There is one thing that ties together most overnight hikes for me better than anything else, and that is a nice, hot cup of cocoa before bedtime. Except in the hottest of weather, I’ll boil up a big mug of hot water for cocoa after dinner, then sit in my shelter to write in my journal, look at the next day’s hiking plan, and relax. That’s my ritual for backpacking evenings.
|The full Caldera Cone UL Compact system: fuel bottle, cone, stakes, pot, and stove. Oops, where’s my lighter?|
And to tie this ritual together for the past two years (on close to two hundred nights of camping), has been my Mountain Laurel Designs 850 Titanium pot, and my Caldera Cone UL Compact stove system. It’s hard for me to think of ever switching back from the Caldera Cone to any other stove system now, since the ULC has everything I need and want in a backpacking cookware setup.
First, the whole system is incredibly light. The pot, with lid and handles, weighs 3.4 ounces, and the combination of the cone and stove is 1.4 ounces. Even with the two tent stakes (0.3 oz) that support the pot in conjunction with the cone, a miniature bic lighter (0.4 oz), and a bottle with enough fuel for a few days in the woods (approx 3 oz total), and my titanium spoon (0.4 oz) the whole system barely breaks half a pound.
|Ready for cocoa or oatmeal in less than ten minutes with only half a fluid ounce of fuel.|
Since the cone serves as a wind screen, pot stand, and heat funnel, it’s super efficient as far as weight and fuel use. My water boiling needs are always between 1.5 and 2 cups of water at a time, which takes around 0.5 to 0.75 fluid ounces of denatured alcohol. It’s been a while since I’ve used my fluid measuring cup to measure the fuel– these days I just use the cap of the fuel bottle, and estimate three capfuls for the right amount of fuel. The 8 fluid ounce bottle in the picture above was last filled in April, and I just emptied it a few days ago. I haven’t used it as much this season as last year on the Pacific Crest Trail, but I’m still very happy with the fuel consumption.
The main reason I first purchased the ULC Cone was the “C” in ULC. Compact. Unlike other Caldera Cones, this one fits inside the pot, along with the stove, a lighter, and a little bit of room to spare. I keep a small square of aluminum foil in there as well, to protect the surface the stove sits on (shelter floors or dead pine needles can char in the right conditions). All told, the cook system takes up less space in my pack than an insulated travel mug, and stows easily.
|All packed up and stowed away in a pot not much bigger than a soda can.|
The stove system is a bit pricey, at $70 for the cone/stove, and $50 for the pot (you can use other types of pots, but this seems like a standard price), but I’ve used mine hundreds of times over the past two years and it’s still going strong. As I’ve often said, simple designs last a lifetime, and the Caldera Cone ULC is about as simple and effective as it gets. Aside from stupid mistakes (I stepped on my stove a few weeks ago, but had a spare from my previous caldera cone– and the stove itself is replaceable for only $15), the system should last pretty much indefinitely.
Some final, nit-picky notes. Boil time. People make a big deal out of how long it takes to boil water on a backpacking stove. I don’t. It boils two cups of water in around five minutes or less. Why don’t I measure the time exactly? I’m backpacking. I’m not in a hurry. If I get cold while waiting, I can do jumping jacks. And speaking of cold, I’ve used the Caldera Cone down to 25 degrees Fahrenheit, and it works fine. Colder temperatures need more fuel and more time to boil, but I imagine it would work fine into late autumn.
If you’re planning on backpacking a lot next summer (Appalachian Trail or Pacific Crest, anybody?), this would be a very good investment.