My new favorite “Free” Stove

I have several stoves that I use and enjoy, but most of my backpacking “cooking” is boiling water for coffee or dehydrated meals. My canister stove is great for trips with several people where we are able to share the stove. The canister stove is also helpful in cold weather (more hot meals) or if someone doesn’t have a stove I have one I can loan them. I have used my canister stove many times and I like it – it performs great. I did a review for another alcohol stove (that I also really like) on this blog. I like to experiment with options, and I recently had an opportunity to try a new stove and it may be my favorite….

I am a member of http://www.hammockforums.net and they have a PIF (Pay It Forward) section.  The basic rules are if you claim something offered by another member, you have to offer something in return.  The sender pays postage.  The PIF is really fun as I have picked up a few odds and ends that I have been wanting to try.

I recently acquired two items that may be the perfect stove set up for me from the PIF – so that’s why I say it’s “free.” I didn’t directly pay for it, but just offered something in return.  I claimed and received a 10 cm Imusa Mug with homemade lid and the materials to build a DIY (Do It Yourself) Alcohol Stove in separate posts.  The alcohol stove was the Fancy Feest wick stove. I assembled the stove last night and tested it this morning.  WOW!

Here’s my entire cook kit including 4.5 oz of fuel (Yellow Heet) weighing a total of 10.05 ounces!

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This is what is included: a 4.5 fl oz fuel bottle in a separate ziplock bag, Titanium long handled spoon, Cuben Fiber Stuff sack, 1/4 of a bandanna to use as a pot grabber, Imusa 10 cm mug with homemade lid, a measuring cup, stove, a circular piece of heavy duty aluminum to act as a base reflector, windscreen, and a mini Bic lighter.

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How does it perform?  I think it’s AMAZING!  I tested it inside (no wind).  I used 1/2 oz of yellow Heet:

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I heated once cup of cold water straight from the dispenser in the refrigerator door (I’m not sure of the temperature):

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I didn’t use the windscreen, but it brought the water to a rolling boil in 4.5 minutes and burned just under 6 minutes before the flame went out.  It burns with a pretty blue flame.

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So if I plan on just boiling water, this stove may go on my trip to be field tested. This combination is super light, efficient, and very easy to use.  In the field, I expect my fuel consumption to go up, but for just over 10 oz in total weight, I should be able to get at least 4 cups of water boiling.  That’s enough for my average trip.

As a note: I usually put my fuel in the bottom of my top quilt so it burns more efficiently in the morning, but this is especially important when using alcohol stoves.

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Sipsey Wilderness Trail 203 Trip Report

First, I have to say – Great job Wild South!!! I have put off doing this trail because I heard it was difficult to find the trail in places. That is not the case. The people with Wild South have done a GREAT job maintaining and marking this trail. It is very clear with very few downed trees and the few places (especially on the northern portion) where it may be confusing they have marked with either a wood pile to keep you from going down the “old” trail or rock cairns to mark turns.

The “old trail” turns off the “new trail” just a few minutes south of the abandoned shooting range. The trail forks and the “old trail” heads downhill but this trail is blocked by a wood pile. From my understanding, this route crossed Borden Creek again before steeply heading up the ridge to the trail. It comes out west of the new trailhead. We didn’t go this route as the water level was up due to the recent rain. The “new trail” gently climbs the hill and is simply marked by the small trail juction sign. It’s easy to miss if you are not looking for it as you go down the road. The trail comes out 1.6 miles from Hwy 33.

As a note, I love the new Dutch Wasp and quilt hooks I recently received. I liked the Dutch Flyz, but the Wasp makes adjusting a breeze! The quilt hooks kept things nice and tidy and I didn’t have to adjust my underquilt at all.

Now on to the trip report…..

A buddy and I headed in Friday night with plans to hike in just far enough to camp and hiking 203 the next day. All went pretty much close to plan. We night hiked from Borden Creek Trailhead and set up camp in a slight drizzle. We waited to see if the rain would stop so we could have a fire. The rain didn’t stop.

My buddy is a ground dweller, so we sat under the Superfly in porch mode and watched the rain and talked. I’m trying to convert him to hanging and he realized how much coverage the Superfly provided. He’s getting closer to losing the t**t. About 11 pm we called it a night and I set up the Superfly in storm mode. I quickly went to sleep listening to the wind and rain.

The next morning I woke up and explored around the camp a bit. I found out we had slightly veered off course. We had taken the turn to 207 and went just past where 207 crossed the water to set up camp. I walked upstream on this trail a bit – it’s pretty worn. It follows Borden Creek upstream, but it’s not on the map. Does anyone know where this goes or where it connects?

I found the 203/207 junction 2 minutes downstream from camp. I was glad I wasn’t crossing to 207 this morning after all of the rain the past 24 hours:

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We took our time and headed toward my car we had dropped at the other end of 203 the night before. If you have never hiked this trail – you are missing out. The views when the leaves are off the trees are spectacular! It’s an easy trail with a few ups and downs, but nothing too bad. 203 is different than any of the other trails I have hiked so far in the Sipsey. Since this is mostly a ridgeline trail, there’s not a lot of water available, so you need to plan accordingly.

We found an old carved Beech Tree, a couple of small waterfalls, and signs warning us of a shooting range. We explored a bit, but didn’t see anything that appeared it would have been a shooting range in years past. On the northern part of the trail, rock cairns mark crucial turns so pay attention to the little piles of rocks. The final water crossing was still deeper than I desired to cross, so we went upstream a bit and found a downed tree and crossed without even getting our feet wet.

Lots of little creatures were out and I was able to catch a few for pictures. Here’s the other random pictures from the trip:

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My Sawyer Squeeze Holder/fill scoop

I LOVE my Sawyer Squeeze filter but I have two issues. First, I’m afraid I’m going to leave a part somewhere and second, the bag is a pain to fill. I actually saw something similiar to this SOMEWHERE but now I can’t find it, so I thought I would post here.

I bought two Hydrogen Peroxide bottles at the Dollar General for a dollar each. The only other item I needed to purchase was a small screen. I picked a pack up at Lowes and I think I paid less than $4. I had everything else I needed at home.

I emptied the Hydrogen Peroxide bottles and removed the labels. From one bottle, I cut off the top third and the second bottle I cut off the bottom third. I then glued two Smartwater bottle lids together to form two female ends as an adapter. I used Gorilla Glue and drilled a large diameter hole in them after the glue was completely dry.

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Once dry, the screen I purchased fits nicely in the lid. Not too snug, but not too loose. The screen acts as a prefilter and actually catches quite a bit – even from the “clean springs” that I use often.

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That’s all there is to it. Confused? Let me help….

I need to filter some water so I grab my bottle sections that have been slid together to form my carrier:

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I pull the bottom section off showing the top portion holding the filter, backflush syringe, 32 oz bag, and the female to female adapter that I made previously.

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I pull everything out and select the items I need

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If the water is shallow, or to fill the bag quickly, I can take off the lid to the top portion of the hydrogen peroxide bottle, grab my female to female adapter and screw it onto the lid. I make sure to put the screen side of the adapter up to the hydrogen peroxide bottle. To me, it will be more difficult to lose this way.

I then attach my 32 oz bag to the other end of the adapter. Simply scoop, lift, and fill. The screen catches the big stuff and it takes mere seconds to fill the entire bag.

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It only takes one or two scoops to completely fill (to the rim) the bag. I personally then filter into my water container, and reverse the process to pack everything away. As a bonus, the “ridges” in the bottles help hold the bottle sections together. Total weight for everything shown in the picture? 7.7 oz!

Hopefully someone will find this useful. Enjoy!

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Being thankful

Many people will post about being thankful for family, friends, and blessings this season. I am VERY thankful for those things, but my mind wanders to a different viewpoint that I want to share.

When have we (myself included) quit being thankful for the basic items in life that most of us take for granted on a daily basis? If you have never “done without” and lived in difficult situations, you may not have ever shared this viewpoint. Do you realize the majority of the (what society calls) poor people living in the United States live better than the majority of people in other parts of the world?

I believe a feeling of entitlement has become the norm in our society. We work hard, therefore we should have everything we dream for and want. Life should be fair (and easy). Everyone should win. If I can’t afford it (or if I don’t manage my money properly), someone else should give it to me. The list goes on and on…. It’s nonsense, but it has become ever-present in our culture. Be thankful for what you have and work for your desires.

I am thankful for my wife, children, family, job, and blessings that have been bestowed upon me. Regardless of your lifestyle, income, or social status – if you are reading this here are a few things I want you to ponder when you give thanks:

Be thankful for being safe. I’m not talking about driving through a scary part of town – I’m talking about being safe in your home. We do not have active military combat in our streets with the threat of rockets, missiles, or tanks destroying our homes. In many parts of the world having to leave everything you have in order to save your life is a real possibility. Regarding being safe – ignore your opinion of the military or military actions and be thankful for the people who are away from their family giving you the freedom and opportunity to sit down with yours.

Be thankful we can have different opinions. Without going off on a tangent, we can have different political, religious, or cultural opinions without breaking the law or killing each other. In parts of the world this is illegal and can result in long prison times up to and including execution. Think about that for a minute….

Be thankful for clean and safe drinking water. We take hot showers or baths every day, swim and wash our cars but in many parts of the world the water they drink is killing them. Literally. Because there is no other option – they must drink whatever water is available regardless of the cleanliness/purity.

Be thankful for food. I’m not referring to the Thanksgiving spread many of us will enjoy this week, but just having food to eat. In the United States people are starving because they can’t afford to buy food and in other parts of the world there is actually nothing to eat. If you have never been truly hungry you don’t realize just how much we take eating any time we want for granted.

Be thankful for living in this country (the United States or your country). I know it’s not perfect, but we do have many things going for us besides just the things listed above. We have reliable electricity, modern roads, and the ability to travel when/where we have the desire and means to travel without restriction. We are limited only by desire, skill, ability, and opportunity.

I encourage you to put down your cell phone (or computer) on Thanksgiving Day and spend quality time with the ones you love. You won’t die – I promise. Facebook, email, text, and all of the other applications will be there when you pick it up that evening.

I encourage you to go to the individual(s) that have helped you or supported you in your journey and thank them in person if at all possible. Tell them how much they mean to you and thank them for what they have done.

Take the time to help those as you are able. Share some of the things you have with those that have not. And be thankful that you have the means to help others with your time, money, or resources.

Be thankful. For everything.

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Cold Weather Testing

My wife and friends think I’m crazy.

I purchased camping gear including a top quilt and underquilt rated for 20 degrees Fahrenheit last year from http://www.hammockgear.com. Since I paid hard earned money for the gear, I like to ensure that they will perform as designed in the safety of my backyard. By testing in the backyard, if something happens, I can “bail out” to the house. By doing this I will be confident with my gear when the conditions are less than ideal in the woods.

Last night the forecast was a low of around 20 degrees, so I set up my hammock, Superfly tarp, down quilts, and UQP at sunset. Approximately 9:30 pm, I headed outside and into the comfort of the hammock. To make a long story short, I woke up with my feet a bit chilly at 2 am. I discovered the topquilt had come off my feet, so I readjusted and threw some handwarmers down in the footbox. Quickly falling asleep warm and toasty, I actually oversept by a few minutes. After waking up, I quickly packed everything away and went inside to a warm shower and a cup of coffee.

The low? 20 degrees.

My wife still thinks I’m crazy.

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Veterans Day thoughts from a veteran

As I reflect on Veterans Day I have mixed emotions. I appreciate and honor those that have gone before me but I don’t feel comfortable being “thanked for my service.”

If you don’t know me very well, I am a veteran. I served on Active Duty in the Army for two enlistments for a total of 6 years, 5 months, and 23 days. I didn’t retire. My first four years I was assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division in forward support of the 3rd Infantry Brigade. Although I was in logistics, we went to the field every time one of our battalions went to the field. We jumped out of planes and did the “high-speed” Army stuff that comes with an Airborne Infantry Division assignment. We were on an hour recall for weeks on end (before the age of cell phones), and did all the “fun stuff” that comes with being in the military. I deployed in support of Operation Desert Shield/Storm and found myself in Iraq just a short mile behind the front line. So my military experience wasn’t exactly Delta Force, but I wasn’t a “PowerPoint Ranger” either – but rather somewhere in the middle. So that’s my story and frame of mind as I write this…..

As I reflect on being a veteran, I don’t feel “worthy” when compared to the generations before me. As I compare my service to those involved in World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korea and other “engagements” I don’t feel my sacrifice compares to theirs. We weren’t living in trenches (for the most part), marching for miles in all kind of conditions, and I NEVER was faced with hand to hand combat. Today’s soldier has power, “clean” (disinfected non-potable) running water, decent food (MRE’s aren’t THAT bad when compared to previous generations had to eat), Internet, and even able to call home.

I’m not saying that soldiers today don’t have it rough. I deployed to Afghanistan as a contractor for 14 months beginning in late 2012, and as I traveled around that country, I saw and experienced the conditions many still have to face on a daily basis. Afghanistan (and now Iraq) is not a safe place – even if you never leave the FOB. Incoming rockets, “Green on Blue” attacks, IEDs, VBIEDs, and many other challenges face the soldiers today – especially ones going “outside the wire.” At least the previous generations knew who were the “good guys” and “bad guys.” Soldiers are still paying the Ultimate Sacrifice and many others face very dangerous situations on a daily basis.

I will thank every veteran for their service because it is a sacrifice, I do know that from experience. As I reflect on the conditions and experiences of the generations before me – I stand in awe of what they sacrificed for our country and I am eternally grateful for what they did so I can sit at my computer and type these words.

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Solo Halloween Night Hike

On Friday, Oct 31st a friend and I were going to do some “dusk/night hiking.” The initial plan was to head in as the sun went down and continue to our selected spot as it got dark. Our plans did not work out exactly as we planned…. After waiting until dark (6:45 pm here) I decided I had waited long enough and that maybe he would meet me at the campsite as there are several ways to get there.

I have been in my share of spooky, creepy, and/or scary situations so I do not spook easily. I strapped on my pack, turned my headlamp on, and headed down the trail. This was a very familiar trail and I was only going about 3 miles – what could possibly go wrong???

After about 15 minutes I had traveled pretty far into the woods. Outside of my small circle of illumination it was dark and I was having to pay pretty close attention to the trail. I’m not sure if it was because it was Halloween night, or if this was my first solo night hike, or if there were creatures in the woods, or a combination of all of the above. I couldn’t get over the feeling that I wasn’t “alone.”

Needless to say, my blood was pumping and I was hyper-sensitive to every little sound (which did not help matters AT ALL). I picked up my pace, because NOTHING in the woods can chase down a fast walking hiker, right???? I hiked about three and a half miles in an hour. In the dark. By myself. I made it to the dark campsite and quickly started a fire.

Shortly my hiker friend made his way as he ended up only being a few minutes behind me. We compared out thoughts and both agreed that it was spooky in the woods that night.

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