Monthly Archives: February 2017

Feb 2017 JMT PREP and Stove Testing

I’m getting ready for this year’s version of the John Muir Trail (August 2017).

The initial logistics are pretty intensive, but fortunately, this being the third time around, it becomes easier and easier.

Phase I is deciding your dates, getting a permit and making all the necessary arrangements for getting from Virginia to California and to the trail head, and conversely, back home again.

Phase II is deciding upon a menu for 26 days of camping, not including re-supply time at Independence, Muir Trail Ranch (MTR), Reds, and Tuolume Meadows.  Then obtaining all that food, packaging it all up, then mailing the packages, and in some cases the buckets, to the various pick up points. Oh yeah, don’t forget the sun block, TP, water purifier tablets, and surprise treats for yourself!

Phase III is figuring out what you are going to carry in your pack, to achieve one’s perfect balance of weight vs creature comforts.  The incessant weighing and re-weighing of items and the summary court judgment on every single item, “Why do I need you?, What will you do for me?  How much do you weigh?  Are you worth it to carry on back!!!

Because it’s only February and it’s too early to prepare the menu and mail the packages, I’ve jumped ahead to phase III and every backpackers favorite winter hobby of dreaming how to lighten my pack.

Which brings us back around to…stove tests!

I’ve been using a Jet Boil (JB) for about 3 or 4 years, I knew it weighed a lot more, (4 x more than the smallest burner) but DAMN it boils fast!  I mean really fast, but I never bothered to quantify it.

I have noticed a proliferation of these very tiny burners that weigh 1- 1.5 ounces and have gone “WOW! I would like to use that and save weight!!”

Well, much to my satisfaction, I have now quantified the data between several stoves and have reached a conclusion.

Hold on!  Not so fast, first I need to tell you the framework for tests;

Goal – to find the best stove/pot/cup – AND FUEL CANISTER combination for a trip of at least 7 days, but not needing to exceed 7 days.

Best means lightest weight and enough fuel for at least 7 days.  Seven days means boiling (for the test) 2cups of water up to a maximum of 4 times in a 24hr period, for an expected burn schedule of; 1-2 cups for breakfast meal, 2 cups for 2 coffees, 2 cups for dinner package re-hydration, 1 cup for possible evening herbal tea, plus 1 cup extra.

Burns means bringing 2 cups of water to a boil.


  1. Burn time is not a factor because…well, there’s not much else to do in camp.

  2. Use of a fuel canister stove, with either small or large fuel cans, whichever provides the required number of burns.

  3. Canisters don’t need to last longer than 7 days because that’s the longest time between resupply.

  4. Minimum number of burns required is 28 (7 days of camping X 4 burns per day). This is the most important factor. (ok, this is an assumption and a requirement)

Note:  while reviewing manufacturer data on various stoves and their boil times and fuel usage, the common test factor was the time to boil 1 liter of water, with the water at 68F or room temperature.  I don’t think I’ve ever boiled more than 2 cups at a time and my “room” is the outdoors with the water (snowmelt) at least in the 40F range.  For my tests I used water stored outside with  temperatures in the 40’s.

Note:  For a weekend trip, the final best stove/fuel-can result is totally different because you may only need 4-8 burns.

Here are the tabular data, presented this way because the margins here are so narrow:

JET BOIL TEST 2 NO CUP 194 189 1 MIN 40 SEC 100
JET BOIL W CUP 126 121 1 MIN 50 SEC 110
BURNER W CUP 121 112 4 MIN 43 SEC 293
BURNER W SCREEN 112 101 3 MIN 10 SEC 190
POCKET ROCKET W CUP 208 194 2 MIN 14 SEC 134
JET BOIL TEST 2 NO CUP 5 270 20 464
JET BOIL W CUP 5 337 20 531
BURNER W CUP 9 80 11 274
BURNER W SCREEN 11 80 9 274
POCKET ROCKET W CUP 14 141 7 335
JET BOIL TEST 2 NO CUP 5 45 626 22
JET BOIL W CUP 5 45 693 24
BURNER W CUP 9 25 436 15
BURNER W SCREEN 11 21 436 15
POCKET ROCKET W CUP 14 16 497 18


So by selecting the JET BOIL W CUP (24 oz) vs the BURNER W CUP (15 oz), I carry 9 more oz. (wt = stove + cup+ large fuel canister)

The BURNER only gave me 25 burns VS 28 burn minimum and this is the limiting factor.  It gave me only 25 burns, whereas the JB gives a predicted 45 burns (large 220 gram can),  because my criteria was 4 2-cup burns per day, which I know in reality,  might be a bit high.

The number of BURNS is derived from dividing the grams of fuel used to boil 2 cups of 45F water into the total number of grams of fuel per small and large canister.  I conducted the test 3 times per stove and the results were pretty much the same for each test.

My hopeful expectation was that I could use the small burner with only 1 titanium 500ml cup which would double as both a pot AND a cup.  However, this is going to be my new weekend combo!

yours truly,

the end










Notes From February 2017


Another Selfie, Keystone, Colorado, Feb 2016

Getting ready for my annual ski trip to Keystone at the end of this month.  This has become an annual tradition for me.  I have a friend meeting me in Denver so we’ll be able to split the costs of the condo.

Staying at a Keystone property means you can just walk outside and catch the shuttle bus, which runs about every 20 minutes, and get dropped off very close to the lifts.  Skiing during the week means no crowds, which means you can do a lot of skiing.  So much so that my legs tend to start wobbling about mid-day on day two.  To try and help this, I try to do squats to work on my quads, but man, I can sure tell that I’m getting older!  After I do the squats my knees get sore even though I try to maintain good form.  Oh well, just need to try to not over do it.  I’m going to enjoy skiing, not to compete.

I may go it alone next year.  This is another case of me starting to resent always doing all the planning if I want to do something.  I make the room reservation, I make the car reservation, the guy I’ve gone with the past several years has never once taken the initiative to do any of that nor has he ever even offered to drive!  What I get out of it is somebody to share the costs and to possibly drive back to Denver if I break my leg.  I should be charging a sur-tax or fee for planning.

If you show up at the window in Keystone to buy a lift ticket, it will be $136 per day.  However, and it’s a huge however, you can buy a season pass for $300!  Which makes the daily rate for my trip $60 per day, an excellent deal!


Going backpacking this weekend on the AT here is Virginia.  Doing a hike called Three Ridges.  I’m using my new pack I bought this fall, an Osprey Exos 58.  This pack is an upgrade to the Exos 58


Old Pack, on an old guy (Bridger Wilderness, Wy August 2016)

I’ve had for a few years but felt I need to replace.


New pack, (I know, hard to see) Tinker Cliffs, Va, Nov 2016

The problem that bugged me to no end was that in order to save weight, they made the hip straps very narrow/thin and they would slowly but surely slip and come loose while I walked.  The pack straps where also pretty thin so any load approaching 35lbs was tough on the shoulders.  Anyway, this new model corrects that, but when I was in the VA Beach REI I was assured that a medium was my size (I had been using a large frame), the pack feels good and snug, but the shoulder straps barely come over my shoulders, so I’m going to try on a large when I head back to REI this week.


Better view of new pack, Three Ridges Maupin Shelter, AT, Virginia, Dec 2016

I’m going back to REI to return some trail runners I had to get on-line because they weren’t available in the store. I want to replace the Hoka one one Mafate 4 shoes I wore on the JMT last year with the next size down.


Marie Lake, JMT July 2016


Hoka One One, Mafate 4, trail runners

Well, wouldn’t you know it, they don’t carry those anymore so I had to try some of the other Hoka’s and other brands designed specifically for rough trail or off trail.  None of the others had the cushioning of the Mafate 4, but I was able to snag a pair on Amazon, tried them last night and they seem to be perfect.  The cushioning on the Hoka’s is fantastic!

I’m testing a new stove burner/pot combination.  I found a burner that weighs about 2 ounces and a cup that holds 2 cups (ha), that together weigh about 4 ounces.  I’m using the cup as the pot, eliminating a pot.  Done it twice, seems to work nice.  Saves about 15 ounces dropping my fantastic jet boil and now superfluous cup.  Not sure about the durability of the burner, but will find out this spring/early summer as I prep camp for the JMT in August.

I froze my ass off in my feathered friends 20 bag 2 weeks ago on the Tar Jacket Ridge abortive hike.  I tried to use the bag as a quilt, the bag has continuous baffles and allows you to spread the down across the bag to do this.  However, I didn’t do the math.  Spreading the down across both the top and bottom of the bag for a quilt, decreased the loft by half, increasing (decreasing) the comfort rating from 20 (which really means 35 normally) to probably 30-35F (which means 40).  Well it dropped down to 18F and I was really uncomfortable.  I did test out an Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme Mummy Bag Liner, which did help some.  The other problem I had and learned about, was about the use of a quilt in very cold temps.  With the quilt, I found that it’s very hard to keep it snug around you and if you don’t, the cold air gets in and prevents a warm air layer from forming.  By the time I gave up on the quilt idea and got into and zipped up the bag, I neglected to shake all the down back to the top side of the bag..oh well.

Going to try again this weekend.  This time I’ll make sure to keep the loft on top, but as insurance I’m bringing my 30 quilt to use as a top layer, just in case.  Temps are only expected to drop to about 32 anyway, not so bad.

JMT planning for August 2107 is going great.  I have a hiking companion for the first 14 days…excellent!  Will report on the plan later.