Monday, January 10, 2011

Confessions of an UltraLight Backpacker - Addicted to Caldera

Hi, my name's John, and I'm a Caldera-addict.

A new year, and a new series of blog posts. The "Confessions" series is meant to be a little tongue in making fun of my UltraLight quirks if you will.

While reviewing my different Trail Designs Caldera Cone systems recently, something occurred to me. "You may have a problem" might come to mind for most, but no, that wasn't it. I was convinced that I had finally figured out which Caldera system was the "perfect" one, and no, it wasn't one of the three I had purchased this year. Then that little voice inside my head made me step back from my delusions for a minute (thanks Juggy), and I decided to go upstairs and get all of my different systems out of storage. I knew I had several Caldera Cones, but I guess I never realized I had 7 different ones plus another that I had made myself. This was the first sign that I might possibly have a problem.

With half of my systems being aluminum, and the other half being titanium, I was and still am convinced that the Tri-Ti version is the ultimate backcountry cooking system. This enables you to leave the "extra" fuel at home, because if you run out, you can still use it in wood fire mode. Plus the titanium cones are much more durable than the aluminum ones. Perfect! But...I could possibly save more weight if I went away my freezer bag cooking method (leaving most of the freezer bags at home) and made my meals right in the pot. The problem is, the systems that I currently own which are large enough to cook in are somewhat bulky and heavy because they require the cone to be stored in a Caldera Caddy, which negates the weight savings. The "perfect" size would be the .9L Evernew Sidewinder. This would be large enough to cook meals in, and the cone stores right inside of the pot! Yes, I needed to place the order.

Stepping back once again, I realized I may be developing some sort of addiction to buying Calderas. All these great systems, and I needed yet another? Admitting you have a problem is the first step to healing. So I shifted my focus to fuel efficiency...if I could bring less fuel, obviously I would be carrying less weight. Hence the photo below of the partially spent Esbit fuel cubes from some garage testing.

More than 75 Esbit cubes later, I'm still collecting data testing different pots, stoves, temperatures, elevations, floor/no floor etc. Most of my testing has been narrowed down to these two extremely light Tri-Ti systems. Yes, the "ultralight" guy is bringing two stoves...extra weight all in the spirit of finding the perfect system for my longer journeys.

So there you go, a public confession. Yes, I believe I have a Caldera addiction, especially when it comes to the titanium versions that nest inside the pot. Go ahead, mock me, or tell me about your own backpacking addiction.

By the way, I still haven't bought that .9L Sidewinder...yet.


  1. I get gear addictions too. Right now I'm addicted to jackets. My wife keeps asking me how many jackets I need. Lol.

  2. My affliction would have to be jackets. You're not helping me either in my current dilemma in keeping my MSR Inferno around, that .9L Evernew Sidewinder setup is looking increasingly enticing.

  3. My wife is very understanding. I think she likes the benefits of her pack being so light.

    Eugene, it doesn't end with Calderas...but these are at least healthy addictions, right?

  4. I've never been a big fan of Caldera stoves, but the picture of your collection has me interested to learn more. Oh no, here we go...

  5. Ah, reading this is like coming home!
    I have just the one Caldera Cone system, to fit my MSR Titan Kettle. I just love it. It's simplicity and elegance of design, the way it is so efficient, it has the dancing flame element that appeals to my primeval senses and above all else it does the job so well.
    As with you it would be great to actually cook with one rather than just freezer bag; so flame adjustment would be nice like the Trangia simmer ring maybe, and having a pot big enough to do that with, and store everything inside. Wood burning too would be the extra bonus for me. I guess that's my ideal set up. The sidewinder is pretty close I guess. Have you bought it yet? ;-)

  6. Brian, I obviously am a big fan. I love the efficiency of how the wind screen traps the heat around your pot, plus the fact that it is so stable.

    Helen, I know you've been a fan, but you haven't become a Caldera junkie like me yet! My idea of cooking in the pot is really about the same as freezer bag cooking, just not with a freezer bag. I try to keep it simple when I'm hiking, but also like the flexibility of having a larger pot on longer trips where my resupply points might be a small market or gas station...i.e. who knows what I'll find.

    Oh yeah, no I haven't bought the .9L Sidewinder yet...but it's still in my blood :~)>

  7. My current addiction is Down (could I have picked a more expensive addiction!?) I've been collecting down insulation layers, parka's, sleeping bags, whatever I can rationalize. Its warm, light, and so comfortable.

    After years of buying synthetic because of the price point I've been making up for lost time over the last few months.

  8. Chris,
    I love down too, like my Montbell Down Inner Parka, our 2 person Nunatak down quilt, and most recently my Katabatic Gear Palisades quilt. I would say I'm addicted to it though, but I don't tent to take any synthetic insulation, even in very wet climates.

    Oh yeah, my .9L Sidewinder came in the mail yesterday. I just couldn't resist. Can't wait to take it on a hike this weekend!

  9. I think you have competition. I am a cone addict too. Currently have 14 and one more ordered today. There are 3 Sidewinders, 2 Inferno fittings, 2 Ti-Tri cones, and the remainder aluminium for different sized pots. One day I may settle on my ideal one (Ha-Ha).

  10. So which alcohol stove do you recommend for the Caldera Cone? I have the 12-10 Alcohol Stove that was included with it, and wondering whether there is a stove that is more efficient.

  11. The 12-10 stove was designed specifically to work in the low oxygen cone, and I think it works very well. I generally use Esbit with the TD Gram Cracker though because it's lighter and can't spill like alc. Some people don't like the smell of Esbit, or the residue that it leaves on the bottom of the pot, but I don't mind the smell, and the residue wipes right off.