Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trip Report: Big Bend Day 3

Hike Through the Chisos Mountains

Make sure you follow the adventure by checking our backcountry driving from days 1 & 2 during our trip to Big Bend National Park.

Wake Up

One of my first task when waking up was checking on Bmo after he was forced to sleep in his truck with only a blanket due to a leaking tent. He was alive and mostly warm, so we all jumped in my car for a few minutes with the heat on. Once we were all fully warmed up, it was time to boil water for oatmeal and Malt-O-Meal. Finally, Jack and I packed up our gear then made our way to the Chisos Visitor Center to pick up our backcountry permit.

at Big Bend National Park
The trailhead at Chisos Basin

We went in ready to go with plan B from the day before because of the increased bear activity; however, the clerk said we were good to go on the Outer Mountain Loop (OML) if we were just passing through without camping in the Chisos Mountains. The clerk was nice and knowledgeable while providing us personal experience of her thru hike of the OML. A few times she drifted off on tangents when all I wanted to do was hit the trail. Once all our paperwork was completed, Bmo followed us down to the trailhead and we all covered the plan one last time before we headed out.

The Chisos Mountains

On the advice of the visitor center clerk, we left by Pinnacles towards Emory Peak. It was a chilly morning with limited visibility and tons of fog. The trail started very mild, wide like double track, and not to steep. This was short lived and the trail quickly became steep, with an insane amount of switchbacks, and generally rough, rocky terrain. I believe this was Jack’s first time walking in the mountains and he quickly learned to hate rock stairs and we had to take frequent breaks.

at big bend national park
Jack and I posing for one last picture before heading out

It wasn’t long before we both had to take a quick stop to take off our base layers (Army silk weights) and the constant climb kept me very warm. It was unfortunate that the amazing views were obscured by the clouds, but there were plenty of other plants and animals with vibrant colors to admire. Around 3.5 miles later, we arrived at the base of Emory Peak and thankfully there were a few bear boxes to stash your gear before the mile-long trail.

at Big Bend National Park
The last climb before reaching Emory Peak

As we were dropping our gear in one of the boxes, a guy jokingly asked where our cool stuff was stored in our bags. While clearly a joke, it still made us a little uncomfortable while we were away from all our gear. The spur to Emory Peak started out easy first, especially considering what we had just walked, and progressively became steeper and rocky. The last portion of the trail was an almost vertical scramble up exposed rock. I climbed both rocky outcroppings, Emory Peak has the radio antennas, while Jack talked to different people just below the peak. The clouds limited our view, so there wasn’t a huge need to hang around and admire the views with so many more miles ahead of us.

at big bend national park
The hazy view from the top of Emory Peak

We headed back down to our gear and had a lunch of salami & cheese (lunch time favorite recipe), plus a candy bar before starting off on our hike again. We were heading towards The South Rim and the first real creature we had seen appeared. A mule deer buck (I think) was standing on the trail and holding his ground. Jack and I admired the deer and took a few pictures from a distance and decided the buck wasn’t moving, so we started making noises, which caused him to run off.

at big bend national park
Mule Deer (I think) around Boot Springs

We continued on and took a short detour to Boot Spring. There was a decent amount or water and the spring was flowing. If I was a bear, this is definitely where I’d hang out. After we explored the area and heading back to the trail we met a volunteer. He was at the spring checking the water level and eventually asked us for our backcountry permit, which I was completely surprised by, but thankfully I had tucked away all our documents in my back pocket.

at big bend national park
Boot Springs was flowing

Less than a half mile down the trail and we were at the fork for Juniper Canyon Trail and South Rim Trail. We decided to head down Juniper Trail instead of going back up to the rims because it was already getting late in the day. The first portion of Juniper Canyon Trail led to a huge climb up and then gravely switchbacks down into the canyon.

at big bend national park
The view from a high point on Juniper Canyon Trail

The views were amazing as we could look up and see the mountains and down into the canyon below. This was the first section of trail we’d been on that wasn’t well maintained as grass and bushes frequently grew over the myriad of switchbacks.

at big bend national park
Looking across Juniper Canyon

We must have taken way to long on the first 2 miles of Juniper Canyon because the sun was low in the sky. Finally, we made it out into a flat open area paralleling the canyon, but no trailhead was in sight and it appeared we still had a long walk ahead of us. As the day slowly became twilight, it became harder to focus on the beauty of our surroundings and focus solely on our forced march.

at big bend national park
The view from down in Juniper Canyon

Jack and I begin creating a contingency plan of possible campsites if it became too dark and a water plan to cross load until we could reach our cache point. Miraculously, we found the trailhead and our cached water right as the sun vanished behind a group of mountains in the distance. We took advantage of the wonderful flat ground of the parking lot to cook a hot meal and resupply our water.  

at big bend national park
The setting soon as we neared the end of Juniper Canyon Trail

Packed up and walking again, we took our first steps on the Dodson Trail. The moon was out and bright, probably because it was just days before the Super Moon. As bright as it was, finding a possible location for our campsite was difficult, but around a half mile (that’s how far he rules say!) or so we find a small area where both could squeeze our tents into. We didn't make it as far as we wanted, but it felt amazing to be laying down.

at big bend national park
We took a quick stop at the Dodson Trailhead for dinner

The Bmo Saga

If you want to know how the Bmo sleeping bag saga ended, luckily there is a laundromat Rio Grande Village. He was able to dry his bag during the day for multiple hours while he explored some shorter hikes in Big Bend. He eventually made it back to our Chisos Basin basecamp around 9 pm where he learned his bag was still pretty wet. Thank goodness the laundromat is open late, so he drove back and used a dryer until 1 am. This finally did the trick and he was able to sleep comfortably in a dry bag after that.

at big bend national park
Bmo at Mariscal Mines

Make sure you stay tuned as we post the remainder of our Big Bend trip. While you are at it, go ahead and let us know your experience with Big Bend National Park. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date.

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Trip Report: Big Bend National Park Day 1 & 2

Travel Day and Backcountry Driving

Jack and I recently headed out to West Texas for a multi-day adventure. We left Austin on November 10th and returned November 15th. Our plan was to do a few short hikes, little backcountry driving, and finish with backpacking the Outer Mountain Loop. We also met up with our Dad (Bmo) and Jonathan (cousin) for added excitement and fun.

Maverick Entrance Station
The entrance to Big Bend National Park. Courtesy of NPS


Big Bend National Park Background

Location: 310, Alsate Dr, Big Bend National Park, TX 79834
Admission: $25 admission per vehicle, $14 campsites, $12 backcountry pass
Elevation: 1,800 to 7,832 ft.
Weather:  Varied from rainy, cloudy, and sunny, 40 to 80 F
Difficulty: Strenuous
Website:  https://www.nps.gov/bibe/index.htm

Big Bend National Park is part of the Chihuahuan Desert and covers 801,163 acres (the 14th largest National Park in the US). The park is in West Texas “bend” and the southern boundary is the Rio Grande. The area is home to an extraordinary amount of desert flora and fauna: 1,200 plant species, 3,600 insect species, and 600 animal species that survive in the arid scrubland environment.


The Long Drive

Jack and I woke up at 5:00 am on Thursday morning because we wanted to arrive early enough to beat the Veteran's Day crowd. It didn't take us long to finish packing all our gear in the car and we hit the road about 20 minutes later. This is the longest road trip we’ve ever taken to make it to our adventure location. The total drive time was around 8 hours with gas stops.

Once we finally made it to the park, no one was manning the small entrance booth, which required us to make a quick detour to the Persimmon Gap Visitor Center to register the vehicle. After that, we headed straight to the Chisos Basin Visitor Center to score a campsite and work out our backcountry trip. With first stop at the visitor center, the news was quickly broken to us about areas of the Chisos Mountains were shut down due to bear activity. This news disheartening and our Outer Mountain Loop backpacking plan was derailed within an hour of entering the park.

A mountain lion on display
Inside the Chisos Mountain Visitor Center

Hearing the bad news, we decided to go pick out a basecamp in the Chisos Basin campgrounds to give us an opportunity to regroup. At the campgrounds, we picked a decent campsite (close but not to far from the latrines) but decided to give one last walk around before committing. While searching, we actually found a better spot, but a guy in his large truck pulled up to the campsite and drove over a large rock, which scratched and scraped up his vehicle. He then rolled down his window asked if we were going to take the campsite. Sharing an awkward moment, Jack and I felt so embarrassed for the guy we just let him have the campsite and quickly walked back to our original site.

in the Chisos Basin campsites
The amazing view from our campsite

Setting up Camp

We unloaded our gear, set up our tents, and paid for the campsite in no time at all. With everything in order, we then had a quick brainstorming session about new possible routes and decided we should go talk to someone with a little more knowledge. On the way back to the visitor’s center, we saw the sign for the Chisos Restaurant and of course we decided to stop for a quick bite to eat. The Chisos Mountains Lodge Restaurant and Patio has the advantage of being the only place serving food in the area, which means it also has a limited selection, but at a surprisingly reasonable price. Jack had a burger and I had the enchiladas, and after finishing our meal we headed back down to the visitor center. Thankfully, there is a large wall-sized trail map available and we were able to look at that while talking possible routes with one of the park employees. Receiving some great helped from experienced staff, we decided on a new route and copied the backcountry grids to help speed up the process of getting our permit. Our new route: starting at Mule Ears, heading west on Smokey Creek Trail to Dodson Trail for day 1, Dodson Trail to the half way point on Elephant Tusk Trail for day 2, and backtracking on Elephant Tusk Trail to Juniper Canyon Trailhead for pick up.

at Big Bend National Park
Jack setting up his tent at our Chisos Mountain campsite
Feeling a little better knowing our trip wasn’t completely derailed, we headed back down to our campsite and linked up with Jonathon shortly after that. Still waiting for Bmo to arrive, we decided to hike the Window Trail. Window Trail is about 5.5 miles and parallels Oak Creek Canyon. To our surprise, Oak Creek was flowing and we had to cross over it multiple times, which is a little scary because the rock is incredibly slick when wet. The trek to the "Window" is well worth it because the pour-off provides an amazing view of the surrounding area. The hike allowed us to warm up for the upcoming days and catch up with family.

in the Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park
The view at the end of the Window Trail

We made it back to the campsite and Bmo finally arrived and was unloading his gear. We helped him set up his humongous 4-person tent, which took a bit of effort/critical thinking, and his giant cot. To repay everyone for their kindness he cooked some pretty amazing burgers for dinner.  By this time, it was fairly late and everyone headed off to bed a little later.

at the Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park
The moon high in the sky on the Window Trail

Backcountry Driving

We had another early morning so we could make it into Terlingua to grab breakfast and pick up the Jeep we rented. We woke up and it was raining pretty hard for a desert environment, which helped ensure everyone got ready hurriedly that morning. Before stopping at Far Flung Adventure to start our jeep adventure, we had a buffet breakfast at Big Bend Motor Inn Store and Restaurant. The breakfast reminded me of food from an Army chow line, but it was filling and got the job done.

in big Bend National Park
Driving on Panther Junction Road in Big Bend

Once at Far Flung, they handed the jeep quickly, the benefit of filling out all the paperwork beforehand. We all loaded up and stuck Jonathan and Bmo in the back and they instantly had an issue; they had no clue how to roll down the window. With that problem solved, the window controls are in the center dash, we were off towards Homer Wilson Ranch to drop off our water.

at Big Bend National Park
The old stables at Homer Wilson Ranch

After just a short bit of driving, 2 issues quickly became apparent, one of our water jugs completely drained/spilled everywhere and Jack was rusty at being a navigator. We ended up needing a few map breaks and a U-turn before making to Homer Wilson. Finally there, we walked about a fourth mile to the metal bear box, which was our first water cache point. After that, we decided to walk the next .25-miles to the Home Wilson Ranch, where we wandered around for about 15 minutes.

at Big Bend National Park
The half-mile trail down to Homer Wilson Ranch

Back on the road and needing a water refill, we headed to the had to travel to Castolon Visitor Center as it was the closest possible water option near us. We explored the area and found old farm equipment and asked in the center, which used to be a post office if water was available. The clerk directed us to the Castolon Campsites just down the road. A few minutes later we were Castolon campsite for a water refill and the area was so green, I thought we were on a golf course.

in Big Bend National Park
Original Post Office at the Castolon Visitor Center

And we were off and on River Road West. Of course, the water jug began leaking minutes in. Bmo was able to twist around and hold the jug until Jack could make it out of the jeep and remedy the situation. The final damage was about 25 percent water leaked again, but we decided there was enough water between the regroup to refill the bag.

in Big Bend National Park
Heavy equipment outside the Castolon Visitor Center

On the road for a while, we took our first pit stop and used the opportunity to take a few pictures. We were surprised with an old rusted our car on the side of the road, which reminded us all of a scene from the Fallout game series. We spent the next few hours driving over amazing ridges, across gulleys, and down dry creeks. While it doesn’t make a good story, the views are spectacular and I recommend everyone try driving some of the back-country roads in Big Bend National Park.

in Big Bend National Park
Old car on River Road. Does it remind anyone else of Fallout?

Another remarkable location on River Road is the Mariscal Mines, which we decided was worth the time to stop and explore. The mines are a source of cinnabar ore, which was refined into mercury and was in operation until the 1940’s. There are multiple structures to explore and the old mines are still available but are blocked off for safety (thank goodness for that because I would have climbed in there for sure).

at Big Bend National Park
Mariscal Mines as you approach from the parking lot

As the sun began setting, we made it to Glenn Springs Road and then on Juniper Canyon Road, which was a much rougher ride than anything else we experienced. We drove almost completely down Juniper Canyon Rd, we stopped at Twisted Shoe campsite because we thought this was the last cache box. A nice older man already set up at the location said he’d be happy to share his box with us and the let us know there was another cache box at the actual trailhead.

in Big Bend National Park
Inside the structures of the Mariscal Mines

With our water safely cached, the group began the trip back to Terlingua to drop the jeep off. We dropped Jonathon off first and the headed off for gas and a poor jeep clean up job using a window squeegee. After dropping off the jeep, we decided it was time for dinner and a Mexican food restaurant was just next door. Unsurprising, their credit machine was down (connectivity is poor in this part of the state) and the waiter said the liquor store just up the road had cash back available. Jack and I walked to the liquor store and began looking for something we might want/cheap booze. I located a bin full of busted Budweiser cans with a sign stating they were discounted. I grabbed a can and asked for max cash back. That stupid can cost like $3 and was a horrible deal, I should have gone with a Forty. That beat-up Bud can is still just sitting in my apartment, shockingly no one will drink it, so if you want a Big Bend Bud can souvenir let me know (maybe January’s giveaway?). Finished with our liquor store misadventure, everyone opted for enchiladas, which were a satisfying meal.


from Terlingua Texas
The Budweiser that helped us get dinner

Finally, back at basecamp Bmo had a horrifying discovery. The inside of his tent was drenched as well as his sleeping bag. The decent mountain rain had pooled on the top of his enormous tent and slowly leaked through a hole all day right above his sleeping bag. Jack and I were powerless to help him, but luckily Bmo had a backup blanket. With everyone tired from a long day, we were off to bed. Bmo ended up sleeping in his truck for a little extra warmth and Jack and I went to our tents where I recorded the day’s events before falling asleep.

at Big Bend National Park
The big night sky at our campsite in the Chisos Basin

Make sure you stay tuned as we post the remainder of our Big Bend trip. While you are at it, go ahead and let us know your experience with Big Bend National Park. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Trip Report: Lake Travis Zipline Adventure (Video)

Zipping at Lake Travis

On October 30th  Linda and I headed just outside of Austin, Texas for an exciting adventure at Lake Travis Ziplining Adventures. Check out the zipline video below. This was also the first-time Linda and I experienced a zipline where you don’t handbrake to stop.


Lake Travis Zipline Adventure Background

Location: 14529 Pocohontas Trail, Volente, TX 78641
Price: $118 per person (frequently have discount codes for email subscribers)
Weather:  Sunny, 75 to 85 F
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

 

Lake Travis Zipline Adventures (LTZA) is a ziplining company just outside Austin, Texas and their tour is approximately 3-hours long through Lake Travis and the surrounding hill country. The entire tour has 5 ziplines ranging from 250 feet to 2,800 feet (the longest zipline in Texas). Between the ziplines there is hiking with the longest trail about 1 mile long.

The Drive

We didn’t have to wake up incredibly early because it was a quick trip out of Austin to LTZA. Upon arrival, it is a gravel driveway in a residential area. I quickly wondered if this was the starting location for the adventure, but it wasn’t, which is ok because it was a small area. The area has trees, chairs, and hammocks all around. Plus, there are a bunch of Cornhole setups to kill some time if you are too early. You can also find the main check in area, that has LTZA swag, bathrooms, and an overnight cabin.


Linda and I checked-in first and with some extra time before we started the adventure, decided to walk down to the lake. After bumming around the grounds for a while, our tour guides called us over to a 15-passanger van and drove us down to a dock. We jumped on a boat and headed to “Zip Island”.


Baby Zips

Off the boat, we walked over to a building and covered area where we could use the restroom one last time and gear up. The guides sent us up the trail to the first of our baby zipline. The group stopped too early as we came to a platform and zipline. When the guides showed up seconds later, they got the group back on track. We reached the platform for the 1st zipline, which is somewhere between 250 – 300ft and intended to be a nice warmup to help everyone get over their fears.


There was another short walk and we were at the platform for the second baby zip, which is about 300ft long. Linda and I were at the back of the line, so we had ample time to look around at our surroundings before zipping off to the next platform.

The Leap of Faith

Finally, it was time for a long zip, much longer than either one of us had experienced before. The Leap of Faith is 1,800 feet long. Before we take off, the guides stop us for a group photo and couples’ photos with an amazing photobomb background. This platform had nice views of the lake and cliffs, and since we were still last Linda and I had time to take it all in. Being so long, it was incredibly hard to stay in one direction, and I ended up backward or occasionally spinning all the way around.


The Line of Majesty

The Line of Majesty is the 4th zipline and comes in at 1,600 feet, and was my favorite zipline of the day. There is a nice covered area by the zipline platform, Linda and I took a few pictures to here and admired the overlook. As you zip, the view is amazing as you zoom by cliffs on one side and the lake on the other side and underneath you.


The Double Barrel Shotgun

The final and most interesting zip is the Double Barrel Shotgun, at 2,800 feet is the longest in Texas. The name gives it away, but this zip has 2 lines running next to each other so you can get a little race in.  This one is a little weird because they hook you up and you must walk to the edge of the platform before starting. 


This zipline required what felt like a mile long and some pretty steep inclines. It took us a bit of time to make it all the way up in the mid-day heat. Once we were ready to zip, our race began with Linda off to an early lead, but I’m guessing my extra weight allowed me to fly by her for a healthy win. This zipline ends at a neat patio and bar where you can lounge around and drink if you’d like; however, the bartender hadn’t shown up so we just settled for free water because it was plenty hot.


After making back to the gear building, we dropped our gear and headed back to the boat to end our adventure. The long zips were amazing and I look forward to trying out their night zip tour.


Let us know your experience with ziplining and your favorite place to go ziplining. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Pedernales Falls and Real Ale Brewing Company

Trip Report: A Day Hike at Pedernales Falls

Guest blog by Anais R. check her out on  Facebook. As some of you know this wasn't our first trip to Pedernales Falls, so make sure to check that out.

A few Saturdays ago, November 5th, found me on a day trip to Pedernales Falls State Park and Real Ale Brewing Company. I went with a friend on this one instead of my dog, since the dog doesn't really appreciate beer the way I do.

We got to Pedernales Falls State Park around 9:30am and since we only had a couple of hours to hike, headed straight up to the Pedernales Falls Trail System to start. The weather was perfect and stayed right around 70 degrees the entire time, although it did start to rain as we were leaving the park.

We walked the trail a few minutes to the Falls Overlook and then descended to actually hike over the rocks surrounding the falls. It was pretty quiet at first, but within the next 30 minutes or so the place was overrun with families, Cub Scout packs, and obnoxious fitness couples in matching spandex suits. You know the ones I'm talking about. We hiked over the rocks up to the start of the falls and then back down to where the water pools before continuing its course down the river.


This is my absolute favorite terrain to hike. I love the close proximity to water here. There is nothing better than hiking with the soothing sound of flowing water in your ears. I also love that you can make it as adventurous as you want by climbing over and through rocks instead of just walking around them. Unfortunately for me, I went on this particular adventure with a hiking buddy who refused to climb, jump, crawl, explore, or do anything other than just walk. Oh well.


After about an hour we had had enough of spandex couples and screaming children and headed back up to hike the less popular wooded trail away from the water. I missed the sound of the falls, but it was nice to have a little more peace and quiet. The trail was a little muddy from recent rain, but nothing unmanageable. We walked for about 30 minutes among the quintessential Texas greenery (aka all the plants that want to hurt you) before we had to turn around and head back to the car.

 

It was a nice short, easy hike, but next time I would definitely go a little earlier, plan to stay a LOT longer, and choose a buddy who is looking for a little more of an adventure than just a nice walk.

Back to the car and on to nearby Blanco to check out Real Ale Brewing. I have visited and toured several breweries in Austin over the past few months and wanted to venture a little a little farther away to one that I thought would be worth the trip.


We arrived right after noon, with just enough time to try some beer before the 1pm tour. I opted for a flight, which included four small pours of my choice. I was a little disappointed with the selection they had on tap since it didn’t include the two beers I had really been hoping to try. So, I went with the VolXX, Axis, Four Squared, and Rio Blanco. Let’s just say I was unimpressed. I am certainly no professional, and I have my likes and dislikes to be sure, but I like to think I’m pretty open-minded when it comes to trying new beers. These were not great.

 

The VolXX was hard to finish. Definitely my least favorite. I’m not even sure how to describe it. Just bad. Rio Blanco was okay, but when it comes to pale ales I have definitely had better. Four Squared was a hoppy, slightly fruity taste that I could like in small amounts, but probably only in small amounts. The Axis was definitely my favorite. It was a light, citrusy IPA with an ABV of 7.0%, which may or may not have contributed to my enjoyment of it. The building and atmosphere were great though, and almost made up for what the beer was lacking. The taproom itself was beautiful with plenty of room inside as well as a large patio balcony outside overlooking a nice picnic area where you could bring your own food or buy some from the food truck parked close by.

The scheduled tour of the brewery was underwhelming, even while being slightly tipsy. Although it was free, the guide didn’t seem to know a whole lot about the brewing process and conveyed what he did know with relative disinterest. I would have preferred to pay a few dollars in exchange for a little enthusiasm, but I guess you can’t have it all. Overall, it was a fun day trip, not too far to travel and I enjoyed the combination of the brewery and a hike. Now I just need to find a brewery in the woods that you have to hike to get to. That way, even if getting there is unremarkable, you’re at least guaranteed to enjoy the hike back!
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Monday, November 28, 2016

Stove Basics - Part 2

Basic Information and Lessons Learned

Between Jack and myself, we now have a healthy collection of various stoves, and each type comes with its benefits and weaknesses. To investigate some our stoves characteristics, Jack and I have entered the pseudo-science realm of timed water boiling test. We just added some videos on alcohol stoves and wood stoves. You can check out our playlist here: Stove Test. 

My first venture into alcohol stoves
My first venture into alcohol stoves 

Perhaps in the future we will have additional post covering other types of stoves (there are plenty more!), but right now we have no experience and could provide little in the way of valuable insight.


Alcohol Stoves

I am the one with the alcohol stoves (Trail Designs 12-10 and Zelph Starlyte) thanks to Jack getting me 2 for a birthday present. Plus, I’ve made more than a few stoves out of Monster cans that turned out less than desirable. Through our initial testing and limited field experience, alcohol stoves are a little slower at boiling water because of the time needed for alcohol to start vaporizing and are significantly affected by the wind.  

From Trail Designs, the 12-10 Alcohol Stove
Trail Designs 12-10 Alcohol Stove

Alcohol stoves are an extremely lightweight option and the fuel becomes lighter every meal as you burn your way through that alcohol. These stoves can be slow to fully light and some might even require priming (a small amount of alcohol is boiled below the stove) before they produce maximum heat. Additionally, alcohol stoves are low maintenance with no moving parts, but skillful use requires experience. Before using your stove take to experiment with the amount of fuel required to boil various amounts of water.  Alcohol stoves can be powered by multiple fuel sources, but the most common is denatured alcohol, which is easily found around the U.S and cheap. Finally, an important safety consideration: alcohol burns silent and colorless, so be careful not to get burned and never reach over the stove. 

From Trail Designs: the Zelph Modified StarLyte Alcohol Stove
Trail Designs Zelph Modified StarLyte Alcohol Stove

Wood Stoves

The same with alcohol stoves, I also have the wood stoves (BioLite and Sidewinder) again thanks to other people who have gifted them to me. Plus the BioLite.  Through our initial testing and field experience, this type of stove is pretty quick to boil, is mostly protected from the wind because of design, and requires you to continually add more fuel. Furthermore, wood stoves are fairly easy to create in your garage so do some experimenting. Finally, I prefer wood stoves when I am car camping, which also allows me to bring all the sticks I need. The BioLite has a pretty neat grill that makes nice hamburgers and hot dogs, but I would never try backpacking with all that additional weight.

From BioLite: the wood stove and grill attachment
BioLite Stove wood stove with grill attachment 

Wood stoves are a little bit heavier than other types of stoves, but do not require carrying fuel; however, this does not always work out in practice and you may need to pick up sticks as you hike to ensure you have enough fuel at the end of the day. Wood stoves are low maintenance with no parts, you just need to occasionally wipe them clean. However, there is a need for skill and experience in how to properly light a wood stove, how much fuel you need to gather, and how often fuel is added. Also, be aware that wood stoves can be really smoky, which smoke in the eyes is never fun. Finally, wood stoves generally have more regulations regarding open fires and how/if you can pick up sticks in the area. 

Trail Designs Sidewinder in wood mode. Courtesy of Traildesigns.com
Trail Designs Sidewinder in wood mode. Courtesy of Traildesigns.com

The Giveaway

Team Adventures with BeeGee would like to congratulate Laynie D. for winning our Exotec Polystriker Firestarter and a big thank you to everyone who joined the giveaway.

Exotec polystriker firestarter giveaway
Jack and Laynie with her new firestarter

For the month of December, we are giving away a Toaks TiTongs Set, which is a titanium spoon and fork with a nylon connector that turns the utensils into a set of tongs.

A Toaks TiTongs Set
Toaks TiTongs Set

a Rafflecopter giveaway Go ahead and let us know about your go-to stove or that dream stove you’d love to have one day. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Stove Basics - Part 1

Basic Information and Lessons Learned

Between Jack and myself we now have a healthy collection of various stoves, and each type comes with its benefits and weaknesses. To investigate some our stoves characteristics, Jack and I have entered the pseudo-science realm of timed water boiling test. You can check out our playlist here: Stove Test.

Canister Stoves

Jack (Etekcity) and I (Primus Yellowstone Classic) both have canister stoves and they have been the staple backing stove for Team Adventures with BeeGee. Through our initial testing and field experience, this type of stove is the fastest to boil and is the least affected by wind. Most canister stoves have a fuel control knob, which will give you greater control between simmering and a quick boil.

A type of canister stove
Etekcity Backpacking Stove 

Canister stoves are light weight, but their fuel canisters can be large and heavy. Plus, the fuel canister doesn’t really get any lighter the more fuel is used. Additionally, canister stoves are extremely easy to use; they can be lit with any flame and some even have piezo ignitors to auto-light. Canister stoves are very low maintenance because there are generally no moving parts except the screw threads to put the stove together and attach it to the fuel canister.  Two gasses are used in the pressurized canister iso-butane and propane, which will burn fine in temperatures above freezing. Lastly, it is recommended that no windscreen is used because the canister can warm up from trapped heat and explode.

My go to canister stove
Primus Yellowstone Classic Trail Stove

 Esbit (Solid Fuel) Stoves

Jack (Esbit Pocket Stove) and I (Gram Cracker Stove) both have solid fuel stoves, but Jack has more experience using his on our adventures. Through our initial testing and field experience, this type of stove is slower at boiling water and is possibly the most affected by wind.  Additionally, unless you buy a fancy tool, there is no way to control the burn, so for most simmering isn’t an option. However, with a windscreen Esbit stoves are incredibly lightweight and have an average boil time. 

A simple stove for solid fuel
Esbit Pocket Stove

The Esbit tabs are a chemical called hexamine, but you can find other tabs at military surplus stores called trioxane which has comparatively poorer performance. Moreover, solid fuel stoves are an incredibly lightweight setup, easy to use, no maintenance. Other than opening the stove/platform up, there are no moving parts and all you will need is a flat/level surface. Furthermore, low temperatures shouldn’t have much of an effect, but energy output makes solid fuel stoves less than ideal for melting snow. Finally, Esbit tabs have a really strange smell and the tabs will leave a residue on your stove and the bottom of your pot.

can be used with the Caldera Cone
Trail Designs Gram Cracker Stove

Make sure you stay tuned for the second part and our coverage on alcohol stoves and wood stoves. 

The Giveaway


First off Team Adventures with BeeGee would like to congratulate Anais R. for winning our Wildo Kasa Mug and a big thank you to everyone who joined the giveaway.

The winner of adventures with BeeGee Giveaway
Jack taking a photo with Anais and her new Wildo Kasa mug

This month we are giving away an Exotec PolyStrike fire starter that Jack received in a recent Prepper Gear Box. It will be more than enough to light your stove of choice.

This month's Giveaway: Exotech PolyStrike Fire Starter

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Go ahead and let us know about your go to stove or that dream stove you’d love to have one day. Also, if you like the blog follow us on Facebook to keep up to date.

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