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Packafeather XL stove

June 14, 2016 — BarryK
Today my eagerly-awaited Packafeather XL alcohol stove arrived.
The outstanding feature of this stove, apart from very light weight, is the cable control of the flame, enabling turning down the heat to simmer the food as required.

The first thing apparent upon opening the box, is that this is indeed the product of a "cottage industry". It is built from used aluminium containers, shows it, with some minor dents -- but, I must emphasize, that in no way detracts from its performance.

This time, I decided to cook lentils. I purchased red lentils and yellow lentils. Hmmm, this is where my very limited cooking experience shows -- I did not know that the yellow lentils need considerably longer to cook than the red lentils.
I also bought Clive Of India hot curry powder. That's it, total ingredients.

Here is everything ready to go:

You can see the XL stove in the middle. Right beside it is its fuel holder. The stove is simply placed on top of the fuel-holder. Just pour methylated spirits in to holder, put the main body of the stove on top. Light it before or after.

The circular disk is just a piece of aluminium from a baking tray (actually, a set of them, only a few dollars) that I bought at Coles. I also cut the windshield from the tray. The manufacturer recommends the disk for extra insulation from the ground. Here is the fuel-holder sitting on the disk:

No priming, it is ready to use immediately. Right off, the flame did look a bit yellow:

However, as soon as I placed the pot on top, it transformed into a beautiful blue:

Oh yeah, the recipe. My scoop holds about 70ml. One level scoop red lentils, one of yellow lentils, five scoops water, half of curry powder.

It came to a boil quickly, and I turned down the flame. Now, the important thing to understand here is that the flame does not decrease immediately. Wait awhile.
A method that seemed OK was to wind the cable clockwise until completely closed (minimum air getting in through the nozzles) then back off a turn or two. This does take practice, because I did extinguish the flame once, when I had the nozzles nearly closed.

The main point though, is that simmering really does work. Though, with my very thin titanium pot, the small concentrated flame in the centre of the pot did result in a patch of burnt food right in the centre. I am not sure how to deal with that, other than stirring the food.

Here is the flame set very low, with my baking-tray wind shield:

On the low flame, I wandered off, and checked back periodically to see how it was going. The yellow lentils took awhile, but eventually it was all mush, and I ate it -- simple recipe, but it tasted good.
Here it is:

Conclusion: it is a great stove, for when you want to actually cook food instead of just boil it.
I think next, I will try brown lentils. They are healthier than red lentils, as they have the skin still on them, but require a lot more cooking. Normally, I would pre-soak them, but I'm going to give it a go not doing that -- see if I can just leave it simmering long enough.

Manufacturer's website:
My earlier post about alcohol stoves:

Tags: light

Bug net for travelers

June 11, 2016 — BarryK
I have been considering how to reduce the weight of my hiking gear. One considerable item is the tent, weighing anywhere from 700gm to 1.5kg, depending on how much money you want to spend.

I have considered a bug net and tarpaulin combination, and have come up with a very minimal configuration, but perhaps too minimal.

I bought one of these:

Only US$20 including international postage.

I didn't buy this specifically for camping, but for situations where I am traveling and sleeping in shelters, or hotel/hostel rooms.

It is a one-person fully-enclosed bug-net, with waterproof base, slightly raised sides (bathtub design) and two cords to tie it up.
This is what it looks like in its bag:

Claimed weight is 230gm, however, I weighed it at 263gm, including two lengths of cord (that came with it).

If I take it on my next hike on the Bibbulmun Track, in the shelters there is wood framework to tie the cords onto, at least at the head end.
The result is adequate head-space, if I want to read before sleeping:

I felt like there was enough room to roll around in, but perhaps a large (wide) person might not think so.
I fitted in my inflatable mattress and sleeping bag OK.

As well as using it in shelters, it could even be used on top of a bed, to keep bed bugs away. I might take it on my next trip to India, though I was never bothered by bed bugs on previous trips -- it remains as a theoretical possibility.
Mostly, I want protection from mosquitoes.

This bug net could be used outside, and I have been toying with using my Sea To Summit ponch/tarp, tied up like this:

It is just long enough, though there is risk of rain being blown in at the ends. It also requires two conveniently-spaced branches, which might be a challenge.

I would probably carry the poncho anyway, in wet weather, so this combination gives me a tent for only an extra 263gm, plus metal stakes (another 70 - 100gm).

Anyway, this post is my mini-review of the enclosed one-person bug net. Very cheap, well made, light, compact, I can see scenarios where it will be very useful for me.


Alcohol stoves for camping

June 06, 2016 — BarryK
I posted a couple of days ago about a simple recipe for the trail, "peas and mash", using my Alocs alcohol stove:

Here in Australia, we use methylated spirits, readily available everywhere, though in some towns in northern Australia it is kept behind the counter, as there are those who drink it.

I bought my Alocs stove a couple of years ago, from Deal Extreme:

In its favour, are the simmer-ring (that leaver sticking out) for adjusting the flame down, a screw-on lid with rubber gasket so as to keep left-over fuel, and the stand-cum-wind-shield.
The arguments against it are the wind-shield is not really enough, another is really required, and it is a tad heavy, at 143gm.

I have ordered two more stoves, both due to arrive very soon.
One of these is the Vargo Triad, all titanium, weighing only 28gm. Home:

The main arguments in favour of this stove are the extreme light weight and strength. Against it, it needs a separate wind shield, and there is no means to reduce the flame.
That last one is significant for me -- when I am cooking something, I want to reduce to a simmer after bringing it to a boil. If you want to keep a furious boil going, wasting fuel and possibly burning the pot and food, that's what you will get without a simmer-ring.
Many hikers accept this limitation and work around it.

I bought my Triad from They ship to Australia.

Last, and this is the one that most excites me, is the Packafeather XL stove. Home:

It weighs only 45gm, and has the neatest flame control of all -- a little knob on the end of a cable.
It does require a separate wind shield, ditto for the two other stoves. I have some thin aluminium for that.
There does seem to be a lot of points in favour of the XL, and I can't, without having actually used it, think of anything against it. All reviews have been positive.

Anyway, the XL should be here in a day or two, and I will post a review, along with another of my culinary creations.

Tags: light

Peas and mash on the trail

May 31, 2016 — BarryK
I am gradually getting organised for another hike, doing a complete review of the weight, trying to get it down.

Apart from that, I want to experiment with new food recipes. A post by "Eremophila" on the Bushwalk forum inspired me:

His peas and potato mash is basic, but should be appetising. I decided to give it a go. Here are all of the items that a hiker would need:

The stove is an Alocs alcohol burner (methylated spirits) that I bought from Deal Extreme awhile back (
On the left is the fuel, in a Selleys wood-glue plastic bottle -- chosen because the spout has a screw-on cap, so fuel won't leak inside the backpack.
The other items are small scissors to open the packets, bag-closers, a folding scoop (that came with a saucepan-set from DX), water, and a spoon (my all-time favourite, a plastic spoon from Sea to Summit).

The pot is titanium, 700ml, 115mm diameter, 700mm high, 700ml capacity, very light, sold by Toak (USA).

Some means of lighting the stove is required. I have shown a cigarette-lighter in the photo, however matches are better as it is required to reach down into the stove to ignite the fuel.

I put in two scoops of water, one scoop of dehydrated peas. Lit the stove, brought the pot to a boil. Actually, this Alocs stove boils the water quite fast, and that is where this particular alcohol stove has an advantage over some others -- it has a "simmer ring" to adjust the flame down.

Wait several minutes, until the peas look like they have become soft. Take the pot off the stove, and stir in 1 scoop of potato powder, then half-a-scoop of cheese. The result:

It tastes OK. Not gourmet cooking, but passable when on the trail.

Next time, I will probably adjust it to a bit less peas, and maybe a bit more water. The cheese is a problem, as it would have to be consumed fairly quickly after opening the packet. Apparently, there are dehydrated cheese powders available, but I just bought what I found on the shelves at Coles.

After a days hiking, I would probably double the quantities, for a reasonable meal. Note, I don't have a measuring cup, but I think my scoop holds about 70ml.

Just an extra note: I am currently going through the exercise of reducing the weight of everything, and the Alocs stove is likely to be retired. It weighs, with its stand/shelter, 143gm. I have ordered another that is about 1/3 the weight, also has an adjustable flame. I'll write about that another day.


New tent and backpack

March 13, 2016 — BarryK
I have purchased ultra-light tent and backpack, and taken them on an overnighter.

Wrote up a report, with photos:

Not a comprehensive test of the tent, as the weather was perfect. Reached 30 degrees C, 40% humidity, hazy sky.

I left the fly of the tent rolled back all night, so able to watch the bush around me and the sky. Very pleasant, and the mozzies just buzzed around outside the tent!

Tags: light

Solar power testing 2016

February 04, 2016 — BarryK
I did some testing of solar panels and battery-banks, to charge smartphones and other USB-chargeable devices, back in 2014:

I have started another round of tests, this time focusing on ultra-light traveling, using a very small panel charging my smartphone directly, no intermediate battery-bank.

It's a work-in-progress, but good result so far:

I have posted about this to an Australian bushwalking forum:

Tags: light

Hiking test

January 25, 2016 — BarryK
It is mid-summer here in Australia, and the weather has been pleasant. Thunder, lightning, rain early this morning, but the last few days have been mostly sunny, temperatures climbing to mid-30s.

Very nice weather for hiking, though it did get a tad warmish yesterday. I was off on the trails, of which we have many in the hills close to Perth.

January 2015 I did some hiking, but carried too much. This time I have experimented with ultra-light.

Here is a field test of my latest gear:

Lots of fun!

Tags: light

Mobile-friendly static HTML

January 14, 2016 — BarryK
My web pages are all "old school" HTML. I have dabbled in CSS and Javascript, but mostly create web pages with simple static HTML using tables.

My web pages look fine on a desktop screen, but not so good on a mobile phone. Typically, I create a centered table with a fixed width, and all content goes inside that. Basic structure:

<head ... > ... </head>
<table align="center" width="700" ... > ... </table>

On a high resolution mobile phone screen, the table renders very small, with large blank space both sides.

However, I discovered a very simple fix. Just insert this line into the <head> section:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=700">

Remarkable, on my Android phone, my pages scale, both in portrait and landscape orientation, so that the table width fills the screen. Everything, text and images, scale correctly.

See my example page:


...though, I haven't even read most of that. Just took a punt on the "width" parameter, and it worked.

Tags: light