Pre-trip Gear Testing: Baby’s First Alcohol Stove

Growing up, camping meant taking a pop-up travel trailer up the North Umpqua River or along the south Oregon coast and eating whatever my mother cooked in her cast-iron skillet over an open fire or anything I picked up off the ground and managed to shove in my mouth before it could be taken away.

As an adult, camping involved being driven to a campsite somewhere in New England, setting up a six pound tent from REI, and eating whatever my friends cooked over a Coleman propane camp stove.

On a few occasions, camping as an adult involved taking a ferry or a kayak to an island in Boston Harbor or off the coast of Maine and eating whatever my camping partner cooked for me over the MSR Pocket Rocket I bought from EMS in 2006. (I am still on my first canister of fuel!)

For the AT, I opted to buy a relatively failure-proof alcohol stove system from Trail Designs. Exciting! My first alcohol stove! After scouring the shelves at BiMart for denatured alcohol, I ended up with a gallon of the stuff because smaller containers are apparently not a thing you can easily find? I know there are mini bottles of HEET you can buy, but everything I read said that’s (a) toxic, and (b) will horribly discolor your titanium pots, so now I have enough denatured alcohol to last me the rest of my life… since I can only use it if I’m camping within driving distance of my parents’ house because no airline is going to let me take that in my carry-on bag.

Thank god my parents had a stone patio built last year, because wow, pouring out two ounces of alcohol from a giant metal container is really difficult and alcohol goes just everywhere, and they are not kidding when they say it produces a really big, really invisible flame. I didn’t set myself or anything else on fire, but I don’t think it would have gone as well if I’d tried that on the grass.

Holy shit, ok, for future reference I am definitely going to clear all the leaves off the ground until I’ve got a big patch of bare dirt, and I will never ever forget to put aluminum foil underneath the stove. Just. Damn. That was a really big fireball.

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