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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Which is Lighter – Alcohol or Gas?

The "prevailing wisdom" seems to be that canister gas is lighter than alcohol on longer backpacking trips.  On the surface, this would seem to make sense.  From a chemistry standpoint you have to carry roughly twice as much alcohol (assume 50/50 methanol/ethanol) as gas to produce the same amount of heat.  Even though alcohol containers are lighter than gas canisters, you have to carry so much more fuel, at some point the greater amount of fuel you carry for an alcohol set up will exceed the weight of an equivalent canister gas set up.  Or so the thinking goes.  But is it true?

So, which is actually lighter – alcohol or canister gas?  Well, let's "do the math" and see what we come up with. I'll do three comparisons of gas stoves against alcohol as listed below.
  1. Conventional canister stove vs. alcohol
  2. Jetboil canister stove, typical use, vs. alcohol
  3. Jetboil canister stove,  "gram weenie" (minimalist) use, vs. alcohol
I'll cover conventional canister stoves vs. alcohol in this post.  I'll cover high efficiency stoves (i.e. a Jetboil) in future posts.

Conventional Canister Stove vs. Alcohol
OK, so what do I mean by "conventional" canister stove?  I'm talking about just a regular upright canister gas stove and a plain pot, the kind that does not have a heat exchanger.  In other words, just an ordinary gas stove with a plain pot.  Examples would include an MSR Pocket Rocket and a Snow Peak Gigapower.  Let me put up the numbers first, and then I'll walk you through them.  For the sake of brevity, I'm going to limit my projections to 14 days.  I'm assuming that most people don't do trips longer than two weeks without re-supplying.  I have numbers if you're interested that go out to three weeks. I'll discuss how to request those numbers later on in this post.

Here are the numbers:
ALCOHOL
Number of days on trail 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
ml of alcohol per day 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50 50
Total ml of alcohol 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500 550 600 650 700
Specific gravity 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8 0.8
Total grams of alcohol 40 80 120 160 200 240 280 320 360 400 440 480 520 560
Fuel bottle weight (grams) 18 18 32 32 32 45 45 45 45 45 45 63 63 63
Stove system weight 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60
Total grams (bottle + fuel + stove) 118 158 212 252 292 345 385 425 465 505 545 603 643 683
Weight carried end of trip (grams) 78 78 92 92 92 105 105 105 105 105 105 123 123 123
CANISTER GAS
Number of days on trail 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Grams of gas per day 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20
Total grams of gas needed 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240 260 280
Actual grams of gas carried 110 110 110 110 110 220 220 220 220 220 220 330 330 330
Canister weight (grams) 100 100 100 100 100 140 140 140 140 140 140 240 240 240
Stove system weight 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60 60
Total grams (can + fuel + stove) 270 270 270 270 270 420 420 420 420 420 420 630 630 630
Weight carried end of trip (grams) 250 230 210 190 170 300 280 260 240 220 200 390 370 350
Number of days on trail 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
Start of Trip Difference (grams) 152 112 58 18 -22 75 35 -5 -45 -85 -125 27 -13 -53
Start of Trip Difference (ounces) 5.4 4.0 2.0 0.6 -0.8 2.6 1.2 -0.2 -1.6 -3.0 -4.4 1.0 -0.5 -1.9
End of Trip Difference (grams) 172 152 118 98 78 195 175 155 135 115 95 267 247 227
End of Trip Difference (ounces) 6.1 5.4 4.2 3.5 2.8 6.9 6.2 5.5 4.8 4.1 3.4 9.4 8.7 8.0
Average Difference (grams) 162 132 88 58 28 135 105 75 45 15 -15 147 117 87
Average Difference (ounces) 5.7 4.7 3.1 2.0 1.0 4.8 3.7 2.6 1.6 0.5 -0.5 5.2 4.1 3.1

OK, so let's talk about the numbers.  These numbers are for a solo stove user.  Use of a single stove by multiple persons would require an adjustment to the above numbers.

The first line for each type of stove is the length of the trip.  The trip is assumed to be "unsupported".  In other words, you aren't going to pick up supplies anywhere along the way during the trip.

Now, we need to know the total weight for each set up.  The total weight is the sum of the weight of the fuel + the weight of the stove set up + the weight of the fuel container.  Assume for these purposes that we use identical pots.

In the Alcohol section, I go through some gyrations to calculate the weight of how much fuel I think I'll need.  We can argue exactly what is the correct value for the specific gravity of SLX denatured alcohol (which is what I've been using lately), but the important point is that the weight of alcohol is double that of canister gas.

Now, look at the two stove set ups.  I'm allotting 60g each for both alcohol and canister gas.  I include the weight of a full windscreen with the alcohol stove set up.  I consider a windscreen essential to the efficient burning of alcohol.   Now, can you find a canister stove that is lighter than 60g?  Certainly.  And you can also find an alcohol set up that is lighter than 60g.  For these purposes, let's assume that the two stove set ups weigh the same.

The container weight will vary with the amount of fuel that we use.  More fuel will require a larger container or multiple smaller containers.  In this comparison, I'm going to assume that people are going to take full canisters at the start of the trip, a fairly standard practice.  In the "gram weenie" (minimalist) comparison, I'll use partial canisters to see what kind of weight savings I can obtain.  See Appendix I for a list of the specific sizes and weights of the containers used.

At this point we've got the total weight of each set up for each length of trip, from 1 to 14 days.  But that weight is the weight you show up with at the trailhead at the start of the trip.  Recall that during the trip, you'll be burning the fuel.  The weight you show up at the trailhead will not be carried throughout the trip.  So, below the "total grams" line I show the weight at the end of the trip after you've burned the fuel.

Next, I show the difference in weight between alcohol and gas at the start of a trip.  Negative numbers indicate the weight savings if gas is used.  Positive numbers indicate the weight savings if alcohol is used.  Notice that for trips up to 4 days in duration, alcohol is lighter but that on the 5th day, gas is lighter.  This seems to fit the "prevailing wisdom" that gas is lighter for longer trips.  But now notice that on a 6 day trip, alcohol reverts to being lighter.  What happened?  Well, on a six day trip, we use 120g of fuel.  A small canister only holds 110g of fuel.  We switched to a 220g canister, and now we're carrying more weight in both fuel and container.  As the duration of a trip lengthens, we again see weight savings for 8 through 11 day trips.  A 12 day trip shows up with alcohol being lighter again because we had to switch to a 220g canister and a 110g in order to have enough gas.  And so on.

But these are starting weight differences.  The next set of rows shows ending weight differences.  Now here's something a bit startling:  alcohol set ups are always lighter by the end of the trip.  Why?  Well, container weight.  Take a look at Appendix I.  With a 110g size gas canister, for example, the canister weighs almost as much as the fuel.  That steel canister is still with you at the end of the trip. With alcohol, the weight is almost all fuel.

Lastly, there is one final set of rows in my comparison table:  Average difference.  Here, I'm averaging the starting and ending difference in weight between alcohol and canister gas.  Notice here that in only one instance, at eleven days (highlighted in green), is canister gas lighter on average than alcohol.

Commentary
Now, ending light may not always be your chief goal.  When is you pack heaviest?  At the start of a trip, when you've got all your food.  So, having a lighter stove set up at the start of the trip is actually a good thing, and therefore a gas set up might be in order.  However, that said, it's only on longer trips, 10 and 11 days long, where anything even close to real weight savings occur, about 1/4 of a pound.  The start of trip weight savings when using a gas stove on longer trips are fairly modest, at least with conventional stoves.  I'll discuss results with a high efficiency stove (i.e. a Jetboil) in two future posts.

The biggest drawback to gas stoves is those heavy steel canisters.  The best you can do in terms of a fuel to container weight ratio is about 2:1.  With alcohol you can get a ratio as good as 10:1.  An important goal in trip planning when using a gas stove is to minimize canister weight.

Minimizing canister weight
First, never carry two smaller canisters when a single larger one will do.  Your fuel to canister weight ratio is always better with a larger canister.  In cases where you need more than 220g but less than 331g of fuel, you'd actually do better weight wise with a 450g size canister that has had some fuel burned off than you would carrying two canisters (i.e. a 110g size and a 220g size).  If you're planning a trip where you just barely have to move up to the next larger sized canister, you might want to plan a stoveless meal or two or bring a more efficient stove just so you don't have to bump up to that next larger canister.  In short, always strive to bring only one canister, the smallest, lightest one that has enough capacity for your trip.  Try not to have to bring two canisters or to have to move up to the next larger size.

HJ, your numbers stink!
Don't like my numbers?  No worries.  You can have my spreadsheets and plug in your own numbers.  Write me at Hikin dot Jim using the domain Gmail dot com and ask for a copy.  Note that there is no "g" in "Hikin".  Hopefully, I won't get inundated here.  I have this in Excel 2010 format.  If you need an earlier format, please let me know, and I'll do my best.

Conclusion
So, in conclusion, with a conventional upright gas stove, gas can be lighter at the start of a trip, but alcohol is always lighter by the end of a backpacking trip.  In terms of the average difference in weight throughout the trip, alcohol is almost always lighter.  If you're looking to save weight, alcohol stoves are a pretty good bet.

I hope all these calculations are of some help to those looking to lighten up,

Thank you for joining me,

HJ


Appendix I – Weights
Empty canister weights.  I weighed several different brands of canisters on my gram scale.  There is some variability among brands in both content and canister weight, but I'm going to use the below weights which I think are representative.  I use the word "ratio" below but only list one number for brevity's sake.  Mentally, just include ":1" after each number shown below.
1.  A 110g size canister weighs 100g when empty.  Fuel to container weight ratio = 1.1
2.  A 220g size canister weighs 140g when empty.  Fuel to container weight ratio = 1.6
3.  A 450g size canister weighs 210g when empty.  Fuel to container weight ratio = 2.1

Empty alcohol fuel bottle weights.  I weighed some of the alcohol bottles I have lying around.  There may be lighter versions available, but let's use the below numbers in our calculations.  I use the word "ratio" below but only list one number for brevity's sake.  Mentally, just include ":1" after each number shown below.
1.  A 125ml fuel bottle weighs 18g when empty.  Fuel to container weight ratio = 6.3
2.  A 250ml fuel bottle weighs 32g when empty.  Fuel to container weight ratio = 7.0
3.  A 500ml fuel bottle weighs 45g when empty.  Fuel to container weight ratio = 10.0


Appendix II – Assumptions
  • The first assumption is of course that alcohol stoves will work for your style of stove use.  If you're doing gourmet cooking or cooking for a group of three or more, then an alcohol stove may not work for you.
  • Gas to alcohol fuel weight ratio is 2:1.  In other words, you need to burn twice the alcohol by weight to get the same amount of heat as you would from gas.  Yes, I'm assuming 20g/day for gas and 50ml/day for alcohol, but the amounts are not so much what is important; it is the ratio that is critical.
  • 6 cups (approx 1.5L) of water boiled per day.
  • Water temperature approx. 10C.
  • Very little simmering.
  • Efficient alcohol set up (I used a Caldera Cone from Trail Designs to develop my numbers).
  • Gas stove is used efficiently (turn it down, use a lid, use a wide enough pot, etc.)
  • Stoves are reasonably shielded from wind.
  • Regular canister stove (not a Jetboil, a Reactor, or similar).
  • Plain pot (no heat exchanger).
  • Air pressure approx 900 mBar.
  • The same pot is used for both alcohol and canister gas.
  • Gas and alcohol stove set ups are of equal weight.
  • A windscreen is included in the weight of an alcohol stove set up.
  • No resupply (at least of fuel) occurs during the trip.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

How Much Canister Gas Do I Need?

Sometimes I see people bringing a lot more gas for their canister stove than they really need.  Now, it never hurts to be prepared, but really? A 450g canister for a simple weekend trip?  That's potentially a lot of extra weight to pack up a mountain.  Of course we don't want to run out of gas, but let's see if we can't do a little bit better in terms of coming up with an estimate of the gas we might need.
The three standard threaded backpacking canister sizes:
(L to R) 450g, 220g, and 110g.  Note:  Some brands vary as to exact amount of gas.

Now, before I give you my estimates, let me say that my estimates are based on my experience and my style of stove use.  You are your own best estimator.  If you're somewhat new to backpacking, then I'd say err on the side of caution and assume that you'll be doing "complex" cooking and select fuel based on that column from the table below.

What about White Gas?
What's that you say?  You don't use canister gas; you use white gas?  Ah.  No worries.  Check out How Much White Gas Do I Need?

Making Your Own Estimates
As for your own estimate based on your cooking style/stove use style, first you need to get a gram scale. Then weigh your gas canister before your trip.  On every trip, keep track of how many meals you cooked and what type of cooking was involved.  After your trip, weigh the canister again.  The difference between the starting weight and the ending weight is the amount of gas you used.  If you've kept track of how much and what type of cooking you've done, you should be able to start estimating your gas usage after a few trips.

Estimates in the Field
You can also make a rough estimate of how much fuel you're using while you're out on a trip.  See my article in Seattle Backpacker's Magazine, How Much Gas Do I Have Left?

Using Less Fuel 
Whatever you do with a stove, keep efficiency in mind.  There are basic things you can do to use less fuel while you're cooking.  I commend to you my earlier blog post, Canister Gas Stoves -- Recommendations and Efficiency.

My Estimates 
OK, now here are my estimates.  Note that when I boil water, the water is normally around 40F/5C to 50F/10C in temperature.  Significantly warmer or colder water may cause you to use more or less gas.  If you're melting snow, you should roughly double the below estimates.

For a solo trip
Jetboil Conventional Canister Gas Stove
(simple cooking)
Conventional Canister Gas Stove
(more complex cooking)
Grams per day 15 20 30
For two
Grams per day 23 30 45

Now, notice two things:
1.  For a simple weekend trip, for one person, there's no need to ever bring a 450g canister.  A 110g canister should do nicely unless you're doing a lot of extra heating for drinks, dish water, bath water, etc.   A reasonably conservative person shouldn't need more than one small canister of gas for a weekend.
2.  I do not double my estimates if a second person comes.  It's usually more efficient to boil more water at a time.  In other words, if you're going to boil a liter of water, do it all at once.  Don't boil 500 ml, empty the pot, and then boil the second 500 ml.  I'm assuming here that you brought a pot large enough for two people.  If not, then you may need to allow for higher gas usage.

Remember that my estimates are just that, estimates.  Always check that your experience is similar to mine before relying too heavily on my estimates.  Particularly in very cold or very windy conditions, gas usage may increase significantly.

I hope you find this post helpful,

HJ

Notes and Assumptions
1.  The figures above assume about 6 cups (approx. 1.5L) boiled per day for simple cooking.
2.  Water temperature is assumed to be around 40F/5C to 50F/10C.
3.  The figures in the table above do not include snow melting.
4.  The figures above assume you know how to operate a gas stove reasonably efficiently (turn it down!  Running on high wastes gas.) and that you've taken measures to shield the stove from wind.
5.  The figures above also assume that you have a pot that is wide enough to catch the flame.  Users of tall, skinny pots with a conventional gas stove will generally use more gas.
6.  Air pressure is assumed to be approx. 900 mBar, the air pressure normally found at about 3000'/900m in elevation.  Stove use at lower elevations may require more gas.  Stove use at higher elevations may require less gas.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Drought, Fire, and Stoves (How NOT to end up on the 11:00 News)

I wrote an article for Gossamer Gear on fire safety and backpacking stoves a couple of weeks ago. In light of the extreme fire weather we're having right now and the current fires now burning down in San Diego, I thought I'd post a link (below) here on my blog.

Fire currently (May 2014) burning in San Diego
Drought, Fire, and Stoves (How NOT to end up on the 11:00 News)

Stay safe out there,

HJ

Friday, May 3, 2013

Fire Safety -- Alcohol vs. ESBIT?

Currently, there are three active wildfires burning within a one hour drive of where I live.  None of these that I know of were caused by a hiker, but here's one that was:  The Hewlett Gulch Fire (you might want to turn the sound down if you're at work; he cusses under his breath).

From a newspaper article:
The U.S. Attorney's Office ... announced that Fort Collins resident [individual's name withheld] has been cited for causing timber to burn without a permit. [The individual] is accused of starting the fire on Monday, when a stove he was using while camping along the Hewlett Gulch Trail lit the blaze. The stove was a small, backpacking-style stove that burns alcohol.  [emphasis added]
First, let me lay my bias out on the table:  I like alcohol stoves.  I like that they're ultra light.  I like that they're simple to use.  I like that there's very little on them that can go wrong.  I like that they typically burn cleanly and have very little (if any) smell.  I like that they're essentially silent.  I like that I can buy fuel in bulk.  All my "go to" set ups for solo backcountry travel are alcohol based.
A Trail Designs Ti-Tri Sidewinder with an alcohol stove, one of my favorite UL cooking set ups.
Are alcohol stoves safe?
So, first issue:  Are alcohol stoves safe?  I mean is the fire shown in the video above just a fluke?

I think it depends a bit on the design of the stove.  I've personally never used a "tippy" or unstable alcohol stove -- but not all alcohol stoves are equally stable and safe. Note:  An alcohol stove that uses an absorbent wicking material (e.g. carbon felt or similar) would probably be safer, depending on how much alcohol was added to the stove.

I'm always very careful about how I use a stove.  I've never felt like I was endangering the forest (that I love), but realistically not everyone is as careful, and, even if I'm careful, no amount of care is ever 100%.  What if I knock it over?  What if a strong gust of wind tips it over?  Flaming alcohol everywhere.  Sometimes I'll use a full ounce (~30ml) of alcohol at a time.  If spilled, that could spread over an area that I might not be able to extinguish. Some fellow hikers have challenged me on the safety of alcohol stoves.  I have to admit that I don't have a good rebuttal.

There's another hazard besides simple spilling:  refueling.  The flames of alcohol typically cannot be seen during daylight hours.  Stories abound of people trying to refuel a stove that they thought was no longer burning only to have huge flames burst out as they poured alcohol into a burning stove.  And where does that now flaming container go when things catch fire?   Most of us would drop it or throw it, which could be a real disaster.   Always feel for heat with your naked hand before refueling an alcohol stove.  Do NOT depend on being able to see the flames.  See also this cautionary video:

Are alcohol stoves permitted?
Now, the second issue:  Are alcohol stoves permitted?

From the Sequoia National Forest website:
Allowed are: lanterns and portable stoves using gas, jellied petroleum, or pressurized liquid fuel outside of developed recreation sites or campgrounds, but only with a valid California Campfire Permit (available free of charge).
Other National Forests in California say essentially the same thing, and in speaking with others around the western United States, these seem to be pretty much the standard rules.  In other words, alcohol stoves are generally not permitted in National Forests in the western US.  Note:  Always check with the particular land management agency for the area you wish to visit; there are always exceptions to general rules.

So, canister gas, pressurized liquid fuel, and jellied "petroleum" are allowed, but typical liquid alcohol stoves are not.  By "jellied petroleum," they mean Sterno which is actually jellied alcohol not jellied petroleum.  In other words, non-liquid alcohol stoves are allowed.  See also Appendix I, Jellied Petroleum, below.

Is ESBIT safe?
ESBIT on the other hand cannot spill and cannot spread.  ESBIT does not emit sparks or embers that can float off and create a spot fire.  ESBIT does not smolder and then burst back into flame.  Moreover, ESBIT can blown out easily by mouth, much as one might blow out a candle.  I'm not enthralled by the smell of ESBIT, nor do I like the sticky residue it leaves on the bottom of my pot, but absent information to the contrary, I'd have to say that ESBIT is the safer alternative to alcohol for ultralight cooking set ups.
Burning ESBIT in an ultralight cooking set up
Is ESBIT permitted?
Now, is it permitted?  Well, I guess a strict reading of USFS websites might lead one to conclude "no."  However, I feel it is in the same class as jellied "petroleum" (see Appendix I, below).  ESBIT is a fuel that has a) been chemically rendered incapable of spilling and b) can be readily extinguished -- just as easily as a can of Sterno with it's lid.  It's a bit unclear whether the Forest Service is a) just unaware of ESBIT type fuels b) actually intends to ban ESBIT, or c) permits ESBIT since it has the appropriate characteristics (cannot spill and can be readily extinguished).  From a technical perspective, ESBIT is certainly at least as safe as a white gasoline stove and in many ways is safer.  I think there's a bit of gray area here and that the Forest Service should either state outright that ESBIT is banned and why or should state explicitly that it is permitted.  For now, in keeping with the spirit of the regulations, I believe that ESBIT is generally permitted.

Concluding Remarks
I admit that I dislike the ban on alcohol stoves but, grudgingly, I'm getting won over, particularly in times of high fire danger. And ESBIT seems pretty rock solid safe.

The websites of the various National Forests of the western United States are a textbook example of poor writing.   There is a profound lack of clarity on the topic of fire regulations, which I find somewhat shocking since fire is a subject of great importance.  What I've done is to visit a number of National Forest websites.  Only in the aggregate do they start to make sense.  I've quoted the Sequoia National Forest website above since it is one of the clearest.  I believe that I have faithfully rendered the the "spirit of the law" in the above blog post, but there is some room for question.  In the final analysis, the United Forest Service isn't very clear about exactly what the regulations are.  You should always consult directly the land management agency for the area(s) you intend to visit and use a stove.  I do have a general summary listed in Appendix II, below.

Thanks for joining me on the journey,

HJ

Appendix I -- Jellied "Petroleum"
All of the Forest Service websites seem to talk about "jellied petroleum."  Jellied petroleum is commonly known as napalm and is used with great effect as a weapon of war; flame throwers use jellied petroleum.  There are no known examples of backpacking type stoves that use jellied petroleum.  So what is the Forest Service talking about?  Let's look at the San Bernardino National Forest's website which has a helpful FAQ section:
Why are jelly petroleum-fueled stoves okay and campfires aren’t?
Gas, liquid, and jelly petroleum-fueled stoves can be extinguished by turning off the fuel source to the stove. Jelly petroleum-fueled stoves can be extinguished by putting a metal lid over the container. This makes their use much safer than campfires. Ashes or hot briquettes can blow outside of the fire pit; these embers can easily start a wildfire. Also, visitors might discard ashes or hot charcoal briquettes before they are completely cool, which could cause vegetation to ignite later after they are gone. Wood, charcoal, or any solid fuel fires are not allowed within the San Bernardino National Forest outside developed campgrounds, picnic areas, yellow post sites, and special use permitted sites in agency-provided fire rings or designated sites at any time of the year.  [emphasis added]
Looking at the above and at other National Forest websites, it becomes clear that they mean Sterno type fuel, which is jellied alcohol not jellied petroleum.

The Cleveland National Forest's web page on Wilderness areas is even more explicit, mentioning the Sterno brand by name:
Campfire, barbecue or hibachi use is not allowed. Propane or sterno fuel stoves are allowed.  [emphasis added]
Notice that the above only mentions propane and sterno.  Does this mean that butane stoves are illegal?  How about white gasoline?  Kerosene?  This is what I mean when I say there is a profound lack of clarity on the topic of fire regulations. Again, one must take the various National Forest websites in the aggregate in order to make sense of them.

Appendix II -- Key Regulations Summary
As I mentioned in my concluding remarks, above, I've visited quite a number of National Forest websites.  If one reads enough of them, in the aggregate, they begin to make sense.  Regulations vary some forest to forest, but generally the below are true.  These regulations are from California National Forests, but regulations in other western National Forests are similar.
  • Backpacking stoves (of any type) are considered by the US Forest Service to be a form of campfire.
  • In the state of California, a California Campfire Permit is generally required in order to operate a backpacking stove.  In some areas, a Wilderness Permit is acceptable in lieu of a Campfire Permit.
  • Pressurized liquid petroleum stoves with a on/off device or valve are generally permitted.   Example:  An MSR Whisperlite stove is permitted
  • Canister gas stoves with an on/off device or valve are generally permitted.  Example:  A Snow Peak Gigapower stove is permitted.
  • Jellied alcohol stoves are generally permitted.  Example:  A Sterno stove is permitted. ESBIT type fuel is not mentioned.  From a technical perspective it has the same characteristics as Sterno (cannot spill and can be easily extinguished), but ESBIT is a bit of a gray area.  I believe ESBIT is in keeping with the spirit of the regulations.  Ask any two different rangers and you'll probably get two different opinions.  At the very least, it's safe from a technical perspective and won't start a wildfire.
  • Liquid alcohol stoves are generally NOT permitted.  They probably are permitted where wood fires are already permitted, but the National Forest websites aren't particularly clear on this point.
  • Wood stoves are generally NOT permitted except where wood fires are already permitted.

Appendix III -- Other Fire Regulations
  • From the Mendocino National Forest website:  "Permits must be signed by an adult eighteen years of age or older."  Apparently, fires are prohibited unless a permitted adult is present.
  • From the Angeles National Forest:  "During high fire danger, additional fire restrictions may be imposed. Before your visit, check with a local Forest Service office for current fire restriction information."
  • From multiple National Forests:  "Clear all vegetation in a five foot radius" and "a shovel is required to be present."  How much the shovel regulation is enforced in backcountry areas is subject to question.  My assumption is that a potty trowel will be sufficient.  A five foot radius seems a bit excessive for a backpacking stove and is hardly a "Leave no trace" practice, but that's what the regulations call for.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Blog Status, 1 May 2013

Personal News
Out of work again.  Sigh.  In my industry, IT, it seems that most work these days is project based work.  I just completed a four month contract where I was working sometimes seven days per week, sometimes to midnight or even later, but now I'm unemployed.  Such is life.  At least the project was successful.

I'm ready for a break, but I hope I'll find work soon.  The extra time will hopefully help me get to some posts I've been wanting to write for some time now -- and allow me to do more hiking.  Because of work, I've really had to curtail my hiking trips, particularly in March.  :(

Recent Hiking
I did get out this past weekend to the San Gorgonio Wilderness in Southern California.
Yours truly, in the San Gorgonio Wilderness
I spent some time in a seldom visited corner of the wilderness.  It's great that there are areas like this that are visited by relatively few but yet are close to a major urban area like Los Angeles.

You can see my trip report, if you're interested:  East Barton Flats to Grinnell Ridge Camp.  I had a great time exploring a cross country short cut and checking out a hidden and generally unknown spring -- a valuable resource in a dry area like Southern California.
Hidden Mosquito Spring
A Trail Ambassador
I've become a "Trail Ambassador" for Gossamer Gear, an ultra light equipment company.
So, what exactly is a Trail Ambassador?  It's a collaboration between an individual such as myself and Gossamer Gear.  Basically, I get to try out Gossamer Gear products and in return Gossamer Gear gets some exposure.  People who know me know that I've been trying to lighten up (a lot!) in terms of my carry weight on trips over the last half dozen years or so.  I'm excited about forming a mutually beneficial relationship with a great gear company whose products I've already been using for several years.  Can you spot the Gossamer Gear logo on a piece of my gear in my recent trip report?  :)

The only down side perhaps is that Gossamer Gear really isn't a stove company, so I probably won't be doing a lot of stove reviews on their gear.  I will be using their packs, accessories, etc, and hopefully you'll see them crop up from time to time in my posts.

The State of the Blog
Adventures in Stoving is doing well.  Around the end of February,  Adventures in Stoving passed the half million mark in terms of site views.  That means that over 500,000 people have come to view the information presented here in just a little over two years.  I think that's pretty good for an individual's hobby blog.

Let me share a little graphic with you:
The above is Google Blogger's monthly count of visits to Adventures In Stoving.  I started in January 2011.  Things got off to a slow start, but by fall, 2011, readership had climbed to over 40,000 per month.  I then lost a job that I had held for 20+ years in January 2012.  I perforce accepted a job that required me to drive over 100 miles (160 km) per day in Los Angeles traffic.  My blogging suffered and so did readership.  In 2013, I got a new project to work on, one that was much closer to home.  My blogging picked up again and readership is now slightly above where it was when I got that distant job.  I thank you for hanging in there with me.

With gratitude and appreciation,

HJ