In 2016 we took a serious look at why we weren’t getting out backpacking as much as we’d like. Work was one of the major obstacles, but we also identified several gear issues that caused problems. One of those ‘pinch points’ was our cooking system. We wanted something lighter, smaller and simpler.
I love both our MSR Pocket Rocket, and my Coleman Exponent stove, but we decided to see if we could find an alternative. The Pocket Rocket is really good, but judging how much fuel you have and carrying a spare fuel canister is a pain. So we looked at solid fuel and alcohol stoves. We bought one of each; an Esbit solid fuel stove and a Trangia alcohol stove.
I love the design of the Esbit, it’s so simple, small, and light weight (3.6 oz). The fuel is easy to measure – roughly one tab per person per meal or hot drink – but I cannot deal with the smell of it. It is horrendous, like rotting fish.
That leaves the Trangia as our current go-to stove.
The Trangia has a folded brass lip to seal and join the burner to the fuel reservoir. For lots of people the join works fine and it doesn’t leak. It’s not supposed to be leak-proof. The supplied screw cap and seal are meant to keep any unused fuel between burns while in camp. Throw it in a backpack and turn it on its side and the join will leak. Unless you seal it.
And that’s what I’ve had done. My father-in-law soldered the join and now it doesn’t leak at all. I can carry the stove in my backpack without fear of losing my fuel (I’ll still keep it in a Ziplok bag just in case).
As to how well the stove works, 10 minutes will boil 16 oz of water, and that will take around an ounce of fuel. Extra fuel is carried in small plastic bottles.
You have to carry a windshield, and that adds a little more weight and bulk to the cooking system, but it is negligible.
Besides the stove, we bought a 850 ml / 28 oz titanium cook pot with lid and built-in handle to replace our GSI Pinnacle 1.5 Liter pot. The titanium pot is so much smaller and lighter it makes a huge difference. Finally, I made a foil bubble wrap cozy which is stored around the titanium pot.
We’ve switched over to individual vacuum packed dehydrated meals. You heat the water and pour it into the opened meal packet – which sits in the cozy – so you don’t burn your hands while the meal is sitting absorbing the water, and the meal doesn’t get cold either. It works really well, though we didn’t make the meal packages quite large enough in the first batch, so they didn’t sit well in the cozy. The great thing about this technique is that you eat straight from the meal packet meaning there is no washing up. We like that!
So the above set-up is currently working well for us, and it’s low tech with not a lot to go wrong, which is always a plus. We still carry plastic mugs for our coffee as the titanium plot conducts the heat too well, though we have seen plastic insulators for the lip of the pot.