Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Back to basics - Cooking

A while back I spent some time thinking long and hard about my cooking kit and its shortcomings. Eventually I came up with a new system that gave me a lot more flexibility, especially in colder conditions where I want to be able to melt snow and have a hot meal/drink fast with minimum fuss. I got this but it cost me in terms of weight. I'm still happy with that set but recently I've been having a long look at my pack weight and I'm slightly shocked by how much it's crept up. Things have been getting heavier all round and  I've kept on justifying it by thinking that extra weight is worth it for the ease of use, luxury etc.

So in a bid to lighten the load I've decided to go back to basics a bit. I got to thinking back to when I had just started heading to the hills on my own and remembered carrying some crazy light meths set-ups (home-made out of old Irn-Bru cans too) and I never really had any issues with them. So why did I move away from them then? Well sometimes they were a faff, especially in the wind. They were never very fast and I suppose I was seduced by the roar of a gas stove reaching a boil in less than half the time.

Could I go back to meths then? Well I thought I'd be willing to give it a bash if I could fix those problems. I already knew about the now classic Caldera Cone system but had never tried one. Reading up old reviews I struggled to find anything really bad about them other than the packing of it. As they're not expensive I decided to take a gamble on one . I specced it for my old MyTi mug as it's the lightest pot I have already and it is a good size for one.

Whilst waiting on delivery I got to thinking about the MyTi mug and remembered all the burnt fingers I'd suffered lifting it by handles that had gotten too hot in the flames licking up the pot sides. I already had one of those silicone charity band that were all the rage a few years back around the rim to prevent burnt lips so would silicone tubing work on the handles? Well luckily for me I came across some at work (machine spares) so decided to "re-purpose" it. The 10 gram weight gain would be worth it I thought.

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When it arrived I was pleasantly surprised to find that the supplied caddy fits nice and snug in the pot, so that makes packing a little easier than expected. I'm not sure if it's by design or just coincidence but either way it works. I like the 12-10 stove supplied with it and it does seem to work better with the cone than any of  my old stoves. I ditched the trail designs meths bottle and I'm using a 120ml bottle that used to contain fancy bike chain oil. It's clear, leak proof and has a squirty nozzle. The supplied measuring cup weighs nothing and does what it's meant to. The folding spork has gone and been replaced with an old light my fire one. Half the weight, fits in the caddy, orange and basically free because I already own it. A fire steel for lighting and a old handkerchief for drying wiping out pot etc and I think that's it.

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All together with enough fuel for several day's (by my calculations) and it weighs in at 479 grams. That's not too shabby for stuff I've just flung together and embarrassingly its a good bit lighter than the previous set up. I've had a play about with it (indoors admittedly) and I like it. I think it'll work nicely for me in the hills. I'll get the weight down on it a bit more with a little time and some more thought but so far I'm very pleased.

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Now that I've a play with it outside a couple of times I'm now a little bewildered as to why I ever strayed from this sort of set up! It's very light and it works fine. I did manage to burn the bottom of the silicone tubing when it was directly in the flames for a while so I've cut it back a bit at the bottom of the handles. Should still do its job insulating me and be a whole gram or two lighter...win, I think! I'm ditching the fire steel too. It may be great and super reliable for gas but its not that easy to get the sparks to land inside the narrow opening of the stove. I'm also a bit concerned I'll knock it over and spill the fuel with an over enthusiastic strike. Anyway a small cigarette lighter weighs less so that's yet another win. I'll use the set up some more and let it evolve and write it up when it's stayed the same for a while.

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  1. Nothing to break and light and function is key to a good 3 season stove step. Yours ticks the boxes just fine

  2. I'm liking it a lot Martin and your spot on with "3 season". The only time I can see it not working well is in the depths of winter. I know meths is slower but really what's an extra 5 minutes anyway? I go to the hills to escape the 24/7 instant culture we all live in where stuff and things are demanded constantly so it sort of makes sense in a way.

  3. I also have spent some time looking at Meths options. For a while I have had an Evernew Ti burner and trivet and I like it a lot but have struggled to find something that works for me. Finally, the solution has appeared with a Caldera ULC 2 (no longer available) a Snowpeak Trek 900 and a Ti lid, total weight for the setup is 206 gms which includes a Snowpeak Hot lips it boils sufficient water for dinner in about 5 minutes and is efficient, possibly a Zelph Startlyte would make for a better (and lighter) system but I am happy with the setup. And as Martin said, nothing to break, no blocked jets ... all in all it just makes sense. As for silicone tube, yep tried that, yep melted the bottom of it and decided that I was better off with out it, others may disagree. BTW I use a Ti LMF Spork not for the weight saving but the "unbreakability"

  4. You're right Nielsen, reliability is a consideration too, I've had a blocked jet on the Primus express spider back in Sept/Oct 2012. It didn't stop play completely but made it almost impossible to reach a rolling boil that trip, thankfully I was with others who also had stoves.

    I'm going to persist with the silicone tubing for a bit longer now that I've trimmed it back a little, time will tell.

    Speaking of "unbreakability", I dunno if you can see in the photo's above but I noticed the other day that there's a notch broken out of the serrated part of my orange spork...I may well have eaten that little orange piece of plastic!


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