Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Another note in favor of wood stoves

Much has been written about fuel consumption: here and here. (@BPL, membership required) These two articles are a few of my personal favorites there, and are worth the price of membership alone. I too have agonized over the concept, especially with canister and white gas stoves.

In substance, the articles attempt to answer a seemingly simple question: For any cooking system, how much fuel do I need initially (or per re-supply) if I need to boil X units of water per day? Add this fuel to the weight of the cooking system, and you have initial carry weight. The articles are focused on the lightest models in each stove category (Esbit, Alcohol, top-mount canister, remote canister, integrated canister i.e. JetBoil and white gas), but the concept is easily extrapolated to any stove. The study measures the initial carry weight as a function of fuel consumption plus the stove, windscreen, empty fuel bottle and heat reflector, if any. Initial carry weight does not include the weight of any pot, because they are may be vary with the trip.

With the BushBuddy and other woodstoves, these articles are useful for comparison only. The BushBuddy's initial carry weight is varied only by the minimal weight of the firestarting tabs you use. A wood stove's initial carry weight without fuel is less than all the stoves in BPL's study except the alcohol and Esbit stoves. When the fuel weight of the stoves are added, the initial carry weight increases above and beyond the Bushbuddy's initial carry weight (5.1, stove + 1.13, sparker + .25, tabs + 1, sack, estimated = 7.48) once you are boiling more than 10 pints for an alcohol stove or ~12 pints for Esbit tabs. (See Table 8). These numbers become easier to meet as the distance between resupplies increases, the number of hikers increases or the amount of pints required per day increases, naturally. For initial carry weights for boiling less than 10 or 12 pints, we are dealing with but a few ounces. This is probably negligible in all but the most stringent gear requirements.

And you get bonus points for style.


HikingFeminist said...

But one needs to consider that if you're a winter hiker it is significantly more difficult to find fuel for a wood-burning stove when the ground it covered in snow. Also, what about hiking in areas that lack a reliable source of wood.....

Matt Lutz said...

Winter is a different story. Starting fires can be just damn tough, even with the best tinder. White gas for the win in our barren season.

As for lack of wood, many other sources of burnable fuel may be available depending on one's locale. That said, carrying a wood stove and using it above-treeline or in a fragile ecosystem is just unconscionable. Either hike down to lowlands where fuel is abundant or take a different stove.

Thankfully, we lack a treeline in Minnesota.

samh said...

Finding wood in the winter isn't a problem, but keeping a hot fire burning long enough to melt required qty's of water can be tough.

Anonymous said...

I have never used the Bushbuddy, but i think the Titanium Goat Ti-Tri Caldera stove is a better all around option. It can burn wood, esbit or alcohol. total weight 6.7oz.

BackpackBaseCamp Blog

rambler said...

I used a caldewra stove with wood and the fire got so hot it melted the top of the stove. The metla got so hot it crumbled. However, the wood was on top of an aluminmum plate which I thought would prevent the fire from blackening the ground. The ground was singed.
Another advantage of the Bushbuddy is that you can lift it even when lit and you can set it on a table or bench or any surface because it does not get hot on the bottom. On the wood burners you can cook for as long as you have fuel, ie. wood sticks. There is no need to carefully monitor fuel burn time or consumption as you would when you carry other types of fuel. Wood burners just require more patience. No instant flame when you end a long hike and want to get dinner ready. It takes a little more effort and time tom get the fire going.