times have gotten down around 5 or 6 hours for the entire trail. Now that’s a fast hike!
There’s more trail information on the BC Parks Juan de Fuca Trail page.
Have you hiked the Juan de Fuca? What was your favorite part?
Pick your Place
Want to see a Place featured here? Submit your own idea for a Place.
Roberts Roost is a short hike in Nanaimo starting from Morrell Sanctuary and ending on the south shoulder of Mount Benson. Steep in parts, the hike is worth the trip to see great views of Nanaimo without going all the way to the top of Benson.