The TrailDesigns Caldera Cone Stove Systems
I have had the opportunity to test the TrailDesigns Caldera Cone Stove System, and it has turned an alcohol stove skeptic into a believer. I have often wondered if the weight advantage of alcohol stoves was worth it, when a Snow Peak or MSR Pocket Rocket with a fuel canister is so light, and very effective at cooking.
I often bring an MSR Dragonfly on trips, because it if the best stove there is in certain circumstances: cooking for a group, winter cooking, melting snow, fuel efficient simmering, and frying foods like steak, trout, and stir fry fresh vegetables. Any of those tasks are just not done very well with fuel canister stoves, but the Dragonfly is not a light stove.
I knew alcohol stoves could boil water, but I wondered how the Caldera would do with these more complex cooking tasks. The first test was using the Caldera Stove in winder conditions. This happened on a January snow camping trip. The first observationwas that the cone and stove melted their way into the snow floor. Well, duh. Any stove would do that, and needs a platform for winter use. I made a platform out of some metal tent stakes, and continued using the stove.
It did great heating water at around 28 degrees on a winter morning. It started quickly, and threw out increasingly more heat as it warmed up. I also fried some eggs, and the stove did fine, but the uncoated lid of my Ti pot didn't do so well with cooking eggs. It would have been better to cook them in boiling water in a baggie, as an omlette.
The big test was a 5 day hike in a Utah desert canyon over Spring break, with no backup stove. I used the Caldera to cook pasta dishes, rice dishes, several liters of coffee each morning, and several fruit cobblers which required simmering. As it is made, the Caldera doesn't simmer, so I made a simmer ring out of a pop can, which necks down the flame to a size perfect for getting 30 minutes of simmering time out of the stove. The pictures below show the summer ring, the flame with the simmer ring, and the flame without the simmer ring.
I weighed the fuel I used for the 5 day backpack in cold weather, and it turned out I used exactly 11.1 oz of fuel for 3 dinners and 4 breakfasts. Breakfasts included at least a liter of water boiled for coffee, and a hot drink such as cocoa, and a hot food such as oatmeal or a toasted bagel. The fuel for a dinner for one was 1.3 oz. On many cold mornings the Caldera heated water faster than the canister stoves, which were half empty and cold. The stove, wind screen, plastic carrying container, and empty fuel bottle weigh 6.4 oz. This compares to my MSR Dragonfly which weighs 1 lb 2 oz, and the 8 oz fuel bottle full of white gas weighs 12.9 oz.
For normal backpacking use this stove is the bomb! It is light, is a reliable boiler of water, and the screw together container makes a neat and light unit. The windscreen is made for a specific pot, so I would get one for a solo sized pot, like I had, and another for a larger pot for two person use. For one or two person use, this is now my first choice backpacking stove. With the right pot lid it could fry fish, make scones, cook apple cobbler, as well as cook any pasta, rice or noodles dish. I would not recommend it for 3 or 4 person use, nor for melting snow for water, but in a pinch it could do those tasks also. The TrailDesigns site has a number of innovative stove systems, so check it out. The Caldera Cone Stove System for the Snow Peak 900 pot is the one I used, and it runs $35 at present.