Thursday, 30 July 2009

Woodstove in Action.

I thought I'd post this to illustrate how little fuel is required to bring 500ml of water to a rolling boil. The stove is the Einzel Kocher EK-750 UL and came about thanks to a request from a guy in Sweden for a lighter potstand than the standard wire mesh type. I've made a lighter grate for this one as it's the one I use myself, trail weight including potstand and foil ash tray is 79g. The windshield is made from a double layer of kitchen foil and weighs 16g.

It took 18 mins from setting up to reach a rolling boil so the video is in 2 parts.

Part 1

Part 2

Tuesday, 28 July 2009


I was ordering some stuff from Germany a while back and had added a 20 pack of 14g Esbit solid fuel tablets to try. I carried some on my April Cairngorms trip as a back up but I only used them once simply to make a cuppa and they seemed to work fine although I didn't investigate any further. I'd seen the Tibetan Titanium branded Esbit burners online and recently added one to an order I'd placed with Ultralight Outdoor Gear, they cost £6.98 and shipping is free.

Mine weighs about 11g which is pretty light as it incorporates a pot stand and the Esbit tablets weigh 14g each packed which makes for a very light set-up. The question was how well they would perform and how many would I need to use to heat 500ml of water.

I've started using a Cone style windshield/pot stand but decided to try a basic foil windshield as the burner itself supports a mug/pot. The windshield was pretty short to be honest as I was using a 750ml Mitymug and the results weren't all that spectacular. The 14g tablet burned for around 18 mins but I couldn't get the temperature above 96 deg C. Obviously that's close enough to boiling for most purposes but I wanted to try again with the Cone style windshield. This was much better, it took around 11 mins to reach 99 deg C but more importantly there was still about 1/4 of the Esbit tablet left.

I would rarely need to boil 500ml at a time, in fact my new pot only holds 500ml so it it looks like a viable alternative to meths. There are pro's and con's though, some that I've though of are listed below but there are sure to be things I've overlooked.


Pro's, Reasonably Clean, Easy To Meter, Reasonably Efficient, Stove is Light, Little or no smell, I can use mine in the porch with doors closed.

Con's, Fuel needs a suitable container


Pros, Lighter than my Meths Set-up, Easy to store/carry, May not need a burner as you could prop the mug on some stones and use a flat stone as a base for the tablet.

Con's, Acrid Smell, I wouldn't want to use it in the porch, Leaves Residue on the pot.

I'd be tempted to use it in preference to Meths but for me it's important to be able to use my stove under cover if the weather is bad. I could carry a few Esbit tablets as back-up or looking at it another way I could consider the esbit set-up as the main stove and carry the meths burner and a small amount of fuel in case I needed to cook under cover.

Weight Esbit Set-Up

Burner - 11g
Fuel - 140g (10 x 14g tablets sufficient to boil approx 5.0L water)
Tibetan ti 550ml Pot - 88g
Cone - 27g

Total - 266g

Weight Meths Set-Up

Burner (inc Measure) - 23g
Fuel (inc Bottle)- 224g (sufficient to boil approx 5.0L water)
Tibetan ti 550ml Pot - 88g
Cone - 27g

Total - 362g

For comparison my gas set up weighs,

C-3 Mini Stove (same as Markill Peak Ignition/Gelert Blaze) - 89g
Fuel - 100 Cartridge - 194g (sufficient to boil approx 5.0L water)
Tibetan ti 550ml Pot - 88g
Windshield - 40g

Total - 401g

I haven't looked at my gas set-up recently but I must admit that when I totaled the weights it surprised me how close the gas set-up is, a lighter windshield or stove would make the difference negligible.

There's been a real upsurge in interest regarding solid fuel, Esbit in particular this week, in fact 3 other people have posted on the subject. In the interests of spreading the information I'm adding links to the other posts.

Darren at 'Whitespider1066'

Baz at 'Baz's Backpacking Blog'

Phil at 'Phil Turner'

Monday, 27 July 2009

Out of Action.

It looks like my plan to get back to the Cairngorms sometime in August have been hit on the head. I twisted my knee last week and it seems that I have damaged either a ligament or cartlidge. I injured the same knee a few years ago in a motorbike accident, Anterior Cruciate Ligament IIRC so it's already a weak spot. Off work now and some physio to look forward to, it was suggested by my GP that I'll need to build up the muscles around my knee to help stabilise it otherwise surgery is the only alternative.

Ironically I'd been working on getting my summer base weight as low as possible while using a 1.7kg tent and opting to use a DSLR rather than a compact. I guess my next trip will be a winter one so I'll need to work on that now instead.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

My Take on the Ibbo PT

I read about using an MSR Blizzard snow stake as a toilet trowel on Blogpackinglight and instantly liked the idea. Not only is it lighter than my cut down B&Q gardening trowel but it's dual purpose, after all it is a tent peg.

Of course thanks to Robin popularising (is that a word?) the MSR Blizzard Stake I couldn't get one as they were sold out. They eventually came back in stock so I ordered 4, one to make an PT and 3 as pegs for winter. Of course when it came to convert the stake to a trowel the weight bar had already been set by Colin Ibbotson at 31g very closely followed by Robin at 32g. Obviously it's easier to compete when you know what the target is so I had to get under 31g. I toyed with the idea of simply using the stake as is without a handle but in keeping with the spirit of things I decided to add a grip.

My 1st attempt was a dual purpose affair, I simply wrapped my spare guyline around the stake which cushioned it sufficiently and ended up weighing 31g.

Not wanting to give up too easily I tried a few other methods finally settling on a piece of closed cell foam wrapped with duct tape. Result? 26g.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Is This My Next Tent?

I've just seen this on Litehikers World , the Vaude Scutum Ultralight, very similar shape to a Laser but looks easier to pitch with an external pole and no pole hood. At 1050g it's very light, classed as a 2 person and with a groundsheet that has a hydrostatic head of 10,000mm. I'll be watching this one with interest as there's a potential weight saving of 750g compared to my current tent. It won the Gold award in the Tent section at the show.

Report and Pictures (scroll down for the Vaude Scutum UL)

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Food for Thought

I always find it difficult to decide on what food to take on a trip. Breakfast and snacks are easy it's the main meal that always gets me. I've tried shop bought instant pasta packets (Pasta in a Cup) with pre cooked sausage and some cheese added to spice it up but it tends to taste a bit artificial, I've tried dehydrating my own meals using a Westfalia Dehydrator which only cost £26.99 but haven't had a great deal of success there either, the dehydrator works just fine but the meals seem to lose some of the flavour during dehydration, in fact one of the supposed benefits of Freeze Dried meals over dehydrated is that they don't loose flavour. I also find that home dehydrated meals don't rehydrate properly in a cozy, I imagine they'd be better re hydrated directly in the cooking pot but that increases the amount of fuel that I'd need to carry. Of course maybe I'm doing it wrong but I'm beginning to think the whole home dehydrating thing is a bit over-rated or at least some of the issues are glossed over. Again if I'm wrong I'd welcome any advice that would help me avoid the pitfalls.

I've tried commercially available Dried Meals, (Mountain House/Real Turmat/Reiter) and to be honest they're fine once you figure out which ones you like and I've also tried Wayfarer meals.

I recently discovered (thanks to Outdoors Magic) pre cooked meals called 'Look What We Found' These are similar to Wayfarers in that they're already cooked and come in a foil pouch which simply needs re-heating by placing the pouch in a pot of water and bringing to the boil, obviously at 300g they're twice the weight of a dried meal but they don't require you to add water so you save a bit of weight there. These are very nice indeed but due to the type of stove I use and the size of the cooking pot they're right on the limit size wise, the other problem is that they come in a printed pouch with a self adhesive label which makes the water used to heat them unusable for any other purpose. Now there are various ways around the problem, I could empty the contents into a plain boil proof bag and use the water for a brew or empty them into the pot and re-heat them directly but then I'd need to use water to clean the pot prior to making a brew and I'd be using 2 x the amount of fuel, once fill to heat the meal, another to make a brew. They were tasty though and I was determined to carry 1 LWWF for every dried meal alternating between them but when I checked the energy value (Kcal) they're about half what a Reiter or Real Turmat is. I think that's going to rule them out to be honest, I don't want to carry 2 x the weight per meal, use 2 x the amount of fuel, 2 x the amount of water and after all that get half the kcal value.

I like to make up day packs which weigh about 750-850g each. Breakfast consists of 165g Muesli/Extra Fruit/Whitener/Sugar, snacks consist simply of cereal bars/chocolate bars/Cuppa Soup x 2/Instant Drinks x 2 to be used between breakfast/main meal/breakfast. I make my desserts from half packets of Birds Instant Custard/Semolina in a ziplok bag with dehydrated fruit added. I don't drink tea, only coffee so I carry 3 x 250ml Nalgene bottles with coffee, sugar & Whitener. In addition I keep a pouch of grated Parmesan and some sachets of salt/pepper.

Of course meal packs are always a work in progress so who knows where i go from here. With all the items for one day set out it doesn't look like much but so far it seems to be enough.

1 Day Ration Pack, Main Meal not Included

L to R,
Real Turmat, Beef/Potato Casserole, 145g/585Kcal
LWWF, Beef in Black Velvet Porter with Potatoes, 308g/201Kcal
Reiter Travel Lunch, Hungarian Beef & Noodles, 142g/483Kcal


I've just seen Hendrik Morkels post on his Blog, 'Hiking in Finland' with the same title as my post here so I'm adding a link (Hendrik has also kindly provided the link in the comments section)

Hiking Finland, Hendrik Morkel 'Food (for Thought)'


I found some more information regarding Dehydrating on Andy Howells site so I'll post a link.

Andy Howell, Dehydrating

Monday, 13 July 2009

New Blog. Walking the Ulster Way for the RNLI

Another new Blog, Keith Brownrigg is walking the Ulster Way and raising money for the RNLI.

Well worth a look and maybe a wee donation.......

Ulster Walker

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Lightweight on a Budget

I was interested in John Mannings feature in this months TGO about kitting yourself out for less than £100, a bit of a coincidence as only a few weeks ago I’d posted a theoretical gear list on Outdoors Magic to see how light you could go on a budget.

I had started by picking the Pro Action Hike Lite tent which was formerly known as the Tiger Paws and is in fact mentioned in Johns article. The Hike Lite weighs in at around 1.8kg which is pretty heavy for a solo tent when you consider that a Laser Comp weighs around half that at 900g approx. Of course when you start with a heavy tent everything else needs to be looked at with a critical eye and you certainly can’t afford to carry too many luxury items. I found that the weight of the tent could be offset by opting for a 2/3 season closed cell sleeping mat at only 190g. Look at it this way, if for example you choose a TN Laser Standard at 1.3g and an Exped Synmat 7 at just over 1kg you’d be carrying 2.3kg having spent around £350, the Hike Lite and Closed cell mat (I choose a Eurohike model) together weigh under 2kg and cost £30 assuming the Hike Lite is on offer, at full price the total would be £55.

Now I would concede that with the Laser/Synmat you’ll have a much higher performance tent and a vastly more comfortable sleeping mat but for low level 2 season use on grassy pitches do you actually need the performance of the Laser or comfort of the Synmat? If you're on a budget then it's elementary.

Looking at cooking gear the Anti Gravity Gear aluminium pot weighs pretty much the same as Titanium pots of similar capacity but at £8.50 is only 1/3rd of the price although you do need a pot lifter at £2.50/34g. As for the stove it’s a copy of one of the premium brands yet only costs £12.75, in fact the next model up in the Gelert range, the Blaze PZ costs £15 and is almost identical to the Markill Peak Ignition at £45.00, in fact my gas stove is a Markill Peak Ignition copy and it performs perfectly as can be seen in my test comparing the performance of the Jetboil PCS and Cartridge Stove/Mitymug combo.

The rest of my theoretical Kit List was made up of the following.

Lightweight on the Cheap

Pro Action Hike-Lite - £24.99 - 1719g
Pegs Terra Nova 5g Ti x 6 - £14.99 - 30g

Total - 1749g
Cost - £39.98

Sleeping System
Tesco Down Bag - £34.26 - 800g
Eurohike 2 Season Closed Cell Mat - £4.99 - 198g

Total - 998g
Cost - £39.25

Antigravity Gear 3 Cup (700ml) Pot & Lid - £8.50 - 110g
Antigravity Gear Pot Lifter - £2.50 - 34g
Stove - Gelert Intensity - £12.75 - 87g
Windshield - BPL.UK Ultralight Foil Windshield - £6.99 - 63g
Hydration - Drinksafe Systems Travel Tap Bottle 650ml - £34.99 - 150g
Hydration - Source Liquitainer 2.0L - £6.99 - 35g

Total - 479g
Cost - £72.72

Utensils etc.
Mug - Gelert Plastic 275ml - £0.90 - 55g
Spork - Lifeventure Lexan Spork - £2.49 - 14g

Total - 69g
Cost - £3.39

Energizer 3 LED Headlight - £9.95 - 70g

Total - 70g
Cost - £9.95

Karrimor Bobcat 65L - 1480g - £50.00

Total 4845g @ £217.78

I think that’s a reasonable list, apart from Tent/Sleeping Bag/Sleeping Mat everything thing else is perfectly adequate and isn’t a lot different from gear I use or have used myself. Obviously I haven’t looked at clothing as John has done in his feature but if you combine his budget list with mine you’re looking at about £300-350 and that’s pretty good IMO.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Interesting New Blog

I've just found this Blog or rather it found me :-)

This looks like it'll be interesting, a chance to see and learn a bit more about a place few of us will have a chance to visit.

West Falkland Wanderings

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

New Cooking System

I managed to shave a few more grams by changing my cooking system again. I had been using an Alpkit Mitymug mk2 which looks identical to the Tibetan titanium 700ml mug and is marginally lighter than the mk1 version which is similar to the Vargo ti-lite mug. I used it as my cooking pot and carried a 450ml Tibetan ti mug. I'd toyed with the idea a while back of simply using the 450ml mug as I rarely need to boil more than 500ml of water at a time but in the end I decided against it.

My next experiment was using a 330ml Heinie can as a mug and to complement it I ordered a 24oz Heinie can from Tinny at MBD to use as a pot. I found that when using the 330ml can as a mug it was too hot to hold even if it hadn't been used on the stove so I ordered some wick from Tinny to wrap both pot and mug. It has to be said that the Heinie can are nowhere near as robust as the titanium pots and once you wrap then with wick much of the weight advantage is lost.

I had been browsing a few e-shops and on Ultralight Outdoor Gear I found a Tibetan ti 550ml version of the Mitymug and on ebay 'Treklite' were selling a mug to match, a Tibetan ti 375ml. I ordered both and used them when I took the Hike-Lite tent out for a trial and everything is fine. I always liked a metal mug as it gave me an extra option for cooking even if a plastic mug would probably be lighter however the next change to my system means I can't actually use the 375ml mug so maybe a plastic cup will be fine............ if I can get one that fits the 550ml pot.

The item in question is similar to the Caldera Cone. A guy on Outdoors magic, Captain Paranoia, came up with a program/script that allows you to print a template matched to your own pot/burner combination and also allows you to decide how many vents you want and what size you want them. All you need to do is download 2 programs off the net (GSview & Ghostscript) to use the template file. The template supplied suits a Mitymug but by opening the file in something like wordpad you can change the parameters, Pot height/diameter, burner height, distance between burner and pot etc. Once done the file is saved with the suffix .ps and it then opens automatically using the downloaded programs. Then all you do is print off the template, tape it to a sheet of aluminium foil and cut it out. I used 0.20mm alufoil but you could use heavier or lighter.

I haven't tried it out in the field but have tested it outside and it seems to work fine, I'm pretty confidant that efficiency is improved but regardless it combine windshield and potstand in one unit and improves stability. Obviously it only works with one size of pot so I can't use the 375ml mug on it. Storage is a slight problem although the Capt Paranoia suggests using 2 x 500ml meths bottles cut to fit inside each other as a caddy. I'm not sure if I'll use that method, I'm going to simply roll it inside my Closed Cell sleeping mat which seems to work fine.

My cooking system now comprises;

Tibetan ti 550ml pot & lid - 88g
Tibetan ti 375ml Mug - 57g
EK Alcohol Burner & Measuring Cup - 23g
Cone Windshield/Potstand - 27g

Total (inc Stuff Sack) 214g

My Cutlery comprises a GSI Long Spoon at 12g and a plastic disposable teaspoon at 2g so my complete cooking System weighs in at 228g. If I wanted to include a woodstove an Ultralight version of the EK750 based on ones built for a customer in Sweden adds an additional 89g.

For the record the 2 Heinie pots wrapped with wick and including lids weigh 104g, only about 40g difference, not as tough as the titanium set but still an option if I'm really desperate but I'd need to make another cone to suit.