Sep 15, 2011 at 10:15 pm #1279411
@benajahLocale: West, now
Now before I get a lot of people telling me about how it's bad, let me give some background.
I grew up way back in the backwoods of the mountains in northern Georgia…we would routinely take week long bear hunting trips with just a rifle, cook pot, knives, axe, and blanket and tarp…with some accessories of course. We never had anything like stoves, tents, water filters (we just boiled drinking water for the day every morning).
As a teenager I started hiking on more established trails like the Appalachian trail, and started needing more of this stuff, as I was camping in spots where I was no longer the first person there in 20 years. So I got it, used it, but these days, as I am getting older, I find myself reverting back to the days of my youth and chose my locations (live in n. California now) that really are pretty remote, get little to no real traffic, and find myself with little need to concentrate on leave no trace, as the next person along will likely be two months away, with vmost likely no traffic at all for 6 months out of the year.
So I really have gone back to doing most all my cooking on open fires, much more back to "woodcraft" rather than "backpacking" I carry a small breakdown wood burning stove type container that contains a fire, is very fuel efficient, and safe that I can cook in if wildfire is a danger, but have really shied away from liquid or canister stoves.Sep 15, 2011 at 11:23 pm #1779988
This is an understandable viewpoint. The first time I went to Yosemite was in the mid 80s and I had a space blanket from the 60s for a ground sheet and boiled water on a camp fire using my father's old Boy scout mess kit from the 50s. I wore combat boots from the 60s/70s and Levi's. A tent and stove were distant dreams.
As the years have passed I accumulated more and more equipment, much of it intended for environments I will never travel in. Now I am trying to simplify things. All things considered I would still consider making a cat can alcohol stove or one of the efficient wood burning stoves a part of your kit. At least fire is contained and has less impact than a ring. It is also simpler to prepare meals using a stove for heat.Sep 15, 2011 at 11:34 pm #1779989
I cook on a wood fire almost exclusively. I just like it so much better. I have never found it too slow or too much of a hassle. I cook over a fire even when it's really wet out. It's worth the little extra effort of splitting kindling since it will keep you warm and help you dry out somewhat. The weight of my norlund hatchet more than pays for itself in ways other than just cooking. I have never carried a wood stove though.
I just stomp my coals into dust and cover it up with dirt. Nobody will notice and it won't hurt anything. I haven't been to many areas where not leaving a trace was a huge deal.Sep 16, 2011 at 8:24 am #1780047
Back to basics……….wood is my favorite fuel. Love the smell of smoke from a small contained fire. I use a companion burner in case I need to do alcohol when the weather is wet for 2 or more days. At a base camp wood is collected and covered for future use.
I burn wood from the top down, stacked vertical, reduces smoke to the max.
Love to burn wood :-)Sep 16, 2011 at 10:06 am #1780076
a lot of us dont need that fancy gear … myself included … for going on trails
but i do luvvvv my jetboil ;)Sep 16, 2011 at 10:13 am #1780080
USA Duane HallParticipant
@hikerduaneLocale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Years ago when I started bping, I always cooked over a fire, what other way was there? Surely not lugging a Coleman stove out there? I use a stove these days, no having to gather firewood and having smelly clothes when I get back. I still have a campfire now and then where wood is plentiful, maybe I need to do some bushwhacking to get away from it all and have a fire more often. Living here in CA and often visiting Desolation Wilderness, when they banned fires, that was when I had to buy a stove back in '89 or so. Off to go car camp this weekend for fishing, relaxing by a campfire, messing with my vintage stoves.
DuaneSep 16, 2011 at 11:08 am #1780088
@rodneyondarockLocale: Southern California
I am still resisting the consumer urge to buy a jetBoil or MSR, even resisting taking a soda can stove. its not just the stove, because you need a container, and carrying the bulk.
for 3 day trips, I still manage with pre-prepared foods, eating the perishables first, and leaving the ready-to-eat for the last day.
I understand the psychological benefits of having a hot meal, but I get by on packaged foods. dried fruits, smoked salmon, bagel, cheese bread rolls, single servings of Smuckers jelly, pretzels, tuna in a foil pouch, spam singles, (pre)hard boiled eggs, pre-cooked rice and ground beef vacuum sealed and frozen-> they thaw by day-2, of course jerky and mixed nuts variety, even caramel popcorn. My buddy takes a few slices of pizza wrapped in foil.
I end up with 2 oz of food packaging trash, instead of a kitchen, stove, fuel, cookpot.
I don't need hot coffee or soup. that's what works for me.Sep 16, 2011 at 11:34 am #1780099
@cameronLocale: The WOODS
I did three weeks with no hot meals (well okay hot meals at resupplies but not on the trail). My reasons were kinda lame. I didn't want the bulk and expense of Mtn. House meals and I just didn't have time to shop around and put together other cooking meals( since I normally don't do a lot of cooking on the trail I didn't have a lot of things I knew I would like).
My system worked out fairly well. Since I was hiking dawn to dusk and was often really tired I liked having food that was quickly available especially when it was cold or raining, just eat and go to bed. On a more relaxed trip I might have liked some hot food so I'm looking at different options. Sometimes I bring summer sausage. I can eat it cold and its amazing heated over a fire.Sep 16, 2011 at 12:08 pm #1780106
@servingkoLocale: Intermountain West
When going solo or big miles/elevation is a major part of the trip, I go no stove no cook and don't miss it for a minute.Sep 16, 2011 at 1:56 pm #1780153
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> I am still resisting the consumer urge to buy a jetBoil or MSR,
They are not good choices. The JetBoils are all far too heavy. The MSR stoves are mostly too heavy as well, and the Pocket Rocket is a poor design with weak pot supports.
If you want to experiment with a canister stove, buy something looking like a Snow Peak GS(T)-100. Anything over 80 g is too heavy.
We have a whole range of technical articles on canister stoves (and other sorts of stoves) which can help.
CheersSep 16, 2011 at 4:38 pm #1780194
@tacedeousLocale: East Bay, CA
After getting a backcountry boiler, I really got into bushcraft. And I'm really loving the whole idea of it, and I can have a low to no impact mini campfire. for mornings I do sometimes cheat with a little alchy :)
The one real caveat is how restrictive they are on fires in CA, sure would be nice if you could test and qualify for a "burn anywhere" type permit… one can dreamSep 16, 2011 at 5:27 pm #1780215
Time for a different opinion. When I started backpacking, we always cooked on open fires – there was no other option. I first started using stoves on winter high altitude climbs, and eventually carried a liquid stove when in rainy conditions.
Over the years, my use of a stove has become more and more routine. Cooking is quicker, the chance of starting a wildfire is lessened considerably, and the weight is inconsequential, especially considering the convenience of canister or alcohol stoves.
To each his own, I guess. But open campfires, other than emergencies, are a giant step backwards. And, indeed, I do carry the tinder and means of ignition so that I can do an open fire if required.Sep 16, 2011 at 5:57 pm #1780234
@rayestrellaLocale: Northern Minnesota
"To each his own, I guess. But open campfires, other than emergencies, are a giant step backwards."
Hear, hear. I held off on responding when I first read this but it bugs me. I too hike in the deep parts of CA and love being where other people are not. Dave and I put major miles per day on and when we see a rare person it is awesome. If I saw one living "woodcraft style" it would bum me out big-time. Cook on open fires? Why? Yes I did in 1974 but by 1976 I was on propane. '78 white gas. Now I have not even made a fire since 2003.
We just saw a site that somebody decided to make a sapling and branch shelter. Chopped trees everywhere and a giant mess in the only clear spot to set up a tent. Just living by woodcraft. Yeah, I dug on that when I was 13 too…
What would happen if every hiker did?
Wood in a contained for-purpose system? Sure. Make a giant open blaze to heat tea? Do it in your fire-place please, not our back country.Sep 17, 2011 at 12:51 am #1780292
A step backwards? I am ok with that. I didn't know that backpacking was about technological advancements to make you impervious to nature. You obviously don't understand the feeling of accomplishment that comes from relying on yourself, not your gear. But I guess we are getting in to different styles of camping. I often build some sort of primitive shelter, for the fun/challenge and out of practicality – my poncho shelter is kind of iffy in high winds and whipping something together doesn't take very long. I don't get why all these techy superpackers treat you like some sort of silly caveman…
I have never found a wood fire to be terribly slow or too much of a hassle, even in wet weather. And the fuel weight is far from being inconsequential for extended trips.
Besides, there are even more practical reasons for making fires. You don't have to carry around extra clothing for sitting around camp. I have gone from t-shirt weather to around freezing when the sun went down and didn't add any clothing. You can also dry out your clothing and cook more diverse foods.
This whole impact thing with fires is way overblown when you are talking to people who are already thinking about their impact. You can blast a long log fire all night long to keep warm and still clean up your mess so that the next person won't notice (most likely). Coals just sit there and last for a very long time. If you stomp your coals into powder, it disperses into the soil much quicker with just a couple of rains. If you throw some soil over your stomped coals, you can call it leaving no trace (there is no trace left). And I am very hesitant to believe that campfire remnants have many lasting, negative effects when I have seen saplings growing out of old fire pits or have found poison oak growing 3 foot tall out of a massive pile of black coals. Obviously depletion of dead wood sources could be an issue, but that's something you have to determine yourself based on where you are and how much use the area is getting. If an area is getting stripped of firewood by overuse, it's probably not an area that I want to spend vacation time at.Sep 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm #1780400
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
> I didn't know that backpacking was about technological advancements to make you
> impervious to nature.
Apart from the sheer impossibility of being impervious to nature (-20 C and 100 kph wind?), that is a gross misrepresentation of what Ray and others have been saying.
There are two uses for technology. In this case we use it to reduce the impact we have on the wilderness, out of love and respect for it.
Can you imagine what it would be like if a hundred people all lit wood fires in some remote wilderness spot? We have all seen the huge fire rings and consequent mess which results. The reality is that people just do not clean up their fireplaces and make them invisible. They leave them, and create an eyesore. They dump rubbish in them and leave them. Skip the nice theory and go on what we all see at popular sites all the time.
But if they all use small stoves the impact of their cooking on the wilderness is zero. The next person sees nothing. That is LNT.
CheersSep 17, 2011 at 6:04 pm #1780438
Done with LNT, no moreSep 17, 2011 at 7:30 pm #1780452
@scfhomeLocale: Chocorua NH, USA
" We have all seen the huge fire rings and consequent mess which results."
Roger, I honestly don't think they have. What really got me was reading Chris Townsend's, "Walking the Yukon," and the amazing amount of crapola he found in the most out-of-the-way places.
Maybe spending a few months with a forest or park service cleaning up after some backpackers would bring about a change of heart. There is plenty of that work waiting.Sep 17, 2011 at 8:07 pm #1780462
I've used it all, except for wood, and like the speed and convenience of my Jetboil Sol. After a hard day of hiking,I want something that's quick and easy, and the JB does it for me "personally" Its worth the extra weight. While your playing around lighting a fire or measuring alcohol or fixing the windscreen, I'll already have had a 16oz boil within 2-3 minutes. The small canister will easily last a week for solo use as well. I will admit that mechanical failures are always a possibility though, compared to much fewer worries with alcohol, Esbit, or wood. Finding dry wood in extremely wet conditions could pose some issues though?Sep 17, 2011 at 8:41 pm #1780466
"Can you imagine what it would be like if a hundred people all lit wood fires in some remote wilderness spot? We have all seen the huge fire rings and consequent mess which results. The reality is that people just do not clean up their fireplaces and make them invisible. They leave them, and create an eyesore. They dump rubbish in them and leave them. Skip the nice theory and go on what we all see at popular sites all the time."
THIS. Not only do many people ( a disturbing percentage) not clean up, but they actually, honestly believe it is all part of the natural landscape and a natural consequence to being outdoors.
"But if they all use small stoves the impact of their cooking on the wilderness is zero. The next person sees nothing. That is LNT."
Agree 110%, and I'm not an ultralighter and a big gear technology fanatic. I carry a 7LB pack, moccasins, and all kinds of other things that are supposed to ruin my outdoor experience.
Leave No Trace. Please. PLEASE. There are close to 7 billion people on this planet now. It's not mountain man 1801 and a world population of 900 million. I fully understand the convenience and romance of campfires, but with 5% of the US forests remaining (probably less than that if we knew the truth), it is more likely that we will tread where others already have.Sep 17, 2011 at 9:06 pm #1780470
If you can make a fire and then clean up after yourself so that no one can tell you have even been there, and if you are doing so in places where there is thick forest and thus plenty of downed wood for fuel BEYOND what the forest needs to replenish the soil, AND if you are willing and able to make sure your fire is absoluteley dead out before you restore the site, AND if you are responsible enough to forgo the pleasures of a fire when the fire danger is high (since even the most carefully tended fire can give off sparks which can be risky if the forest is dry enough), then I say go to it. But you should be aware that you will be one of a very tiny number of individuals who will really use fire with care and with respect for the fragility of the wilderness and for the other users of the wilderness. So when you extol the virtues and pleasure of the campfire please be sure to also mention the great responsibility that goes with it.Sep 17, 2011 at 11:01 pm #1780480
This is nearly the same argument as hunting vs photography. It boils down to the emotional experience that a person gets from fire (or crafting something). People who love it might not be out there at all w/o that activity and so its going to be difficult to convince them to do otherwise.Sep 18, 2011 at 2:02 am #1780488
If 100 people all built a fire in a remote wilderness spot, it would not be a remote wilderness spot. That's the whole point and it's how you determine how diligent you need to be to not leave a trace. It all depends on the place and level of usage. If everyone did it, but did it responsibility and held off making them where it was inappropriate, we wouldn't be any worse off.
Yeah, I have seen plenty of ugly fire rings and coals around. It is pretty disgusting. But switching to a stove 100% of the time is usually not necessary to preserve the experience for others. It's easy to not leave a trace with a wood fire if you actually care. You just clean your sh*t up. It's no different than leaving trash. You shouldn't demonize a campfire, you should demonize the people who did it irresponsibly.
Paul put it really well. More often than not, I see places that are choked with dead wood to the point that it is preventing undergrowth. Especially in the mid elevation sierras where stuff gets torn up from the winter. I would never use fuel up near or above the treeline, so don't get all upset.Sep 18, 2011 at 10:31 am #1780558
@socal-nomadLocale: North San Diego county
CDF prefers people to use canister stoves in the California back country. Because a canister stove can be turned off and will not leave embers behind or be tipped over like alcohol stove and the fuel spread to cause a forest fire.
The worst fire I have ever seen southern California was the Cedar Fire started by back country hunter to signal search planes because he was lost. If someone would have told me a fire would travel from Ramona headed west all the way down the 52 freeway 100 yards past convoy ave. on Miramar Navy Air Station only 8 miles from the La Jolla coast line. Travel 35 to 40 miles as car drives in 24 hour time period. I would have said you are crazy.
The fire could have been worse if it would have jumped the 52 freeway burned on the south side in the oak and chaparral it would traveled down the 52 freeway and right up Mt. Soledad and hit the eucalyptus trees, multimillion dollar homes of La Jolla,Ca and burned to the ocean.
I have lived all my life 50 years in southern California I have seen way to many wild fires in my life time,In my opinion having open fires anywhere in the back country of California is just to risky now days because of drought. I have even seen wild fires In Joshua Tree national forrest in the middle of the desert.
I am with Rodney on short trips just have a dry camp and not cook at all. I have found a way to have your morning chai tea and evening sleepy time tea with out cooking.I use solar heating I have two 8 oz. nalgene bottles that hang with 2mm cord and mitten hook from my daisy chain on my pack with a tea bag and sugar for the chai tea, tea bag for sleepy time tea. I set up camp drink my sleepy time tea before I go to bed. Wake up in the morning have my Chai tea brewed by the sun.
Plus dry camps are better for star gazing.
TerrySep 18, 2011 at 8:02 pm #1780706
@rayestrellaLocale: Northern Minnesota
"I see places that are choked with dead wood to the point that it is preventing undergrowth."
So let's burn it?
Actually they are now saying in many parks to leave down trees as it is part of the ecology.
I am not against fires. Before 1993 I made them but the more I thought about it I realized there is no reason for them. When hiking with my kids in MN I will have a fire about 50% of the time as there we are in designated sites that have fire rings. (And often left over wood.) We have never cut wood. In CA even with the kids I have never made a fire while backpacking.
If you have a for-purpose wood burning system that is one thing. I think they are great. I could not use them most of the places I hiked. But an open fire? Not for me.Sep 18, 2011 at 8:11 pm #1780709
The following is copied from one of our local Forest Service ranger's weekly trip report. I am sure his story can be told by thousands of others working in our forests.
"I just made a trek up to Alpine Lake myself and, sadly, I found seven fire rings around the lakeshore. All of Stuart Fork’s lakes have a year-round fire restriction. And the reason for this is obvious when you are standing on these lakeshores. There is virtually no firewood remaining. If you are planning to visit lakesides in Stuart Fork or Canyon Creek please honor this fire restriction. It is a nitrogen cycle issue. 90% of the nitrogen available for plant growth comes from decaying vegetation and when all of it goes up in campfire smoke, the remaining living plants are adversely affected. Additionally, the proper way to put out a campfire is to pour copious amounts of water on it while stirring with a stick. Please do not attempt to smother it by piling on dirt. Coals can remain active for days with this method, and these fire rings are extremely difficult and time-consuming to clean up!"
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