Gear Review: TOAKS Alcohol Stove & TiStand

Stoves have come a long way since I started backpacking…or maybe I’ve come a long way. Regardless, I now have a system that far outshines the whisperlite stove I started with. When thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2002 I often started the picnic table on fire when there was too much fuel in the line, finding and filling the bottle with white gas wasn’t too hard, but the weight and hassle (cleaning it…don’t get me started) of it all seems hilarious when I think back on it.

I started using alcohol stoves for my next thru-hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. My homemade beer can stove worked, but this time I started myself and my sleeping bag on fire, had the jb-weld that I used to fuse it together fail on me half way through the trail, and watched the top of my stove pop into the air when it finally failed…I was truly a danger to myself and the forest around me.

Now, I have the TOAKS Titanium Siphon Alcohol Stove, and it’s astonishingly easy to use, efficient, safe, lightweight, and yes, I might even say sexy.

Some of the things I love about the TOAKS alcohol stove?

You can turn it off. The big problem with most alcohol stoves is that once you pour the fuel in and light it, you have to wait until the fuel is all burned off to either add more fuel, or put the stove away. You definitely do not want to put a stove in your pack that still has traces of denatured alcohol in it only to have it run over the food in your food bag or over your gear. You REALLY do not want to try and add more fuel to the stove if it’s still lit. Yes, I’ve made that mistake, and yes I burned myself. The TOAKS stove has an open reservoir that you pour the fuel into which includes a barely perceptible double wall design that helps to pressurize the fuel into hot jets of fire so you can cook your meal, but once your water is boiling, or you dinner is ready, you can take the lid from your pot, cover the stove, and extinguish the flame. Once the stove has cooled off a few minutes, you can pour the extra fuel back into your bottle. This alone would make me use the stove, but there are some other very fine features:

It is efficient. I told a friend about this stove last summer, and being the gear-head he is, decided we should do a stove-off and test the TOAKS stove against a few other alcohol stoves on the market (and one of my old homemade versions) to see how they performed. Bill has been using the Trail Design Kojin stove, and the Trail Designs 12-10 stove, and in his words, “The TOAKS kicked my ass for boil time.”

We used 300ml of 50 degree water for each test, One ounce of 190 proof Everclear grain alcohol, and the same pot and windscreen to keep things equal.

The results to a rolling boil were:

TOAKS: 3 m 50 s
Trail Designs Kojin: 4 m 20 s
Trail Designs 12-10: 5 m 20 s
Renee’s homemade stove: big fail

The flame the TOAKS version pumps out is impressive. I was demoing the stove for some folks at the OR Show last summer in front of several gear-jaded hikers, and I was able to knock them out of their trade-show daze by setting the stove alight and boiling some water…to gasps and awes. Yes, it’s powerful.

I even took it on a ski tour trip recently and melted snow for water. I never would have taken an alcohol stove in cold temps when I needed a workhorse of a stove to melt water, boil water, and cook my dinner, but I was able to accomplish all three tasks with fuel to spare.

At .7 oz (20g) it’s incredibly lightweight, and fits into any pot or cup you may want to use. The new TOAKS TiStand Titanium Alcohol Duel Stand and Windscreen far surpasses the previous stand and windscreen they offered. I often will use the 550ml pot with this set-up as it fits just enough water to make a dinner or cup of coffee for one, and most of my trips are solo anyway.

I made a little video about how to put it together and use it:

So in conclusion:

  • It’s light: Stove – .7 oz, TiStand – 2.5 oz, 550ml Pot 2.6 oz, equals a total of 5.8 oz for your entire cook system. (the whisperlite stove ALONE weighs 15.2oz)
  • It’s efficient: 300ml of water boils in under 4 minutes
  • It can turn off: the lid snuffs out the flame
  • It’s sexy: the clean and simple lines and look of titanium are very visually appealing to this designer 🙂
  • It’s affordable: The stove retails at $39.95, the TiStand at $24.95, and the 550ml pot at $33.95

I’ll be using this stove most of the year on the backpacking and packrafting trips I have planned. It’s important to note that in fire restriction conditions you need a stove that can be turned off. This version would not qualify for an actual off-switch even though you can easily extinguish the flame, but above all else, please don’t start a fire with whatever stove you are using. For most conditions this will be my go-to stove.

Training for a Thru-hike

When people ask me how I train to hike a long trail, my first response is, “by eating everything I can.” Then I laugh. But it’s kind of true.

Really? You are going to put that into your body? Well, yeah, sometimes...

Really? You are going to put that into your body? Well, yeah, sometimes…

During a typical 20-30 mile day on the trail most hikers burn around 6,000 calories a day, an amount that is impossible to carry no matter how much peanut butter, olive oil, or chocolate you have in your pack. By the end of a 5-6 month long hike many thrus look like mere shadows of their former selves, as often the body starts consuming muscle once it has burned off all the fat reserves.

Now for women, this isn’t always the case. Our womanly figures like to preserve the baby-making ability, and will hoard the fat/muscle more than our male counterparts. I’ve heard some women say they didn’t lose any weight during a hike, which can come as a surprise to them.

I’ve typically slimmed down quite a bit over the duration of a long trail, but then again, my preparations have included consuming as much cake, beer, and cheetos as possible.

I find an amazing cache of trail magic at Rainy Pass, mile 2,593 on the PCT. At this point you really can eat whatever you want.

I found an amazing cache of trail magic at Rainy Pass, mile 2,593 on the PCT. At this point you really can eat whatever you want.

This year I’m doing things a little differently. While I probably won’t say no to a pint of IPA from one of our local breweries in Bend, I am keeping up a regular fitness routine, and I do want to eat more nutritious food on the trail.

Over three years ago I started attending the Namaspa yoga studio in Bend that specializes in Baptiste Yoga, an incredibly challenging yoga discipline, that has transformed my body from regular 2-3 sessions a week. I have never been as strong as I am now.

Now this is a full-body strong, not the typical strong that results from 2,000 miles, a condition we like to call the T-Rex syndrome. The T-Rex is a hiker that has tree-trunks for legs, someone who can climb thousands of feet without labored breathing, but can’t throw a rock past the closest tree. Think T-Rex: all leg and no arm.


Oh I hear hikers say they are going to keep their core & arms strong through daily sit-ups and push-ups. But really? At the end of your typical 28 mile day in the mountains it’s all you can do to lift your spoon to your mouth before falling asleep in your Ramen noodles. We expend so much energy during the day it’s unusual for the idealistic fitness routines to last past the first week of a hike.

So this year I’m starting the trail stronger than ever before (thanks to yoga) and also with a steady program of weekend warrioring. Kirk and I usually get out of town as soon as we can on Friday or early Saturday morning to ski, hike, packraft, raft, bike or any of the other 100’s of activities close to Bend.

Last weekend we went packrafting. This is my patented don't swallow any of the cow-dung water move.

Last weekend we went packrafting. This is my patented don’t swallow any of the cow-dung water move.

I’m hoping this will make the first month on the trail a little less painful than my previous 7 thru-hikes, but you never know. I’m 37 this time around, and age has a way of throwing aches & pains your way in body parts that you never knew existed.

But really…hiking all day every day is really hard to train for. The first few weeks will suck and your body will hurt, I’ll try to spare you too much whining when I start hiking north!

Oh feet. That's a whole other issue the first few weeks on the trail.

Oh feet. That’s a whole other issue the first few weeks on the trail.

Winter OR Show (Part 1) What a Wild Ride Its Been

It has been an amazing 6 days with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and plenty of fellow hikertrash.

Returning from the OR Show is like returning from a trip to the moon: surreal and almost too good to be true. Something became clear to me while I was wandering the halls of dreamy gear (gear so tech-ed out and shiny as to be irresistible), that this was exactly where I was supposed to be.  Talking trail, creating partnerships, celebrating the ridiculous antics of my fellow (and very silly) thru-hiker friends, and all the while feeling (and knowing) that I’ll be hiking in a few months, that the CDT will actually happen!

Creating this photo seemed a fitting tribute to the week; and although it seemed like so much happened that I couldn’t possibly remember it all; it’s time to dig in!

Thru-hikers had a bigger presence than ever at the OR Show this year.

Thru-hikers had a bigger presence than ever at the OR Show this year. The bear, well, you had to be there.

Since meeting Teresa Martinez and Peter “Czeck” Sustr of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) last August at the Summer OR Show and becoming their first Trail Ambassador, it seems as if everything I’m passionate about, everything that I’ve been interested in and doing for years, has led me to this point.

“Do your thing and I will know you.” -Paul Theroux

My buddy Whitney "Allgood" LaRuffa and I represented TurboPUP. (AWESOME PRODUCT!)

My buddy Whitney “Allgood” LaRuffa and I represented TurboPUP at the Summer OR where I met Teresa. (AWESOME PRODUCT!)

Starting the brand hikertrash with Brian Frankle last April has created a lot of opportunities.

We make coozies, trucker hats, shirts, silipints and more. Stuff for hikers.

We make beer coozies, trucker hats, shirts, silipints, and more. Stuff for hikers.

I had been screen printing for 5 years (primarily bikes, but also the hikertrash screen inspired by my good friend Lint).

When he hiked through on his second PCT thru-hike I printed Lint's backpack.

When he hiked thru on his second PCT thru-hike in 2009 I printed Lint’s backpack.

I got into bikes and formed the company Bike Bend Wear to sell shirts at cyclocross races in Bend and on Etsy.

I had 10 bike designs & one play boat (for Kirk)

I had 10 bike designs & one play boat (for Kirk)

When the desk job took over and I was too busy to keep it up, I let the screen printing go for a while, but Brian and I partnered up to make some shirts for the PCT kick-off weekend last year.

My friends SOL & Smooth represented hikertrash at the kick-off last year, and took their friend Stumbling Beef to the CDT. We lost Smooth, and miss him very much.

My friends SOL & Smooth represented hikertrash at the kick-off last year, and took their friend Stumbling Beef to the CDT for his thru-hike. Smooth passed in the mountains late last year, and we miss him very much.

Starting a company was easier than I thought, and before I knew it found myself at PCT Trail Days in September with a brand hikers were recognizing.

I screen printed "hikertrash" on whatever the current PCT hikers wanted. And sold some stuff.

I did a bunch of live screen printing on whatever the current PCT hikers wanted (like this hiker’s thigh) and had a blast.

While hikertrash was gaining steam, I had started freelancing for Ron Moak, founder of Six Moon Designs, who brought me on as his media manager last summer (check out Ron and Brian’s new line of packs…two great minds in the light-weight backpacking industry collaborating together).

Here is Ron at the OR Show buying the triple crown of blankets by Wool

Here is Ron at the OR Show buying the triple crown of blankets created by Woolrich especially to support the three long trails.

The new business and partnership with the well-known gear company has quickly led me to the sweet spot of the brand/product side of the outdoor industry. After already trying to make a living from guiding, leading trail crews, working in wilderness therapy, teaching and working logistics, it seemed an incredibly natural fit to now be writing and designing for the outdoor industry.

When Teresa asked if I wanted to attend the Winter OR Show with them to represent the CDTC and help them form new partnerships and bring awareness to my hike and the incredible things happening on the trail I couldn’t say no, besides some of my best hikertrash friends would be there. Done!

Next up: the show! Stay tuned for more this week….


Words can Soothe the Ache

Getting through the winter months before a thru-hike is agonizing. I hate to say I’m just biding my time, but that’s it in it’s essence. Watching the days pass is easier if I keep really busy, which is a cinch this year as I have a full time desk job and have been freelancing 10-15 more hours a week. That leaves just enough time for yoga, walks, a bit of skiing/hiking/packrafting and, a bit of reading.

Reading has always been my coping mechanism of choice; diving into a good adventure story is like a salve for the ache. I picked up a few books recently at the local used book store that have helped.


The first book, Walking Home, hasn’t really taken my mind of the CDT so much, but fanned the fire of the next adventure.

Alaska weighs heavily on me. I’ve read so many books about Alaskan adventures, and Kristin Gates‘ last few adventures in particular shout possibility. Kirk and I are thinking an extended packraft/hike/ski trp in Alaska is on the docket soon, but until then I’ll dive into books like the one above.

Other treasures like the book True by Michael Melius is a real find. Small independent press books  are some of my favorites, and this one in particular is fantastic.



These are some deep thoughts for my mind to chew on as the days continue to get shorter.

And then there are trail journals. Oh how I love trail journals. I often find an eloquent story-teller and read through their whole five months of daily journals in just a few days or weeks. I’ve been in the middle of Colter’s trip on the Desert Trail lately; his trip is particularly interesting as he’s the first person (i think?) to have hiked this 2,200ish mile route from Mexico to Canada. Just a stone’s throw from the PCT at times, I think people forget there are many other hikes out there to do, of your own devising, or re-erecting the paths of past travelers.

desert trail map


So I continue with my books and journals. Spring will come.

10 Ways Thru-hiking is like the Peace Corps

I first learned about long distance backpacking while living in my village of Zogore in Burkina Faso, West Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer over a decade ago. When someone joins the Peace Corps and has to decide what to bring with them, books are high on the list. Surely there will be time to read the complete works of Shakespeare or War and Peace, right?

And it’s true, I read well over 200 books during the 2 years I was there, but the book that made the most impact was There are Mountains to Climb. Not for the prose, or riveting story line, but it was the first time I learned about a trail that crosses the country, and the people who set out to hike it in just a few months.

It was September, 1999, I had just arrived in the Burkina 3 months earlier, but I already knew what I was doing in 2 years when my service was over. Hiking the Appalachian Trail!

When I finally made it to the trail in 2002 I realized there were LOTS of similarities.

Here are my top 10 ways thru-hiking is like the Peace Corps:

1. You will be covered in dirt almost all the time.

2. You will think about food non-stop.

3. People think you are crazy.

4. You have changed way more in a short amount of time than your friends and family at home.

5. You curse the postal system.

6. You talk about poop a lot.

7. You get giardia.

8. You make deeper connections with people faster than you ever thought possible.

9. When you return people always ask about getting attacked by bears/lions, but the wildest thing you saw was a porcupine eating someone’s shoe/a chicken tied to a bicycle.

10. You will never be the same again.




So after I posted this fellow thru-hiker and Peace Corps Volunteer, Lisa, posted her list. Wow! She must have had a lot of time on her hands Thru-hiking will do that. Wait, so will Peace Corps.

More of the 1000 ways in which PCT hiking and Peace Corps are the EXACT SAME THING:
1. You meticulously plan your next town meal at least 4 days in advance.

2. Then you dream big about the first meal you’ll eat after finishing.
3. You look forward to maildrops and cry if they are late, particularly if they contain something delicious.
4. You lick the melted chocolate out of every wrapper crevasse, then suck on the inside corners for trace remnants.
5. If you’re vegetarian, you turn carnivorous after the second encounter with an outside barbeque and charred meat.
6. You wear one outfit every day until only bleached, soft shreds remain.
7. It’s bizarre to see your comrades in normal clothing.
8. You suffer from the half-way blues, daydreaming about the things you would do and eat if you went home now.
9. Intestinal parasites, diseases, and associated smells are the hot topic of conversation, especially during meals.
10. You are perpetually sweaty and dirty and the locals are clean.
11. Your toenails take on bizarre shapes and co-exist with semi-permanent layers of funk.
12. When you emerge into a new town, friendly and curious locals find you bizarre or interesting or exciting.
13. Kids stare at you and think you’re odd.
13. Random strangers invite you into their house to eat.
14. You consume things you would never touch under normal circumstances.
15. Kind tourists feel sorry for you and give you soda pop and toiletries.
16. The small pleasures in life are so wonderful and you are filled with gratitude.
17. You have too many ups and downs to count, but feel extremely lucky to be alive.
18. People think you’re crazy.
19. You start with a filter, then switch to bleach, then just drink the water straight.
20. You start with toilet paper, then switch to rocks and sticks, then switch to the water method. It’s just so refreshing.
21. You have weird-sounding nicknames and insert trail/local speech into your everyday language. e.g. “i didn’t mean to take a nero – it just happened” or “the prefect bouffed all the money”
22. You are elated when you spy edible fruit along your walk.
23. Ice is SO very exciting.
24. During siesta, you end up chasing the shade even though you tried yet again to strategically place yourself in the likeliest continual-shade-spot.
25. You become great friends with unusual and magical people.
26. You watch terrible TV programs whenever you have the opportunity.
27. You talk to yourself and practice rolling your r’s as you walk.
28. You give up on flossing.
146. You notice every phase of the moon.
147. You smell like mildew.
148. Your body loses the ability to digest dairy products in a smooth and elegant fashion.
149. You think you’re tan, then take a shower and realize that half of it’s dirt.
361. You finally come to the realization that your gastrointestinal issues are not just a “phase”.
362. Though you’ve never bought a copy of “People” and never will, you devour it at any free opportunity.
363. Local, tiny libraries are the best.
364. Ice cream is amazing, no matter how cold it is outside and how much it gives you the runs.
365. You either love or hate the postal service.
366. Large ungulates casually walk past your sleeping pad.
367. You hitch rides no matter how sketchy the driver or vehicle and sometimes sit with farm animals on your lap.

I won’t look at the Three Sisters the same anymore

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We lost a friend to the mountains this week. When I say lost, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe he’s been there all along. Certainly his spirit and passion has been caught up in ridge-walks and highty elevations for years. Many of us met him on a long trail or on top of a mountain; crossing vast landscape together can bring you to a level of intimacy some will never know outside of their family. But family is what you become after months of sleeping on the dirt, laughing at ridiculous things and marveling that the world can be so beautiful.

Sometimes you never need to actually hike with someone to know you are part of the same family, and know those shared experiences of hiking thousands of miles can almost always bridge the gap.

At the end of the day how can you mourn a life that has been absorbed by the very thing they loved so much? Life is too short. Yes, that is painfully true. And, I have to think that of all the places one could spend their last minutes, the mountain range that frames Central Oregon, the mountain range that is home, is a very fitting place.

I won’t look at the Three Sisters the same anymore. Ben is up there. He is part of that wilderness now. If anything, it makes my connection with the world that much deeper.


Technology is ok

I headed out to Eastern Oregon for another backpacking adventure this morning. My default weekend plans are going to involve backpacking…and hopefully a bit of packrafting…that is until the snow starts to fly… then it will be cross/backcountry skiing until April gets here and I head to NM for the CDT.


This week I choose my destination because my good friend, Sage Clegg, who was the first to hike the new Oregon Desert Trail, mentioned one of her favorite parts was in the Fremont Wilderness, near Paisley, OR. I went to my maps and found a ridgewalk loop I could do in the Fremont. When given the choice, I choose ridgewalking, views, and loops!


I am again trying to post from the trail using WordPress, in this case the Dead Horse Ridge Trail. The drive was more like 3 hours from home, as opposed to the hour last weekend, but I could still see glimpses of the Three Sisters near Bend, and was reminded of how I could easily spend a lifetime exploring all Oregon has to offer. The mountain ranges, wilderness areas and national forests are endless out here (hot springs too!).

This trip is another solo one, and same as last weekend, I found myself posting often to Instagram (@wearehikertrash) since I had 4G service. Even though I’m alone, the act of posting and getting immediate responses makes me feel as if I’m not that separated by distance and time as previous hikes, and I like it!


On the Appalachian Trail I carried a phone card and disposable camera. I only took about 200 photos over the whole trail, and each image I snapped was precious. I would call family and friends when I could get to town and find a phone booth. Those days are gone, along with the phone booths.

The technology found on the trail these days is incredible, and I’m joining in the fun. I’m still debating if I should only use my phone for a camera (the quality sure beats the disposable cameras of the AT) and the fact that I can upload images to my Flickr account as I go means I don’t have to send camera cards back and forth like I did on the PCT. I might take my GoPro to get video footage, and my ipod of course. All those things add up, but with my Secur solar panel, all can be charged from the trail. And there’s Guthook’s new CDT app of course.

Granted I can still turn off the phone and completely immerse myself in nature too, which I know I will want to do as well.

Even if I find myself alone for months at a time next year, my technology will help me feel much more in touch (and my parents will have a better time of it!).

All this technology is ok.




I spent the weekend in a near-by wilderness area, and as I was camping last night wanted to test my blogging-from-the-trail capabilities. I was using the wordpress  app on my Galaxy 3 phone to type it up, but I went to post it today and it’s gone. Grrrr.

I was hoping a bit of technology would be a good thing on the trail. I’ll see if this method pans out, seems like maybe I should type it up in another application to make sure it’s saved somewhere on my phone. Anyway, here’s some photos at least.

23ish miles looping the Mill Creek Wilderness in the Ochoco Mountains east of Bend. Freaking gorgeous.