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.

TOAKS Titanium Review

Toaks Photo in use 2

TOAKS on the Owyhee River section of the Oregon Desert Trail

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!

Oregon Desert Trail through the Alvord Desert

Oregon Desert Trail through the Alvord Desert

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.

Toaks Photo in use 1
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.

the sky seems bigger in the desert

When using a wood burning stove it’s important to pay attention to fire restrictions in the backcountry.

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.