Anyone for a brew?

Alpkit MytiMug, Vargo Triad Stove, Nalgene Bottle for Fuel

After receiving a comment on the blog on the performance of the Vargo Triad stove, I realised that I hadn’t reported back following my first impressions (and setting fire to my hand following some carelessness with the Meths).

The Alpkit MytiMug packed with the bew kitAs you can see from the pictures, it now forms part of the lightweight brew-kit, which I take on overnight trips. On the basis of the stove’s performance on the hill, I will restrict use to during Spring, Summer and Autumn, though, as I am not convinced of its four-season effectiveness.

Based on using the stove over the last two to three months, I have a number of observations, although I should point out that I have not used it with Esbit tablets.

One of the major issues with using the Vargo is finding an appropriatefuel bottle. It is nigh on impossible to fill the stove via the perilously small filling aperture with a standard plastic Meths bottle. Vargo do supply their own – available from – although I came across my solution be accident.

I happened to purchase a collection of Nalgene bottles for various odds and sods for our car camping trips and found an (almost) ideal solution. In the pack were two bottles with flip-top pouring spouts similar to the Vargo model.

These, I feel, are essential for the safe, controlled filling of the stove. I have housed Meths in these bottles for a couple of months now with no leakage problems.

The Nalgene fuel bottleThe bottle holds enough for four ‘burns’, sufficient for an overnight trip.

It almost fits inside my Alpkit MytiMug along with the stove – both in a small sealable plastic bag as an extra measure.

Other essential additional kit is a windshield which I’ve cut from some fine gauge foil sourced from It is likely that this additional measure would not be needed with a homemade ‘Coke can’ stove or one of the similar proprietary units as these are hard to blow out.

Finally, I’ve taken some pliers to the stove to carefully splay the pan supports further apart to support my Alpkit mug.

As far as boil times are concerned, they vary greatly in accordance with conditions.The best for a mug full (750mls) was 17 minutes. Figure more on 20-25 mins for a pint of tea… or for a more normal brew and enough to re-hydrate an Expedition Meal.

I have never primed the stove by placing a cap of fuel underneath. This gets the little perimeter ‘jets’ burning more quickly (within a minute in some cases) and thus speeds the boil times.

The Vargo Triad brings a pint of water to the boil and keeps it thereTotal weight for my kit including fuel for a night, pot, and stove comes in at less than 300g. Of course, using a smaller Ti mug could reduce this. The weight compares very well with a gas solution (Pocket Rocket), but over a number of days the benefits become negligible in terms of the weight of Meths v gas canister equation.

On reflection, the stove is very neat but has limitations. That said, it’s never blown out, lights easily, cools very quickly and offers a compact water heating option that can be used in a tent porch, if you are careful.

This has to be weighed against the convenience and efficiency of gas, though.

Given other product now available on the UK market, in particular the Caldera Cone, I can’t honestly recommend the Triad.

Vargo Triad – first impressions

So I just had to try my new Vargo Triad stove before I use it in anger on the hill.

Never having used an alcohol stove before, even a Trangia, and being rather clumsy, it seemed approVargo Triad at full powerpriate to spark it up in the workshop.

All I can say is: beware. Although I had been warned, filling the stove from a meths bottle is tricky. I spilled the spirit and, thinking the excess had evaporated away, then had a mini inferno on my hands – quite literally as I was left with a nasty scold on two fingers.


Note to self: get a suitable container in future.

After making the work area safe again, it was time for round two. You need to fill the Triad carefully so there’s a small pool of meths in the recessed central well. This acts as a primer.

Light the well and leave the stove for a minute or so. The spirit vaporises and small jets appear from the small holes on the outside. Simple.

As in the demonstration at the Backpackers AGM, the flame is quite large and fairly hot. Vargo Triad with Alpkit Mytimug Titanium Pot

Placing a pot of water on the stove, which feels stable and would be better if the legs were buried in the ground, half a litre of water boiled in around 8 mins.

This is considerably better than performance on the hill and you will need a good windshield. I will make one out of some thin foil from

The stove will burn for around 20 mins on one tank, more than enough for a litre of water to re-hydrate some food and make some tea. .The stove works silently, too, which will seem a little strange if, like me, you’ve used a noisy Pocket Rocket for years. Unlike the ‘Rocket, there’s no simmering flexibility, though.

Despite my pyrotechnical misdemeanour, all seems good with this little stove. If I can find a decent littel bottle with a good seal then I think I’m going to enjoy using this minimalist stove for overnighters and short trips.

UPDATE: Just tried the Vargo outside in wind and thought I’d push it to the limit, as it were. With a home made windshield, it just failed to bring 850mls of water to the boil before it fizzled out. I thought it might have managed it, to be honest, but this little experiment confirms my view that it will be adequate for the applications I intend to use it for.

Backpackers descend on Derbyshire…

I’ve just returned from the annual shindig by the Backpackers Club, which took place in the beautiful surroundings of Ashford-in-the-Water, near Bakewell.

Judging by the array of digital cameras on display, I have a feeling that other bloggers will offer a more comprehensive account of the day. Being a rather poorly prepared correspondent, I actually left Manchester without my camera. For pics and views see the whitespider1066 blog.

Nevertheless, I feel it’s still a worthwhile exercise to give my impressions of this event, and some thoughts on the gear on display.

To give you a flavour of this get together, it essentially feature a handful of familiar suppliers in the lightweight backpacking market and, importantly, the opportunity to see demonstrations of the gear, have a poke around in lightweight tents, and essentially make your own mind up. It’s a free event, too, and some club members quite rightly opt to camp and make a weekend of it.

However liberating the Internet is, particularly for more marginal pursuits such as lightweight backpacking, there’s no substitute for actually seeing the stuff and this is where the show really scores.

The most pointed example of this had to be the demonstrations of lightweight alcohol stoves by the folk from Credit must go to that ever-enthusiastic podcaster Bob Cartwright for understanding the correlation between showing folk how stuff performs and money in his till!

Vargo Triad Stove reviewHis demonstration of the White Box and the Vargo Triad stoves was excellent. If, like me, you have been sceptical of these little brew-makers, think again. The pictures on various websites don’t do them any justice.

The White Box, although taking a couple of minutes to get going, really does kick out a lot of heat. As Bob acknowledged, it is not a stove to use lightly in a tent if the weather’s poor. The size and ferocity of the flame also necessitates a large pot. However, you will be supping your tea or tucking into your dehydrated curry far more quicker than with the Triad.

That said, and to quote the demonstrator, the Vargo is a much more ‘subtle stove’. The heat may not be as intense, but it is far more controlled. To illustrate the last point, a good blow will put the Vargo out. Covering with a cup or pot will kill the White box. Failing that, call the fire brigade!

The Vargo also impressed me by the way you can embed the lower legs in the grass for stability and pour any excess meths back into the bottle when the stove is cool. It’s a duel fuel unit too as you can flip it over and use Esbit tablets.

An effective windshield for both stoves can be small given their low profile, such shielding being more critical for the Vargo.

Weight is about the same for both, the White Box coming in at around 30g, the Vargo 28g.

You could argue that both these stoves are a more sustainable cooking choice, too. There’s no throwing empty gas canisters away, meths burns more ‘sustainably’ – if you believe what you read – and the White Box is a recycled aluminium container. Both are cheaper to run, the fuel is widely available, and the stoves are so simple they won’t develop faults.

You might have gathered that I didn’t leave empty handed… I’m now a proud owner of the Vargo Triad and I’ll give some feedback using this stove at a later date.

Go Lite Shangrila 2 reviewThere were plenty of tents on display, always a favourite of mine. The new Go-Lite Shangrila range took price of place down by the main exhibition hall. These single-skin, floorless shelters have much to offer it seems. The Shangrila 2 pitches with two walking poles and offers acres of space for very little weight… 708g.

Of course, you would need to add with weight of a light ground sheet and/or bivvy bag but this shelter set still offers a great deal for one sizable individual (me) or two for the weight. Bugs will be a problem in some areas, unless you use the nest. The weight advantages then start to become negligible for solo backpackers though.

On its own, it may be an option for me in a bid to cure the headroom problems of my much-loved Akto. Price is a very reasonable £99.

Also on show were the Shangrila 3 (a reworking of the popular Go Lite Hex), the 4 and a simply enormous version, which I think was the 6-person or the eight-plus. I didn’t get the opportunity to check as it was drawing so much attention from the crowd.

The tents appear to be very well made and stable. They are also available in a far subtler sage-green colour, too. Up at the campsite and the tent display field (yes, there was more) a range of minimalist Black Diamond and MSR tents was on show alongside the more established Terra Nova Lasers, Solars, Voyagers and Quasars and some Vaude models.

Vadue Power Space IIIThe latter manufacturer included their new Power Space III and a variation on an old favourite, the Hogan XT. These are not super-lightweight by any stretch of the imagination, but they would make great basecamp shelters and appear bombproof.

Big Agnes Seedhouse tents in various sizes were also pitched and the prompted sceptical comments from some who felt uncomfortable with the amount of mesh on the inner for UK conditions, and the steepness of the door.

These are very long shelters but the apparent headroom advantages are negligible due to the sharpness of the main curved ridgepole. You can view a video by the Hike Lite guys on how to pitch the Seedhouse on You Tube.
Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2 review

Tents are always a compromise, but I think these well made shelters have to be worth a look if you’re looking for a new solo backpacking tent.I was more interested in the Big Agnes Sleeping Bags on show.

Impressed with my Three-wire Bivy, I might be in the market for a minimalist summer sleeping bag and like the idea of their sleep system, which integrates the back pad with sleeping bag – not dissimilar to the Rab Quantum Top Bag idea.

The model the tickled my fancy is the Big Agnes Pitchpine, which comes in at around 500g in the long version and it rated at 5 deg C. It has down on the top and a sleeve/fixing straps on the bottom to secure it to your sleeping pad. A hoodless design, it also has a natty little pouch for a folded fleece to create a pillow. The one that didn’t overly impress me, though, was the price: £240. This seems steep when compared to the Rab.

Back at the hall the Alpkit guys were doing a roaring trade with their discount gear and the Expedition Foods stand had samples for people to try.

Fearing that my wallet would be the only truly lightweight thing resulting from the day, I went for a wander down the Wye and watched some trout and grayling sipping flies off the surface.

No doubt helped by the spring sunshine, this had been a worthwhile trip and credit should go to the Backpackers’ Club and the exhibitors. Some may feel that the show needs to be bigger, but that would dilute its spirit.

As it stands, it’s worth the trip and next year I’ll be bringing my pack and camping out…

Expedition Foods
Outdoor Warehouse
Ultralight Outdoor Gear