Thursday, January 31, 2013

Super Cat Stove with Wind Screen/ Twig stove

 Super Cat stove project.  
 A guy named Jim Wood created a stove from a cat food can in about 2005.  It has become very popular in the ultra light backpacking world.  You just punch about 30 holes like I did above in an aluminum 3oz cat food can, put about an ounce of denatured alcohol in it and you have a stove.  Most single hole hand paper punches do a great job making the holes.  In about a minute the alcohol sort of boils.  A pot seals the top and the gas becomes somewhat pressurized shooting hot blue flames out the side.
Most backpacking cooking involves just boiling about two cups of water to mix with dehydrated food and this stove does a great job at that in 4-6 minutes.  I have been making a lot of Ramen noodles "testing" the device in my shop each night.
 The stove works so well I have used it a few times for other purposes like making coffee in my Cona vacuum brewer.
Heat sources have been a problem with this brewer in the past but no more.  

Wind is the big issue with most backpacking stoves and this is especially true of alcohol burning stoves.  Most wind won't blow the fire out but it will take the flame and all heat away from your pot.  To use the stove outside an integrated wind screen is essential.  The pic below is a competed wind screen I made. 
The wind screen has a few essential features.  
It has one rectangular hole in front on the bottom to let air in, the supercat stove is elevated inside to prevent incoming air from effecting it and it has a cut out for the pot handle to keep them cool.  The cup I will use with this wind screen is a Snow Peak titanium trek 700 mug that holds between 3 and 4 cups of water.   You can easily make a screen to fit any pot you have.  
This version of mine is very close to Jim Woods original version.   He deserves the credit for most of the ideas here.   
 6 inch aluminum roof flashing.  It weighs very little, cuts with scissors and isn't super sharp like sheet metal often is after cutting it.
 Measure it around the pot you are likely to use with the wind screen.  Leave about a half inch around the pot.
 Air hole is an inch high and one and a half inches wide.  In the pic above I have cut the air hole sides with scissors then by just folding the metal up a couple of times it will snap off cleanly.  I don't cut corners.  The handle hole should be cut in a way to keep the pot handle of your particular pot out of the fire.  Each pot will need a different size and shape hole.
 I am using three holes and some stainless screws and nuts to keep it together.  Pop rivets are a good permanent solution, wing nuts would be easy to take it apart for travel.  For some unkown reason I have the wind screen upside down in the pic showing the screw heads.  I used a drill to make the holes.  The metal over laps about 5/8ths of an inch.  I used an awl in the metal first to make sure the drill started where I intended it to start.
 The stove needs to be elevated above the air hole.  I found some aluminum gutter cover mesh in the garage and it works great as a platform for the stove.
 The bike spokes go through the wind screen about 3 centimeters up to hold the mesh material that holds the supercat stove.
 Here it is in place.  See below how the spokes are going through the wind screen under the mesh.  You could use titanium tent stakes or an old coat hanger instead of spokes.  Part of the fun of this project was using what I already happen to have at home.
 Note the little holes up higher.  If you put additional spokes in those you could build a little twig fire or put an esbit tablet on the aluminum mesh grate and then have your pot on the top spokes.  It just takes a hand full of  small twigs to boil some water.
 Here is how the stove sits in the wind screen.

 Pour in and light an ounce or so of denatured alcohol or alternately Heet fuel treatment (but use only the kind in the yellow bottle).  Wait about a minute for the fuel to get hot and cook away.
It is hard to see but I also made an optional heat reflector/ground protector out of some of the sheet aluminum to sit under the wind screen.
 In addition to the alcohol stove you can use this wind screen set up to cook over a  twig fire, use fire starters or Esbit tablets for fuel.  Lots of versatility in a stove/wind screen that weighs just a few ounces.   

Some random events

 Ella and I went to the "ice castle" thing by Ikea.  I hope it is better at night with the lights and all because what you see here is 90% of how interesting it was.  $16 for the two of us to spend 5 minutes was a little disappointing.   Ella was convinced that it wasn't really ice but rather just plastic.   I am guessing if they made it out of plastic it would have sucked less.   
Got Ella some skates and she learned how to skate on a neighbor hood pond with some friends.

After going to a DNA talk last year I have been thinking about where my people originally came from so I ordered a Genographic project kit to test my DNA.  It will be able to tell me all of my ancestry and the path out of Africa so long ago.   It will tell me all the areas of the world my ancestors have come from and what percentage of me is from each region.  It will show a map of how my ancestors exited Africa so long ago.
What I am most interested in however is how much cave man I am if any.  
"Included in the markers we will test for is a subset that scientists have recently determined to be from our hominin cousins, Neanderthals and the newly discovered Denisovans, who split from our lineage around 500,000 years ago. As modern humans were first migrating out of Africa more than 60,000 years ago, Neanderthals and Denisovans were still alive and well in Eurasia. It seems that our ancestors met, leaving a small genetic trace of these ancient relatives in our DNA. With Geno 2.0, you will learn if you have any Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA in your genome."   
I got some very hard to see Nalgene bottle cozies from Granit Gear.  They call them aquatherms.  It should keep my water from freezing.  I wonder if I could put a hand warmer safely under the bottle in the cozy? 

I went to a Wei Ya Festival event at Heath's and had gua bao and hot pot with a sauce made with some of the above ingredients.  I need to find out how to make this sauce.  I keep thinking about it.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Overnight bike pack with Heath

 Heath and I celebrated MLK weekend with a bike packing trip Sunday to Monday.  We left from my house with a lot of gear.  In addition to what you see on the bikes we each had a big back pack to hold our -40 sleeping bags and a bunch of water.   The insulated bottle on the bike is only good for about an hour at these temps before it will freeze up.
 We camped between the Minnesota River and Gifford Lake.   Heaths $1.50 jacket actually looks good from this distance.  He had the good idea to set up camp in the tree/bush like stuff behind him in this pic to protect us from the wind.  In summer this area would be a very wet mosquito hell.  We didn't even bring bug spray.
Not sure exactly were we were on this map but I think right about in the middle a little closer to the lake.

View Larger Map

 Got to try out my homemade supercat (cat food can) stove with Heet car gas tank treatment for fuel.  I had limited success with it.  I think we could have made it work with more practice but Heaths white gas whisper lite stove was so good we just used that to boil all the water we needed.

 After dinner we went for a little hike to Gifford lake.  Also discovered that the night setting on our phones made for much better night pics.  Not perfect but much better. Go figure.
 Sat around the fire enjoying some hot chocolate and coffee.  It was surprisingly comfortable considering the temp and wind chill.  Before retiring to our tents we heated up water to put in Nalgene bottles that we threw in the bottom of our sleeping bags.  It was a little unnerving putting water inside my sleeping bag but it did keep me a little warmer and more importantly we had water rather than ice for making breakfast.
 After getting in our tents Heath watched a movie on his phone and I watched the first two episodes of Breaking Bad on mine before going to sleep.  With ear phones and the high def video on the phone so close to my face I felt like I had a big screen tv and surround sound.   I slept pretty well other than feeling a little cold after I let my air mattress get low in air pressure.   I also repeatedly dreamed that I was getting up to use the bathroom .  It really sucks to get up to go pee in the night.  Heath said he had to do it multiple times.  I just used my easy to fool Id and some dreams to delay the need.   -9 at wake up time was a little painful on my fingers while getting my warm day clothes on for breakfast.   Packing up took a lot of effort.  Tents would not fold up small enough to go back in there bags.  The ride home was challenging with the climb out of the river valley, cold windy weather and cold thick grease in the bikes bearings but short enough to make us wanting more.  Only thing that could have made the trip better is if more people came along.  Lets buy some gear people.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Cinco de Maya

Maya turned 5 today so a couple of days ago on Saturday we had a little kid party for her.  The theme Maya wanted was from the movie Tangled (Rapunzel.).  
Maya invited Lila, Rachael and Ivy who are three of her closest friends from school.  Susan painted on faces, made Rapunzel hair for each girl to wear, made a pinata of the chameleon character from the movie, made a pin the frying pan on the prince guys face game and had an entire wall for the girls to paint and color on.

We made the cake out of 24 frosted/sprinkled doughnuts in the shape of Rapunzel's tower.

On a related note I have found myself grieving what is the end of 9 years of having a baby/toddler in the house.  However wonderful I find Maya and Ella to be now and however wonderful my time will be with them in the future my little baby/toddler girls are gone forever and I already miss them.

Monday, January 07, 2013

A two ride weekend

 Saturday AM gave me perfect weather to circumnavigate big island on Lake Minnetonka starting in Excelsior.  It is really not a long trip but with time spent exploring the island I turned it into a two hour exploration ride.     Big tail wind on the way out and little wind on the way back.  The above pic is about half way out to the island.

On the west side of the island there is a little castle like structure right on the shoreline with these buoy things in it.  

 Above pic is from inside the little castle like building.
If you already know what riding on snow looks and sounds like don't bother with the very short video.  You will be disappointed. 

 From on the island.  I really want to pirate camp out here.
 In the middle of the island I found this old nature viewing station.  Would never have found it in the summer.

 The last two pics are from Sunday's ride with Heath along the Minnesota River from 35W to Bloomington Ferry Bridge road.  Made a simple but nice hot lunch in the sun on a dry part of the bank next to the river.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Grocery Getter utility bike

 My Salsa La Cruz does a great job at road and gravel duties and my Moonlander is my preferred bike for anything more off road than gravel.  My poor El Mariachi was left out in the cold.  
That is until I made the mental shift away from it being my mountain bike and tuned it into a utility tool.  
Full fenders, old Brooks saddle (thanks Q), Old Man Mountain rack, Ortlieb bags, Revelate Tangle bag, Dogwood poggies, New Conti rubber, lights front and rear (front is Magicshine and not on in pics.)
 It took a while for me to accept the change in purpose of my El Mariachi from Mountain bike to a ready to go utility bike until I did it.  I love how this turned out and think it fits a needed bike area in my stable.  One of my barriers to using a bike as a utility tool has been getting bags, lights, fenders, fenders set up each ride.   Now I can just jump on and ride to the store.
 I still have some low rider front racks to put on.  These will allow me to put big bags in back and the front ones I currently have in back on the front.
The Brooklyn Machine works veggie burger pedals will likely get replaced and the elastomers in the seat post need to be switched with a softer durometer for winter.  

One of my goals in the coming year is to find and ride as much single track as I can while on my regular bike trips.  My new grocery getter will turn a trip to get milk into half road ride, half single track ride and all fun.