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Wood Stove Cooking

Wood Stove Cooking

Surprise Creek, AK

June 17, 2006

We are cooking exclusively with wood. Specifically, our wood source is dead and "driftwood" willow found in streamcourses.

The wood is not always so dry, especially during the rain. Because the willows have not yet sprouted their vegetation, they offer no cover for dry tinder.

Generally, upon arrival in camp, while Roman and Ryan are setting up shelters, Jason is collecting wood and getting a fire going for cooking and warmth.

Fires are started using a magnesium firestarter and Tinder-Quik tabs (impregnated cotton). Half a tab is used in dry conditions, and up to two tabs in very wet conditions.

Roman and Jason are sharing a four-liter aluminum pot for cooking, and do their cooking over open fires. The technique involves creating a bed of coals, placing the pot on top, and building a flame fire on the windward side of the pot. Wind is an asset in this technique, and it's never in short supply. Three or four liters comes to a boil far more rapidly than when using a conventional white gas, or lesser-powered gas stove. It's primary disadvantage is that it requires a bit of fuel, so in non-woody areas ... it's cold dinner and breakfast.

When their large pot of water heats up, a liter each goes into 32 oz Nalgene wide mouth Cantene bottles (2.5 oz) for hot chocolate. The rest is used for either dinner or breakfast, which is made directly in the pot. Roman is eating from the pot, Jason gets his ration scooped into a flat-stowed Orikaso bowl. Titanium spoons do the scooping into the business chambers.

Ryan cooks on a Bushbuddy Ultra stove (custom made by Fritz of Bushbuddy Canada to fit into a Snowpeak 0.9L pot), shown in the photo. Weight of the stove is 4 oz.

Tinder-Quik is used as a firestarter. Once it's lit, on goes a handful of usually damp willow tinder, a moldy conglomeration of leaves and twigs from the fall, easily scooped up from the base of willow bushes. Then, a ready supply of pencil-sized and larger twig sections feeds the fire. The advantage of the Bushbuddy is that it consumes very little fuel, leaves no fire scars, can be placed almost anywhere (including the inside of a vented tarp), burns damp wood well, and can boil water using some very compromised fuel sources, including tussock grass (in ready supply...) and dead vegetation commonly found above the willow line.

Ryan's cooking routing is to boil a pot of water, distribute about half into a cut-down Platypus bottle (0.2 oz) for a hot drink, and use the rest for either breakfast or dinner, diluting it some with cold water so it's ready to eat. We prefer soupy consistencies of our mashed potato and wheat cereal meals, they go down easier under the physical stress and force more fluids. We consume 8-10 liters of water per day.

The Bushbuddy stove is a dual-chamber design. The fire sits inside an inner chamber atop a mesh grid. Air is drawn into the holes at the bottom of the stove, heated in the double wall, and fed to the fire, creating very high ignition temperatures that allow poor fuel sources to be used, and very efficient burning of the fuel to fine ash.

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