My camping stoves and why I love each one … except that one …

I don’t know what stove I’m going to use to hike the AT. I’ve been thinking about it for weeks. I feel fortunate to have the time to make these decisions without feeling rushed since my thru-hike isn’t until 2015. Then again, too much time means going crazy about small details. I’m trying to keep from becoming one of those guys. I’ve got options. Do you have a favorite stove? What works for you?

Hilarious photobomb by my cats... Also, there are all my stoves.

Photobomb!

This is a picture of all my camping stoves. An evolutionary timeline, if you will, of my willingness to sleep further and further away from first the comfort of my bed at home and then the psychological security of my parked car. This is also a picture of my super charming cat sniffing his bro’s butt. Stay classy, Mal-Mal!

Instead of a this vs that struggle in my head, I decided to just take a break. This is why I love my stoves, regardless of whether they’re AT worthy or not:

The first stove in the picture is my husband’s. It’s your standard car camping Coleman single burner propane stove. Before I ever went camping or met my husband, I had the same stove but had never used it for camping. Mine kept hot meals on the table during a week without electricity after hurricane Ike. Now we use ours because it’s sturdy for cooking heavy car camping meals for three and because we still have fuel left over for it and feel bad about throwing things away even though we have new stoves now. I know it’s bulky and it’s heavy and all that but I still like it. I am just as happy camping ten feet from the car as I am hiking in for miles. They all have their pros and their cons and having this brute of a stove to cook heavy potato soup out of a can on my first camping trip was definitely a plus. After we run out of fuel, I probably won’t use it anymore but I’m glad I had something solid like this to start with.

The second stove is an Esbit fuel tablet pocket stove. I bought it as a backup for the first stove. We used it a handful of times, not as a backup, but as a multitasking stove. I think I made toast while my husband made eggs on the other stove at the same time. It’s small, which is awesome, but that’s about it. I had a hard time getting the fuel tablets to light. The worst thing about those tablets is that even when wrapped in foil and then double bagged, they still smell like rotten fish soaked in urine. We don’t use it anymore but I’m an amateur hoarder and can’t bring myself to get rid of it.

The third is an MSR PocketRocket backpacking canister stove one of my brothers gave us as a wedding present. I’ve only been camping twice since the wedding three months ago. The first time, we wanted to try the new JetBoil and the second … well … there wasn’t any cooking because of my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day of mosquitoes and ticks so I haven’t used it yet but I did test it on the patio and it was awesome. The flame control is great and it’s small and lightweight and comes with a cool compact hard case for it. Also, the isobutane/propane fuel mix canisters are so tiny compared to the giant propane ones! My brother likes his and I’ve read lots of good reviews of it. I’m looking forward to using it.

The fourth stove is a JetBoil Flash canister stove with attachable pot that we bought with wedding gift cards. Have I mentioned how rad my husband is? He was all the way on board for registering at REI for our wedding. Wait, I think that makes me an awesome wife. It was my idea and I just couldn’t stand the thought of people buying us something like an avocado slicer that I’m never going to use. I mean, just use a knife! Anyway, I love the JetBoil. It’s easy and boils water fast and everything fits inside. <3

The last two stoves in the picture are alcohol stoves I made by myself after watching tons of YouTube videos, including this one. I decided to go outside of my REI comfort zone and play with some DIY alcohol stoves. I didn’t even know these existed until a few weeks ago. I’ve made five since. They’re kind of addicting! I did geek out a bit and start timing things but I’ve decided that’s just not my style. I will say that I was able, on different versions, to boil two cups of water anywhere from 3.5 to 9 minutes. It was pretty fun to mess around with what worked and what didn’t.

My next post will be about all the ways I screwed up those alcohol stoves and how I magically ended up with two adorable and functional little stoves that I love.

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