Titaniumophilia~~ A Wake-Up Call For Gram-Weenies

(1) Titanium is… The Fairy Queen in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Nope. That was Titania. Dang.

(2) Titanium is… Proof that you’ve spent more money on your cook set (or stove, or boot lace tips) than anyone else in your hiking group (extended family, city, state, province, country, continent).

(3) Titanium is… Proof that you’re trendy, and possibly an idiot, though still a trendy one. Let’s hope you can dress the part.

(4) Titanium is… A metal incorrectly described by absolutely everyone stupid as “amazingly lightweight and strong, and perhaps the way to go if you’re obsessive about ounces.”

(5) No, it isn’t. But what would you expect to read in Backpacker magazine?


Titanium is a metal. And titanium is light, compared to uranium, but not compared to steel.

Stoveless and cook-pot-less and fuel-less is the way to go if you’re obsessive about ounces, and can gag down cold suppers night after night.

Aluminum, however, is the way to go if you’re obsessive about ounces and grams and price, and if you like to compare the weight of your tools to the weight of their shadows.

Titanium is only 12% lighter than steel, though it has almost all of steel’s strength, while aluminum is 54% lighter than steel and still has 75% of steel’s strength (Spot the trend here?), which is enough for a cook pot.

Titanium doesn’t ding or dent very easily (because it’s tough, which is nice), and titanium is highly resistant to corrosion (which means that it stays pretty). Since it is tough, it can be rolled thin. The thinner the material, the less there is of it, and so the less the finished product weighs, even if it’s made from heavy materials, which is the real advantage of titanium.

But if you want a cooking pot and you don’t care a lot about exactly how pretty it is, but you do care about how heavy it is, then aluminum is the way to go. You sort of care about how tough a pot is and you probably care a whole lot about how much it costs. You may also kind of care how beat up it’s going to end up being, eventually, or not. Your call, eh?

Titanium as a material is significantly heavier and vastly more expensive than aluminum, but tougher, and those who own titanium items feel smarter because titanium looks new longer. A lot of people who feel that way don’t go backpacking because if they go backpacking they will get their clothes dirty and they will get tired, and what they really above all want is to keep that just-off-the-shelf, crisply-pressed, newly-unwrapped look, while continuing to smell of aftershave. Titanium will help with that.

Titanium is for them. Titanium is for people who don’t ever want to sweat or walk uphill or know that bugs might actually be attracted to them.


Thanks [and apologies for the mild reformatz] to // so says eff

For me, the bottom line is that aluminum is simply better for cooking… better and more even heating/conductivity, less scorching and burning, perfectly acceptable weight tradeoff… and way less moolah. It’s a 90%/50% thing.



Some Smalls…

Pretty self explanatory.

Got some nice little BIC™ sized lighters, but with long necks that make fire or stove starting much, much easier. Way easier to carry along, too.

Bright colors in case I drop ’em. I’ve got an orange one down in my cook kit already.

I have been using the black one for a couple of months now. It rides around in the pocket of my greatcoat for lighting my pipe, and it shows no sign yet of running out of gaz. From the makers of everyone’s favorite muck-about camp shoes… Crocks™.  I’ll probably grab another couple of bright colored ones in case they disappear.

Buck apiece down at the Dollar Tree.


Tree Table Mk.2 [usable]


Rummaging in the Room of Requirement behind the Moosenut Falls Development Labs produced a piece of 1/16th” aluminum salvaged from some long forgotten microwave. At 6″ x 11″, already indentation formed, and with a nice lip at the end to prevent anything from slipping off, it proved a decent piece for the next iteration of the tree table.

Five holes added with the drill press, together with five minutes worth of filing, provided a very sturdy, and useful platform. [ I added an extra hole that may have to be enlarged to accommodate the handle of a long titanium spoon]


20 ounces of water in the cook cup, and a fully fueled Trangia-style alcohol stove caused no appreciable “droop”.

I would still like to find a similar weight piece of aluminum that could be cut to 8″ x 10″… I think I would prefer that the windscreen be able to sit fully on the platform without drafting up from underneath. The added width might also let me use the heavy duty MSR Whisperlite bottle-fuel stove by hanging the pump bottle off the webbing… that thing will boil water in just over two minutes.

One side benefit is that for field use it would be the work of only a few moments to find a curved branch or a forked twig that could be slipped behind the webbing in between the carabiners and that would let you hang a keychain/microlight for illumination if you need to cook after dark.

One more reasonably successful piece of gear to haul along and try-out/demo at the hammock hang in a couple of weeks.

“Tree Table” Prototype

I have seen several versions of this, both as owner built, and for sale items.


In short, the idea is to have a little “table” that gets strapped to a tree trunk and allows you to use your cat food can stove up off of the ground. This proof-of-concept is a little narrow at only 6 inches, but I’m figuring that in a final size of about 8″w x 10″l, in aluminum stock and with a 4′ pull-thru tensioning strap and buckle, it ought to be good to go.

I am also wondering if a version could be made using standard carabiners.  This doesn’t have to support significant weight.

More dollar store stuff taking the place of expensive materials…

Smallwood-fired Tin-can Gasifier Stove


A few days ago I took 30 minutes and finally threw together my own version of the wood gasifier tin can stove. In the photo above you can clearly see the gas igniting from the ring of holes around the top of the interior can. This is a top burning stove, meaning that you load small pieces of wood to entirely fill the interior can and then build your initial fire on top which then burns downward. Since it is the gases that are released from the wood that actually burn, they are drawn downward through the stove and then back up the void between the two cans to re-ignite at the top of the stove. This gives a strong, hot flame right under your pot.

IMG_3124 IMG_3125 IMG_3127 IMG_3126


For this version I used three different cans. The largest was a coffee can with a “peel-off” top. This is a heavy duty aluminum foil seal that left a quarter inch rim around the top of the can that negated the need to cut open the top. Otherwise, you would need to empty the can somehow and then cut out a circular hole the diameter of the next smallest can. You can do this by drawing a circle the diameter of the interior can and then very carefully cutting out the metal with a pair of tin snips or a jigsaw. This can obviously be a pain in the ass. A down and dirty version would be with an old-fashioned “church-key” beer can opener that punches out the triangular shaped holes, making a complete circle of adjoining holes and leaving a 1/4″ edge. The interior can was from a Progresso soup, and the smallest can was of the cat food variety.

Once the top is cut out on the largest can, you make a row of equally spaced 1/2″ holes around the bottom. These are your air intake. I used tin snips to join two holes to provide a clean-out for the wood ash. The soup can has as many 1/4″ holes punched in the bottom portion as you can fit without violating its integrity. It’s top was simply removed with the rotary can opener. You then make a row of equally spaced 1/4″ holes around the top of the can 1/2″ down from the top. I used 10 holes on the larger can, and 24 around the top of the soup can.

The cat food can, which is used as a set off to raise your cooking pot, is the most difficult to deal with. The bottom of these cans are rounded over, and preserving that round-over is necessary for it to sit stably in the top of the Progresso can. This means more careful work with the tinsnips. You want to be able to cut cleanly right around the outermost groove in the bottom. It then has a row of eight half-inch holes for venting.

I think I made a mistake with the cat food can on this version. The holes probably should be adjoining the top edge. I accidentally pierced them at the bottom. I am going to make a second version of the standoff and see if changing the holes makes any difference.  In matter of fact, the number of holes used in each of the components seems to be open to debate. When I make the next model I will probably use a smaller number of holes to provide burners in the top of the soup can [at least]. I may also try making a larger version using a big tomato juice can and a tall baked-bean can.

Once the holes have been drilled, you simply start to wedge the smaller can inside the hole in the top of the coffee can with a slight rocking motion, so that you do not tear the metal rim. When it has started down, you can turn the whole rig over and just push down on the bottom of the coffee can to seat the soup can inside. If you have been careful, it will fit together so snugly that it can no longer be taken back out…. That’s why these photos don’t show the components separately.

Because my Olicamp cook-cup is nearly the same size as the set-off can, I used a 92mm fan grill from the back of an old computer case as a grate. Larger pots or fry pans will sit quite stably on just the set off.

Once the fire was established, I was able to bring eight or 10 ounces of water to a full bubble for coffee in just less than four minutes. Total burn time before I needed to add more wood was around 10 to 12 minutes. Now… there is no way to regulate the heat on this type stove. Cooking and simmering thicker foods will require constant monitoring, and stirring, to prevent them from burning. While it is not shown in the photographs, I found that it works wonderfully with the little aluminum flashing windscreen that I showed in an earlier post.

However, where this stove really proves itself a winner is in cooking or toasting things on a stick. I love to take along a little baggie of frozen, marinating meat that thaws out while I hike and cook it piece by piece over an open flame. This unit is perfect for that type of cooking. Think marshmallows!  Think “Lil’Smokie” wieners, think steak tips, or chicken chunks… hot, sizzling and with that certain kind of char that you can only get over open flames. No huge fire pit to maintain, and you can start your cooking within five minutes. Once you’re done cooking, you can maintain a nice, small fire to hang around by just adding thumb-sized stick-wood in through the top. You end up with all the enjoyment of an open fire in the tiniest of footprints. Left to burn out, the stove will have only fine, white, wood ash remaining to dispose of.  Truly “Leave No Trace”.