Weekending – Selection Of The Fittest; Cooking Gear – Stoves

This post is in: Motorcycle Camping

Event Date: 1/1/1970
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What more appropriate place for me to start than with cooking gear. Whether I am tenting or renting a camping cabin, cooking gear will be traveling with me. As a vegetarian I won’t use the grills that are often provided at campsites. Even if I am renting a cabin with cooking facilities I have a healthy distrust of the inherent cleanliness of the provided pots, pans and utensils. No slight meant toward any facility operator, I just have higher standards than some underpaid and overworked cleaning staff can achieve, plus who knows who was there before me. I have been traveling for so many years and learned long ago that cleanliness is truly next to Godliness when it comes to food preparation. So I simply prefer to have my own kit with me and maintain it properly. So what do I use?

Let’s break it down into the functional components: a stove, pots and pans, table service and clean up gear. Food transport, storage coolers and the like I will leave for another time.

Today’s subject: stoves. For many years, more than I can count, I have been using a variety of propane-powered units, ranging from a simple stand up singe burner to a portable two burner stove. In my trailer camping days I could easily lug four burners, more than enough to cook for a crowd. These provide a clean, relatively efficient and controllable cooking heat. While the fuel source, 16-ounce propane bottles, is readily available at most hardware stores, they are heavy and the stoves and tanks are bulky. For the single burner units that I have, one must use the short fat tanks since they function as part of the base. While they are “short” compared to the skinny tanks most commonly used for soldering torches, the combined height of the stove and pot is tall, which seems to make them a little harder to shield from the wind that always seems to interfere with cooking. The two-burner unit has a lid, which serves well as a windshield, and it will use either tank type. It is really too bulky for on bike packing, unless you are already carrying the kitchen sink.

I also have used a small folding Sterno stove. It is very compact and the Sterno cans are small. The fuel is pretty readily available at cooking supply stores and some large grocery stores. You can also use an empty tin can of the correct size with some holes punched in the bottom fueled by compressed charcoal briquettes or even wood in a pinch. An old timey can opener that puts triangular holes in cans is prefect to place air holes in the bottom for fresh air intake to ensure effective combustion. These are usable but this tends to be very slow cooking, and might be best used as a second stove for long simmering dishes that have been initially heated on a more powerful stove.

I have tried the folding racks that can be placed over an open campfire. These work but it is so hard to manage the heat and the direct fire can put some heavy wear and tear on the pots, not to mention what the fire and smoke does to the cook if the wind shifts towards you while stirring. Then of course there are the cinders and ash that will find a way into the food. It is a romantic way to cook that brings forth images of the old west and cowpokes, a perfect vision for the self-image of an iron horse rider. Yet, it would be your most reliably fueled method. Plus it is your own grill for primitive barbequing that has not been exposed the tinkle method of putting out fires. If you don’t know what the tinkle method of putting out a campfire and cooling a grill is, well just imagine. Perhaps the best use of one of these is to boil water in a covered pot, excellent for hot water to use for cleaning purposes, in which case make sure to use a sturdy rack capable of holding the weight of the pot and water. But if you are looking to pack it on the bike that rack and pot are bulky and inherently messy, probably not what you want to stuff in your saddle bags or strap on your custom paint.

There is also a whole range of stoves that use white gas or liquid fuel. I have never been keen on this fuel system; while it has its advantages it has always seemed too messy for packing on a bike. Since I have never felt the desire to invest in this type of gear, I can’t offer you any more of an opinion on its qualities. If you have used them and want to share any pros or cons please post them here. That is what this blog is about – sharing information.

For years now I have been looking at all the cool gear that backpackers use for cooking. By definition their gear must be light, compact and reliable, precisely what a motorcycle camper needs. I just never made the leap to try them, mostly because the propane systems were doing the job. But also in part because although light weight they seemed fragile. However it was primarily inertia: let’s face it I was in a rut. Yet, the more I grew interested in pursuing camping on a frequent basis the more the issues of packing gear became important, or the more I accepted that I can’t pack the bike like it was a trailer. Truth be told I have always been an over packer.

But I am in the process of changing that bad habit, I can get away with being a packrat to some extent at home but on the road it has become counterproductive. Too much gear to repack has cost me good riding time and it just makes what should be fun into a chore. As they say, less is more.

I have also wanted to do a book or videos or something dealing with the subject of camp cooking. This has been a project on my backburner; pardon the pun, for many years. Then serendipitously I have been encouraged on several fronts and for several reasons so that now seems as good a time as any to get started.

One of those encouragements has come in the form of Brett Causey from Hog Haven Products, http://www.hoghaven.net/ – Phone: (318) 347-1020; who has been reaching out to me about his new enterprise for a few months now. Brett is a rider, an ardent motorcycle camper, event producer and now he has gathered a fine collection of camping gear, which he offers on his website. Every time I perused his web site I was reminded how stone aged some of my gear was. Finally I accepted his offer to try some things out, one of which is a stove. I have recently started to use a Jetboil Flash system he sent and so far I am very pleased with the speed of heating and the compact packing method and low weight. The stove, fuel canister, base and a pot adaptor all pack inside the provided one-liter pot, at the same size and weight of a single 16-ounce propane tank alone. In the one compact unit I have the ability to make hot beverages or cook single serving or one-pot dishes. It even has a sipping lid that does double duty as the packing lid. The fuel canister is light and compact and the burner seems very efficient, promising 1-hour burn time, which claims the ability to boil 12 liters of water per fuel canister. Taking just 2 minutes to boil 1/2 liter or 16-ounces equaling 2 cups of hot beverage faster than you can unpack your bike. I will test further this and report, even if it under performs, the fuel canisters are small enough to carry a spare or two which should be way more than enough for weekending, which is my current focus. The unit seems sturdy and its low compact profile looks like it should be both stable and easy to shield from the wind. I expect my old propane stoves will be like the old forlorn broom in those sweeper-mop commercials, and just as unlikely to be returned to their former glory.

Well in the next post I will explore pots, pans and table service gear. Till then Eat Hot and Ride Safe!

One response to “Weekending – Selection Of The Fittest; Cooking Gear – Stoves”

  1. Jim says:

    I have to agree on having your own kit for cooking when on the road. It is always best to know that your cookware is clean and ready to go when you need it.
    There is no question that the newer camp stoves have come a long way. When camping on a motorcycle I like to take as little as possible, and the newer stoves perform better and save fuel so one less canister to pack.

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