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  1. #21
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    I've been into Rock Creek Outfitters. I agree with the OP's observations.

  2. #22
    Registered User brancher's Avatar
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    Don't get too troubled over this stuff - every outfitter has a bunch of 'experts' who love to pretend they know everything. And they don't. You gotta use use stuff til you find something you love to use.

    For me it's a wash. I have used Jetboil (1st generation), homemade alky, Trangia, Pocket Rockets, Cat cans, Wicked alky, etc, ad nauseum. You kind of go thru phases as an avid backpacker, constantly searching for that holy grail of gear that fits your every whim - and eventually you find out that the 'holy grail' doesn't exist. They all have their places, and all are subject to varying degrees of personal preference. My Jetboil was wonderful when it first came out - but I didn't like the lack of versatility or the weight (these days, there are more options with the JB system I hear). Then I went UL alcohol, with Trangias and the vary basic cookset from Trangia - very nice setup, powerful alky stove, etc, etc. Still have it.

    Went thru a phase when I made several different designs of alky stoves, and they all (pretty much) worked, but different ones worked either better (and what is 'better anyway - faster, hotter, etc?) or worse. My favorite is a wicked stove made from a cat can and a Bud Lite can. It works, is light, etc. But over time, I have found out that there are limitations to all of 'em - either weight, heat loss in cold weather, cooking time, fuel consumption, bulkiness, etc.

    These days, I just use a simple canister stove (Vargo Jet-ti - they don't make 'em anymore, but snow Peak has a UL canister stove) and either my Coleman Maxx anodized cookset split into a solo setup or my Imusa setup I made out of Imusa mugs and some aluminum sheathing I had in the garage. My entire kit is about 7 oz w/clot, lighter and scrubber (sans fuel, but you'll find that canister fuel doesn't weight much more than alky or Heet and is actually lighter long-term- so don't listen to the 'too much weight' crowd). Since I like hot tea at the shelter or campsite, nad since I like hot dinners, my canister stove is perfect with my 1 liter pot - boil some H2o, pour tea, then add my Harmony House dehy food/ramen/etc to the pot. Very quick, very easy.

    So don't get too hung up on the opinions of shiny-nosed outfitter folks. Some of those folks are knowledgeable and golden, others are just spouting what somebody else told 'em to say.

    Ymmv. Good luck.

    Pics attached
    .imusa1.jpgColeman Large w Virgo canister.jpgstove spare parts.jpgimusa3.jpgcoleman2.jpg

  3. #23
    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
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    Figure out your style of backpacking, location and so on.

    I heated up water for four people this weekend three times. Decided to go with a white gas stove as I was using a 1 gallon pot and, as mentioned, heating up a lot of water.

    Last weekend? I did some cooking for myself and three friends vs water boiling and used a canister stove.

    This coming weekend, it is a group trip that I am helping to lead but the group meals are cooked individually. So I am doing an alchie stove.

    A trip later this month? Probably not take a stove at all.

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  4. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ricky&Jack View Post
    . . . i was wondering if Alcohol stoves really are popular to use?
    Yes, alcohol stoves are widely used.

    Some people swear by them, some swear at them but they're definitely widely used. I think Mags' advice to find out what works for you and not worry about what everyone else is carrying is one of the best tips you'll ever get regarding gear.

    Just my $0.02.
    Me no care, me here free beer. Tap keg, please?

  5. #25
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    The other point to be made here is that the path to hiking nirvana is so much more than simply acquiring this or that piece of gear. Without knowledge of how that gear works, its idiosyncrasies, quirks, strengths, weaknesses -- all you've got is a piece of hardware. Worse than useless, if you don't know how to use it.

    Alcohol stove might be just the ticket -- but they have to be matched to a particular style of food prep and selection, and particular habits of eating. How many hot meals a day? How many cups of hot drinks? Hiking alone or as a couple, or a group? Are your meals elaborate or simple? Where are you hiking (AT, or tinder-dry Sierras?) What season? How many days between fuel resupply? Do you savor your time in camp, or would you rather spend your time making miles?

    This is what concerns me about folks who hope to buy their way into ultralight hiking. Yeah, sometimes you can spend big $$$ to save a few ounces with very little risk or change in your routine. But anything more involved than that usually involves some learning and readjustment. Grab your stuff and go. Keep a diary. Figure out what worked and what didn't. Make adjustments and do it all over again.

  6. #26
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    I section hiked with a friend over several years, we both started with pocket rockets. We both tried alcohol, he switched over to it, I didnt. I tend to cook a bit fancier and generally wanted the ability to simmer for longer periods that I could get from an alcohol stove. I built a hanging heat shield for my pocket rocket and it allows me to simmer with a far lower flame than without the shield. It also gets me to around 14 days of two meals per day per canister.

  7. #27
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    Rocket & Mags hit the nail on the head. Some people swear by alcohol stoves some do not. I use a pocket rocket or whisperlite in cold weather. Tried alcohol but just do not have enough bag nites with someone more experienced in there use to have a real valid opinion. There are alot of them out there but I have inexperience issues mainly caused by weather issues. So end up using a lot more fuel than someone who is experienced.

  8. #28

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    I've tried all kinds of stoves, SVEA, MSR, canister, alky (commercial and diy) for 40+ years and all I can say is life is pretty horrible on the trail if your stove does not work reliably. This is not a place to trade function and reliability for saving a few dollars or grams. I recall the sadness in the eyes of campers in Iceland who bummed hot water from us one morning because of stove problems for their whole 5 day hike. Almost all the food they had brought needed to be cooked to be eaten, so they couldn't even eat their food.

    The alky stoves I tried failed in non-ideal conditions, like if there's any wind, and in real life camping conditions they were fussy and slow to boil water. I have given up on them.

    Life is good with the Snowpeak giga with the auto striker. Fast boiling water no matter the conditions. Don't even need matches or lighter. It doesn't get any better than this.

  9. #29
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    But based on my own interactions with employees at stores that sell backpacking stuff, I speculate three possible motivations behind the interactions cited by the OP.

    Some people are enamored by gadgets and technology. They want titanium and CF everything. It's high tech and expensive so it must be better. Some are firmly in the "that's the way we've always done it" camp. Easily available product made by well know name brands are familiar and comfortable (for the sales rep and the buyer). Or this could be a business strategy. Let's face it, backpacking supply stores have sucky business model. After all, if a UL backpacker were running the store, his goal would be to sell you as little stuff as possible. Often it could be a combination of these, too.

    I know I've had sales people all over me when I walk in the store, but when I they find out about what kind a gear I have, they basically treat me like a leper (realizing they probably aren't going to sell me much). Or when I ask why they only sell high top waterproof hiking boots, they state (as if it were obvious) that you really can't hike in anything else. Or when looking at the display of the same pump filters that have been around forever I ask if they carry the Sawyer filter that weighs less, costs less, has no moving parts to break, and has a million gallon lifespan, and they say "uh no" (BTW, this last one has changed in just the last year or two, so change happens, albeit at a glacial pace).

  10. #30
    Ricky and his Husky Jack
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    Yeah, they didn't have sawyer mini there, either. But there was a $170 pump/filter unit
    Me: Ricky
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    Skeeter-Beeter Pro Hammock.
    From Dalton, Georgia (65 mi above Altanta, 15mi south of Chattanooga)

  11. #31

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    Trends may have changed, but when I did my thru attempt in 2002, by the time we got to Damascus 80% or more were using an alcohol stove. The people at the outfitter were saying that because alcohol stoves can be made by anybody with a soda can and a pocket knife and they want to sell you a $100 stove. You got ripped at $25. There are plans and videos and websites all over the internet that can show you how to make a fancy alcohol stove in about 20 minutes with tools and materials you probably already have laying around the house. But if all you want is function and all you're going to do is boil water, take a pocket knife and cut the top and bottom off a soda can about an inch from the top and bottom and press the top of the can into the bottom...then go around the edge and punch a few holes in it all the way around and pour an ounce or so of alcohol in it and light it up. I like the Fancy Feast stove for its simplicity and the fact that it acts as its own pot stand.

  12. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ricky&Jack View Post
    Yeah, they didn't have sawyer mini there, either. ...
    But you can get them at Walmart and Cabela's - that's a switch. When I look at my pack, most everything comes from a place like Walmart, the hardware store, or a cottage company. Little comes from an outfitter.

  13. #33
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    I would also add that the "techno gear heads", the "this is the way my father taught me" crew, the gram weenie UL enthusiasts, the "I bought everything the outfitter could sell me" guy, the Walmart/DIY/garage sale dirtbagger, and the "I research gear choice for a year at WB.net" crowd can all have a great hike, no matter what they carry.

  14. #34
    Clueless Weekender Another Kevin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RockDoc View Post
    The alky stoves I tried failed in non-ideal conditions, like if there's any wind, and in real life camping conditions they were fussy and slow to boil water. I have given up on them.

    Life is good with the Snowpeak giga with the auto striker. Fast boiling water no matter the conditions. Don't even need matches or lighter. It doesn't get any better than this.
    Quote Originally Posted by rafe View Post
    The other point to be made here is that the path to hiking nirvana is so much more than simply acquiring this or that piece of gear. Without knowledge of how that gear works, its idiosyncrasies, quirks, strengths, weaknesses -- all you've got is a piece of hardware. Worse than useless, if you don't know how to use it..
    Yup. Different people have different experiences.

    The SnowPeak is a great stove. If I were to switch to a canister, it's probably what I'd get. And (see above) I'd recommend a canister for someone just starting out, because of the lack of 'fiddle factor' and the fact that a beginner is likely starting out in mild weather. I do find that the piezo igniters can be temperamental, so I'd be prepared to use match, lighter, or (most likely in my case) firesteel, rather than the pushbutton on the stove.

    I've used my current alky stove in temperatures ranging from about 10 F to the 90s F, in rain and snow and sleet, and in high wind, and it hasn't failed me yet. I'll concede that it's a couple of minutes slower to boil than the Snowpeak. I can build a version that boils faster, but fuel efficiency goes down the toilet. I'll trust my alcohol burner in lower temperatures than I'll trust a canister, and I like being able to see how much fuel I have left.

    But what's important is learning how to use what you've got. My dirtbag setup (homemade stove and simmer ring, Grease Pot, homemade pot stand and windscreen, homemade steamer, homemade cozies for freezer bag and Nalgene, Light My Fire spork, old-fashioned pour-over Melitta coffee cone) is light and fairly versatile, and was dirt cheap. But I understand its quirks, and pack for my hiking style. (If I'm cooking for other people, or melting snow, or anticipate the possibility of fresh fish, or any one of a number of other considerations, what I pack will change somewhat. I'm just describing my usual kit for "summer weekend, cooking for just me."
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ricky&Jack View Post
    So I drove 40miles to Chattanooga to check out 'ROCK CREEK OUTFITTERS' that local hikers recommended. But when I got there, the place had a serious 'yuppie' tone to it. And along with overpriced items. It seems more like an upscale boutique, with a large selection of hiking etc gear.

    But while I was looking for the alcohol/bottle/can stoves, I was told by an employee "We don't carry them" and when i asked 'why', he replied "Because we only sell things we use ourselves. And we can't make money selling those. We like these jetboil stoves ($122, which is $22 higher than the MSRP) and we don't believe Alcohol stoves to be a good cooking source".

    Once he walked away, I asked another employee if they had the can stoves, and she said "We don't. We don't find them useful".
    Point 1: Yes, they focus on urban hipsters. But they sell quality outdoor gear at MSRP with the occasional sale. You want Patagonia, Marmot, North Face, etc, they have it all.
    Point 2: They sell Jetboils, Pocket Rockets, and Snow Peaks at MSRP. Not a penny above. You were looking at the wrong stove. I know. I was in there yesterday.
    Point 3: They don't sell Sawyer Squeeze. But they do sell AquaMira for the same $15 that it is anywhere else. The have Steripens for MSRP too.
    Point 4: Why in the world would they sell soda can or cat food can stoves when you can make them at home for less than a buck.

  16. #36
    Ricky and his Husky Jack
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    Quote Originally Posted by nastynate View Post
    .Point 4: Why in the world would they sell soda can or cat food can stoves when you can make them at home for less than a buck.
    Same reason Wilderness Outfitters in chattanooga sells so many at $25. Solite alcohol stoves are a great stove. even tho you can make them really cheap, I found the $25 price to be great. Been heating my meals the past few days with it, to get used to it.

    Why not ask "why do they still have a large selection of maps, even tho you can look up any info you need, online.?" (I bought a map there for my area because I felt it was worth it, even tho I coulda just looked the info up for free)
    Last edited by Ricky&Jack; 06-17-2014 at 10:39.
    Me: Ricky
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    From Dalton, Georgia (65 mi above Altanta, 15mi south of Chattanooga)

  17. #37
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    Aquamira is a little over $11 on Amazon. JetBoil Sol Aluminum is $101, $19 off MSRP. Flash is $82, $18 off MSRP. I will only pay full price for cottage gear, never for mainstream products. The only time I would pay MSRP at an outfitter is if I'm on the trail and need gear replacement and cannot arrange for Amazon shipment general delivery.

  18. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Coffee View Post
    Aquamira is a little over $11 on Amazon. JetBoil Sol Aluminum is $101, $19 off MSRP. Flash is $82, $18 off MSRP. I will only pay full price for cottage gear, never for mainstream products. The only time I would pay MSRP at an outfitter is if I'm on the trail and need gear replacement and cannot arrange for Amazon shipment general delivery.
    In the future, You will be able to place your order via smart phone in the backcountry, and receive a drone delivery drop

  19. #39
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    Since so many have already answered - I'll give a slightly different skew on the alchohol stove. At the southern end of the trail alchohol stoves ARE a bit harder for newbies to use / see the flame / etc. - and the scorch marks in the shelter are the evidence. Back in the day there were obvious reasons to use a much lighter alchohol stove over the much heavier alternatives - and canister fuel USED to be hard to find. . Nowadays you can get a 1.8 oz stove titanium pocket rocket for $50 and even shuttle drivers carry canister fuel. Just as the need for bump-boxes was there just several years ago - but not now ... the alchohol stove is a nice "Mcguyverism". To each their own - use the stove you want ...but the alchohol stove is NOT the necessity for an AT thru-hiker that it once was. Also - some of the lightweight alternatives stoves are a bit safer for some folks - in this day and age when common sense ain't so common anymore For that reason I usually don't recommend it for newbies.

  20. #40
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    I have used various alcohol stoves for years. While cooking time is faster in very cold weather on other stoves, I love my alcohol. The temperature is manageable for boiling, baking, simmering of water and food and it is reliable. It packs light and inside my toak pot. I know thrus who used it all the way and I am using one on mine. Hope this helps you have confidence in your A-stove.

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