three stoves

Backpacking camping stoves! Gas vs Alcohol

We’re soon going to be heading off on a 5-6 day walk along the Norfolk Coastal Path (82 miles). We’re planning on going relatively lightweight, which prompted us to have a look at our stove options and what might work the best.

We’ve always used gas stoves. Our alpkit brewkit is our best friend on van camping trips but we decided to take a walk around Decathlon to see if there was anything that could be useful for our trip, and we found an alcohol/meths stove that looked well worth a try. The price was £18. We decided to compare all of our available options and these are the results. The test has been pretty conclusive and the best option is ‘it depends!’ but the figures here helped us make an informed choice.

The first test was a 3-way boil test between the Alpkit Brewkit, the OEX-F1 and the meths burner. We used new 500g gas cans. We used the brewkit as it came (but the weight below doesn’t include the pan support). The OEX-F1 without a windshield (we didn’t have one tall enough) with a 1l OEX pot. The meths stove was used with a windshield and another OEX pot. Outside temp was around 2-3c.

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Left: Meths Burner. Middle: Alpkit Brewkit. Right: OEX -F1

It’s worth noting that on this test, we had issues with the OEX stove not being on the can well enough and it stopped working part way through. We fixed it up and continued the test without stopping the clock. We also had some issues with the meths stove in that the flame was licking up all over the side of the pan, so we decided to add the simmer ring part way through.

Stove Weight Boil time (1l) Fuel used (g)
Alpkit Brewkit 470g 6.18 15g
OEX-F1/OEX Pot 350g 16.45 25g
Meths Stove/OEX Pot/Concertina windshield 460g 24.12 42g

All in all, this first test was a bit of a disaster, but it showed us that the our loyal buddy the brewkit came out on top. Though it was the heaviest option, it was also the most efficient. We didn’t stop there though! We could see there were some improvements to be gained and so began test 2. This time we made a pot cosy for our OEX and used simmer ring from the start.

Stove Weight Boil time (1l) Fuel used (g)
Meths Stove/OEX pot with cosy/Concertina windshield 480g 30+mins 29g

At 30mins, we gave up. The water was very hot. Enough for a drink but it just wasn’t getting there quickly. We were very happy with fuel performance. 30mins of cooking time with 29g of fuel is great, but we’d spend far too much time waiting around for a brew! But what if we tried using the brewkit pot with the heat exchanger? Would it keep the flames in? It did, and the results were great but it was also heavier. We also gave the OEX-F1 with the same pot.

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Our new pot cosy made from a sleeping mat and foil tape. It got slightly burnt.
Stove Weight Boil time (1l) Fuel used (g)
Meths Stove/Brewkit pot/Concertina windshield 540g 11.40 20g
OEX-F1/Brewkit pot/Concertina windshield 440g 5.45 20g

In this test, fuel consumption and speed were hugely improved and the OEX-F1 was quicker than the brewkit, but a bit less efficient.

But what do all the figures mean? It depends on what matters to you. There appears to be no perfect solution. Things to consider are the stove weight, how much boil time matters, would you use one canister of gas, or would it be two/three or more and can you resupply enroute? What are you cooking, boil in the bag or something where simmering is more important? Is it for one or two people?

Gas canisters are heavy. The full Primus 230g canisters weigh 380g meaning that canister alone weighs 150g. By comparison. A meths bottle is around 60g. 500ml of meths weighs about 400g excl the bottle.

To calculate our best option, we looked at how much fuel we would use for 3 full boils a day. It’s not what we will be doing, some will be cooking, we won’t want 1l each time but it lets us compare. We’re not too worried about boil times.

Stove Weight Fuel per boil Fuel needed per day (3x boil) + a bit Fuel needed for 6 days Total fuel weight, incl. canisters Fuel + stove weight
Alpkit Brewkit 470g 15g 60g 360g 2x cans – 760g 1230g
OEX-F1/Brewkit pot/Concertina windshield 440g 20g 75g 450g 2x cans – 760g 1200g
Meths Stove/Brewkit pot/Concertina windshield 540g 20g 80g (100ml) 480g

(600ml)

80g =100ml
480g = 600m
2 bottles (60g each)
Total 700g
1240g

 

The verdict:

So all in all, the results are actually quite similar! The main differences being in boil times.

We’ve actually decided to go with the meths stove with an extra pot cosy. We know we can cook on it as well as boil water. While initially heavier, after day 1-2 we would be lighter overall because we would lose one bottle and around 80-160g worth of fuel and it stays the lighter option throughout. If we could get away with a single can, the gas would win the test on fuel efficiency alone.

Other considerations: We know the gas boil times are much quicker with a full can and that this drops down considerably the more empty the bottle gets. The other benefit is that the alcohol burner is much quieter and the fuel is easier to get hold of being available at both hardwear shops and camping shops. The meths burner is also more compact.

For this trip, our alcohol stove will be coming with us, but it doesn’t mean it will always come out on top.

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The chosen stove. Brewkit pot, concertina windshield and meths burner.

 

 

 

 

 

waiting to swim

Happy new year!

We hope everybody had a great start to their year! We kicked things off with a dip in the chilly north sea (see video below). The new years day dip was held in Sheringham and was to raise money for the RNLI.

We even made it on to the local news!

After that, we headed to Cromer, ready for the new years day firework display and took part in an impromptu 1 mile fun run (in full winter kit!). The waves were huge and part of the fun was dodging the waves that were crashing over the promenade wall!

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A huge wave crashing against the wall
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Fireworks at Cromer

We hope everybody has an adventure filled 2019!

crossing stepping stones

Harrison Stickle

We were visiting some friends who lived up towards the Lake District. They recommended this walk, perhaps without considering how tough (and slow!) it might be for somebody with 3% vision. We set off from Old Dungeon Ghyll with the intention of visiting Stickle Tarn and a few of the Langdale Pikes.

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Scrambling up towards Stickle Tarn. An easier path was available!

Hikes can be a challenge for us. Most of the footpaths in the great outdoors are only wide enough for one, and even on the rare occasion where there is room enough for two, the differences in terrain can make using the width difficult. This means that for the most part, John, who is registered blind, holds on to a backpack while Lauren leads the way describing features or tricky sections along the way. Mentally it can be draining for both of us: For John, using the vision he has to locate where to put his feet and for Lauren, constantly having to describe terrain and be aware of the extra person. But that doesn’t stop us giving things ago. We’re on a mission show the world that blind or disabled people can do stuff.

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The final route we took 

Our route began steadily over relatively easy terrain, joined by a local lost farm dog (who made his way home eventually). We can cover even steps and flat sections quickly, and we did, but wasn’t long before things became a little more interesting. Fortunately, we’re both climbers and the odd scramble here and there doesn’t worry us at all, in fact, it can be easier than uneven or rocky paths. With his hands on the rock, John can make progress with little guidance. Stepping stones however, are quite a different story! Without being able to see, hopping across would probably result in a change of activity from walking to swimming but John has a real talent for doing things statically where it really shouldn’t be possible.  Soon enough, we reached Stickle Tarn.

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Lauren hopping across some stepping stones at Stickle Tarn.

With it being early afternoon, and knowing everything takes us a long time, we probably should have turned back at this point but instead, we had a little review of our route in the hope that we’d still gain some altitude, but hopefully make it down in daylight. This isn’t exactly how it went. We had planned to take a longer, but gentler route ‘around the back’ but against the clock, we opted for a scramble up ‘easy gully’ instead. The gully itself was fine, but once we hit the top, the path was tricky to follow, and it was a case of navigating from Cairn to Cairn. It was also rocky in places and uneven, our progress was slow.

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View from Pavey Ark towards stickle tarn. 

By the time we had reached the top of Harrison Stickle, the cloud had dropped down, the wind had picked up and the light had almost faded. Our route down was almost entirely through steep crags. It took a long time, navigation was a challenge, but we made it back with enough time to have a coffee before the carpark closed.

Bear Grylls Adventure

Back at the end of October, we visited Bear Grylls adventure in Birmingham. It was a seriously busy day jam packed with activities…so much so, we barely had time to film anything. Instead, we went on highropes, did survival mazes, obstacle courses, archery and snorkelling.

We were supposed to go scuba diving, but because of John’s hearing aids, we need a note from the doctor first – watch this space!

The great thing about this place is that on the whole, they were really up for letting John do everything without a second thought or with some extra thought into how to adapt things slightly. The managers looked after Daisy (the guide dog) when we were on activities and apart from scuba diving (which needs a medical for the ears rather than eyes) we did everything.

Looking forward to going back.

Wales

A few weeks back we visited Mid-Wales for a climbing competition (John competing, Lauren sightguiding) and we had some great plans for things to do while we were there. We know it rains a lot in Wales but non-stop for 3 days?! Our plans changed but we still had a lot of fun.

We visited Henrhyd Falls in the hope of going for a swim but well…

After that we hit tripadvisor for some inspiration!

Henrhyd falls. The waterfall plunges around 20m into a deep pool below.
john on a boulder in the peak district

Climbing at Stanage Edge!

A few weeks back we hit the grit up at Stanage and did a few easy climbs. It was great to be joined by Anita for a couple of hours too!

The plan was to get ourselves used to being on Grit again. It’s a completely different ball game to limestone. The holds are small, but grippy and you have to trust your feet a lot. Big run outs towards the tops are the norm but it’s fun!

Here’s the video:

And here are some pics:

Lauren and John at the top of Mam Tor in the peak district
Lauren, John and Anita at the crag
John coiling a rope with the sun setting behind him
Lauren and John looking happy at the end of a days climbing with the sun setting behind them.
daisy the guide dog on a waterbike

Up till now..

We’ve not long launched our social pages but we’ve been up to quite a bit the last few weeks. Here’s all of it in a single blog!

Our first proper little adventure was one leg of a 1000 mile journey around the UK’s waterways on a waterbike to raise awareness of litter and plastic. We rode 10 miles from Birmingham city centre to Majors green and took it in turns to pedal. When John was riding, he had to have directions from Lauren which weren’t always perfect!

The next big thing we did together was take a trip to Symonds Yat. A limestone climbing venue in the Wye Valley. We had a real laugh on this one and had a few epics too (what time does the carpark close?). Best just to watch this one..

Our next little venture out was to the Peak District for a first aid course run by Al over at Gritstone adventures. John needed his for his CWI assessment and Lauren’s was due to expire. We’d spoken on the phone to Al about John being blind and we weren’t totally sure how it would go before we got there but it actually went incredibly well.

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Left: John sat with his cane stuck out of his leg with bandages supporting it. Top right: Lauren and John selfie – John has a bandage on his head. Bottom right: John having a bandage put on his head.

Apart from occasionally kicking the casualty (or body as John sometimes called them!) his first aid skills were top class. Al did a great job of providing some plain text documents with the important information so John’s iPhone could read it fine. Lauren sometimes had to describe things but on the whole we think blind people have the potential to make great first aiders!

Here’s a video from our celebratory trip up Mam Tor!

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Sunset from Mam Tor

The last thing to catch up on was our visit to the Petzl UK Gri Gri tour at Redpoint Birmingham. We had a good chat about belaying and then tried out soft catches. Climbers..head to a tour date if you can!