Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Emberlit Stove - Review

Anybody who knows me will tell you that I can a fan of camp stoves, particularly stoves that are easy to transport and use natural material for fuel. A while back I bought a two pack of the Swiss Ranger Volcano Stove and have used them while in the woods and while camping with the family. That stove works pretty well, but it has one flaw that that is evident right from the start...air flow. It doesn't take very long before the air ports at the bottom of the stove get plugged with debris which forces you to clean it out with a small stick every so often. Depending on that you are trying to cook, 10-20 times of doing that and you can't wait to be done cooking, which should be a fun experience.

I recently had the chance to work with the stainless steel version of the Emberlit Stove while out on a solo camping trip. This compact little stove also uses natural material for fuel, much like the Swiss Ranger. The main difference (and a big plus) is that the Emberlit collapses down to a nearly flat state and fits in a zip-lock bag for storage. This is great because just like any other time you'e burning wood, you are going to get ash and soot on your stove and with all of the pieces contained within  zip-lock bag, you don't need to worry about getting you gear dirty. Since the stove is flat while broken down, it fits in your pack easily and at only 11.3oz, you don't need to worry about added weight.

Assembly is pretty straight forward, and the included instructions make it fairly easy to accomplish. It is a good idea to read the instructions the first time you assemble the unit. Starting with the bottom of the stove, you add the three walls that have the slit towards the bottom used to hold the base in place. The walls are help securely together by stainless tabs that stick out on both sides of each piece.

Once you have the three primary walls assembled, it's time to add the final piece which consists of the fuel port for feeding materials into the stove while it's in use. With one side hinged together, you need to twist the stove slightly to assemble the final side. It doesn't require any effort and from start to finish, takes less than a minute.

With my hatchet, I processed some of the wood I had set aside for my fire that evening. One thing to keep in mind is that you don't need to cut up wood to use this stove. Just by using a handful of twigs and having a small stack or larger sticks on hand will get you by. I had my canteen and canteen cup ready to go. For a quickie meal, I used a regular can of Campbell's veggie and beef.

I added the smaller sticks I had gathered and the feathered wood I had processed earlier. At the base, I added a few cotton balls to get things rolling along. To light the fire, I used my trusty Auora Fire Starter. Two strikes later, the cotton ball caught and the tinder took off with no effort at all. The first thing I noticed was that the airflow into the stove was great, which allowed the wood to burn nice and hot right from the start. As the first layer of wood started to produce some coals, I began feeding some larger pieces of wood into the fuel port on the side. Just like the instructions said to do, as the wood burned, I would slowly push the larger pieces into the stove. The flame was always even and strong.

The one thing I had problems with was finding a way to balance my canteen on the top of the stove. It took a little monkeying around, but I did finally figure out a way to balance the cup on the edge. Later on, I would find a a YouTube video showing how someone used a square piece of wire fencing to create a grill-top for smaller cups (video posted below). Something the size of a tea kettle or a small frying pan wouldn't have any issues at all. I still managed to balance the cup on the stove and it didn't take very long at all before I had a hot meal ready to eat. It only took about 6-8 minutes to heat up a canteen cup full of soup; I'd say that is a pretty short amount of time to wait for a hot meal!

All-in-all, I'm very pleased with this stove and plan to make it a permanent part of my pack. It's compact size, ease of use and the ability to find fuel just about anywhere makes it a valuable edition to anyone's kit. the stove can also act as a wind screen for your alcohol stove, camp candles or anything else, making it a multi-use device as well.  Here are my final thoughts:

- Compact design for easy transportation.
- Stainless steel design for durability (now a Titanium version is available!)
- Clear instructions that was easy to follow.
- Cooks food fast and even.
- Fuel source is abundant

- Difficult to balance a canteen cup (or something similar in size)

The pros outweigh the cons substantially and I would highly recommend this stove for anyone looking for an alternative to carrying around a larger stove and it's fuel. Special thanks to Mikhail for allowing me to review his product!!

Emberlit Homepage
Emberlit YouTube Page (great tips and tricks)

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have and thoughts of questions on this product!

- Bill

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Grand Trunk Mosquito Net Review

When you're in the woods and the weather is nice and hot, you can typically be sure of one thing, you will get to deal with bugs at some point in your trekking. One of the worst times for the little nuisances to come around and start pestering you is when you are trying to rest and relax

There are several ways to deal with the little critters and it's entirely up to you. You can hose yourself down with sprays, which will usually work well, but leave you with smelling like a chemical factory and all sticky. You can light citronella candles or other brand name chemical candles and take care of some bugs, but you never really thwart all of them that way. One thing I like to do is to keep a fire smoldering throughout the night and while that usually works great, you can't keep all of the little biting critters away.

Enter the Grand Trunk Mosquito Net. I have been a big fan of Grand Trunk when I first got my single wide hammock from them a few years back and have become a devoted "hanger" when camping, or just on the trail. At night, I find it relaxing to sleep in my hammock and found that I can get a very good nights sleep while hanging from some trees. I've been pretty lucky with the crazy bugs here in Indiana, but there are always a few that like to get a snack while I'm sleeping or taking a nap in my hammock. For more about Grand Trunk Good, check out their site here and take a look at their selection.

The GT Mosquito Net is a lot like the military models that many of you have probably seen, either in person or in several catalogs. The night thing about this net is that you get a few modern additions that make it easy and enjoyable to use. The first thing that caught my eye was the carry bag it comes with ( a rather standard thing that GT attaches to their hammocks and like items) and the fact that the entire thing was able to fit into a fairly small pouch that is kept closed by a drawstring closure and a cord lock. It also comes with a handle on the side, which I found handy since I stood the pouch on end in my pack to save on space.

Once pulled out of the carry bag, you notice that the entire net is rolled up very tight and the first thing you think to yourself is "Man, I sure hope I can roll this up the same way and fit it back in that sack!" Unrolling it reviled the two 32" Spreader poles that break down much like most collapsible tent poles. The poles are meant to spread the top of the net out on both corners to give you more room, a task that they handled without any issue. There is also a long length of cord that runs along the top of the hammock for hanging purposes.

The first step was to unroll the netting, find of the the ends, make sure you have the right side up and slide it on over your hammock. I already had my hammock set up so I could rest in it throughout the day. It was a simple matter of unhooking one of the ends of the hammock from the tree straps and just slide the netting over until the other end reaches the other side. On the net was in place, I got out the two spreader poles and put them together. Both poles fit just right in the provided fabric slots that are sewn into the netting itself.

With the hammock spread out, I hung up the cordage that was attached to the top of the hammock via some eye-lets to the same two trees that the hammock was hanging from. I found that hanging the net about 2-2.5 feet above the tree straps seemed to provide distance between the hammock and the top of the net.

With the top taking shape, it was time to add spread out the floor and add the aluminum tent stakes that I brought along. Note that the GT Mosquito Net does not come with stakes, BUT it does give you the ability to stake down the four corners of the floor, which made for an excellent place to store my gear!

Two more nice features that the GT Mosquito Net has is a two sided zipper door to get in and out of the net easily. I found that the zipper was easy to work (a comfort for that 4AM bathroom break). Another nice thing is that the opening for the hammock tree straps has a pull cord so you can tighten the holes completely and use the provided cord lock to keep everything closed up all the time leaving no holes at all for those uninvited guests. I slept through the night very well and also had a peace of mind that I wouldn't wake up in the morning with bugs using me as a pin cushion.

All in all, I'm very impressed with the GT Mosquito Net and would highly recommend it to anyone who already have a hammock and lives in an area where bugs thrive. The net worked flawlessly with my GT Single Wide hammock and all of the materials were top notch. I even managed to roll it back up nice and tight so that it fit back in the carry bag!

Let me know what you think about this review and if you would like to see more. Thanks for reading friend and thanks to Grand Trunk for making such a great product for us bug minded people :-)

- Bill