As an avid long distance backpacker, I’ve spent years researching gear in the effort to lighten up my pack weight. It may seem obvious, but a lighter pack translates to less stress on your legs, knees and feet, and more importantly, the ability to hike longer days and more miles. While a lighter pack makes a lot of sense when you are backpacking for months on end during a thru-hike, it is equally important when hikers set out for a weekend or few days in the backcountry.
I’ve seen many weekend hikers porting huge packs up and down the trails, grumbling about the torturous experience, and perhaps souring them on backpacking in the future. Don’t let this happen to you!
In this day and age there are many ultralight products to choose from, and in the 14 years I’ve been backpacking I’ve owned multiples of just about every piece of gear. But technology advances, and big improvements are made all the time in outdoor gear.
Since being introduced to TOAKS titanium products earlier this year, I’ve decided to try out a few items while hiking for my new job as the Oregon Desert Trail Coordinator. For a thru-hiker, getting to help establish a new long distance hiking trail is a dream job come true. This 750 mile trail traverses the desert of eastern Oregon, and has only been around for a few years, so in order to determine what the trail needs to move forward, I had to do the only obvious thing: hike it!
I decided to make a break from using traditional backpacking stoves and try out the TOAKS Titanium Backpacking Wood Burning Stove. I’ve used lots of other stoves, but what they all have in common is fuel. There are as many types of fuel for backpacking stoves as there are stoves, and it can be a real challenge to find the right kind of fuel in the area of the world you are hiking. Finding fuel for a wood burning stove is as easy as it sounds.
So far I’ve carried this stove on 425 miles of the Oregon Desert Trail, 140 of those miles along the remote Owyhee River corridor. In all instances there was plenty of fuel to choose from. Dry pieces of sagebrush burn hot and leave almost no traces once burned down, and even along the river I was able to find dry driftwood to fuel the stove. It was such a peace of mind to know I didn’t have to figure out how to mail or find fuel along the eastern Oregon route.
There are a few things to know about cooking on a wood burning stove: 1) the fire does need your attention during the cooking phase, 2) cooking does take a little longer, and 3) cooking over an open flame will cover your stove and pot with soot. The benefits include: 1) stove weighs 7oz, 2) no need to carry fuel, 3) stove fits perfectly into the TOAKS Titanium 1100 ml pot, and 4) the set-up is stable, I had no concerns over the flames spilling out to surrounding grasses.
To keep the flame going long enough to boil water or cook you food, it’s a good idea to make a pile of small pieces of wood to keep feeding into the stove when the flame gets low. I like making a pile of 2-3 inch long pieces; these will be easy to add into the bottom chamber while your cook pot sits on top. Paying attention to your stove is always a good idea, and to make sure the flame doesn’t go out, it’s a good idea to put aside your other camp tasks and focus on the fire. Bonus: on cold nights or mornings you have some extra heat!
Because you are burning wood, the flame will release soot that can coat your stove and pot. Having a storage bag is important to keep the rest of your gear clean. I didn’t mind the black dust, and since I always carry some wet wipes, I was always able to clean off any smudges I might get on my hands.
Hikers will still need to pay attention to fire bans in certain areas during dry times of the year. In places where any open flame-type stoves are not allowed, the wood burner will not be the best choice, but for most environments this stove is a great option.
Have some damp wood you are trying to use? I’ve been using cotton balls with a bit of Vaseline on them. This hiker hack will burn long enough to dry out some of the smaller twigs, and the excellent air flow from the bottom of the stove will help your other pieces of wood dry out until they catch fire.
To round out my gear updates this summer, I’ve been using TOAKS Titanium tent stakes. Since Titanium is stronger than other popular aluminum stakes, these are not as likely to bend when trying to pitch your tent in hard-packed ground. They are incredibly lightweight, and easy to use.
Titanium is one of the lightest materials on the market, and TOAKS does a great job integrating it into their products so you will not only have some of the lightest gear on the market, but it will be incredibly durable and perform well in the backcountry.