Fuel for Stoves

I have been looking for alternative sources of fuel for my camping stove to reduce the weight of my cooking kit.

One of the things I have tried are the Zip Natural Firelighters which are made from wood and wax. These are odor-free and cost around £2.55 in supermarkets.

Zip Natural Firelighters
Zip Natural Firelighters

The packet contains 20 cubes which I cut into 2 pieces and the packet says burns for 14 minutes. I tried this to heat an army pattern 44 mug and it took 9 minutes to boil soup, which is comparable with Greenheat.

The pan was a bit sooty after cooking but most of the soot was removed by washing. I was quite pleased with the performance of the cubes and will use them again.

Cubes are lighter than methylated  spirits  and will not spill out into the contents of rucksacks. They also do not have any odor and so will not taint any foodstuffs carried in rucksacks.

I will take these on my next walking trip as an alternative to using methylated spirits or Greenheat gel.

Lightweight Walking

I am always amazed at the amount of equipment some backpackers take with them on a walking trip. As well as the necessities, some people also take things which are completely unnecessary and only add to the weight of the backpack.

Hair straightners
Hair Straightners are not Required on the Trail

Unneccessary things are curling tongs and hair straightners – any hairstyle is going to be messed up quickly with the wind and rain. Other people carry large bottles of shampoo, shower gel and large tubes of toothpaste.

The curling tongs and hair straightners are not a joke – some women have been known to carry gas filled ones. Regarding items of personal hygiene, small bottles should be used to carry enough shampoo etc to cover the walk to save some weight.

Clothing should be quick drying and some companies such as Tilley and Rohan sell quick drying underwear and outer wear which avoids the need to carry large amounts of clothing.

One of the ways to save weight is to get a cooking system which is lightweight and cooks food to a reasonable temperature. I have two systems in place for cooking.

Spirit Stove
Cooking system using spirit stove

One uses a Primus spirit burner, an army kidney-shaped stainless mug, an old tuna tin and a metal sheet which is used as a pot stand. This fits into a British Army Crusader water bottle pouch with a small bottle of methylated spirits included in the pouch.

The other one uses a similar set up but instead of the spirit burner it uses a cut up tuna tin as a hexamine tablet holder and pot stand. This is even lighter than the above, but not quite as efficient.

Gas is of course much faster, but spare cartridges are not always available. Methylated spirits are quite easy to buy, even in remote places, and a packet of hexamine tablets can last a week.

When you are looking for a cooking system decide what your main objective is. Your consideration can be weight or efficiency, but whatever method you choose it should be capable of cooking meals on the trail.

Using a Garmin GPS Device

I recently bought a Garmin eTrex, which is a GPS navigator. It’s the basic model and does not allow maps to be downloaded onto it. What it does do is allow me to do is to plan routes on my PC and then download them onto my eTrex

This allows me to follow the route and waypoints and ensure that I never get lost. I never thought I would ever buy a GPS as I know how to read a map and compass, but the eTrex was on special offer and cheap enough for me to try it.

I love my eTrex as I can plan routes on my PC and download them onto it

Garmin eTrex H
Garmin eTrex H

using a data cable, which has to be bought separately. So far I have downloaded walks I am planning to do in the next two months and the eTrex will point me in the right direction, should I get lost.

How useful a GPS could be was brought home to me in the winter, while out walking on the Campsie Fells. It was a clear, sunny day when suddenly at about 2.30pm the mist came down. Fortunately, I had been taking bearings throughout the walk and was able to lead everyone in the party back to safety.

Mist blanks out all landmarks such as hill, rivers etc and it is very easy to become disoriented and walk in the completely wrong direction. It can lead to death in the winter months, when walkers can get lost and die from exposure or exhaustion.

Just because I have my new GPS device, I will still be using my OS maps and compass as my primary navigation tools with my eTrex as a back-up, should bearings need to be confirmed on the hills. It will also come in handy if anyone has a fall or injury and the emergency services have to be called. The eTrex will give an accurate grid reference to guide rescue teams to the correct spot.

One of the useful features on the eTrex is its ability to give a fairly accurate time of arrival based on the walking speed of the party. This allows you to decide whether to stop for a break or continue walking, depending on progress made.

Most walkers have a good idea of when they should arrive at a given point and the Etrex helps confirm that planned progress is in line with that actual being achieved.

How did I ever managed in the past without my eTrex?