Category Archives: winter

Gear Review: Trangia Alcohol Stoves

My first post of the new year will deal with my little Trangia stove I’ve picked up a while ago. Now that I’ve been able to use it on a few day-hikes during the Christmas break, I can confidently review it. The first, and most obvious point, is that this is an alcohol stove; these stoves can burn the commonly found methanol, ethanol and even isopropyl rubbing alcohol. This stove cannot burn anything properly but alcohol – I tried white gasoline and ended up with a sooty, fireball-prone mess – and this could leave much to be desired in a third-world setting where kerosene/autogas (petrol) is all that may be found. But, here in Canada along with the US, most of South America, and Europe, methanol is easily found in nearly every hardware shop. Often it is labelled as ‘methyl hydrate’, and so people overlook it, but 4L can be be had for $10.

Trangia burner w/ homemade soup can pot stand. The port is
wide enough to allow use of the simmer ring.

It is important that I say that the Trangia I review was purely the stove unit and not the cookset. But, here’s what I had to say about the stove in my review for MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-Op):

Great overall little burner – stows away well, is relatively lightweight and has a high heat output for an alcohol stove. What I love about the Trangias is their ability to store unused fuel inside them – this helps to reduce wastage, and on a day-hike, I don’t have to bring a separate fuel bottle. I just end up topping-off the burner and using the fuel left inside.

I sprung for this burner because I was not willing to invest 60+ dollars on a full Trangia kit; instead I hacked apart a soup can and used that as a stand. Don’t hesitate to use this ‘replacement’ in stand-alone configuration; it still boils quickly and is quite wind proof *if* one uses a wind screen.

Not the fastest boil times I’ll admit ( 7:10 for 2 cups @ room temp), but who’s counting minutes on the trail? It also doesn’t seem to have any problems in winter (unlike canister stoves), and my testing had 2 cups of water boil in 8:30 @ -10C. Comparable to or better than other alky stoves, IMO.

Bottom Line: One of the best and well-rounded alcohol stoves out there.

True to my MEC review, the stove I use isn’t part of a Trangia Cookset. I have a real appreciation of the simpleness of the stove, which makes it near indestructible, albeit at the cost of a few BTUs of heat output. Pressurized stoves of all kinds cannot beat the venerable little Trangia when it comes to durability and the interval between maintenance periods (there IS no maintenance!). For the rough n’ tumble hiker who needs to boil a few cups water for a quick meal or even to frying an egg over-easy, it would be a good choice. For groups above 3 people, you will want to look elsewhere. Here, its benefits are complicated by the low heat output, limited fuel capacity, and large fuel consumption. It *will* take a good 30 minutes or so to bring 3 litres to boil in good conditions, and the low energy density of alcohol fuels means sometimes 2-3 times the volume of petroleum fuel needs to be burnt to cook equivalent meals. 

The results of a boil test. 8:16 for 500mL to a rolling boil @ 0 Celcius
with light wind.

 The benefits vs. an isobutane (canister) stove are obvious – far cheaper fuel costs, cheaper investment in the stove, and they work well even in winter conditions. Also, depending on the configuration of pot stand/wind screen, the alcohol stoves can outclass a canister stove in being lightweight. 


I really do like the Trangia stove units – which can be bought for $12 – and the complete cooksets, but I firmly believe that because of their niche status and lack of other competition (Sigg has not been manufacturing its version for a while), Trangia over-inflates the prices of their cooksets.  Unless I found a 2-person cookset going for $30 or under, they are out of my league, and I feel them overpriced for the quality of the product. I own a Sigg Inoxal mini-cookset, purchased for $15 3 years ago. These pots are beautifully crafted, and well designed. They feature a black-painted aluminum exterior for strength and heat dispersion, but have an 18/8 stainless interior for cooking. This makes them lightweight, but sturdy, scrubbable with rocks + sand, and usable without fears of scratching the cook surface – or getting Alzheimers. Why then does it cost me $30 to buy a trangia mini cookset, which is just plain aluminum? The quality of the pressings isn’t up to Sigg’s snuff either. 

 Packed-up: Homebrew cookset. Sigg Inoxal cookset at right,
Trangia stove, DIY tin-can potstand, 75ml fuel bottle, and MSR windscreen at left. 
Unpacked: Potstand uncovered to show MSR windscreen and  fuel bottle.
The Inoxal cookset’s lid doubles as a frypan. Inside: 2 Guyot squishy bowls,
a compact lighter, folding knife, salt+pepper shaker, and DIY SS spork+knife.

For those minded like I am, purchase only the Trangia burner to use with another cookset. My homemade setup consists of the brass Trangia burner filled 3/4 with alcohol (160g), a steel soup can converted to a potstand (55g), a plastic softdrink lid to insulate the burner in winter (2g), and an MSR aluminum windscreen (45g). Very lightweight, and a good deal more windproof than a stock Trangia mini cookset would be. 


Stay tuned for more bike and gear reviews!

Stitches

It’s Sunday night… I’ve returned from a winter camping trip this weekend, near Acton. On the drive up, the window got stuck in the down position – so, I had a very breezy and chilly ride. 1 foot of snow when I got up to the site, and another foot fell on Saturday night, making the tent sag a bit under the weight. Quite great weather for a winter camp!

Unfortunately, while cutting some wood, I sustained a nasty gash on my knuckle; I was able to see the bone!! Needless to say, I had to get patched up with some gauze, and then head to the hospital for a more permanent ‘fix’. I wasn’t really injured that badly – the blood wasn’t pouring out – so the 2.5 cm cut was held together with 3 stitches. I guess I’ll see how it holds up to swimming tomorrow!

Screw It; I’m Making Studded Tires

As the title of this post implies, I’ve gone and gotten myself a pair of studded tyres on the cheap – by fabricating them. Those old Chen Shins I had on the bike’s rims came off without a single stud, but went back on with a ice-grippin’ 104 studs per tyre. Total cost: $12.78 for 250 1/2 in. 8-size screws, compared to $100 + tax for the cheapest pair I could find elsewhere (including the interweb).  My time is valueless, so I won’t put a dollar value on the 2 1/2 hours I spent on the endeavor.  

Drilling, and a lot of screwing-in 

On the road, they are really grippy on ice – like being glued to it, even while riding on an outdoor skating rink! But, since the tread pattern isn’t that deep, it still has trouble in the slush or packed snow. On fresh snow, however, it performs quite superbly! One really can notice the clickity-clickity-clickity of the screws on the pavement, and feel the drag also.

Tyre #1, finished – look at that! 1/4 in of spike showing!

Here’s how I done it:
1. Pulled off the tyres
2. Flipped tires inside-out
3. Drilled holes, from outside in, into the knobs I wanted studs in.
4. Spent a whole lotta time screwing screws into these holes, inside to out.
5. Turned tyres back to right-side-in
6. Got duct tape, and covered all the screw heads with multiple layers of tape to prevent puncture
7. Re-install and re-inflate. Be careful – it’s like wrestling with a rosebush!

Mounted and ready to roll!

I plan to get at lest 100km on the tyres this winter, if for nothing else but to measure the longevity of the screws.

A Winter’s Outing

Went for a few hours’ ride today – the first full test of the ‘new’ tyres; they are actually 16-year-old ‘Dual Sport’ (i.e., wide as a mountain tire!) Chen Shins which came with the bicycle. They did a real swell job, once I let some air out to run them at ~45 psi, handling the snow, road, gravel and even some ice without slipping.

.
 My GT has lots of extra room for an
even wider tire, despite already having
on 42mm ones.
 The steep hill down to the buffs is
 salted and in use by dump trucks




I headed down to Guild Inn to access the bluffs’ lakeside trail, and enjoyed a pleasant photographing and sight-seeing session. The bluffs change so much from their summer appearance!

 The bluffs look even more awesome in person. Sadly,
they are predicted to gradually turn into steep hills,
some as soon as 15 years from now.



Even in the winter, dump-trucks laden with dry-fill keep on tipping their loads to complete this soon-to-be Waterfront Trail section, which will eventually connect the beaches all the way out to pickering, without interruption; it will be all path without any streets/roads. Most of the path is already done, with only a few connecting portions missings. With the rate at which construction has increased over this past summer, I expect it to be done in under 5 years, but we’ll see if the project ever gets finished when Rob Ford starts slashing Toronto’s expenditures.
The lonely trail in the winter.

For one strange reason or another, a good lot of car parts have accumulated at the base of the bluffs. Maybe someone drove them over the edge a long time ago?

My favorite photo depicting the car parts down by the lake. This one really
 shows the density of the car parts strewn about.

Most of the parts seem like late 1950s to early 70s vintage – a lot of old OHV V8s are hanging out amongst the engine blocks. Dating them is also made easier by the drum brakes; they were replaced by discs on most performance vehicles by the 80s. Most parts seem to be Ford from the bits of writing I was able to make out on some axles and brake drums.



Not a car – but found down by the bluffs anywho.

  

I think this is a Ford V8.



 
I once found an entire crushed Ford Bronco II! If I ever get that roll of film developed, that picture will most surely be put in a future post. That’s it for now – I’ve some homework to finish before the holidays begin.

See more of my photos at: http://thetriplex.deviantart.com/