The stove is an essential tool for those who, motivated by ethics or forced by logistics, want or have to face a trekking of several days in food autonomy (i.e. without relying on shelters or other external facilities for food). Also you can decide to choose best lightweight camping stove depending of this variants.
The possibility of cooking food or preparing a hot drink is certainly a determining factor, if not for survival, at least for the quality and comfort of the experience you are facing.
We don’t need wild trekking enthusiasts if, facing the topic of “field cooking”, we skip the most obvious, noble and ancient option: that of lighting a nice fire!
As fascinating as it is, this practice is not recommended from the point of view of environmental risk (the possibility that the flame or sparks escape control is certainly not remote…) and has several drawbacks from a practical point of view, starting from the difficulty of obtaining firewood to the annoyance of having to clean the pans blackened by the fire before you can put them in your backpack.
If we discard the “campfire” option, all that remains is to analyse the pros and cons of the different types of camping stove.
It is probably the most common type. The elements that make up the kit are two: the stove itself and the gas cylinder containing the gas (a mixture of butane and propane), which is attached to the stove through a bayonet system, now used by a single manufacturer, or with a screw ring with standard features, so compatible with the stove of almost all brands and available with some ease in most shops selling camping items.
Simply connect these two elements, open the gas supply valve and bring a flame close to the stove to ignite. The same valve makes it easy to adjust the power of the stove.
This ease of use, together with the compactness and versatility of modern stoves, makes it a tool suitable for almost every trekker.
There are a few disadvantages for those who are planning to go on a very long trek. In these cases, if you are not sure you will be able to find spare parts along the way, you need to load the spare cylinders to use during the trip in your backpack.
The magic of the gas cooker also occurs for those who have to cook in more extreme environments, for example at high altitudes or at temperatures below zero, conditions in which this type of equipment undergo significant drops in power.
They stink, are complicated to handle (they need to be preheated and fuel pumped), produce potentially toxic fumes and do not guarantee perfect flame control (NEVER use them in a tent!). The “cons” of multi-fuel cookers are many and the “pros” few, but definitely “heavy”.
The first is already clear from the name: they work with almost all types of fuel, from refined to unleaded petrol, from kerosene to diesel, from trielin to thinner.
This means that wherever you are in the world, you can find something to pour into the container to feed the stove.
The other fundamental advantage is the safety of performance: the power of a gasoline burning stove does not drop even if the temperature goes down to -40 degrees or if you climb above 7000 meters.
In short, if you can turn it on and if in doing so you manage not to catch fire yourself, with a tool like this you can cook a soup easily even on the top of Everest.
They are a bit ‘an object of “amateurs”, in fact, searching on the Web you will discover a whole subculture of fans of DIY construction and modification of the stove to alcohol…
The operation is very simple and is based on the combustion of alcohol vapours coming out of the burner, which can even be built by hand, with a simple operation of “cutting and sewing” of a normal can.
The power output is much lower than that of gas or petrol burners and also the possibilities of flame adjustment are very limited, but with such a cylinder in the backpack (absolutely minimal in weight and size) and 80 grams of pink alcohol (available everywhere), it is quick to boil half a litre of water…
Of course, if in your trek you expect to have to cook every day, perhaps it is better that you equip yourself differently, but if you simply want to take precautions in case of some missed appointment with your stopover place, this could be the “food safety kit” for you.