Wednesday, March 11, 2009
The humble Littlbug Stove - simple yet effective
Last year at the Outdoor Adventure Show, while speaking to Gary and Joanie McGuffin, I noticed an interesting contraption they had on display. I found out it was a cylindrical wood burning stove made by a fellow down in Minnesota. I was intrigued as I've always considered such a unit, to either make or find to purchase. I admit, early on, I was not much of a campfire cooker as I grew up with the notion of "saving trees", therefore always using a stove. But in recent years, I have slowly changed my views - witnessing the petroleum based problems, speaking to various conservationist and paddling with other canoeist.
Campfires are sometimes convenient to cook with, but not always. The location (windy site), the construction (huge stone fire rings), need for greater quantity of wood, and the fact that sometimes fire pits don't exist are many such reasons. Therefore the idea of a small portable wood stove came about. Trust me, this is not some brilliant novel idea of mine - many have thought the same thing before. I've seen many homemade contraptions, including one made from those large commercial-sized cans used for food. However, this was the first time I saw a high quality production unit for sale, nicknamed the Littlbug Stove.
That's it, just 4 parts! Put it together and voila!, you
have a working wood stove!
As I was excited seeing this unit, I wondered how I could get one. I was even more excited when Gary told me he could get me one to trial/use. So when I met the McGuffin's again at Canoecopia less than a month later, I had the Littlbug Stove in my hands ready to be put through its paces throughout the year. The beauty of the unit is that it is collapsible and compact. There are 4 main parts (a fifth part to use with alcohol - which I don't use) that nestle into each other. Two large outer half rings, and two smaller half rings that fit inside the outer ring to provide the pot support. The stove is made from high grade stainless steel which prevents warping and it weighs just over 500grams. I have the larger of the 2 stoves - 8 inch diameter. When the unit is packed in its pouch, it has a slight curve which fits perfectly at the bottom of my barrel.
View from the top: Its all geometry folks! - 2 circles!
After having the stove with me on a half a dozen trips over 30 days last year, I have to say, I've fallen in love with it! Its provided endless hot water - everything from rehydrating food, to hot drinks, dish washing, cleaning and of course cooking. Its quick to set up and easy to get a fire going - campsites are ideal for finding small pieces of wood since everyone uses the big pieces and leaves the ideal sized scraps all around. You can practically use anything - bark, twigs, pinecones, dried leaves/needles - but its good to seek out finger sized twigs to provide a steady source of fuel. Oh, did I mention that I can actually hear myself when I use the stove?! Yes, I can have a normal conversation! My MSR Dragonfly (which I love) sounds like I'm sitting beside the NASA launch pad everytime I fire it up! Also when there is no firepit, the Littlbug can provide a quasi-campfire!
Fire in the hole! This stove directs the heat
and flame exactly where its needed!
The only thing I didn't have which I supplemented was the bottom firepan. I purchased a "stainless steel plate" so that I could use the stove in places other than the firepit, but it was soon evident that it was poor quality metal. It warped during the first fire. The other thing I had to watch for was where I placed the stove - with my cheap base. It is pretty hot underneath and it can scorch the ground, so use a rock based surface - gravel, stones, pebbles, sand or place it in the firepit without the base. I don't know how the firepan for this unit is made, but once I get one, I'll update my findings.
Cooking on Dumoine River - the Littlbug was the talk of
the trip! Everyone loved it!
One last thing, fires cause soot. That's unavoidable, even on the stove itself. So besides taking a pair of leather gloves to handle the stove (if necessary), you should also take a dry cloth to wipe the soot off before packing it away. I hate sooty pots, so you can either take separate pots for this application, or smear dish soap on the pot surface before cooking. It will wash off when you are done and keep your pots looking clean. (thanks Mike & Kathleen!)
With an endless supply of wood and water,
you could have hot drinks to your
Kent Hering has made a great product that is sure to not only reduce our dependence on petroleum based fuels, but make our experience in the wilderness more authentic. He has made a quality product that is sure to stand the test of time. Its backed by a solid satisfaction guarantee and not only that, a sizeable portion of the sales goes towards humanitarian and conservation efforts. Congrats Kent on inventing an awesome product! I totally recommend it! If any of you are interested in purchasing this stove or want more information, here is the website - http://www.littlbug.com/index.htm Trust me, you won't be disappointed!