View Full Version : Why a fire over a stove?

04-12-2005, 08:26 AM
In the interest of not turning Woods Walker's Hobo stove thread into a stove vs open fire argument, I chose to start a new one.

One disclaimer here, I am talking about backpacking stoves, not tipi stoves. Obviously you cant have an open fire in a tipi.

I've been camping my whole life and never really needed a stove. Stoves have their place, but so do fires.

Yes, a "whiteman fire" can be obnoxious. But that is not the only option. There is another kind of fire that I like to refer to as a scout fire. The kind that is usually small and preferably smokeless. You can usually keep these fires to a foot in diameter and they will still perform well for up to 4 people. The size of your group might require something bigger if everyone wants to sit around it at night.

The advantages to a scout fire is that you don't scar the land and you don't need a lot of wood. And it not only cooks your food, but will still keep you warm. Not to mention the TV affect. The atmosphere of an camp fire is second to none.

If you keep the fire small, it is easy to restore the land to the way it was. Just let it burn out completely. This allows most of the wood to burn into ash. Ash is easier to hide than charred wood. Then by kicking up a little dirt from around the edge of the fire, it is easily covered. And you can finish the job by sprinkling a handful of leaf litter over the dirt. In just a few minutes, the "fire pit" is gone.

I use a folding grate. I get them at the local camping store. Its small, light, and has folding legs. This fits perfectly over a scout fire. No rocks are needed.

Not all of the Northeast limits you to established campsites.

In the White Mountains of NH for instance, you can camp and have fires anywhere as long as you go off trail. I think it's 50 yards, which is easy to do. Basically they want to keep the trails looking pristine, which makes sense. Otherwise yes, you are limited to established campsites.

In Maine, there are rules against fires if you are on paper company land. Obviously, they donít want you burning down a forest of potential profits. But that's private land, so what can you do. For places like that, a stove makes more sense.

I have raced my friend with a propane stove and can get water boiling faster. Some stoves are probably faster, jetboil for instance, but the open fire is fast enough to make it a non-issue. In the morning I light my fire from my sleeping bag. By the time I'm up and dressed my water is boiling.

Anyone else prefer an open fire to a stove?

04-12-2005, 08:56 AM
I *prefer* an open fire, but use a stove almost exclusively. My entire cookset (including stove, fuel bag, windscreen, pot support, and cookpot) weighs less than 5oz... and NEVER smokes, NEVER leaves earth scars, and I NEVER have to worry about waiting to fully put out a fire - However, my stove has no ability to warm the body (except through the use of hot foods and liquids), cannot do complex cooking (boil or stir fry only), and cannot be used to feed a large group (solo trips only - though for the weight, multiple stoves can be carried easily). So, as another recent post says, theres always a tradeoff.

Woods Walker
04-12-2005, 09:00 AM
What is that saying? When an Indian builds a fire he huddles next to it and gets warm. When a white man builds a fire the blaze drives him back into the cold. I think itís something like that. I have used open fire more times than I can count to cook and boil water. What got me into the wood-burning hobo stove was my folding grate. I may have the same one you got. It solved the rock problem but during a very windy day I had problems cooking and boiling water. I could not get a boil. The wind just took all the heat away. I decided that a windscreen around the fire would solve that problem. It worked great! My cooking time and boil time went up and the wind didnít affect the fire as much. The heat reflected off the sides of the windscreen so there was less smoke (more fire). True rocks can reflect heat too. However I find Stainless steel does a better job and I was trying to avoid the whole fire ring thing. The fire wandered less (again that pesky wind). After that I began to think. What if the fire was off the ground with ventilation under it? I bet it would burn even cleaner and have less smoke. It worked. The smoke dropped off big time. With a good hobo stove a pocket rocket would come in far behind. But time is something I have in camp. All that being said open fires have been used for maybe a million years. They will be used after I turn to dust.

I have edit this post to add one thing. Look again at the photo's on my thread. Look at the flames. That is from a very small amount of wood. I have never gotten a beam of flame like that from any of my small open fires. All that heat is directed right under your cook pot. What's more the metal sides of the stove turn cherry red. This heats your legs and chest. The flames take care of the face. But that may not be a good thing /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/eek.gif

Woods Walker
04-12-2005, 09:03 AM
Sgathak my stove makes tons of heat. Sometimes too much. I can cook anything because I can control the heat better and it does not burn down fast like a fire. The heats from the coals are directed up into the fry pan/pot. My homemade one cooks for a great deal of time after the fire dies off.

04-12-2005, 09:10 AM
Ok. My stove weighs .5oz (actually a shade less) and is only 2in across with a 1.5in burner pattern... Its not intended to provide heat for anything other than boiling up some water or heating some oil... but it also fits into my hip pocket.

04-12-2005, 09:37 AM
Woods Walker,

I was intrigued by your hobo stove in the other post. One question, how do you pack it? Does the sheet metal come apart to pack flat, or do you stuff whatever insde to use the empty space?

Kevin B
04-12-2005, 10:13 AM
Cooking is seperate from heating, except that some systems will do both.

If I were hunting in a tipi, the stove is both uses. Any circumstance in which I brought the stove would mean the only other thing I might have is the pocket rocket. The reason there is just convenience of heating up to boiling in a couple mins vs working the stove back up to boiling a pot all while remaining in the tent. To that end, if you were not having a stove to keep warm by and it's raining, being able to be in the tent is a might nice part of butane fuel options. In any event, I'd only have another form of stove if it were summer and I chose to leave the tipi stove home. I can see doing that too in summer.

If we're talking just cooking, hobos are cool. They're light, you carry no fuel and easy to use. But if I were out in summer and early fall I'd still make an open fire, even if I brought the stove to cook on. I like sitting around the fire and it's pert nice to stay warm next to one. Of course if I were someplace that I couldn't have an open fire and felt burdened to actually obey that dictate, a hobo is a great way to go.

Much like the whole bag discussion, you really can't have an debate about merits of given stoves unless you agree on the circumstances in which you'll be using it. Summer, Hunting, Winter, open flame ok, nokay, weight is a big or small issue for your trip etc.

Woods Walker
04-12-2005, 10:15 AM

Sounds like you have an alcohol stove. I have a whole collection of them. Made some nice homemade jobs too. Seems like a good topic. Maybe I will take some photos and start that next week.

04-12-2005, 10:26 AM
Yea, I cook exclusively on one of those little emergency stoves that burn pellets or wood. Two pellets will heat my share of water for morning coffee or evening meals.
I'll start a small scout fire when out hunting to warm, dry, and 'smoke my clothes' for scent control.

04-12-2005, 10:32 AM
Sscout fires are another lost art of woodsmanship. One more thing Patrick can add to the rambling class /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/wink.gif

Rusty Hook
04-12-2005, 10:41 AM
Where I live, fires are not allowed above 10,000 Ft. The forests are also closed to fires because of fire danger for extended periods of time. Aside from that, a stove has some advantages over those already cited concerning environmental concerns. Gathering wood takes time and effort that is a traid off with the effort expended in carrying a stove and fuel. If you would rather spend your time hunting and fishing instead of gathering wood and tending a fire, cooking on a slower campfire unit, and you do not have regulations to contend with, a campfire may be preferable for some of you. It is an individual decision and a matter of style, asuming that natural fuel is present, which it isn't everywhere...Rusty.

04-12-2005, 11:49 AM
Woods Walker

Yes, my stove is an alcohol stove. Very similar to an "Ion" stove, and actually SgtRock now makes his stoves with the same material mine is made from.... and along the lines of this thread, he is currently working on a design that will use both Alch, and wood... it all folds down and fits inside an Evernew .9l Ti pot.

04-12-2005, 12:47 PM
For me its more than just about carrying fuel and stove. I, and others that I know, had problems with popular name-brand stoves, mechanically. Also, I found the effort to keep from getting fuel on me or my stuff was not worth it, verses the trade-off it provided.
And I have found that the time and effort expended gathering firewood for a scout fire is insignificant compared to the time I spend hunting and fishing. I usually have all I need within ten yards of my fire.

And my little emergency fireplace will boil water with the fuel that you can hold in one hand.
I don't have the 10,000' problem in my haunt. I'm wondering, though, do you have to camp that high, at times?

Rusty Hook
04-12-2005, 03:13 PM
Razor, you are right, I do not have to camp that high. But I like to. I have fished in lakes that were better thasn 12,000 feet, so 10,000 is no big deal. Fishing for golden trout, from 10 on up is their real strong hold.

Hunting, especially late in the season, which is the only time I have been able to hunt in the past, you do not need to be that high. A ParaTipi and stove do just fine then. I don't bother with a backpacking stove then. The first eight years I hunted, it was all cold camps, no hot food or drinks. The Paratipi and stove is a big improvement over that.

I am going to retire this spring, so I will have the time to do a lot more backpacking than I have ever been able to do in the past. I am going to be putting my small Kifaru wood burning stove to good use this summer as well as in hunting season...Rusty.

Woods Walker
04-12-2005, 03:32 PM

If you look at my photos you will see that the stove is a two-collar system. The top collar supports the cook pot. The bottom collar keeps the shape of the stove (round) and raises the body off the ground. I used hole stock to support the wood and allow for an updraft. I did this so I can take the stove apart for packing. It also allows me to test different body materials and lengths. In the photo I am using a standard 5-inch pipe with a length of 6 inches. I have used lengths up to 14 inches but have found 6 best for cooking and 11 best for heating. I also tested copper material. It was a great conductor of heat but turned into a mess after running the stove. For packing I just take apart the stove. Roll the pipe the best I can and pack it. I am thinking about using the same type of foil that is used in my Kifaru stove pipe. I bet that would reduce the weight and roll down to nothing. I will have to try it

04-12-2005, 03:54 PM
I use both. I like to watch an open fire, and use one for general illumination. I've commented before that many of the campsites (not official, just good places to stay) have been in use for more than a century, and what was a good place to camp 100 years ago is still a good place to camp. I'll use the firepit there, and not mess with it, any unused wood is stacked neatly alongside, another common thing here.

Generally, I build scout or Indian fires, small, contained and virtually smokeless. I like coals for frying and slow simmering using a small, telescopic stainless steel grate I've had for years.

I have and use the Sierra Zip wood stove as well as butane stoves. Over the years I've used gasoline stoves (the GI Coleman - bulletproof but heavy, Svea, Optimus, and the Apex I. I like the Apex for its fuel arrangement that allows a squat burner, less tippy and easier to level - I also don't need to fill a fuel tank, just screw on the spare bottle. But I've drifted away from gasoline in later years.

Now I use the little alcohol stove for quick boiling and the Sierra for general use - finding fuel here is not a problem except in the High Peaks area, where I don't usually go.

This discussion of the Hobo stove has gotten my interest. Somewhere around here I have a folding version in stainless steel. The same proportions as shown, but square, it folds flat- about 8" or so square and maybe an inch high as I recall. I'll see if I can locate it. I haven't used it much, but now I think I wasn't giving it the attention it deserves. I forget where I got it. It has a maker's mark on it, when I find it I'll let you know.

I think I'll start taking it with me when I start canoeing in a few weeks. I made a canvas bag for it, and being flat it packs easier than the round versions.