If you’ve stayed at an Appalachian Trail shelter, you’ve probably seen one of these frowny faces before. And you probably know exactly where they come from.
The charred mark on the shelter floor or picnic table is an accident that happens sometimes with camp stoves (usually alcohol stoves). I caused one myself when I first started using alcohol stoves. This was right before I started working on a trail crew, and I happened to be camping with a prominent Long Trail volunteer, so I was wicked embarrassed. Poor form! I thought I could prevent further instances just by using my stove more carefully, which worked for the next three years.
While I was on the Pacific Crest Trail, though, I caught some pine needles beneath my stove on fire while cooking my dinner one night. Luckily, the flare up lasted only a second, and I was very close to a creek with abundant water for dousing the charred needles. But I learned right then that being careful wasn’t quite good enough.
I see the char marks on Appalachian Trail shelters all the time. Knowing how much work goes into keeping these shelters in good shape, I can’t stand to see them damaged by carelessness. So here’s a perfect solution to the alcohol stove char marks.
An eight-inch square of foil lives inside my cook pot, right next to my stove. It weighs 3 grams (0.1 ounces) and completely blocks the residual heat from the stove from getting to the surface below. Since it stores in the pot, I’ve been using the same ratty square of foil for more than two years. I’ve used the stove on top of piles of dead leaves, in shelters, on picnic tables, wherever I feel like cooking. And there hasn’t been the slightest char mark below the stove since.
So here’s a PSA to all you gram weenies (like myself) who are using alcohol stoves: if you can spare a tenth of an ounce and one cent for some aluminum foil, your campsites will appreciate the extra caution. You’re welcome.