Credit: Kevin Callan

I’ve noticed there’s a growing trend in campers using “stick stoves” rather then the common butane or white gas stoves. Stick stoves are fueled by small twigs and forest debris (i.e. pine cones, bark, dried leaves).

They’re definitely not new to the outdoor scene, but this season its seems a lot more campers are switching away from petroleum-based stoves to natural forest fibers. The heightened interest might be due to campers wanting to be more environmental and avoid using fossil fuels to cook up their bannock and tea. Of course, it might also be part of the growing numbers of doomsday preppers who believe that civilization will soon collapse and it will be harder to obtain butane or gas. Either way, there’s a lot more choices of stick stoves now then there used to be.

I personally own a few brands. The stove I’ve had the longest is Littlebug Stove. It’s lightweight and packs up nicely for a backpacking trip. I’ve also tried out the BioLite Stove, which has the extra bonus of using the heat from the burner to charge your iPod or other electronic devices. (Sounds gadgety, but it actually works.) There’s also the Kelly Kettle. This is my all-time favourite stick stove innovation. I was introduced to it while canoe-tripping in Scotland a few years back and have packed it along on most of my trips every since. There’s also the latest Firebox. I tried this design out while suffering through a cold spring canoe trip in Algonquin Provincial Park with Tim Foley — one of the owners of the Canadian Outdoor Equipment store in Toronto.

The Firebox became our only source of heat of the trip. We used it to cook our meals, boil or tea and even huddle around to keep the chill out. I was very impressed. With just a few dry twigs or wood chips we got it going. The stove has a good airflow and the pot of water reached a boil just as quick, or even quicker, then a regular gas stove. It packs away nice and the size and design also allows for various dimensions of pots to sit on top and even comes with a grill that we cooked our first-night steaks on. I also experimented one morning by placing my alcohol stove at the base. It fit perfectly and I’ve used this combination of several other canoe trips this season. And it folds up nice in the pack.

There are a few disadvantages. For me the weight is too hefty for a backpack trip. It’s fine for a canoe or kayak trip but the nearly one-kilogram of stainless steel is a burden when backpacking. However, Firebox has just come out with a smaller and lighter version weighing only about 170 grams. It’s also cheaper. The regular model is $60 but the smaller version costs only $40. That will definitely be on my birthday wish list — especially if I keep watching The Walking Dead episodes and become even more paranoid about the civilized world collapsing.


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