For most of us when we’re camping, boiling speed isn’t that important – we just sit patiently and take in the view, which is exactly what we should be doing. However, it’s sometimes desirable to boil water quickly – say, for a hot drink or rehydrated meal when temperatures are close to freezing, or when you need to be on the move.
Overnight wild camping, in the peace and silence of dusk, I usually just rehydrate food in foil bags using a cosy box, so only need something to boil water in and drink from. For longer backpacking trips, arriving earlier at the pitch in daylight, I like to cook, so my pot may be slightly bigger, perhaps one with a heat exchanger, and my burner more controllable for simmering. This is when I take a slightly heavier cook system, and it’s usually gas.
Until recently, I switched indecisively between alcohol burners and ultralight canister gas stoves, depending on weather, temperature and the length of the adventure. I was never a big fan of alcohol stoves until I bought the iconic Trangia 27 back in the day. Even when I opened the packaging I thought it was rather large and cumbersome. Nevertheless, I still have my faithful Trangia. However, I use it only for car camping now, when I cook ‘proper’ meals. It’s completely faff-free and bombproof. As with their tents, those Swedes know a thing or two.
Using gas for backpacking trips, I have often felt – as they say in cycling parlance – ‘over geared’. I’ve seen and met people using alcohol stoves of every style and size and thought ‘wow, that’s so simple’.
This set me on a quest, and after some years, I now have a collection. (There’s that word again!) To date, it consists of the original Trangia and burner and several other Trangia-types, some made of tin, some made of copper, some of brass, stainless steel and even one from Japan made of uber-expensive titanium. Then there’s the pop can and cat-food tin stoves, many I’ve made myself, some I’ve bought. And some I’ve nearly burnt the house down with. (We don’t talk about those!)
Then, in a ‘eureka’ moment, on a recent trip, I discovered the perfect burner, made by Speedster. It’s basically a shallow tin filled with compacted, absorbent fibre wadding covered with a piece of fine wire mesh. Simplicity itself and very, very efficient. It’s extremely easy to fill and, provided the lid is screwed on tightly, it’s leak proof and can be left with fuel in. You can also put it in your pocket to keep the fuel warm in winter so you don’t struggle to light it.
I finally settled on the Speedster Number 2. In fact, I have two, and each burns for 20 to 25 minutes from full. Using a craft cutting compass, I made a simmer ring for one of them, which saves fuel if you need to reheat a drink that’s been left in your pot. I also take a spare 60ml bottle of fuel for peace of mind. Even though meths burns slightly hotter, I’ve been using bio-ethanol fuel, which is non-toxic (methanol-free), smokeless, longer burning and, more importantly, environmentally friendly if spilled.
So then I thought, what should I use as a pot stand? And for a windshield? And how do I protect the flame from what is, essentially, a very large candle wick? With gas, I now use a Crux folding stove with a 100ml cartridge and, sometimes, an aluminium folding windshield. I noticed four of the panels fitted exactly around my MytiMug cook pot. A ‘light bulb’ moment occurred… and after a bit of careful measuring, re-engineering and the use of a paper punch, this was the result.
The pot slides neatly inside the four panels of the windshield, held at the top by its lip, carefully measured so it hangs exactly one inch over the Number 2 Speedster – its recommended ‘sweet spot’ distance from the base of the pot*. Because the pot is completely enclosed by the stand and using a top-burning stove, the heat is maximised even though there’s some heat loss venting at the four corners. Great for warming your hands on a cold morning!
I added the holes around the base to provide air for the burner, but limited it to three on the back so as not to snuff it out when positioned into the wind. The windshield/pot stand folds away neatly into a bubble wrap bag with its foil ground protector. A Jiffy bag lined with bubble wrap protects the windshield as well as items in my pack. So this is my ‘go to’ cook set… for now.
Using bio-ethanol, in zero wind (indoors), 300ml of liquid rolls to a boil in 3 mins 45 secs. In the field, it’s anywhere from 4 to 7 minutes – still amazing for such a simple burner. If using meths (UK) or pure denatured alcohol, boil times would be slightly less.
Items and weights
- Pot: Alpkit 650 MytiMug
- Burner: Speedster Number 2 (available on eBay)
- Original windshield: Cotswold Outdoor
- Fuel: Geco Industries Fuel 4, Bio-ethanol Spirit Fuel
- Cook pot with lid containing two full burners, 60ml fuel in plastic bottle, lighter, HotLips, bubble wrap pot cosy inside a mesh bag – 275g
- Pot stand/windshield in bag – 75g
*Recommended ‘sweet spot’ height from burner to base of pot confirmed by Gary at Speedster.
The Caldera cone pot stand/windshield is the obvious choice for these burners and I’ll be making one soon to fit in the pot from one of the many templates on the internet. This should be more efficient, as all the heat is directed to the pot base.