Friday, November 19, 2010
Product Review - Trail Designs Caldera Keg-H & Ti-Tri Keg-H
Pictured is my version of the Trail Designs Caldera Keg-H. The system comes complete with Heineken pot & lid, aluminum cone (which acts both as a wind screen and a very stable pot support), "Beer Bands" - one of which holds the can at the correct height in the cone while the other goes at the top of the can to make the surface cool enough to drink from and pick up, a 12-10 Alcohol "Pepsi Can" type stove, fuel bottle, plastic cup, and an insulating sleeve with lid, all of which nests perfectly and is kept together inside a silnylon stuff sack. The complete system weighs in at a very nice 6.2 ounces.
Since my backpacking motto is "bring everything you need, and nothing you don't", I decided there was more stuff than I needed in this kit. Therefore I only use the pot & lid, cone, Ti Gram Cracker Esbit stove (not included), and the beer bands, all of which I pack in a small cuben fiber stuff sack. My version of this stove weighs in at 2.85 ounces, less than half of what the fully loaded kit weighs, and yet it still has everything I need to boil water for my freezer bag cooking (FBC) meals, coffee, and tea.
This seems like the ideal ultralight cooking system, right? But what if you run out of fuel? Make a fire and cook over that? Not ideal, especially with a tall narrow pot that falls over easily. The aluminum cone would melt if you tried to use it over a wood fire. Hence my request for a cone made out of titanium, referred to at TD as a Ti-Tri (titanium tri fuel...alcohol, esbit, or wood). This is an "off the menu" request for the Heineken pot, but Rand and Russ over at Trail Designs are always open to special requests.
Besides, I don't care who you are...this ti-cone is sexy! (I may be addicted to titanium - a healthy habit I suppose).
Gram Cracker Esbit stove. I have found this little 0.10 ounce stove to really help slow and concentrate the burn, making it much more efficient. More on that in another post some day.
Start a small wood fire a little smaller than the bottom diameter of the cone, then place the cone over it and keep feeding the fire until the flame is burning strong. Next set the pot on top of the stakes, and continue to feed the fire with small sticks. This wood burning mode is intended as a backup for me. If you intend on using wood as your primary source of fuel, as I did on my PCT section A hike, I recommend adding the optional Inferno insert, which makes it burn much more easily and efficiently.
My first test in wood burning mode took about 12 minutes to boil water. This time would have been reduced significantly had I done a better job keeping the fire burning strong. Two times the flame went out and I had to add more sticks and blow on it to get it to relight, which was really no big deal. In my experience, a fire this small in diameter is much more difficult to keep going than one a bit wider. After my water boiled, I let the fire burn down and go out. The coals stayed hot for quite a while, and eventually burned down to a small pile of ashes.