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Gear Goodness

>> Wednesday, August 17, 2011

In the course of our summer we have picked up a few new camping toys that are good enough to merit mention.

First and foremost, the stoves.

On our trip with D to Follensby Clear, he wound up lending us his stoves because he said it was "too painful" to watch us waiting for water to boil on our ancient gel stove.  D has a couple of little alcohol stoves that he loves, and after watching him use them, I decided to invest in our own.

Here they are.

They are made from recycled cans, weigh an ounce or two apiece, burn anything from isopropyl alcohol, to the fuel line anti-freeze called "Heet", to drinking alcohol (though it would be a shame to waste good rum on cooking fuel).  They can be blown out in about the first minute they are lit with a lot of effort, but after that, they're impossible to blow out even in high wind.  One of them, the top hole burner, requires a pot stand.

The side burner doesn't - you can set pots right on top of it. 

They burn fast and hot.  They weigh nothing.  They're tough and sturdy.  And the best part?  They each cost me a whopping $6 on eBay.  The pot stand cost me an extra $15.  That's hard to beat!

We did learn a few things though that are good to know.  If you burn Heet in them, which is the recommended fuel, it is a mix of isopropanol and methanol.  But Heet can't be stored in bare aluminum - it eats it.  I haven't yet figured out how it doesn't eat the stoves themselves, but it doesn't.  It DID, however, etch right into the bare aluminum Sigg bottle when it ran down the outside of it.

In general, though, it can be stored in plastic-lined metal bottles, so the Sigg bottles work great (although they aren't idea to pour from).  It could NOT be stored in those little red "white gas" bottles that are commonly used for camping fuel - they are not plastic coated.

It's also good to have a bottle of water nearby.  If you accidentally drip fuel on the ground away from your stove without realizing it, you could start a ground fire.  We also found it felt safest to dampen a little patch of dirt before we lit the stove, just to make sure there wasn't anything flammable there.

Next new toy?  Primus butane lighter.

Dude, this sucker is a little torch.  I affectionately refer to it as "the dragon."  It's wind proof and can be used to light something volatile while keeping your hand at a distance.  It's supremely easy to flick on, and is quite durable.  Love it. 

Sensing a theme here?  I do like fire.

I need to balance my fire toys with a little water, though, and this just might be the best new toy ever.  It's an ultraviolet Steripen adventurer water purifier, and I'm in love with it.

Water purification in my early camping years always involved iodine, and then trying to drown the taste of the iodine in something, anything that would take the edge off it.  I went through a lot of tang and crystal light, but really, the iodine just made those drinks taste gross.

So we moved on to various other chemical treatments, but they all bear hazard warning labels, like this:

Yikes.  And I want to drink that why?

Most also take a long time to work, as well.  And when I'm thirsty, I don't want to wait 4 hours for my water to be safe.

My magic wand works almost instantly.  I admit it's a little fiddly - you can't remove any part of the wand from the water you're treating for even a split second or it shuts off.  This is a safety mechanism, so you don't accidentally weld your retinas by looking directly at the UV light.  The surface of the water, and nearly any other container you'd carry water in, form a protective barrier that is an effective protection for your eyes.  But, all you need to do to ensure your water is safe is actually focus for the 90 seconds it takes to purify a liter, and make sure you see the wand give you the magic green "all clear" light at the end of the treatment that indicates the water is safe.

We still carry backup tablets in case we ever run out of batteries or have some other malfunction in the wand, but I hope I never need them again.  It turns out that Adirondack lake water tastes amazing when you drink it unadulterated.  The wand doesn't filter out grit or insects, although we have little trouble with that on open lakes.  It also doesn't get clogged, like so many filters can. 

I could rave about that little wand for ages.  It was worth every penny of the almost $90 we paid for it.

And finally?  The hammock, which I mentioned in a previous post but which merits a revisit.  It's made by ENO, which stands for Eagle's Nest Outfitters, and it's a brilliant design.  The slap-straps that you hang it with are stupid simple and infinitely modifiable, so you can hang it from trees that are very close together or mighty far apart, and there's no tying or knotting or fiddling.  You can adjust the swoop of it, depending on whether you want to lie or sit in it.  It goes up in a minute, and it is incredibly comfortable.  I don't remember exactly what we paid for it, but I think that hammock and straps were maybe about $65.

They make a mosquito net for it, which I plan on purchasing.  Frankly, I also plan to purchase a second one, because I am suddenly inspired to try hammock camping (instead of tents) in nice weather.  I have a friend who does just that, and I see why.  It's way more comfortable than sleeping on a tent floor, regardless of the padding you put under your sleeping bag.

And, as I noted previously as well, Simon highly approves of it.


Sneaksleep August 17, 2011 at 5:41 PM  

I can personally attest to how awesome all these gadgets are. I've already added the water wand to my Amazon wish list. :)

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