Bushcooker Lt1 Titanium Backpacking Stove
Manufacturer: Four Dog Stoves, 25909 Variolite St., NW, St. Francis, MN 55070
Year Released: 2009
Listed Weight: 2.5 oz.
Actual Weight: 2.3 oz.
Diameter: 3.5 “
Stove material: Titanium, made in USA
Warranty: Limited. Lifetime warranty on burnout and workmanship.
Manufacturer URL: http://www.fourdog.com/
I have been a backpacker for 45 years, completing a through hikes of the Appalachian Trail in 2007, and the PCT in 2010. I consider myself a “lightweight” backpacker. I generally hike in New England, where there is an abundance of wood fuel and kindling for fueling backpacking stoves.
I have used the Bushcooker Lt1 on a canoeing trips, day hikes, on a porch outside the kitchen, on the picnic table at our rustic Maine “camp”, and now for over 3,000 miles and over 6 months of backpacking.
Why the Bushcooker Lt I ?
I am huge a fan of wood-burning stoves. I have two stoves that have served as primary heat for my house for the past 31 years, and another at my Maine camp. I have owned and used two Sierra Zip stoves for a couple of decades. I modified one of those stoves to reduce the weight to 10 oz., by substituting titanium parts, and used the stove daily for the first 200 miles of my 2007 AT thru-hike.
I am an enthusiastic subscriber to the concept of using dry, dead wood for fuel. I have practiced building fires of all types, and have no problem with the fact that wood smoke particulates blacken the outside of a cook pot. The smell of wood smoke is actually appealing to me, and I am not repelled by the fact that cooking with wood is likely to permeate your clothing with that odor, or fragrance, as you see fit. If you are a clean freak who is bothered by black pots, and “eau-de-smoke” cologne, then you’ll be challenged by a Bushcooker relationship.
I have been using my own home-made double walled wood backpacking stove for close to a year and a half now. My blog article- The Evolving Backpacking Wood Stove, has received over 16,425 and the accompanying YouTube video has seen 30,165 hits to date.
In 2009 Don Kevilus, owner of Four Dog Stoves, supplied with two models of his US made titanium multi-fuel backpacking stoves and have been using them even since.
This review will focus on the Bushcooker Lt1. The stove is shaped like a tiny metal volcano, with 4 support stand fins protruding from the top. It is made from 7 pieces of titanium. If you look down into the center, you see a straight walled inner burn chamber, with a multiply-finned disc which serves as the bottom of the burn chamber, designed to maximize turbulence and improve combustion.
Air to fuel the burn is through a series of holes in the lower outer wall of the stove. There are additional holes at the top of the inner sleeve which channels additional air into the flame path. The whole stove fits neatly into a Snow Peak Trek 700 titanium cooker, which itself weighs 4.8 oz., with lid, a setup that protects the stove in a backpack.
Don also supplies a titanium windscreen. Notice the modification to the SnowPeak mug, which I purchased from Four Dog Stoves , consisting of two additional tabs spot welded near the top of the unit which allows for a titanium wire that serves as a bail/handle that allows me to hang the stove over existing campfires, or to easily move the unit.
The usual constraints about burning of wood apply here. It is not as easy as you think to strike a lighter to some dry looking twigs and have a boil rolling in 5 minutes. It takes practice to get good at building fires. Lots of practice is best. The secret us to use very thin wood. Start small. We are talking initial twigs the size of pencil lead. I shred dry white birch bark, get it to flame, then add a pinch of tiny branches, let that flame, then put in a pinch every 2 minutes, until critical mass is achieved.
Now comes the best part. This is not just a wood stove. It is specifically created to burn fuel sources one uses while backpacking: denatured alcohol, yellow bottles of gas-line antifreeze, solid fuel tablets (Esbits or Coghlan), and even charcoal.
To Burn Wood:
Gather dry grass, leaves, shredded birch bark, toothpick sized twigs, and small pieces of wood no thicker than a pencil. Place a small amount on the bottom of the inside, light a shred of birch bark, throw it in, and then brush the little pile in there against the burning bark and it should catch. Once the flame start to get higher, and it does very quickly with dry material, you can add more. I usually do it at two minute intervals to start.
The pot supports allow sufficient room between the top of the stove and the base of the cook pot for you to to insert more fuel without removing the pot.
To Burn Alcohol:
The stove is manufactured to accept a low profile container for alcohol use. Don initially recommended using a lid from a shoe polish container, which holds approximately 1 ounce of alcohol. Simply place the lid on a stable surface, fill it with alcohol, and light it. After about 10 seconds, the flame reaches its maximum height, and then you place the stove over the lid and watch the magic, if it is not sunny and bright out . New models of the Bushcookers can also be supplied with an alcohol stove that can be either placed inside the burn chamber, or used alone in conjunction with the supplied windscreen and 2 tent stakes. An alcohol flame is next to impossible to see if broad daylight, and caution is urged in these conditions, as many a hiker has been burned reaching in to relight their alcohol stoves, only to painfully realize that there is a vigorous flame established. Ask me how I learned about this!
To Burn Charcoal:
There is usually ample unburned charcoal present for most backpackers to utilize if they frequent campsites that have received prior use, present in fire rings. The non-uniform nature of this charcoal does complicate use, and my recommendation is to begin to experiment with charcoal fires by taking along a few commercial charcoal briquettes, until you learn the ins and outs of this system.
It takes me 4 standard briquettes to fill the LT1. The technique is then to set up burning alcohol in the tin, and then place the stove ( filled with charcoal) on the burning alcohol. Why not capture the heat that is lost to the atmosphere in igniting the charcoal by heating up a cup of water in your cook pot and enjoying a hot drink while the charcoal starts glowing ?
Some may question, “Why charcoal?” and the the answer is baking quick breads, biscuits, muffins, and even cookies. You can employ a commercial Bakepacker or the Outback Oven here, or even make your own, a topic I have addressed in my blog entry- Even More Baking on the Bushcooker.
Lt 1 Boil Times with 16 oz. of water in SnowPeak 700 Trek Ti ( with lid). No wind conditions at time of testing. You should be aware that metals vary in their ability to conduct heat in terms of boil times. For the same amount of water, aluminum pots boil the fastest, followed by anodized steel, then titanium, with stainless steel the slowest to transfer heat. Wider bases cook faster than narrow ones.
I got the quickest boil times with alcohol, employing less than 1 oz. of alcohol to reach a boil in 4 minutes and 20 seconds. It should be also noted that the LT 1 working in alcohol mode is more efficient than at least one standard cat-can type alcohol stove. The same 2 cups of water took 5 minutes 40 seconds to boil in my Etowah stove, obtaining a 30 percent reduction in burn time with the LT1r. The Bushcooker kept burning the remainder of the 1 oz. of alcohol for a full minute and 15 seconds after it reached boiling, suggesting that less alcohol would be needed to achieve a boil when compared to a standard cat-can style alcohol stove.
Using dry wood, I was able to boil 2 cups of water in 7 minutes and 20 seconds, from scratch- meaning striking the match. I generally ignite birch bark tinder and start adding wood fuel. Field conditions may add additional time, due to collecting the wood, and even prepare it for burning, if wet conditions are encountered.
One feature of the LT 1 that assists with damp wood use is to combine fuel types in the chamber. If I really want to get the fire going quickly, I dribble 3 or 4 CC’s of alcohol on top of the pile of wood inside the chamber and ignite. If fact, I recommend that the user carry a small bottle of alcohol to use as a primer in the stove. It helps with learning to get good at fire buildingy, and later may be used exclusively where wood fires are not permitted, or if it is soaking conditions out here.
Charcoal burn times would be equivalent to those obtained by alcohol, as alcohol is used to kindle the charcoal pieces. Note that may charcoal experiments have the charcoal glowing for 45 minutes, providing plenty of time for baking, or even grilling.
Boil time with 1.5 fuel tablets ( Coghlan) was 8 minutes 10 seconds ( 1.5 tablets). One Coghlan tablet weighs 0.2 oz. It should be noted that the traditional Esbit tablet weighs 0.5 oz.
Weight: At 2.3 ounces , the titanium Lt 1 blows any other backpacking wood stove in terms of weight. It even trumps the weight of some commercially obtained alcohol stoves, and is way ahead in weight you put it up against stoves with fuel canisters, or need to carry around a 12 oz. bottle of alcohol.
Adaptability: The LT 1 stove fits into several commercially obtained pots: the Snow Peak Trek 700ml , the Tibetan Titanium 700ml, the Evernew 640ml , and the Evernew Pasta Pot Small, thus adding no additional space in a backpack. There are also no restrictions in taking it on an airplane. Use in wood-burning mode should greatly expand one’s ability to extend the stay in wilderness situations that can be cut short by lack of fuel resupply opportunities, as is the case for hikers using fuel canisters, liquid fuels, or relying solely on alcohol.
Baking Ability: Enabled via the use of charcoal or even solid fuel tablets, with the addition of 2 lightweight aluminum cans and a handmade cozy. What could be better than ramping up to occasionally indulge in fresh-baked carbos on an extended trip ?
Grilling Ability: Grilled Spam anyone?
I recently engaged in yet another use of the new Bushcooker Lt 1 stove: the grilling option. Skewering a 1/2-inch thick slab with my Mora knife I was delighted to discover that the width of the slice allowed me to fit it between the pot mounts.
Heat/Comfort Source: People have been congregating around fires for millenniums. The proximity to controlled fire is calming and pleasing. After boiling in cold or wet conditions, you can continue to add wood and build up a bed or coals that can heat you, particularly if you use a poncho for rain gear. Simply sit over the stove, drape the poncho around your outstretched legs, and make a gas escape hole around the back of your neck. This set-up will allow one to raise the temperature inside the poncho several degrees, which is sometimes all you need to start to feel comfortable.
Bug Repellant: A traditional technique used to ward off mosquitoes is the smudge fire. Using this stove in wood mode allows one to add wet organic material such as pine needles, or forest floor duff to generate clouds of smoke. On a recent canoe trip to northern Maine with particularly bad mosquitoes, we ran the stove straight out for several hours on a daily basis, moving it around on the picnic table to suit the wind conditions.
Lifetime use: What’s to wear out with titanium? The ability to nest the stove in a lidded pot protects the pot support fins, which might be damaged if they were to snag an article of clothing in the pack.
Quiet: No whirring motor, or jet engine whooshing here, just the occasional pop of cracking wood.
Compromised use: You have to know how to build wood fires to enjoy this stove, even if you just need to get a couple of ounces of wood to burn. The more you practice building fires, the better you will get at using this stove in wood mode. Wood mode is not the fastest way to cook, and you must take the time to gather up wood before you sit down and fire up the stove in wood mode. One practice I’ve used that help me out is to pocket some dry birch or such while hiking during the day. You will be challenged to burn wood in wet conditions, and it takes experience to do so.
It Billows Smoke: In wood mode, you will encounter clouds of smoke. Some people object to this.
Black Deposits on Cooking Pot: Going to happen. Some people go to extremes like rubbing soap on the bottom of their pot and washing it off send they get home. I let my pot blacken, and store the pot/stove in a small black Cordura roll top bag I had made for my unit, to keep the pot from blackening my gear in the backpack. The bag is big enough to store dry kindling, fire starters in the bottom. I occasionally scrape off the built-up creosote with the back side of my knife, or a sharp edged rock.
Restrictions on Use: In some protected areas of National Forests, “fires” are not permitted. Switch to alcohol/tabs in those situations.
Need to remember to bring vessel to burn alcohol: Remember to add the lid from a shoe polish can, or Four Dog’s alcohol unit when using alcohol mode.
Burns Holes on Wooden Base: Be sure to put a flat rock, or metal cover of some type under the unit if you are placing it on a wooden structure, such as a picnic table.
Initial Cost: Titanium is expensive, although one has to consider the true lifetime cost of any alternative stove that requires repeated purchases of fuel cannisters and such.
This stove should satisfy the requirements of resourceful backpackers who are interested in adapting their fuel conditions to varying backpacking environments. I am recently a convert to combining fuels depending on the field conditions, what have in my pack, and what I can garner while hiking.
The big drawback to using wood stoves out on the trail is what to do when there is no decent wood to burn or if there has been rain for days. The ability to carry alcohol or fuel tablets to burn within the LT 1 helps one deal with that.