Biofuel everywhere: field cooking with a handful of small twigs using the Solo Stove

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques with tags , , on January 7, 2015 by William Hooks

DSCN1819 DSCN1820 DSCN1822   I passed a fire ring someone set up, east of Inspiration Point and decided to cook with dead wood in the shade of pines, at 7300 ft elevation in the local mountains west of Wrightwood.

I guess you could say that I found the right wood (heh), as the fire was very easy to start and maintain after processing some limbs with the GB Mini hatchet (12 oz). I really like the Solo Stove: simple, light, hot, efficient using very little wood, easy to dispense with coals and ash. I carry no fuel with me.

Some operating tips:

-Do not overload the stove with large pieces of wood. I recommend 3-5mm diameter twigs about 10 -12 cm in length and have somewhat larger-diameter wood available to sustain the fire, in the 6-10mm range.

-This stove is very hot to handle after use. I ‘ve had great success using Petzl Cordex leather belay/rappel gloves (which do dual use for climbing) in picking up the stove to empty the coals, as well as manipulating the Snowpeak 900ml pot which is normally used for cooking.  One useful feature is that the stove base remains cool due to the design, also preventing scorching of the underlying support surface.

-My aluminum MSR stove windscreen works beautifully with the Solo and Emberlit biomass stoves, reducing heat loss and improving boil times in more adverse conditions.

– I typically use either a firesteel, lighter or match to light whatever selected tinder is available, whether natural or synthetic. My preference when speed is more important is to use Coghlan prefab tinder, finding that about 1/2 of a unit is enough for most purposes.

I like the Exotac FireRod and Swedish Light My Fire Scout v2 /Fireknife firesteels in particular; integrated rod into the handle of the knife is very useful and light, and the knife’s spine is specifially designed to be used with ferro rods. The ergonomics are excellent with the Swedish models and the larger rod diameters, especially with the Exotac, are reassuring as I’ve fractured several smaller rods. To obtain the Exotacs as well as my GB Mini-hatchet, I contacted  Oso Grande Knife & Tool Co. Sport Chalet and REI carry various Light My Fire items.

My 2 wood-burning stoves for field use

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques with tags , , , , on December 31, 2014 by William Hooks

DSCN1804DSCN1805DSCN1806Solo stove in useDSCN1722 DSCN1794 DSCN1795 DSCN1798 DSCN1801 Solo wood stove in carry bag

These 2 wood stoves feature completely different design concepts, but share some commonalities: first, they allow more controlled  wood burning than open fires especially regarding the avoidance of stray embers and sparks; second, they’re hotter and reduce boil times in the right conditions; third, they increase burning efficiency with less fuel needed and less smoke produced. And after all: I’m a lifelong non-smoker…..and I ‘m a Californian where special attention must be paid to fire safety.

So no fuel needs to be carried; can’t run out of fuel (in the proper terrain); both store very compactly. The Emberlit is 5.4 oz and packs completely flat, the Sol is 9 oz and it fits into my cook pot needing no assembly.

Revised and updated my 3 1/2 season backpacking list today

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques, Video with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2014 by William Hooks

I’ve added the super ultralight (SUL) Hyperlite Mountain Gear Summit pack at 12.7 oz, with correspondingly light MSR Carbon Core /titanium skewer stakes for shelters.

My current pack for an overnight trip including water, food, and an alcohol stove system weighs about 10 pounds, so I wear my Nikon camera under one shoulder strap- pull out 2 trekking poles- and go. This setup will allow me to stay out to conditions of about 25 degrees F.

Burning wood for backcountry stove- initial preparations

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, Travel, ultralight techniques with tags , , , , , on December 16, 2014 by William Hooks

I’ve chosen the 17.5 oz M Tech Survivor hatchet and the Utah-made, Emberlit Ultralight titanium stove to begin burning wood for fuel in selected, legal areas. No plans to use these to any extent in southern CA where fire risk is usually so high, unless restricted to particular situations where I feel very confident that risk can be managed.

These are paired with a True Temper axe sharpener and Petzl leather belay/rappel gloves, encouraging safety using the hatchet and avoiding burns while handling stoves and cookware.

Why do it at all?

First- it’s a skill I find to be fundamental (as in emergencies) and valuable.

Second- free, virtually unlimited, ‘green’ fuel especially for longer trips.

Third- fun.

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MTech Survival hatchet_Emberlit UL Ti stove_Esbit tinder

Snow trip with HMG tarp

Posted in backpacking, mountaineering, Photography, Reviews, ultralight techniques with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2014 by William Hooks

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At 7400 ft in the San Gabriel mountains, I finally got a chance to experience snow with this new shelter and it was all too brief, but great fun.

Used the ULA Catalyst pack, snow anchors instead of regular stakes, and 20 deg F Western Mtg Alpinlite 850 down sleeping bag/Vapor jacket.

Stayed on a torso length TR Neo Air pad atop Gossamer Gear groundsheet. This pack seems to be the winter ticket for my use- enough carrying capacity for what I usually use, and very light, well built. Setup was very easy, for both the shelter and the packup.

Light winds, clear with patchy clouds, about 30 deg air temperature…. sweet. If I didn’t have to work this evening……and I ‘ll be sure to bring bright wands to mark the location of this tarp in winter, since it blends with snow environments.

I’m finding that using trees at one or both ridgeline points as anchors yields very strong, versatile attachments for a wide variety of tarp rigs (especially more complex setups also using poles) and sticks easily exceed the heights of my trekking poles where I want to pitch a flying diamond, for example.DSCN1715

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Newest images from 8000 ft with HMG flat tarp

Posted in backpacking, Photography, Reviews, Travel with tags , , , , , , on December 11, 2014 by William Hooks

A significant storm is predicted to head this way tomorrow evening. If we had 2,356 more storms like this we ‘d be caught up for water…..

Here are some shots I did with the Hyperlight Mountain Gear square tarp this afternoon above Wrightwood, CA:DSCN1666

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Had some hot food in low 40 deg F temps and explored the area before returning to ‘civilization’. Saw no ostensible Republicans.

Followup review: HMG Square Flat Tarp

Posted in Captain's Personal Log with tags , , , , , , on December 8, 2014 by William Hooks

DSCN1658 DSCN1659 DSCN1660 DSCN1661 DSCN1664 DSCN1665These shots demo my default tarp setup: storm mode, with 2 long guylines on the rear panel anchors staked through the back trekking pole.

I ‘m using 14 stakes as a standard: 8 MSR Carbon Core stakes for the corners, each ridgeline, and 2 additional points as needed; a single MSR mini-Groundhog stake which can take a great deal of pounding; and 5 aluminum stakes with similar form factor to the CC stakes and large pounding heads.

A nice bonus is that when using the REI clothesline as shown, there’s enough spare cord to use for rigging my vertical hoist to raise the netting of the biv sack off my face.

Today I was using both the ULA Catalyst and HMG Windrider 2400 packs, which are in the foreground.This setup allows cooking safely from within the tarp, with even better ventilation if opting for the A frame setup.

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