It is difficult for me to recall just how many backpacking stoves that I have owned over the years. For a while there, I was buying a new stove on a yearly basis. There were separate components to these stoves and if I wasn’t careful… I would lose a crucial piece. Finding replacement parts wasn’t always feasible. Most of the time it was easier, and even cheaper, to just replace the stove altogether. – So that was what I usually did.
Biofuel Backpacking Stoves: Is One In Your Go Bag?
If losing components for my stove wasn’t bad enough, I also needed to own various stoves depending on the location and season that I would be using it in. Some stoves were ideal for high altitudes while others were only useful in the warmer months. There were different types of fuel that I needed to store, once again, depending on the stove. These fuels smelled horrible, were terrible for the environment and quite dangerous to be moving around with.
The maintenance of my backpacking stoves was also very detailed. Components needed to soak for hours in certain cleaning solutions and the fuel tanks needed special handling. These stoves did a great job once you finally got them setup and working. Unfortunately, they certainly weren’t very efficient when it came to adding them to my go-bags. I would need to swap out the stoves and fuel tanks from my rucks each season. The need to carry replacement parts for my stoves was also annoying -but a must.
A few years ago I came across a new line of stoves that seemed to address the issues that I was having with my current stoves. The new stoves were packed with very cool features. But what really caught my attention was the fact that the fuel for these stoves, consisted of whatever you found on the ground. Wood was certainly the preferred fuel source but dry grass, plants and pretty much anything else that was organic, could be used in these stoves as fuel.
Basically, these stoves were running on biofuel and any other natural debris that you would find in the bush. At first, I thought that this sounded a bit too good to be true. But after purchasing a couple of these biofuel stoves, I knew that I had found my backpacking stove solution for both recreational as well as my emergency preparedness needs.
As I accumulated more of these wood burning stoves and replaced all of my other stoves with them, I learned a great deal about the features and applications for these biofuel stoves. I would like to share a few of the key points that I learned about these stoves as well as their integrated technology. I’m sharing this information in hopes that you will get as much out of these biofuel stoves as I do.
Let’s Get Started!
Most of these newer wood-burning backpack stoves are made from stainless steel. This keeps the overall weight of the stove extremely manageable. When you are out on the trail, you want your gear as streamlined and as light as possible. In a crisis, each ounce that you add to your bug out bag needs to be well thought out. Luckily, weight is a non-issue when it comes to these stainless steel stoves.
Since they are lightweight, you can easily affix them to the external webbing on your backpack. This will save you crucial interior space in your pack. It also gives you quick access to your stove if you need to purify water, make tea and coffee…. Or to just cook up that fresh trout that you just caught.
These biomass burning stoves come with some impressive technology. For starters… The airflow design is different than what I found on previous backpacking stoves. In layman’s terms, rising hot air combined with the lack of oxygen in the combustion process pulls the air through the vent holes on the bottom. As the air circulates, it feeds the fire at its base. The preheated air circulation also provides a boost through the top vent holes on the burn chamber.
The technology may not seem like much at first, but as soon as your fire begins to roar… Let’s just say that it is impressive to watch. When we are operating in Mother Nature’s worst elements, we need all the help available. Knowing that you can get your stove lit and functioning, in mere minutes, makes it a viable solution for any situation.
No Fuel Tanks Needed:
As I previously mentioned, my other backpacking stoves required various types of fuel. In the freezing winter months, there was one type of preferred fuel. When I was trekking in high-elevation, I needed a different type of fuel that operated well with low oxygen. Then there was the “regular” fuel that was used for standard environments.
So it’s easy to see the complications when it comes to recreational purposes. If we were to encounter these issues during a SHTF scenario… Our chances of faring well in the situation greatly diminishes. Keeping it as simple as possible is what the goal is for most things that we will encounter in the field; Backpacking stoves are no different
Luckily, these newer wood-burning stoves take much of the guesswork out of your fuel choices. Basically, if you find it on the ground and it burns… It’s FUEL!
These newer backpacking stoves are usually made from quality stainless steel. Their double wall construction helps to extend the life of these wood burning stoves. Many of my past stoves were extremely fragile. Some of them even required a custom, crush proof, case. This added bulk, weight and expense to my preparedness plan. Knowing that my current stoves are built to last, with very few moving parts, allows me to store them and move on to other tasks. When TSHTF… I know that my stoves will be ready for the mission.
Easy Clean Up:
The biomass stoves are a cinch to clean. The stainless steel wipes down very easily, once it cools down a bit. These stoves are efficient in design. They burn cleanly and leave nothing but ash to clean up. All that you have to do is to properly dispose of the organic ashes and you are good to go!
Most stoves include a storage pouch in the kit. If you do not have one for your stove, be sure to get one. It will not only protect your wood burning backpacking stove, but it will also go a long way in keeping your other gear clean and squared away!
In a survival situation, we may want to keep others from being aware of our position. Standard stoves leave a trail of smoke coupled with the awful smell of burning gases and oils. Due to the ventilation holes in the biofuel stove’s design, the smoke is contained and minimal; comparatively. Burning biofuel is much cleaner than using other refined fuels. This bodes much better for your health whether it’s recreational or an actual emergency situation.
We will be putting enough strain on our nervous system during a SHTF scenario. Breathing in toxic fumes will not help matters in the slightest.
Using a biofuel stove is certainly a much better option when it comes to the environment. First off, there is no scorched earth which is typical of open fires and some other backpacking stoves. The design of these newer biomass stoves allows them to be placed anywhere on the ground without causing harm. This lets us abide by the Leave No Trace rule.
Burning biofuel is a much cleaner option than other gases and oils. Other backpacking stoves require me to carry these dirty, stinky and dangerous fuels with my gear. These fuels can easily leak from their containers and even the stoves. These toxic fuels can wreak havoc on our environment as well as the wildlife. Using biofuel stoves is not only better for your budget, but they can also help to preserve nature; regardless of the current scenario or mission at hand.
Great For Practicing Fire building:
One complaint that I get often from new NTC Members is that they need to get out in the field to practice fire building but cannot find the time. Many of our members live in city and suburb locations. Getting outside and building an open fire may not be an option. There are laws and ordinances in place that make doing so illegal. Unfortunately, this really affects those that want to hone in their fire building skills by devoting time to incremental practice.
When utilizing a biofuel stove, you basically have to build a small fire in order to get it going. Matches, lighters, Ferro rods and even bow drills can be used as fire starters. The fact that these stoves are self contained should cause little issue in most locations around the world when it comes to open flames. You can now practice various methods, safely, which can enhance your fire building skills and keep you sharp for whatever emergency comes your way.
Solo Or Group Use:
Backpacking stoves that require a specific fuel source tend to get a bit heavy. Hence, they are usually built for personal or individual use. When I would go out trekking in the past, each one of us had our own individual stove. The stoves served their primary purpose but since we each had one, there was some redundancy with fuel and spare parts. This wasn’t always efficient but it was a good enough solution at the time.
With biofuel stoves, things get a bit more simplified. There are minimal “moving parts” which makes having access to spare parts unnecessary. There is also no need for specific fuels. This keeps our go-bags lighter enabling us to move out further and faster. Since most of the biofuel stoves are made to accommodate multiple people, there is no need for each person in your group to carry one. This leaves more space to carry other pertinent gear whether it is for individual or group use.
There are multiple ways to get the job done while you are out in the field. The key is to choose the most efficient way of doing things. We will obviously operate differently in a camping situation than we would in a crisis. However, there is much crossover in the approach to both of these scenarios. How you practice at camp impacts how you will perform when the SHTF.
Whether it is a biofuel burning stove or a standard fuel stove… Get out there and practice. We never know what we will encounter or have access too during an emergency. It will also make your recreational experiences much more interesting, educational and fun. The more versed that you are in multiple methods of backpacking stove applications, the better chance that you have of surviving any disaster.