On a previous day tour I had taken a small gas stove, along with a stainless steel pot (the smallest of a nest of three, which I’ve used for camping for years, when saving weight hasn’t been a priority). However, as you can see from the photograph below, this can be somewhat unstable, unless you are on firm ground, and there is no wind. The whole setup is also relatively heavy, and burning a fossil fuel goes against the grain. It was time to investigate alternatives.
I’ve owned and used various stoves over the years, from the solid brass paraffin-burning Primus of my scouting days, through various petrol stoves, to Trangias and all sorts of gas stoves (including the now eponymous MSR JetBoil, the Hoover of portable, high-performance gas stoves).
I wanted a new stove, which was compact and light enough to take on bike tours. However, I didn’t want to burn fossil fuels, so oil-derived fuels and gas were a no-no. Tiny wood-burning stoves are too reliant on finding dry fuel when and where you need it (and the soot they generate may not make for a clean pot when packing up after a brew), so an alcohol-fuelled stove seemed to be the best option (especially if I could use bio-ethanol manufactured in the UK).
Since I had used Trangias in the past (and had always been fond of this Swedish stove version of a set of Russian dolls), my first port of call was re-acquainting myself with the vital statistics of the smaller 27 version. Ouch! I obviously hadn’t cared about the weight when I was young and naive (and when there was precious little else on the market that was comparable), but now I’m older and wiser (well, older anyway).
All hail the Internet, tool of the outdoors person wanting to find sources of better equipment. I’ll not bore you with the trail I followed, but I ended up following a recommendation by someone who had responded to a forum post. Hence, I ended up at Stormin’ Norman’s stove website, and started exploring the options available.
I ended up ordering a titanium Stormin’ Horizon stove, which would be supplied to fit a titanium Evernew 900ml pot (I emailed Norman, who responded in record time to confirm that he already had a template for this pot).
A stove made to fit a particular pot? Yep. The principle is simple: make a windshield that not only does that job, but also holds a specific pot securely above an alcohol burner, and make it so that it can roll up and be stored inside that pot.
Add an ultra-lightweight alcohol burner, a base plate and a couple of other extras (more about those in a separate post), and you have a superb lightweight stove that can burn alcohol, fuel tablets, or wood. And it’s made in the UK too.
I ordered the Evernew pot from Ultralight Outdoor Gear, and a Trangia fuel bottle from Backpacking Light, and they all arrived the same day, the day before I was due to head off on a two-day bike tour; so I would soon get to play with it out in the ‘real world’ (it would have been better to order everything from one supplier, to reduce the environmental impact of shipping three items, but this was not feasible … I will resist the temptation to wear a hair shirt in penance, and redeem myself by cycling, and also by burning renewable fuels instead of gas).
If my use of this stove/pot combination during my two days touring north Dorset have been anything to go by, I’m onto a winner. Set up takes seconds. My only concern would be assembling the windshield cone in a stiff breeze, because you have to insert one tightly folded edge into another one, and it might be tricky to initially locate one corner into the groove if the wind is snatching at what is no more than a thin sheet of titanium. But once you have placed the assembled windshield cone on the folded-out base plate, unscrewed the lid of the alcohol burner and then filled it, you are ready to go.
Lighting the burner took a couple of strikes of steel on flint, then the flame soon grew. Five minutes later (on average) I had 300ml of boiling water for my coffee.
For expediency, I purchased one litre of marine stove alcohol from a local chandlers (which they import from Germany). This burnt very cleanly. In future, I hope to source bio-ethanol from a UK supplier.
These are very much first impressions, which are certainly most favourable. In due course I’ll carry out some more formal testing, focusing on boiling times and fuel efficiency etc.
The total mass of the following items is 215g:
Windshield, baseplate, alcohol burner, fuel measure, pot, stuff sack.
Adding the following items increases the total mass by 115g:
Flint and steel, matches, washing-up liquid, scourer, small cloth.
The Trangia fuel bottle holds 300ml, and incorporates a very well-designed non-spill valve, which can be locked for transit. The weight of this when full is 340g.