Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Review: Esbit pocket stove

When it comes to backpacking stoves one must really consider many things. What their climate is, their altitude, are you cooking or just boiling water, how much cooking or boiling, is weight a big issue, is pack space a big issue, budget, and so many more variables that vary per individual. I find usually find myself alone or only heating a cup or two of water for myself, buying an expensive stove and carrying around canisters of butane fuel seemed foolish in my situation. I next considered an alcohol stove but decided that carrying liquid alcohol as fuel would become heavy and take up more pack space then I was willing to sacrifice. So with those things decided I narrowed it down to what I need: I'd be in a temperate forest most of the time so climate wasn't to big an issue, the stove needed to be small, light, and cheap while still being sufficient for at least one person. After some searching, I came to a conclusion. I chose an Esbit pocket stove.

The real beauty of the Esbit pocket stove is it simplicity. It consists of three pieces of plated tensile structures steel and runs on non-toxic solid fuel tablets. There's the platform and two folding "legs." The platform has slots through it to increase airflow to the burning fuel tablet causing maximum burn time and heat output. The steel legs can be set in two positions: put straight up or at a 45 degree angle. 

Esbit pocket stove in standard position

Esbit pocket stove with legs at 45 degree angle
The idea behind this is that when at a 45 degree angle heat will be deflected off the legs and at one particular spot on the bottom of the heated container being heated. The stove is very stable in both positions, but when the legs are at a 45 degree angle it makes contact with the stove towards the center of the heated container rather than to the sides as it usually does when the legs are set up straight. Obviously this would make the heated container less balanced so be very careful. 

What is really nice about the Esbit pocket stove is, well, it's a folding stove! When folded it is only 4 inches long, 3 inches wide, 3/4 an inch thick. This stove can easily fit any place in your pack or in your pocket. 

Let's talk about the fuel, shall we? Esbit produces solid fuel tablets designed for the Esbit pocket stove. Each tablet is about an inch long and half an inch thick and come individually packaged in a blister package.

Esbit fuel tablet in blister package
 Each have an approximate efficient burn time of 12-13 minutes. They light very easy, all you need to do is put the flame of a lit match or lighter to the corner of a fuel tablet for a few seconds. There is no sparks, exploding of cubes, or smoke. There is, however, a strange, almost fishy smell. Bear bait? Let's hope not. A feature I particularly enjoy is that they are reusable. If you've manage to boil your water with out burning a full cube you can simply blow it out and relight it when needed. The fuel tablets do have one negative feature: they tend to bind themselves to the platform of the stove. To remove binded tablets all you must do is scrape the tablet off or hit it with the hilt of a knife or multi-tool.

All in all, the Esbit pocket stove is good for those going Ultralite, soloists, and emergencies. What is really awesome is the price. The Esbit folding stove retails at $10.99 and a pack of 12 fuel tablets will cost $5.99, if you have ever have some spare money I suggest you pick one up and try it yourself.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Spring!

I'm sure most of us know, yesterday brought us Spring! I figured what better way to celebrate then a nice long hike and take in some of the unusually pleasant weather? I got to the trail head nice and early and embarked on one of the more peaceful hikes I've had in awhile. It was very nice.

The sun was shining...

The brooks were babbling...

And there was even some green to see!

Happy Spring everyone! Let hope for it to get really nice soon and lets get out there.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Litter Bugs!

Prepare for ranting in 3....2....1.....

Nothing annoys me and ruins my joy on the trail more then coming across litter. There is absolutely NO excuse for it. Even if you feel that the garbage is "icky" it is up to you to pack it out. Here's a tip, if you think it may get "icky" it probably will. Make sure you plan accordingly and bring a plastic bag to put the "icky" substances in and carry it out. It could be a damn banana peel, natural or not, it doesn't change a thing. Pack it the hell out! Here's another tip for dealing with "icky" garbage, grow a pair. I've carried out a trash bag that leaked day-old Mountain House chocolate cheese cake (scary stuff, cheese cake was never meant to be dehydrated and made into backpacking food...) and smelled terrible but I'm still alive. It won't kill you, I freaking promise. Some people even pack out their own feces out in a bag on multi-day trips. Thats to be respected.

On my latest hike I left the park with a cargo pocket full of garbage... that wasn't mine. The fact that other hikers have to clean up after these slobs is outrageous. Water bottle wrappers, water bottles, candy wrappers, energy bar wrappers, tiny pieces of wrappers, plastic baggies, all of that stuff should not be found out in nature. Not only is it ruining the ecosystem, its ruining the experience of others. In my opinion, knowingly leaving behind trash is one of the most selfish, arrogant, and rude things you can do to the outdoor community. If your willingly leaving behind litter maybe you should rethink how you feel about nature. Chances are you probably really don't care.

Last Sunday when I came to the top of a mountain with a beautiful view I found clear plastic wrappers, candy wrappers, baggies, a little bag of potato chips, and more. It looks like someone took a small child up there and just let him discard his wrappers without care. This is almost to be expected in a young child, but whoever was supervising him should  have stepped up and taught him how wrong that really is. I get this disgusting image of some chubby little brat sitting there scarfing down a bunch of damn food packed by his mother and letting wrappers fly away in the wind. Rather than baby little Johnny, or probably fat Johnny, someone should have made him pick up his garbage, put it in his pack, and told him about how its up to us to take care of these lands, or at least taught him about respect and not dropping your crap where ever you want.

I implore all those who follow Leave No Trace principles ( to spread them to those who do not. At times we will break them, but it is important that we do what we can to keep nature how it should be.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Overview: General Preparedness Kit

As mentioned in a previous post I carry what I call my General Preparedness Kit or GPK as I call it. While many people carry survival kits and their basic gear, I prefer to take a kit that is multipurpose and packed in one dry bag rather than carry emergency gear and gear I’ll be using to carry out camp tasks in two different containers. By doing this I cut down on pack space being taken up and I know where everything is when I need it.

Size comparison between my GPK and an eating utensil

The contents of my GPK and their purpose are listed below:

Contents of my GPK

Water Purification Tablets: It’s important that you have a back up system in case your primary water filtration system fails. It doesn't take much to break a filter or for it to malfunction. Carrying water purification tablets assisted me when I went backpacking with the outdoors group I’m part of and our filtration pump broke. Although it took four hours for the tablets to fully purify the water, we did have enough water the next day to keep us hydrated on the hike out. There are two relating phrases: “Dehydration is a soldier’s worst enemy” and “An army marches on its stomach.” Without a back up filtration system you have two choices: dehydrate yourself or drink infected water and put your stomach through hell. Your choice.

Signaling Tools: This is very straight forward. I have a signal mirror for signaling other people when in distress in daylight and two chem-lights for signaling at night. Each chem-light lasts twelve hours, carrying two gives me two nights worth of signaling.

Maintenance Gear: I carry these in case of any minor equipment failure. Most items in this category are pretty self explanatory. A pocket sewing kit for clothing, a small role of duct tape for, well, anything, and silicone sealant for any rips in my tent or pack.

Warming Materials: In case of extreme cold or being caught out when not expected I have toe warmers for each foot, four hand warmers, and a space blanket.

Fire Making Material: It’s important to have three methods of fire starting. In case one fails, you have a fall back. And if that fails, you still have one more way to get fire going. I carry a butane lighter as a primary fire source, water proof matches as a second, and if all else fails, a magnesium block with a striker attached. In case there is no tinder available I keep an Esbit tablet in my GPK to get a small fire going in which I can dry real tinder to burn.

Compass: It’s important to know which direction you’re heading and more important to know which direction you’re not. I always have a compass on my person when in the outdoors but in the event that it is lost, which has happened to me, I carry an extra one.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Food for thought.

On April 14th I embark on a four day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. It's my first real backpacking trip in a long time so needless to say I'm twitching with excitement! All winter I've hiked through snow and ice, up mountains and through valleys, and kept myself ready. I feel I am a stronger outdoorsmen than I ever have been and I'm still progressing. There is no denying; it's the very fear and freedom that keeps me wanting more. It's a world where you have no control, you must simply carry on. You coexist with so much else. So much else that you realize that you are a small part of our magnificent world and, in the great words of a women who has pushed me forward countless times, a visitor passing through. You are a visitor passing through. I heard that statement one calming night in a canoe. Stars filled the sky, the water reflected the moon, trees lined the shore, and the owls hooted as if they were speaking. It feels so special. You feel like the worlds doing this all for you. But then you realize: this was here long before me, this is here now, and this will be here long after I'm gone. Take a breath. A deep breath. Exhale. The air now holds part of you. It always will.

This world is always changing. It's alive. The snow falls, the flowers bloom, the sun beats, the leafs fall. Repeat. 

The water flows and the water freezes.

The wind whips and the air stands still.

It's something I cannot put into words. I had no intention of writing about the effect nature has on me but it happen. It flows out of me. It is energy. 


OH MY! Looks like shooting hikers is permitted!