Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Bushman Axe by Les Stroud

Next month, Wetterlings will be introducing a new model axe, designed in collaboration with Survivorman, Les Stroud.


The axe will be available for sale sometime in November, according to Wetterlings.

Judging from the picture, it is an interesting design. The poll appears to have been reduced in size, and possibly rounded like we see on the GB Hunter’s Axe. This was possibly done to aid in skinning tasks. I am not sure how that will effect the balance of the axe. The smaller poll will also likely make tasks like pounding in stakes a bit harder.

I like that they have used a less finished handle design. I am not sure if this will be the same as the final product, but if so, it will go a long way towards demonstrating that axes are not much harder to hang in the woods than a hawk. It will however most likely be replaced by a more highly finished handle, a picture of which can now be seen on the Wetterlings website.

I would love to get my hands on one of them when they finally go on sale. I am usually not a big fan of celebrity designed axes, but it’s always fun to see what little special things each person values in their tool.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Kovea Camp 5 Stove Modifications Continued…

As you guys know, after the initial modifications to my Kovea Camp 5 stove, I continued thinking about some other possible modifications. I think that I now have what will be the final version of the stove, and I wanted to share it with you.


I have made two modifications. The first one was suggested by a reader here, and it is to remove the long, flat surface from the bottom of the legs and make them reach the ground at a point. This would eliminate the possibility of the legs being effected by uneven ground.

The second modification was to remove some of the metal from the sides of the stove where the old legs used to be attached.

Here is what the leg supports looked like before:


And here is what they look like now, after the modifications:


It turns out the body of the stove is made from aluminum, so removing the metal was easy to do. All I used was a manual hack saw and a file.

I don’t think here are any other modifications I can do to the stove, so this will be the final product.


As mentioned before, because the stove is so light, it can be unstable without a pot on it. I have used this version in the field several times, and it has performed very well. After all the modifications, the stove currently weighs 4.7 oz. As far as I know, that is lighter than any commercially available remote canister stove.

Of course, modifying a stove can be dangerous, and I’m sure it is not recommended by the manufacturer, but I’m happy with the results in this case..

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mountain Men - Premiers 5/31 on the History Channel

There is a new show that is going to start soon on the History Channel. It premiers on 5/31 at 10 o’clock. The show focuses on modern day mountain men-people who primarily live in the backwoods and wilderness areas.

It looks interesting, and I’ll be sure to check it out. May 31st is just around the corner, so don’t miss it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Guest Post: Natural Shelter Build Along, by Gurthy

A while back I had the fortune to bump into Gurthy, a fellow outdoor blogger and fan of bushcraft. In fact, he was the one who introduced me to Blades and Bushcraft, which has come to be my favorite bushcraft forum. For those of you who have not done so yet, please check out his blog, and well as the forum. There is lots of good information in both places. Anyway, he did a great series following a natural shelter he was building. I found the account to be very honest and informative. He has fortunately allowed me to re-post his articles here. I have combined the two posts into a single one here.

It has been many, many years since I built a natural shelter so recently I decided it was time for a bit of practice.


There are several factors to choosing a good shelter location. Since every bushcraft, camping and survival guide in the world discusses location selection to one degree or another I'll skip the book stuff and just discuss the specifics of the site I selected today. It is in a secluded hemlock stand with plenty of resources nearby. My resource priority was as follows:

  1. Shelter construction materials- There are many deadfalls in the area so poles are plentiful. These dead stumps and trees also were an important resource for roof "shingles". There are lots of hemlocks and white pine in the area for bedding.
  2. Water- there are three small, quick flowing streams within 100-200 meters of the site. There are two large ponds and a medium river within a quarter to half mile away.
  3. Firewood- there is a ridiculous amount of fallen soft and hardwood in the area; there is also fatwood and birch nearby.
  4. Food- There are many wild edibles in the fields nearby and there is plenty of small game (squirrels, rabbits, raccoons, opossums, and turkeys to name a few) as well as whitetail deer in the area. At least one of the nearby streams has fish, and the ponds and river have fish also. Of course there will be plenty of frogs in the spring.

I  found a good spot between two hemlock trees that was level and on highish ground. On the downwind side thee is a small depression that works well for a cooking fire.


I chose the traditional lean-to design because I want to have a fire just outside the shelter and I do not want any critters to make the shelter their home too, which would be likely with a debris hut. A lean-to also provides room to sit up and work inside the shelter.

I chose to lash two thick forked sticks to the hemlocks to support the ridge pole. I lashed the ridge pole to the uprights on the downwind side so that the trees help block any cross winds.


Then I built up a sturdy frame work of stick/logs. It took me about 1 1/2 (maybe two) hours of steady but not rushed work to get this far. By the time I had a 6-7 foot wide section done I was getting hungry. Shelter construction is a lot of work!


After lunch I began gathering bark for the roof. Luckily this area has lots of downed hemlocks and I was easily able to get large sheets of bark to "shingle" the roof. I began at the bottom and worked from left to right, overlapping each piece 4-6 inches or so. Then I worked my way up, again working from left to right, overlapping the first row by 6-12 inches. In about  30-45 minutes I had this:



Here is a shot from the inside. There isn't much light showing... that's a good sign!


At this point I'm confident that the shelter will provide me and my fire protection from wind and snow. I also think that it will provide decent protection from rain. It is slightly longer than I am taller, but only by a bit. By this point it was also getting to be time to head home for family stuff, so I had to be satisfied with what was accomplished so far. Here is what it looked like when I left:



I plan to return in the near future and do the following:

  • Widen the shelter another 2 feet
  • Add a vertical support in the center for the bowing ridge pole
  • Add logs as weights to keep the bark in place
  • Maybe add a couple of feet of debris on top of the bark roof 
  • Build sides for the shelter to increase protection against crosswinds


Like I mentioned earlier, it has been a long time since I built a natural shelter, and I learned a lot with this project. As you can see in the final picture the ridge pole really started to bow under the weight of the bark. Some of the pieces were surprisingly thick, damp and heavy. Next time I'll use a stronger ridge pole. Here are some other lessons:

  • Making a shelter is a lot of work and uses a lot of energy
  • Plan on at least 3 hours to make a shelter
  • Site selection is important.... access to materials is paramount
  • Hemlock stumps and deadfall are easy to bark if you are patient
  • There are a number of great reasons to keep that small tarp or USGI poncho in my daybag!
  • I need a different axe for chopping
  • My body is older than it used to be... especially my back 

Assuming nobody burns, disassembles or otherwise destroys my shelter, there will be additional installments with the improvements to the shelter as well as my experiences sleeping in it in the near and not so near future!

It was a beautiful day here in Michigan (sunny and temps in the 60s!!) and I got back out to work some more on the shelter. Firstly I replaced the ridge pole with a sturdier piece of wood and then spaced the angled sticks for the roof out more. I am keeping about 2/3 of it shingled with bark and am using debris for the other 1/3 as an experiment to compare the effectiveness of two methods. I spent about an hour rebuilding the shelter and getting a thin layer of debris lad in before my wander lust got the better of me and I headed off to explore and enjoy the weather.



Lessons Learned:

  • Place the ridgepole on the back side of the trees versus the front... the trees will not block as much of the wind but the shelter will be inherently sturdier.
  • Bark shingles are very fragile
  • An armload of debris does not go far in shelter construction

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Cost of Bushcraft

Okay, so the title is a bit misleading. I don’t mean to discuss the cost of gear, or even the environmental impact that may be caused by certain practices. What I want to discuss here is the limitations that bushcraft puts on us when out in the woods.


Recently I posted about how many people, including me, tend to do “bushcraft” in very inactive ways. We practice skills that never translate into use under actual fiend conditions. We can build natural shelters, start friction fires, carve anything that comes to mind, but we never leave the security of a camp site conveniently located next to the car. When we do actually go into the woods, we stop calling it a bushcraft trip, and then bring all of our tents, stoves, etc. Why isn’t bushcraft something that we use for all of our needs in the woods? After all, there are many within the bushcraft community who have mastered those skill, and even more who talk about how they have, even with a degree of disingenuous modesty. It is true that some areas have regulations that limit many practices, but there are many places where the full range of bushcraft skills can be practiced.

I was thinking about why that is the case, assuming of course, that it is in fact the case. The most immediate answer that hit me was “time”.

No matter how good we are, accomplishing tasks through the use of bushcraft requires time. Sit, and honestly think about how long it takes you to complete any particular task. How long does it take you to start a fire using a bow drill? I don’t mean just the spinning part; I mean, going into the woods with just your knife, finding suitable wood, carving out a set, collecting plant material, making cordage to use, collecting tinder, and then starting the fire.

What about making natural shelter? If you are planning on it being waterproof, and you want to make it so only using an axe, how many hours will it take to make one of those lean-to shelters we see in books. How long does it take you to gather enough material to build a two foot thick bow bed that will provide sufficient insulation from the ground? 

How long does it take you to purify water using only your pot? Again, I don’t just mean the time it takes water to boil, but rather imagine that you are walking through the forest, and notice that your canteen is getting low. You decide to fill up. You stop by a creek. Now you have to strain it, build a fire, boil the water, and preferably let it cool down before drinking. Even assuming you had prepared your fire spindle and bow earlier, this will still be a significant stop. Now imagine doing it several times a day.

Now, if on top of that we add something like foraging for food, our time allocation just falls apart.

So, imagine the following bushcraft trip:

You set out into the forest, with a nice canvas backpack. Inside you have a metal billy can, a wool blanket, an axe and a knife, a canteen, some tea, sugar and rice. Nature will provide for everything else. You will thrive with the use of bushcraft. You will quickly make some cordage from nettles or other locally available plants; you will carve out your fire set; you will purify water along the way by boiling it, and at the end of each day, you will build a shelter from natural materials. Along the whole way, you will forage for food to supplement your small supply of rice. Now imagine you are doing this for a week, traveling each day.

The time required to complete each of those tasks will simply bring the trip to a holt. While each of those tasks is very doable, and most of us have performed them at one time or another, when combined in a realistic setting, they start to take their toll. Doing a trip like the one outlined here will require most of us to start working on setting up camp shortly after lunch. If our goal was to travel to any point, things would be very slow going.

That can’t possibly be right; you say! There must be some trick to it that additional knowledge will reveal. After all, how did people do it in the good ol’ days?

Well, they probably really didn’t. We have come to expect a level of comfort in the woods given to us by modern technology, that we now try to recreate through the use of bushcraft and natural materials. From what I have read, this was not the reality in the past. Building a lean-to shelter like the nice ones we see on TV was not the common practice. Reading the journals of trappers and explorers, when caught away from camp, it was a lot more common to see them huddled together under a buffalo hide, with the dogs sleeping on top of them for warmth; or sitting by the fire, using just their coat as protection from the rain. Water was virtually never purified, let alone making one of those nice “filters” from a birch bark tube filled with sand and charcoal. Fire starting materials were prepared and carried the whole duration of the trip, and meticulously guarded. Similarly, food was carried and even experienced trappers considered it a problem if their supplies ran out, not to mention running out of ammunition. As much as it is fashionable to say that “if you are roughing it, you are doing it wrong”, those were rough men, and they had rough lives.

Looking at more recent sources, Nessmuk, when on his 10 day trip through the woods, he didn’t build any of the shelters he had described earlier in the book. At the end of the trip he concluded that since he didn’t bring a tarp, he would have been in trouble had the weather turned. Certainly there were instances where shelters were built, and more elaborate projects undertaken, but usually not in the context of a lone traveler through the forest. The reason usually wasn’t lack of skill, but rather shortage of time.

So, in order to still be able to continue doing these outdoor pursuits and tasks within the necessary time limitations, most of us take one of thee approaches:

The first one is to start gradually replacing or adding items. The bow drill is already pre-made and carried, and if time is short, replaced with matches or a ferro rod; the natural shelter becomes a tarp; the three wool blankets become a sleeping bag, the bow bed becomes a sleeping pad, or hammock, etc. Use of natural resources decreases, but in exchange, we can set up camp quickly, which in turn allows us to go deep into the woods. At some point, we just start to call it backpacking.

The second approach is the one that has come to be defined as “bushcraft”, which is to allow for those activities by removing the mobility aspect from the hobby. It is not much of an issue that making camp will take most of the day, because none of the day will be spent traveling through the woods, neither on the first day of the trip, nor on any consecutive day. The craft then transitions from one that is used in practical settings, to one that is done for its own sake at a fixed location. After the bow drill fire is mastered, then comes the hand drill, then doing it with a really, really tiny bow drill, then making a fire while standing on your head, etc. The fire making process (as an example) loses it’s practical motivation, and becomes more of a sport.

The third approach, of course, is to start telling everyone that the reason we are not doing it is just because we are too busy. Being too busy to do something seems a lot more prevalent in our community than in other outdoor pursuits.

I, amongst many others have gone through periods where I have felt bad about this irreconcilable divergence in our options. The more “bushcraft” we do, the more natural materials we use, the more our trips start to look like backyard campouts. On the other hand, the more travel we do, the deeper we go into the woods, the more adventure we have, the less “bushcraft” we use. I am yet to find any meaningful way to reconcile the two approaches. My current method has been to use bushcraft to supplement my trips into the woods, rather than forego the trips in the pursuit of “bushcraft”. We’ll see how it works out for me in the long run.

Anyway, this is just my theory…Don’t take it too seriously. Keep doing whatever does it for you.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Trip Report: 5/12/12 – 5/13/12

Last week a friend of mine who does a lot of work with the Appalachian Mountain Club recommended that I look into what trips and events they have scheduled for their NY/NJ chapter. I did, and they are a busy club indeed. For anyone interested, please check out their website; it is well worth a look. 

One trip caught my eye. It was marked as an advanced bushwhacking and navigation trip in the Catskills. It was planned for this past weekend. I quickly submitted an application, and after speaking with the group leader, was accepted into the group. The group size was limited to five people, so I felt lucky to have been accepted.

Interestingly, when the day of the outing came, it turned out that everyone had backed out, and only I and the group leader were left to do the trip. I have to say, it made things even better because we could do whatever we wanted, and go wherever we wanted without having to worry about anyone else.


In the above map I have outlined the plan for the trip. We would enter the forest along a river bed. The river bed starts at about 2100 ft in elevation, and would take us up to about 2600 ft, and to the bottom of Balsam Cap (the peak at the right most end of the map). After ascending Balsam Cap at 3623 ft, we would turn, go down the mountain to about 3200 ft, and then climb Rocky Mountain at 3508 ft. From there we would again descend to about 3200 ft, and then climb Lone Mountain at 3721 ft. From there we would follow the ridge back down to the river, and then follow the river out. We would camp for the night either down by the river, or between two of the mountains.

We had calculated that we would be able to travel at about 2 mph along the river, and then slow down to 1 mph once we left the river bed and started climbing the mountains. Above 3200 ft the mountains are covered in spruce, and since there are no trails and the areas are not traveled, the vegetation would be very dense.

We started out around 9:15 am. Moving along the river was fairly easy.


For this trip, since I was with other people, I only brought a small point and shoot camera, and didn’t have time to stop and set up shots, so sorry for the low quality of the pictures.


By noon we had reached a fork at the end of the river. Our plan was to take a bearing at this location, and then follow it to the top of Balsam Cap. We ate lunch, and took the bearing.


When we headed out however, we decided that it would be better to follow one of the inlets partway up the mountain.


There was quite a bit of rock hopping, but it was much better than the alternative.


At the end of the stream, we took a second bearing and started following it towards Balsam Cap. The undergrowth slowed us down to about the expected 1 mph.


At about 3200 ft we hit the spruce trees. They were much thicker than I expected. Not only did it make it difficult to hold to a bearing when you have no line of sight for a distance of more  than 10 ft, but also pushing through the trees has very time consuming.


Combined with the occasional rock ledge, our speed fell to about 1/2 mph.


Eventually however, to my great surprise, we had managed to keep to our bearing and reach the top of the mountain.


In the Catskills, the peaks that are over 3500 ft, and are not accessible through trails, i.e. you have to bushwhack to them, have a canister at the top, where you can sign in your name.


From there, we took a bearing towards our next target, Rocky Mountain. There are no exposed tops on these mountains, and everything is densely covered with spruce trees. We could not take a line of sight bearing to Rocky Mountain, so we again had to take a bearing from the map.

The terrain was just as hard on the way down, although, from time to time we were able to see the top of Rocky Mountain through the trees, making navigation slightly easier.


At the bottom of the mountain, the terrain cleared and the spruce forest ended.


For a short distance the going was very easy. This nice terrain however, soon ended as we started ascending Rocky Mountain, which lived up to its name. While the vegetations was less dense, there were plenty or rock ledges blocking the way.


We would have to look for ways up the rock, which meant we often had to deviate from our bearing and then try to reacquire it.


Eventually, we made it to the top.


After a few pictures, we decided that we would not have enough time to get to Lone Mountain. It was already after 5 pm, and our speed was much slower than we had anticipated.


We decided to head straight down the mountain towards the river, where we intended to camp for the night.  A little after 6 pm, we made it down.


We set up camp, ate dinner, and called it a night around 8 pm.


The next day we followed the river out. There is nothing new to report in terms of gear. I made some slight changes to some of my food, and have done some additional modifications to my stove, which I will talk about in more detail later.


As I have done with the last few trips, I was recording my tracks with a GPS unit. Unfortunately, when I checked it in camp, it had run out of batteries somewhere along the way. When I got home, I was able to download the part it had recorded. It looks like the batteries died right before I reached the top of Rocky Mountain. The red line you see in the picture is my interpretation of the way we took out of the forest. The blue line is the track recorded by the GPS.


Here you can see the part of the elevation changes that were recorded. Again, I have estimated the later part of the trip. The dark areas you see on the top of the mountains are actually the spruce caps that slowed us down so much.


Overall, it was a great trip. I am fairly scratched up from going through the spruce trees, but it was well worth it. I was surprised we were able to keep so closely to our bearing in terrain like this. I also picked up a few tricks on calculating the bearing. The way I was doing it was more complicated that it needed to be. I think that because of the thick cover and low visibility, this is one of the toughest navigational challenges I have done.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dual Survival Season 3 – New Host Update

I usually don’t follow shows that closely, but since the last post about Dual Survival Season 3 became so popular, I figured I would post an update.


This weekend, Cody Lundin made the following post about the show and the new host:

HI campers! Two shows shot so far for Dual Survival season three. The photo might give you a hint about the location.....great times! No word on when the shows will start airing, but it won't be anytime soon; one must make the cookies before they can be eaten.

In regards to my new partner, he (first clue) is a genuine Special Operations warrior. He was hired by the Discovery Channel, thus the Discovery Channel will decide when the time is right to announce him. Please do not ask me, or Sara, or Joe about who and is a Discovery Channel decision. Thanks and Stay safe! cody

I am not sure whether they hired the new host from the people who have previously held contracts with Discovery or not. If it is one of the people they have already used, Myke Hawke and Wil Willis come to mind.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Guest Post: EasyKlips Make DIY Tarps Much Easier, by Brian Green

This guest post is by a fellow blogger, Brian Green, the writer of Brian’s Backpacking Blog. I saw that he published it earlier last week, and luckily, he allowed me to re-post it here, as I think this is a very interesting product, and Brian did a great job reviewing it. For all of us who use DIY tarps or simply want to be able to continue using a tarp after it is damaged, this may be a good idea.


Like many of you I love sleeping under a tarp when I go backpacking. The benefits of being able to travel light are obvious plus there's added bonus feeling of getting closer to my surroundings - being exposed at both ends like I am.

Sure, pitching a tarp requires some practice (Rule #4) in order to get good at it, but most of the high-end ultralight tarps available today have superb fittings, cord tensioners, and tie out loops that make adjusting the tarp tension incredibly easy (see photo of my Gossamer Gear Spinn Twinn below).


Of course that's all well and good if you have a custom-made lightweight tarp, or if you're proficient enough to sew in your own mini cord tensioners (I have a post on those coming soon).

What if you want to make your own tarp or use a piece of left over material for a make-shift tarp or shelter? You could sew in some loops, punch some holes for grommets, or use some of those clunky old tarp crocodile clips that are sold at just about every big box hardware store these days.

Plastic Tarp Clips
You can find those cheap crocodile tarp clips (see the blue clip in the photo below) almost everywhere now, but they're a lousy solution in my opinion and here's why: They're heavy (28g) and they don't grip! Sorry, was that too technical? Seriously though, not only are they heavy and way too big for what most of us would need, they are fundamentally designed wrong.


You have to exert a lot of force to 'lock' the clip in place on the tarp material and if you can't get it tight enough it will either come loose or chew away at your tarp from all of the friction/movement - trust me I've seen my friends ruin their truck tarps/covers using these things.

The overall concept of a detachable plastic tarp clip is not a bad one, if you can make them light enough and design them in such a way as they actually work. Well, that's exactly what Hunter Cochrane, the inventor of the EasyKlip, has managed to do.


Using Physics
The biggest difference between the EasyKlip and all the other plastic tarp clips that I've seen is how they work. Unlike the clunky crocodile clips that you have to manually tighten, the EasyKlip uses the tension of the line to automatically tighten itself onto the material it is attached to. The harder you pull the tighter it gets.

It does this by cleverly using the force of the tension and a wedge design to draw back the upper gripping plate, forcing it between a restrictor that in turn applies pressure on the two flat gripping plates causing them to tighten against one another as the tension is applied. As long as there is tension on the EasyKlip it will remain firmly attached. Remove the tension and the plates of the EasyKlip disengage and it comes off.


The EasyKlip comes in two different sizes, regular (23g) and mini (12g). While these may not be anywhere near as lightweight as using cord tensioners or sewing in loops, think of how convenient these are for all manner of backpacking uses. They fasten and detach quickly with no need for any holes and work equally well on corners or at mid points.

I now carry a pair of the mini EasyKlips in my first aid kit for wshtf scenarios or if I have an equipment rips or failure. The larger version is perfect to have in my truck and to use with a heavier gauge tarp cover, but the minis are perfect for adhoc use on the trail.


Would you ever use a detachable tarp clip like the EasyKlip for any outdoor activities? If you have ideas on how they could be used I'd love to hear.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Authors at Google: Andrew Skurka, "Ultimate Hiking Gear & Skills Clinic"

Thanks to the NatGeo promotions machine, most of you have probably heard of Andrew Skurka’s book The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide:


It is in fact a very good book. It is well thought out and beautifully illustrated. Well, recently Andrew Skurka gave a talk at Authors at Google. In effect, it is a summary of the contents of the book. You can watch the whole lecture here:

The video is a good source of information, coming from a very accomplished backpacker, who has done some extraordinary trips.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Wilderness Navigation: Obtaining Free Topographic Maps

When traveling in the woods, one can either follow established trail, or one can bushwhack. Established trails can vary from well made paths, to hard to detect trails that can only be distinguished by the occasional marker.

When following trail, I have previously suggested that you get some park maps of the forest where you are traveling. In my area, the NY/NJ Trail Conference maps cover all of the state and federal parks, and show the marked trails on the map. These maps also include all of the other topographical features one would expect from such a map.


I have found however that when bushwhacking, deviating from the trails, these maps do not show enough detail to facilitate easy navigation. Because they cover significant areas, the detail is hard to see, and if you are relying on them to judge terrain elevation, they can be hard to accurately follow.

When I bushwhack, I like to supplement these park maps with larger, more accurate topographic maps of the areas where I expect to go. I have seen people use software like the NatGeo TOPO map generator, to create topographic maps for their trips. Unfortunately the software costs money, and I like being cheap. :)

I use USGS topographic maps. Here is how I get them for free:

Go to There are other places where you can do this as well, but this is the site I use.

You will see a map of North America. Zoom in to the location of the area/forest where you plan on traveling. For this example, I will use a portion of Harriman State Park in NY.

Once you have zoomed in on the desired location, in the upper right hand corner of the map, click “My Topo”. This will give you a USGS topographic map of the area.


You can zoom in and out until you get the desired level of detail.


When you have the exact area you want in your screen, look right under the map image. You will see “Print from your computer: Landscape/Portrait”. I like “Landscape”.

This will open a separate window with an image of the selected topographic map. The map in this window will actually be slightly higher quality than the image you had on your screen. You can either print it directly from there, or save it as a file so you can edit or print it later.

If you want, you can take the image file to FedEx so they can print it for you on nice map quality paper. I just print mine out on regular paper and usually toss them out after a trip.

Now, keep in mind that even with these more accurate and detailed maps, I get lost all the time. Good gear is not a solution for stupidity. :)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Kovea Camp 5 Stove Modifications

In the last post I reviewed the Kovea Camp 5 stove. As I mentioned there, I got it with the intention of experimenting and modifying it. I don’t have much experience with canister stoves, so I figured I would get a cheap one to play around with.


First, some background. For many years now, I have been using the MSR Whisperlite International stove. From time to time I have also played around with alcohol stoves, but they never felt right to me. After so many year of use, I feel completely comfortable with my MSR Whisperlite. I have no problem simmering with it, or lighting it inside my tent. It’s only downside is that it is relatively heavy. The stove itself is about 12 oz, and together with all the rest of the required equipment, you end up carrying more than a pound of weight.

The easiest way to cut weight is to switch to a canister stove. A stove like the MSR Pocket Rocket or the Snow Peak Giga Power 100 weigh only 3 oz. There are some that are even lighter.

My problem with those stoves is that while light weight, they do not operate well at low temperatures. In my area, I camp down to 0F (-18C), and I wanted a stove that can function at that temperature. I don’t like having one stove for warm weather and another for cold.

A canister mounted stove (one that screws on top of the canister, like the MSR Pocket Rocket) depends on the gas pressure in the canister to force the fuel out. Unfortunately, even with the best cold weather mixes (isobutene/propane), the fuel stops vaporizing at about 20F. That means that the stove will not work below that temperature.

Some canister stoves solve that problem by allowing the canister to be inverted, and using the fuel in its liquid form. This way the stoves can function down to about 0F or even lower. This is done by having a free standing stove that connects to the canister with a hose. These stoves also have a preheating tube, which passes through the flame, vaporizing the liquid fuel before it reaches the jet. In effect, these are white gas stoves that instead of using a pump to pressurize the fuel bottle, they use the small amount of pressure in the canister to push it to the stove. Correspondingly however, these stoves weigh more. In many cases, you are just saving the weight of the fuel pump. For example, the MSR Whindpro canister stove is virtually identical to the MSR Simmerlite white gas stove.

So, I was looking for a remote canister stove that would allow inverted canister operation, which was light enough to be worth the switch from my trusty MSR Whisperlite.

I settled on the Kovea Camp 5 stove. The main reasons were that it was cheap, so I wouldn’t feel bad messing with it, and it is the lightest remote canister stove on the market. I figured it would be a good base for modification.

After using the stove, my main goal was to modify the legs. I wasn’t so much worried about weight savings, but wanted to improve the stability. Here is what I came up with:


I started out by removing the legs of the stove. This was easy to do, as they are simply held on by screws; one for each top leg and one for each bottom leg.


I then used a pair of pliers to shape some Staples Jumbo paperclips into the desired leg shape. I made the legs so that when installed, the stove exactly fit inside my Open Country 2Qt pot.


On one of the ends of each leg, a twisted a loop where a bolt could be threaded. Each leg then screws into the corresponding hole where the top part of each leg was screwed in on the original stove.


And that’s all there is to it. The legs do not fold. That is why I had to make sure they fit inside my pot. On the up side, the stove is much more stable, and I reduced the weight of the stove to 5.0 oz. Ooooh, I know, weight savings of 0.3 oz. Because it is so light, the stove can still be easily tipped over, but is significantly more stable than it was before. So far I have been very happy with the modification. The legs are strong enough to support a fully filled 2Qt pot. Because they are made of thin metal, there is some flex in them, but they always return to the original position without the stove tipping over. A thicker metal will reduce the flex.


You can get more significant weight savings by cutting off some of the metal where the old legs used to be attached. As you can see from the above pictures, all you need is the area where the top bolt attaches. Everything underneath, which is quite a bit of metal can be removed. I may very well end up doing that.

Looking at this stove, which now sits at exactly 5 oz, I am surprised manufacturers have not put out more lightweight remote canister stoves. Even this one can easily be lightened by a lot. I don’t see a reason why MSR or Primus can’t put out a 3 oz remote canister stove. I’m sure there is a market for it.