Most people into hiking and backpacking only really know about white gas stoves and canister stoves as these are the two most popular types of stoves that you can purchase in almost any outdoor store. I would like to broaden your horizons a little as there are multiple stove types you may or may not have known about. Solid fuel stoves, wood stoves, and alcohol stoves to name a few. There are a few more although if you haven't herd of them already its most likely not something your looking for. For this post purpose I will be talking about alcohol stoves.
Alcohol stoves come in many forms and a majority of them are homemade. They are simple usually with no moving parts. Some are so simple you can make them with a pocket knife and an old soda can. They tend to cook slower and use more fuel then your typical canister or white gas stove. Alcohol stoves are the stove of choice for long distance backpackers and thu-hikers. The advantages to an alcohol stove are lightweight, simplicity, reliable, quiet, odorless, availability of fuel, no maintenance, safety, easily transportable fuel, low cost, eco friendly, and you can make them yourself. They also have some disadvantages including reduced output, invisible flame, cold sensitive, and there is no temperature controls. Even if you do not plan on using an alcohol stove as your main back-country stove it may come in useful knowing how to build one in case you find yourself on a trip with a broken stove or no stove at all.
There are thousands of designs for an alcohol stove as you can very the design slightly to fit your particular application. The main designs are Open Flame, Chimney (aka Open Vented and Updraft Stoves), Low Pressure Side Burner, Open Jet, Hybrid Side Burner, and Pressurized Jet. Most alcohol stoves are built off these main design concepts although overall design, sizes, and jet diameter all can very greatly.
The majority of backpackers only need to boil water to make their dinner. Especially when you are new to staying over night most likely you are going to bring freeze dried dinners as learning to cook in the backcountry your first few trips may be a little over whelming. This is the main reason I wanted to write about alcohol stoves. Alcohol stoves are a great way to start taking overnight trips without spending $30-$60 on a stove that you may only use 2-3 times a year.
Now that you have a little history on alcohol stoves I want to talk about two in particular that I think would fit almost anyone's needs. A couple things I look for when looking for an alcohol stove. No moving parts, after all moving parts means there is something to break. I like an alcohol stove that I can set a pot right on top. The last thing you want is to hike 5 miles back in somewhere to find out you forgot your pot stand. Now time to tell you about two of my favorite alcohol stoves.
The "Super Cat" can very from stove to stove as its a home made stove. This stove is a low pressure side burner that is very easy to make. The stove gets its name from what you make the stove out of a 3oz can of cat food. This stove is a great solo stove or an additional stove to carry if you would like to take along a second stove for boiling water. This stove is very simple to make and the only tool you need is a quality hole punch that you can purchase form any office supply stove.
White Box Stove
The white box stove can be purchased or made at home. It is made out of an aluminum Budweiser bottle. This stove is a hybrid side burner stove and is suitable for parties up to 3 people. The stove holds 3oz of fuel and can boil up to 8 cups of water at a time. I don't recommend making this stove as the tools needed and glue to make this stove would cost more then purchasing one. Whiteboxstoves.com does an excellent job making these stoves with no glue as they machine roll the top for an air tight seal and they sell them for $20.
One of the best things when backpacking is taking off your boots after hiking all day. The problem is when you get to camp your on dirt with sharp rocks and you don't want to go barefoot. Its probably a bit cold out to go barefoot as well. Well I never go hiking without a pair of Crocs! That's right those ugly foam sandals. I don't actually have a "Crocs" brand as they are ridiculously expensive for some foam. A cheap pair of foam clogs will work I picked mine up at Fred Meyer for about $7. These sandals are supper light 7.75 ounces for mine, and best of all you can wear socks with them to keep your feet toasty warm. I always have them clipped to the outside of my pack or run a pack strap through the heal loop. This keeps them out and easy to get to for short rest when you wan to dry your feet and boots out or for stream crossings. Here in Washington our streams can be very cold as most are direct snow run off or glacier run off. Having a sandal that keeps your feet away from sharp rocks is very nice when crossing streams.
You can find these at Fred Meyer, Walmart, K-Mart, Shopko, or a Discount shoe stores for about $6-$10.
Just wanted to let everyone know I ordered a White Box Stove to test out. My original plan for my up coming PCT thuhike was to take a home made Super Cat. I ordered the White Box Stove as I read it holds 3oz of fuel compared to the 1.2oz you can fit in a Super Cat. As it will be Sarah and I hiking the PCT together with a single stove, we will need to boil 4 cups of water for dinner and if we would like a hot drink with dinner 6 cups.
I just tested this stove out with about 5 cups of water in a 1.3L Evernew ti pot. I filled the stove with 2 oz of fuel and it boiled 5 cups with ease. there was easily 1/2 oz left in the stove when my pot was at a roaring boil. This stove burns hot and is very efficient. So if you plan on hiking with a partner the hole way this would be a great 2 person stove. I am going to do some more testing but I love it so far. One of the things I like about it just like the Super Cat is that you do not need a pot stand as you can set your pot right on top of the stove. One less thing to carry and worry about loosing. One thing to keep in mind as the White Box stove is a side burner you should use a large diameter pot with the stove.
Not very many items we I'm out on the trail take batteries but a few do. My headlamp, Spot, Cell Phone, and our MP3 players all are battery powered. The headlamps and Spot both take AAA batteries and the spot has to have Energizer Lithium batteries and only last about a week. Our plan is to have 3 new AAA batteries in each drop to swap out in the spot once they go dead. Our headlamps we are not too worried about as we wont be using them much and they will probably last 3-4 months on a set of batteries with the amount we will be using them. By the time we need to replace the batteries in our headlamps we will have some spare AAA from the drop boxes that we don’t need in the Spot. The big worry is our MP3 players! Both our MP3 players and the cell phone we will be caring charge off a computers USB port. The cell phone is nothing more then a prepaid Verizon phone.
From the research I have done its the best deal for the money as far as prepaid phones go and the LG Accolade charges from a USB cable. I specifically choose this phone for that reason. Our MP3 Players are the Sandisk Sansa Clip which are great as they are supper light, inexpensive, charge from a USB port, and have a memory card slot. Ours have 4GB of internal memory and we have 16GB cards for them. The nice thing about a smaller non color MP3 player is that they take less battery power which means the battery charges faster. The battery in the Sandisk Clip is only 3.7V 290mAh when you compare that to the 3.7V 2700mAh battery in an Iphone you can see how much faster it would charge from solar. I think that will be plenty of music for the trail.
Ok, to get to the point. Yes you can make a home made USB charger. A USB port is a standardized device among all computers and electronics. The USB standard is 5V and 100mA. The standard allows for a minimal voltage of 4.75V and a max of 5.25 V which means as long as you have a solar panel that puts out a voltage in this range and at least 100mA you can make a USB charger. Do keep in mind some devices do not follow the USB standard. I know that some Apple products such as the Iphone 3G charge at a higher rate then 100mA. this is possible as the port on a computer actually has 500mA of power available as the standard allows up to 5 devices plugged into a single port without additional power provided.
What I recommend its to purchase a solar cell that puts out 6V and at least 120-200mA. I recommend purchasing a 6V 200mA solar panel. The reason why I say to purchase a 6V A 6V 200mA solar cell which depending on the cell is only 109mm x 84mm in size.
Now to get started making your USB solar charger you will need the following items.
- a 5V solar cell (you can purchase these off Ebay from China for about $8, search Ebay for “6V solar cell”)
- Schottky Diode 5819 (you can find solar cells that will come with a Diode on Ebay or purchase from mouser.com part number 625-1N5819-E3 for $0.58)
- 5 Volt voltage regulator model 7805
- A USB cable. You can simply cut a car charger cable or a normal cable. One of our devices uses a mini USB and the other uses a micro USB so we choose to use a female USB plug so we can plug any USB cable in we want.
How to wire solar panels
Check out the images below to see how to combine multiple solar cells to achieve more voltage or more amperage.
So the main concept is to wire the solar panel to the 5V voltage regulator inline with the Diode to a USB port. This is a basic easy to make charger. I will go into more details in Part2 once I get my solar cells and make the charger.
Yes you read the title right. You can buy an entire cook-set for backpacking that weights only 5oz for $7.50! Some super light weight gear is very inexpensive.
Most people bring way too much when it comes to their stove and pot. If all you are doing is boiling water for hot cocoa and freeze dried or other noodles you don't really need a hole lot. 4 Items, stove, fuel bottle, pot, and a windscreen. I always recommend using a windscreen as it greatly increases the efficiency of your stove.
Ok so lets start with a stove all you need to spend is $0.50! yes you read this correctly, 50 cents! Stop by Safeway and pick up a can of Fancy Feast cat food or the Safeway brand equivalent. All you need to do is punch 30 holes in the can with a hole punch and you have a stove that weights less then a 1/4 of an ounce! Google "Super Cat Stove" for instructions on how to make one or check back later as I will post a blog on how later. This stove runs on Denatured Alcohol which you can store an any plastic bottle.
The best bottle I have found that you can pickup for free is a 8oz cough syrup bottle. Stop by any drug store and ask the pharmacist for one. They have a water tight lid and work great! The great thing about Denatured Alcohol is you can find it at any hardware or paint stores. So if you don't have an outdoor store in your town you can still buy fuel. Also if you don't have a hardware or paint store stop by an auto parts store and pick up a bottle of "Heat" as it works equally as well.
Next you will need a pot to hold the water you want to boil. Stop by Walmart and find a Grease Pot. Yeap this handy little pot is made out of aluminum, comes with a lid, only weights 4.2 oz and cost around $7! This pot can be hard to find, look in the kitchen area where the strainers and kitchen utensils are. Make sure you run it through the dishwasher to wash the shipping oil off.
As far as a windscreen goes make one from aluminum foil doubled up to make it a little stronger. I know you have some laying around your house.
This entire cook set weights about 5oz and only cost $7.50 cents! So the net time you think you have to spend $60 on the latest greatest, lightest gear, think twice!