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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Backpacking Wood Stoves: Pros and Cons


oA simple solid fuel stove
Image via Wikipedia
You have two choices for cooking on the trail, right? A wood-burning campfire or a backpacking stove that burns some type of fossil fuel or alcohol. Aren’t those your only choices?
Nope. There’s another option: a backpacking wood stove.
These nifty little stoves have some distinctive advantages over their more popular cousins. They also have disadvantages.
So, we’ll look at both sides: the pros and the cons.
PROS AND CONS OF BACKPACKING WOOD STOVES
Pros:
  • Weight: Even though the stove itself may weigh a bit more that other types of backpacking stove, the system weighs less than other types of backpacking stove systems. The reason for this is that you do not have to carry any fuel.
  • Economy: You can make your own backpacking wood stove and the fuel is free.
  • Drinking Water Production: You can melt all the snow you want. Just gather more fuel.
  • Water Purification: You can purify water by boiling it. You have, theoretically, an endless supply of fuel to do it with.
  • Bug Repellent: The smoke produced by the stove is an effective insect repellent.
  • Personal Warmth: You can huddle around it to get warm.
  • Green Contribution: Your carbon footprint will be reduced by comparison with the use of stoves using other types of fuel that need drilling, refining and transporting. Also, the fuel source is renewable.
  • Entertainment: A wood fire is something to love and enjoy.
Cons:
  • Bulk: The stove itself is relatively heavy and bulky.
  • Grime: Your sooty pots and stove will blacken whatever they touch in your backpack.
  • Aroma: You and all your gear will smell like wood smoke. That could be an advantage depending on your point of view.
  • End-of-Day Chores: You’ll have to search for fuel at the end of a grueling day of hiking. If you camp above timberline, the difficulty of your task of finding fuel will be multiplied.
  • Dependency: With a backpacking wood stove, your ability to cook a meal is dependent on your ability to find dry wood.
  • Slowness: Cooking time will be slower compared to other types of stove systems.
  • Difficulty: You’ll need to know how to build and tend a wood fire.
  • Fire Danger: Although cooking with a backpacking wood stove is safer that cooking on an open campfire, it is still has a greater potential for starting a forest fire than non-woodburning stoves.
  • Limited Use: In some places, your backpacking wood stove may not be allowed.
So, now you’ve got a picture of both positive and negative aspects of backpacking wood stoves.
Be informed. Hike smart.
by Richard Davidian, Ph.D.

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