Of course when you’re spending time in the great outdoors you work up an appetite; sometimes a granola bar or baloney sandwich just won’t cut it.  There’s nothing I love more than cooking something – anything – on the trail.  Even something as simple as boiling water for a hot cup of coffee can bring not just warmth but a unique satisfaction when out in the middle of nowhere.  Fire, one of the most primal human needs, is still an important part of most camping and hiking adventures.  Being able to take that fire with you on the trail is my focus here, as we delve into ultralight stoves and the cookware and methods used with them.

Alcohol stoves

My fascination with the simple alcohol stove started several years ago when I was researching different options for a stove to use in my hand-built VW camper.  I ended up designing a dual-burner stove top using a pair of “penny alcohol stoves” made from some Mt.Dew cans.  They burn methyl alcohol, which is most readily available anywhere as yellow “Heet” gas line antifreeze.  Using this stove over the years has proven to me the reliability of the alcohol stove concept.  A quick search online will yield countless designs and variations with one common goal:  simple reliability.  For the purpose of hammock camping, where weight and portability are key factors, an alcohol stove can be a cheap, effective way to bring fire on the trail.  The following video shows my first ultralight cook kit designed for solo use.

Wood stoves

I won’t say I love playing with fire (because that would just sound irresponsible,) but yeah, I love a good wood fire!  So of course I had to come up with a lightweight wood burning stove to use on the trail.  One obvious advantage of wood versus other fuels like alcohol is that with a wood stove, you don’t need to carry fuel with you.  Rather, it’s everywhere; you just gather it up.  Plus, you can add wood to the fire as you cook, whereas an alcohol stove cannot be refueled while burning.

My most recent cooking setup is based around an aluminum Imusa grease pot, which contains everything I need to cook on the trail.  Inside, among other essentials, are a supercat alcohol stove and a 2-pc wood stove.  I finally got the video demo of this larger cook kit published.  In the mean time, here are a few pics from a recent afternoon outing.

Some time later I decided I was tired of cooking on the ground, So I designed what I call the “Tree Shelf.”

In an attempt to cut some weight, a second ultra-light version is now made from Formica.

If this kind of thing interests you, check out “Zen Backpacking Stoves” for more resourses and ideas.