My Alcohol Stove & Trail Cooking System

Several people have sent me e-mails asking about my backpacking cooking system and what I use or take with me.  There also seems to be general level of interest among us to know more about what others carry and why.  Fair enough.

Like all of you, my cooking system has evolved over time and through trial and error to the system and set-up that I currently have. I like what I have now and it seems to suit my needs perfectly which for the most part is boiling water to rehydrate food (freezer bag cooking) or making hot drinks of coffee, tea, cocoa.  Below is a picture of my current cooking “system”.

Cook System Picture

The whole cooking system above weighs 12.375oz  – let’s break it down piece by piece:

  1. This is a pot cozy that I made using Reflectix insulation wrap and foil tape. It weighs a mere 0.75oz but helps the pot maintain heat for a really long time after a boil without the need to keep my alcohol stove running. Great for those cold mornings when I make hot granola and coffee
  2. My trusty GSI Soloist pot and Lexan lid. This isn’t the lightest of cook pots but it certainly is a great  one for the price. The Soloist kit comes with the cup/bowl (item #7) and a carry bag that I rarely use. The combined weight for pot and lid only is 7.625oz (pot = 6.75oz, lid = 0.875oz). I love the solid snapping handle on this pot that has never come loose on me and serves as a great lid holder when the whole kit is stacked back together
  3. Home-made aluminum wind shield. I sacrifice a little weight here in order to have a heavier gauge aluminum material and some additional length to make sure I can wrap it around my pot and stove when cooking. Weight is 0.125oz
  4. My home-made single piece aluminum beer bottle alcohol stove that weighs 0.875oz. This is one that I made using the manual method shown by Tinny at MiniBullDesigns as part of his two-part BIOS video demo. Nothing new here, just my version of his design, made at home with some basic machining tools and a one-tonne press that I have. There is a more detailed picture of this stove below. This thing is rock solid, I can stand on it and it won’t deform. It’s also ultra reliable needing just 2oz of fuel and a flame to work every time. I can boil two cups of cold water on this stove in under 5 minutes, and the stove is consistently primed and plumed in 15-20 seconds
  5. A small plastic measuring cup (0.0625oz) that I use to ration out my denatured alcohol. Not a necessity but very handy to keep burn times consistent. Alternatively I could make marks on the inside of my stove to correspond to the levels of fuel I need – just have never got round to doing that
  6. A quarter of a Scotchbrite scrubbing sponge 0.125oz. This is used with a little CampSuds to clean my cooking utensils when necessary – very handy!
  7. The GSI Soloist cup/bowl that comes with #2. Separately it weighs 1.5oz including the heat protective cozy that is wrapped around it. The Lexan pot lid will snap into this upside down and make a spill-proof container or strainer
  8. Trail Designs Prime-Lite aluminum alcohol stove primer pan, 0.25oz. I used to carry a leftover piece of one of the aluminum beer bottles flattened out as a primer pan. That worked perfectly, but this cool little primer pan from Trail Designs is really nicely made. It has a ridged ring in the center that keeps most alcohol stoves (the one I show here and most soda can stoves) neatly in place. It also has an outer ridge to contain a small amount of fuel to prime the stove and three small dimpled feet that raise the pan off the ground slightly.  Simple but very effective

Here is a much larger picture of my single-piece aluminum beer bottle alcohol stove. It’s made by taking one of the new style aluminum beer bottles, cutting off the bottom three and half inches and using a one-ton press and mold to invert the walls and make a double walled stove. It sounds complicated, but it’s not. However it is especially difficult without a strong machine press.  Tinny at MiniBullDesigns who created this design (called a BIOS) has a great video on YouTube that shows exactly how it’s done. That’s how I did it. The flame ring holes are drilled using a 1/16th bit taking care that you don’t go all the way through both walls. Two small inner pressure release holes are drilled to help equalize the pressure when the pot is placed on top. As you can see it sits perfectly in the Prime-Lite primer pan.

Cook System Picture

And below is the whole cooking system closed up inside the GSI Soloist pot with the handles snapped over to keep the lid on top and everything in place. The pot is then slotted down inside the Reflectix pot cozy to make a neat single cooking package.

Cook System Picture

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  • http://backpackbasecamp.com/ Robin

    Nice cook setup, seems slightly heavy but whats a few oz’s?
    Robin
    BackpackBaseCamp Blog

  • http://blog.trailcooking.com/ Sarah Kirkconnell

    Brian,

    Be awesome if/when you have time you do a ‘how-to’ on making the cozy :-)

  • http://www.alacartenow.com/ Cast iron cooking utensils

    These utensils have a nonstick surface and are perfect for egg dishes like scrambled eggs, pineapple and corn bread face-down cakes. Cookware comes in cast iron pans, tetsubin, Dutch ovens, fryers, plates and grills Potjie carrier and woks.Cast iron cooking utensils

  • http://www.alacartenow.com/ Cast iron cooking utensils

    These utensils have a nonstick surface and are perfect for egg dishes like scrambled eggs, pineapple and corn bread face-down cakes. Cookware comes in cast iron pans, tetsubin, Dutch ovens, fryers, plates and grills Potjie carrier and woks.Cast iron cooking utensils

  • Kerfwappie

    Hi Brian… I’ve just been playing with the BIOS idea since I got my press.  I have eliminated the priming needs by drilling another jet half way between and directly above one of the jets in order to pull the flame down to the jet ring. My jet ring is a little bit high as well.  It may add a few seconds before blooming, by I can wait if it saves weight.
    Eric

  • Kerfwappie

    Hi Brian… I’ve just been playing with the BIOS idea since I got my press.  I have eliminated the priming needs by drilling another jet half way between and directly above one of the jets in order to pull the flame down to the jet ring. My jet ring is a little bit high as well.  It may add a few seconds before blooming, by I can wait if it saves weight.
    Eric