The Must Have Backpacking Gadget That You’ve Never Heard Of – And It Doesn’t Go In Your Pack!

Let’s face it, most of us use canister stoves.


They’re easy and convenient – a ‘no-fuss, no-muss’  way to cook!  (what is muss anyway?)

However, one of the little situations we all take for granted, is that little bit of fuel left in the can when we return from our latest hike.

No, this isn’t an article about alcohol or twig stoves.

What are you going to do with that almost empty can?

Do you grudgingly haul it, along with a full can, on your next trip, in hopes of using it up?

Do you put it on the shelf and watch them turn into a little collection?

Sometimes we just close our eyes and toss them in the trash, rationalizing that, ‘well, there’s probably worse stuff in that landfill.’

Recently my hiking buddy, Gunny, told me about a little thing he saw on YOUTUBE, which for the first time in a long time actually has that WOW! factor.


This little gadget, safely and easily, allows me to transfer unused fuel, from one can to another!

This led me to do some extensive research (no one wants to blow themselves up), I guess it’s in the nature of being a retired engineer to explore this.

Here’s how you do it.

  1. Get the valve.

  2. Have two cans, both partially or almost empty (doesn’t matter).

  3. I recommend chilling for just a bit, the can that is going to RECEIVE the fuel (call this the New Can). This lowers the vapor pressure in the can compared to the can you want to empty (Old Can) (which you want at room temperature). This just makes the fuel transfer a little easier.

  4. Make sure the valve is closed.

  5. Attach both cans to valve. The valve is ONE WAY, the direction is marked by bubbles, going from larger to smaller – this is the flow direction. You want the fuel to go from the Old Can to the New Can.

  6. The Old Can you want to empty (at room temperature) is on the valve side with the larger bubble.

  7. Open the valve. Wait a couple of minutes.

  8. Close the valve. Remove the cans.

  9. Shake the Old Can, it should have less fuel, preferably it will be empty.


Et Voila!

View the Video

You have just emptied out your old canister and can now safely dispose of it.

A Little Safety and Technical Stuff

If you have a scale for your smaller backpacking items (you should be weighing all your gear anyway!!), I suggest weighing and recording the before and after weights of both cans.

This is the best way to ensure that your fuel is going in the right direction and that you don’t overfill the new can.





A very short discussion about the smaller versions of the canisters

When you buy it off the shelf the label will read something like:

3.53 oz/100g  – This is content gas weight or how much gas is in the can.  This IS NOT the total weight of the CAN + GAS.


CAN + GAS  = 7 oz or 198 gr

GAS (alone) = 3.53 or 100 gr.

(let’s round this stuff off and only use grams)

FULL CAN = 200


If you weigh your can before a hike, and it reads 150, that means you have 50 gr of fuel or about half a can.

The closer you get to 200, the fuller the can.

The closer the can is to 100, the closer to being empty.

By the way, if you read my stove article, my jetboil uses 5 gr to boil two cups of water. So a new, small can, with 100 gr of fuel, should give me 20 burns (100 divided by 5), sorry, division used there.

Ok, back to transferring the gas.


Don’t do this around open flames!

Make sure the area is well ventilated, like outside, in the backyard.

When are you filling the NEW CAN, you just don’t want it to exceed 200 – OK?  Keep it safe and maybe only fill it to 190 (gr).

Again, I demonstrate the process here. video.

When you finally do it, it is sooo easy!

To get comfortable with this process, try doing just a little bit at a time and weighing the cans to make sure one is getting lighter and one is getting heavier.

A note on any concerns about the valves.  This adapter is the EXACT SAME connection as your canister stove and should have no more or less effect on the valve properties.

Where do get this valve?

I got mine on Amazon.



Next Post:  Going beyond simply emptying old cans:  refilling cans with ‘off the shelf’ fuel (as in butane cans you didn’t know were sold at your local Ace Hardware) and saving a lot of money.

You Don’t Have To Become A Thru-Hiker To Become A Backpacker

If you’re reading this, odds are, you are probably NOT a ‘thru-hiker’ – But that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to be one.

In fact, you’re probably not a backpacker at all!

You probably enjoy reading about and following those who are in the process of starting – or have completed, one of the

most epic journeys that the average person will ever undertake.

You probably even live a little vicariously through these special backpackers on their grand adventure.

But sometimes reading about these fantastic mileages – 2000, 3000 mile hikes, 25 mile days, pack weights so low they seem impossible, can be so intimidating.

And equipment!  Equipment so varied, so specialized, (and expensive!) it’s easy to just say, why bother, I’ll just stay at home and read about it.

Thru-hiking is at one end of the spectrum, weekend backpacking trips are at the other.  Professional athletes just don’t walk on to a pro team, there is a logical start up, just like backpacking.

I have read many stories of thru-hikers who have said they had never hiked at all before deciding to “do” the AT or PCT.  They just up and decided to do it, went out and bought some gear and with a little food and planning (or not) just started walking, after all, it is just walking.

A few of those even make it to the end the first time around, but all invariably learn and adjust as they go, but not without a lot of pain and anguish.

This would be the exception of the rule of learning how to backpack.

If you want to get away from the trail head, away from the campground and get into the forest and into the mountains, I say… you can do it.  Anyone can do it.

One of the many John Muir quotes:

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

I work with many folks brand new to backpacking or those who want to try it.  It’s so easy to say, just get a pack and go!

In reality, so many of us have jobs and mortgages, and kids in school, so we’re not taking off 6 months out of the year to hike.

The one thing that you and I have in common with the “thru-hiker”, is a sense of and longing for adventure.  And backpacking is that ultimate adventure that is right here, right in front of us, available for the taking!


The First Step Is Always The Hardest

The sphere of knowledge around backpacking and the things you will learn, and the confidence you will gain is almost unbelievable.

I have had said for years that backpacking is actually a gateway drug for mountaineering.

You will learn about tents, and shelters, and ground cloths, and stoves (and stoves and more stoves..), and fuels, and little teeny pots, and long handled spoons.  You’ll learn hundreds of foods that you can pack in baggies and cook with just a little boiling water.

You will learn about first aid – and making a kit that fits in a very very small stuff sack.  You’ll discover maps and navigation tools that you never even knew existed.  You’ll gain knowledge about animals, and vegetation, and hanging ‘bear bags’.  You’ll develop new a understanding of the insulating values of sleeping bags, and water bottles, quick drying fabrics, layering, and boots.  OMG you’ll learn about sandals, and trail runners, and lightweight boots.

You’ll become an expert on the pros and cons of waterproof footwear.  You’ll learn about ten different ways to purify water, and how much water that you personally need to carry.  And you’ll learn how to carry all this stuff on your back and into the wilderness!

And you will love it.  And it will change you… forever.

And you don’t need to hike 25 miles or 3000 miles to learn it, to enjoy it.

You will need to find a place you want to visit, a friend or friends to go with, maybe a local hiking group, maybe to a nearby National Forest or State campground, but you do have to take that first step out of your car and get started.

And having the right equipment?

Here’s a little secret, there isn’t a backpacker alive who doesn’t own multiple sleeping bags, multiple tents, and for Gosh sakes, multiple stoves!

Accumulate what you think you’ll need to sleep and cook a meal, maybe go in the spring or summer,  (IMHO winter is not the best time to start) and I guarantee you’ll start making adjustments to your kit.

One of the surest things you’ll hear around the campfire are folks talking about equipment.  The funniest part will be, absolutely everyone will be saying “If I only had that ONE THING my trip would be perfect”.  “If I just had that lighter/warmer sleeping bag or that lighter/roomier tent, or that newest stove….etc.,etc.,etc.!”

And if you can’t find anyone to go with…well, just give me a call, we can learn together.

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.



Winter musings, 22 Jan, 2017


Bridger Wilderness, Wind River Range

I have two sayings that I share with people when hiking in the mountains;

1 – What goes down must come up! (get it?   Trails that go down, almost certainly will head up once again!)

2 – There’s no such thing as a “small accident” in the mountains  .  When you are miles or days from a trail head and/or rescue it pays to be safe.  The smallest of benign acts or carelessness can lead to some pretty big consequences.


I also have the bad habit, which I’m a trying to fix, of chastising people for not carrying a map or not knowing how to use one or relying on a stranger for directions and keeping them from getting lost.  I am also constantly  showing companions how to stay found, continually showing them where we are on the map and how I determined this (usually pretty darned easy as I’m almost always on a trail.  It’s knowing ‘ where’ on the trail that’s the challenge.)  Probably a huge part of this is some sort of deep seated fear of getting lost myself.  I always carry a map.  Most always I have a compass.  Once in while I’ll carry my GPS.  Sometimes I carry a phone app.

I was using Backcounty Navigator Pro on my android, but now that I have an Iphone, I’ll probably get Gaia in the near future.  I don’t like to rely on the phone apps but they did bail our asses out last summer in the Bridger Wilderness when we couldn’t pin point an old abandoned trail head which was on older maps but extremely hard to locate.


McAfee Knob, Appalachian Trail, Virginia

While taking a group on a Tinker Cliffs – McAfee Knob hike this past November, my Tarptent Notch zippers, on both vestibules, started coming open and wouldn’t stay zipped.  The wind at the Campbell Shelter on the AT was really howling and testing the tents, but thank god it wasn’t raining or I really would have been pissed.  The tarptent website has a page for cleaning and fixing zippers but I used this as an excuse for purchasing a new Zpacks Duplex Tent.  This weighs in at 21oz vs 31oz (tent plus ground cloth) -AND- it has TWICE the floor space – WOW!

highres_456443032I’m getting old and don’t know how much longer I’ll be backpacking, so I had one of those “what the hell am I waiting for” moments.  My Notch and I have had a great 3 or 4 years together, I’m a little sad it’s gone to a back-up status, but, oh well!


Just One More JMT Video

When I was planning my JMT thru hike I found hundreds of videos on Youtube, most were around 30 minutes, some around 1 hour long, almost none were useful for planning purposes.


I was looking for information on passes and especially water crossings and general scenery to get a feel for the hike overall.

Lots of information on the Yosemite lower section.  Lots of selfie video while walking.  But most was not very useful for planning.


When I take photos, I usually have in the back of my mind, taking photos that will aid in someones future planning, information I could have used.

So anyhow, I threw all or most of my pix and vids into a 56 min vid that I hope planners will fine useful.

So here it is, click here!


Backpacking Bridger Wilderness, Wind River Range, August 2016

Gunny drove down and stayed at my house on Thursday.  On Friday we got up at 3am and drove to the Patrick Henry airport in Hampton. (yawn)

To view all the photos, click here.

Going through TSA, the feds found a zip lock full of bullets Gunny had forgotten about in his camera bag – SURPRISE!, and called the police, YIKES!

No problem, but they made a fuss, and kept the bullets and let us (him) go on the trip, WHEW!!

In Charlotte we met up with Biscuit, Jai, and Mike and flew together on to Denver.  Mike rented the car and we were off to Pinedale, arriving about 6pm, where we all checked into the Hampton Inn.

About 7pm we met up with the rest of the gang, minus Bob, Cathlyn, and Zack and had beers at the Wind Rivers Brewery. DSC03544

On Saturday morning we met up with the others for breakfast, then headed off to the only outfitters in town for last minute stuff.

Then we visited the Museum of the Mountain Man.  After that we drove up to the Elkhardt Trail Head (@9500′) for acclimatization.  We took a hike to a scenic overlook called Sacred Ridge and took lots of photos.



We then drove back to Pinedale (@7100′), stopping at the grocery store/hardware store/liquor store for more supplies and booze and fishing licenses.

We all met up again for dinner at the brewery for a last minute planning and pre-trip trip feast!

Sunday were off to the trailhead and hiked to Upper Sweeny Lake.

Monday we hiked to Lost Lake.  The trail was sort of sketchy and we got pretty stretched out with those in the back having some trouble finding the path.  We all made it down to the lake, but a few were pretty pissed off that those in front hadn’t waited at spots where the trail was hard to find so we had a tribunal to discuss leaving cairns to make the turns or someone just waiting around for those coming from behind.  After that was sorted out, we didn’t have any route issues for the rest of the trip.

On Monday night, I scouted out the un-maintained trail for Tuesday and couldn’t find it, leaving me a bit worried that night.  In my tent I realized we were looking for the trail in the wrong place, so Tuesday, after the water crossing we used the map apps to locate the real trail (whew!) and after that had no route finding problems.

On Tuesday the trail up to the ‘big water slide’  and Fremont Crossing was pretty rugged and slow going, as was what I’ll call ‘Fremont Basin’ up and over to the plateau leading to Lower Jean Lake.

Our large group was going pretty slow, so we decided to go head and camp at Lower Jean Lake, but it turned out to be a fantastic camp site with tremendous views and outstanding fishing.

Bob caught a fish EVERY SINGLE TIME he cast his line!  He had found THE SPOT.  When he got tired, he handed is pole to Cathlyn, who then proceeded to catch a fish every time she cast!  DAMN!

But this was all after dinner, so it was catch and release.

Wednesday we hiked up to and past Island Lake, to an unnamed lake at 10,467, where we forded a creek and found another fantastic camp site.

We camped there both Wednesday and Thursday, fished and day hiked all around, the highlight being a hike to Titcomb Basin.

We experienced a few short thunder showers almost every day.  The storms would roll in, the temperatures would drop, getting pretty cold sometimes, then the storm would pass, sometimes rain, sometimes not, then the sun would come back out.

Thursday evening the rains came in about dinner time, forcing dinners in the tents.  This time the rain lasted until about 8pm.  The rain returned about 9 and it rained until about midnight so we had to pack up wet tents on Friday.

On Friday we were hiking towards Middle Sweeny Lake and making very good time, so we all decided to go ahead and hike the final 6 miles to the trail head and call it a trip.  It was a long day, about 13 miles or so.

On the last leg of the hike in, we got a combination of rain, hail, and sleet to cap off the trip.  And, wouldn’t you know it, as we neared the trail head, the sun came out, drying everyone out and allowing lots of photos and high-fives as each of us entered the parking area!

We drove back down to Pinedale, managed to get rooms in the Hampton Inn, and a had fantastic post trip feast at the Brewery.

Saturday morning we all met at the Wrangler Diner (thanks Happy (Anna)!) for another giant feast.

What a great end to a fantastic trip!