måndag 14 februari 2011

The Bushbuddy as a multi-fuel stove

Heating water for coffee on a hot summers day in the Stockholm archipelago

The Bushbuddy is a superb wood-burning stove. This is a well known fact. However, what is less known is that just the pot-stand can work well with alcohol burners and Esbits too. The big advantage of this is that you can have a backup solution if the rain is just pouring down and you don't feel like testing your fire-making skills just at that moment.

The Bushbuddy pot-stand

I've read that some hikers used the Trangia alcohol burner with success. I have only tried with a homemade Pepsi-can stove and that worked very well and also has the advantage that it is extremely light.
When using either alcohol or Esbits, a windshield becomes much more important than when using just wood as fuel is not unlimited (I tend to use a windshield with wood as well to decrease the boil times.). I simply use a folded piece of aluminium from a take-away dinner package. Those who find that too simplistic can probably find themselves some nice titanium at a premium.

 Setup for Esbit use - note the use of the stone and aluminium foil to get the flame at a good distance from the pot

For the Esbits to work best it is important that the burning base is at a good distance from the pot. I don't know what the exact distance should be, but around 3 cm seems good. See this review of Esbit stoves for more info. In order to achieve this I put the Esbits on a stone and a piece of aluminium foil. A more sophisticated solution would be to use something like a Gram Cracker, but frankly this is such a simple thing to build yourself.

Esbits or Alcohol?
What fuel to take as a backup system is a tricky question. Alcohol is easy to find, but it is a more complicated setup and can also add quite a few grams if you have a heavy burner. The Trangia burner, and I guess others as well has the advantage that they can be used for simmering though. Esbits have the important advantage that you can use an Esbit tab as a firestarter in combination with wood. You can also fly with Esbits checked in as far as I know (I have asked and done so on an international flight with the Esbits in the checked-in luggage, but that is no guarantee that all airlines will accept it.).

Field testing?
When it comes to proper field testing on real hiking trips I'm afraid I have to leave that as an exercise to the reader. Even though I bring Esbits on my hiking trips I haven't needed them yet, but I haven't been on any longer trips either. So far I have always found wood even above tree-line in wet conditions. Nevertheless my backyard testing seemed to indicate that the boil times for around 5dl of water was about 6-7 minutes with four small Esbits and probably something similar for alcohol. Perfectly acceptable for solo use I think. It would be nice to know what other peoples experiences are.