I spent the morning with a friend from BPL at Afton State Park this morning: here's some quick gear notes.
First, I got a good look at the Bushbuddy Ultra, a wood-burning stove made in Canada by Fritz Handel. In short, it is simply an amazing piece of work. The stove is double-walled, with air vents on the bottom of the outer wall and the top of the inner wall. Thus, air enters the chamber between the walls, pre-heats, and dumps into the burner area. Wood sits on a durable grate, and because of the stove's venting design, it burns cleanly and leaves little ash. It does leave soot on pots, but does not kick off smoke. One note: the stove must be protected inside your pack because of its thin walls. The best option is to nest it in your pot: place a bandanna over the top of your pot. Put the Bushbuddy on the bandanna and push it inside the pot. Your firestarter and tinder tabs can go inside the stove's fire pot and then the lid can go on. Simple, efficient and beautiful.
Second, a great method to make fire-starting tabs involves Vaseline, cotton balls and a double boiler. Most outdoor guides note that Vaseline mixed with cotton balls is a great fire starter, but few mention the mess. Here's a simple method to make rockstar fire tabs. First, cut your cotton balls in half. Then melt Vaseline in your double boiler, and then dip your cotton balls in the Vaseline. They will soak up the petroleum-based Vaseline, and you can put them in a waterproof sack, such as an Aloksak. To start, hit them with some sparks from a sparker. (Hat tip: Dan Cunningham @ BPL.)
Third, the DWR on the shell fabric of my MB Inner Down Parka is more than sufficient to ward off a brief rainstorm or misting.
Finally, I got to put my BPL Stix to a brief test. As expected, they are a joy to walk with and hardly noticable in my hands. They are solid enough to plant hard on an uphill or brace on a downhill. In addition, I could put my weight on the straps and not need to grip the handle. I removed the mud baskets, too. (The poles come with mud and snow baskets.) So far, so good.