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Gear Guy

Q:

What’s your opinion on wood-burning backpacking stoves?

Are there any reliable and easy-to-use wood-burning stoves on the market? Most of them on the Internet look like Do-It-Yourself types. And how well do these things work compared to liquid-fuel stoves? Jeremy Moscow, Idaho

Are there any reliable and easy-to-use wood-burning stoves on the market? Most of them on the Internet look like Do-It-Yourself types. And how well do these things work compared to liquid-fuel stoves? Jeremy Moscow, Idaho

A:

You’re right, wood-burning stoves have an avid following of build-it-yourself types. With the Internet, of course, you can find various designs, such as Smity’s Camp Stove and the Penny Wood Stove.

Sierra Stove

Sierra Stove

Wood-stove advocates like them because you don’t have to carry fuel, and fuel is invariably the heaviest component of a cooking setup for trips longer than a night or two. Plus you’re not burning a fossil fuel, so that has green advocates on board. And they work very well, provided you have access to fairly dry fuel. You don’t need a lot, twigs and pine cones work great, and some wood stoves will burn even damp materials.

In general, these stoves operate on the principle of a forge, with a small battery-operated fan that works as a bellows. That makes them very efficient and potentially very hot. One of the most popular commercially made wood stoves is the Sierra Stove ($57 for the basic version; www.zzstove.com). It uses a single AA battery for the fan and advertises six hours of battery life—enough for five or six meals, or even more.

So that certainly competes well with liquid- or canister-fueled stoves. My take is, if they work (and they do), then why not? My caveats are: Weather could pose challenges on occasion, and in some areas fuel will be scarce (high, rocky areas), unavailable (high, snowy areas), or off-limits (national parks).

You’ve got your winter gear, now get outside and use it. Away.com’s ski and snowboard guide makes it easy to find nearby slopes just begging for fresh tracks.

Filed To: Camp Stoves

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