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Review: Simple Theory Gear Pack Stove

I like twig stoves for backpacking and, in spite of trying several, I’ve mostly stuck with the same one for years – long enough to be intimately familiar with everything I dislike about my particular twig stove. Along came Simple Theory Gear with a stove, The Pack Stove, that seemed to address every single issue I was having with my tabbed construction, flat pack style stove. I am going to spoil this review right here in the first paragraph… The Pack Stove isn’t perfect but it is as close to it as I have found. It’s really, really good.

Overview

The Pack Stove is a twig stove (or bio stove) with a cylindrical shape. It’s is made from 304 stainless steel that is significantly thicker than the steel found on most twig stoves. In spite of that thicker steel, it still weighs in at 11.8 ounces which is similar or even less than many steel flat pack or hinged stoves.

The design is the real story here. Instead of packing flat, the Pack Stove is designed to nest. It nests on water bottles with a similar diameter to the standard 32 ounce Nalgene. It only has one loose part, the top grate, which can be stowed on the stove itself.

These are the only two parts of The Pack Stove.

Observations from Use

Background with Twig Stoves – In order to appreciate The Pack Stove, I think you probably need a background with other twig stoves. Most twig stoves on the market are box-shaped and fall into two categories: those that assemble with tabs/slots and those that are hinged.

Both of these types of stoves require assembly in some form. Hinged stoves are easier to work with but are not without their issues thanks to the warping that seems to come standard with any thin metal box that holds a fire. Basically, they all require fiddling, especially when it comes to their grates which are often some sort of cross-member design.

Little to No Fiddle Factor – The fiddle factor for flat-pack style twig stoves is made more annoying by their tendency to warp and the fact that there is no way to disassemble them without leaving your hands looking like you just swept your chimney. Almost any twig stove on the market will work but the fiddle-factor is what is most likely to turn you off.

The Pack Stove does away with almost all fiddle factor. In fact, it is really no more fiddly than something like a canister stove. There are no hinges, tabs, slots, or cross members. You simply take the one-piece grate off the bottom of the stove where it is stowed, attach it to or rest it on the top and start burning. Then, when it is time to put it away, you can quench the entire stove with water or snow without fear of excessive warping and be on your way. The ability to quench the stove without worry is a key feature.

My stove came with a burlap stuff sack but current production stoves will have a new stuff sack.

Little to No Warping – Warping is extremely common in most flat pack twig stoves. To be fair, it is mostly an inconvenience that makes assembly/disassembly a pain but not a real deal-breaker. The Pack Stove, however, seems to be HIGHLY resistant to warping thanks to its thicker steel stock and stong cylinder shape. The only parts I have warped even slightly are the grate retainer tabs on the top and these are designed to be easily fixed using the grate itself as a key to space them. The bottom line is that warping, even if quenched with water or in snow, is not an issue.

Strong Burner – All twig stoves are somewhat sensitive to airflow. If you have used one, you’ve noticed the extra smoke that is created when the stove starts to choke a bit. Some stoves will start to choke when the coal/ash bed is too deep. Some start to choke with large diameter pots or pans that cover too much of their upper vents.

The Pack Stove with its numerous side ports, raised and ventilated bottom plate, and an air gap at the top seems to breathe well in all the conditions that I tried. It does especially well at holding a coal bed. It burns remarkably well in spite of the more compact firebox than what I am used to.

Versatility – This stove is versatile. It works well in its intended function, burning twigs, but it is also designed to work well as a windscreen and pot stand for alcohol stoves. To use The Pack Stove with a spirit burner, just turn it upside down and place it over your burner. This shields the burner from wind (though you may need additional shielding on really windy days) and creates nearly perfect head spacing for the jets when used with a Trangia (or similar). This is a nice feature for those who may spend time above treeline or other places where wood can be scarce.

Simple Theory Gear has mentioned the possibility of a titanium version of this stove sometime in the future. If they do manage to bring that to market, I could see people who use alcohol stoves as their primary cooking method carrying The Pack Stove as their pot stand/windscreen just to have the emergency redundancy of being able to use it as a twig stove should they run out of fuel.

The Pack Stove works well as a windscreen and pot stand for Trangia and similar spirit burners/alcohol stoves.

Details – There are a few other details of The Pack Stove that I appreciate. The way the grate stows on the bottom of the stove creates a chamber that can be used to stow fire-starting materials like birch bark for your next burn.

I also appreciate the synergy that this stove has with the Stanley Adventure Camp Cook Set which I have previously reviewed. They can be nested together and the pot is basically the perfect size for use with this stove. The narrow shape seems to be optimized for this stove, allowing for plenty of air to get to the fire and seeming to have all the heat focused directly into it. This is no accident. While The Pack Stove will work with just about any cook pot you can safely balance on it, the designer is also a fan of the Stanley Adventure Camp Cook Set.

I can’t say enough about the nesting aspect of The Pack Stove’s design. Flat pack twig stoves are nice in that they, well… pack flat. However, they still have to be stowed somewhere in your pack. In a sense, The Pack Stove takes up ZERO additional space in your pack because it shares a spot that was already occupied by a water bottle.

Not Quite Perfect – The review has been rightly glowing so far but I don’t want to give the idea that The Pack Stove is perfect. There are some things that I would change about it. For instance, I don’t see why the grate has to be “locked” on the top. This is perhaps the only fiddly part of working with the stove and the locking slots are really the only part of the stove that you might wrap. I would like to see simple indexing depressions that the grate could rest in so it could be lifted off easily but wouldn’t slide around.

I also think the feed port could be larger or at least flared toward the top where is more space between ents to allow for easier feeding and the use of larger wood chunks while the pot is in place. It is very workable now but a little more space to feed and position twigs might be nice.

Finally, given that The Pack Stove nests on a water bottle or the Stanley Adventure Camp Cook Set so well, it would be nice if the included stuff sack was tall enough to accommodate those items in addition to the stove. The included sack is made of burlap and is a bit of a tight fit. I could just leave it at home but I find that it makes a handy place to rest twigs off the snow. Simple Theory Gear does have a new stuff sack that might already address this.

Add a bit of scouring pad to cut down on the metal-on-metal rattle. It’s handy for cleaning and maintenance too.

Pro Tips – If you have never used a twig stove, here are some tips that probably hold true for most stoves but work especially well with The Pack Stove. First, carry pliers or some other way of handling hot items – a multitool works fine. It will make your life a lot easier when you need to handle a hot stove.

Second, carry a bit of scouring pad wedged in between the stove and your nested water bottle or pot. It will reduce the rattling a bit and it can be used to clean up your pot, inside and out. It is also handy for cleaning rust off tools like hatchets and knives in cold or wet weather.

Third, fold a few layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil into a square and place your stove on it while you burn. It can help keep the stove level on snow, serve as a catch for ashes and coals, and it will help reflect heat back up into your pot. Foil can also be used to make other handy items like a cup or hot pad in a pinch.

Finally, you can start cooking on these twig stoves pretty much as soon as the fire is going. However, if you want a more maintenance-free, less finicky burn, give the stove a few minutes to build up a coal base before placing your pot on top.

Wrap Up

If you are like me and you already like twig stoves, you probably took one look at The Pack Stove and saw the potential. If you have thought about trying a twig stove, just start here. The bottom line is that it is much easier to live with and use than other stoves. The Pack Stove is one smart twig stove.

SimpleTheoryGear.com

Disclosure: The Pack Stove was provided to me by Simple Theory Gear, free of charge, for the purposes of this review.

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Review: Stanley Adventure Camp Cook Set

Sometimes, you get what you pay for. Sometimes, you get a lot more than you paid for. The latter is certainly the case with the Stanley Adventure Camp Cook Set. I’ve owned this cook set for years and I’ve been using it a lot lately with my new Simple Theory Gear Pack Stove which has reminded me of how much I like it.

This cook set has so many thoughtful features that this review could end up being entirely too long so I will try to hit the highlights in outline form.

Price and Availability – The price is impressive at a glance and it only gets more impressive as you read on. This cook set costs $15 and includes the pot with locking handle (locks open and closed to retain the lid), a lid, and two insulated plastic cups that nest inside the pot. Not only that, but you can get it locally at Wal-Mart or online on Amazon (Prime). It doesn’t get much more affordable or available than that.

Form – Initially, I thought I might dislike the tall, narrow shape of the Adventure Camp Cook Set. Wider pots are usually going to perform better than narrower pots for tasks like melting snow for water. However, I’ve come to appreciate the shape and size over time. It is easy to pack. It is the right diameter for use with most nesting cups (the type that will nest on a 32 ounce Nalgene or similar bottle) and its lid can be shared with said nesting cups. It is still wide enough to fit small canister stove fuel canisters inside yet narrow enough to fit in your pack’s water bottle pockets. Basically, the size and shape are just right.

Details – This cook set is packed with thoughtful details. The handle is long enough that it stays well away from the flame which keeps it cool. The handle also locks over the lid which keeps anything you carry in the pot from spilling out which is handy because this will fit in exterior water bottle pockets of many packs.

The pot has useful graduation markings. Even the included 10 ounce cups have an 8 ounce/1 cup marking which any camp cook will find useful!

The lid can be used with any common 95mm/3.75 inch diameter nesting cup or small pot. If you want to save some weight, the lid can be swapped with lighter weight titanium or aluminum lids available for this common size. Heck, you might even have one already. The bottom of the pot tapers so you can nest a cup on it which can make for a great and compact two pot set up.

Stainless Steel and Weight – The pot is made from stainless steel so it isn’t as light as aluminum or titanium. However, it is still relatively lightweight at just under 14 ounces for the whole set. The pot alone weighs just under 8 ounces. Each cup weighs about 3 ounces so removing one or both of those saves significant weight but they are actually really nice cups/bowls. The cups are actually nice enough that I use them at home sometimes and have a hard time not bringing at least one.

8-14 ounces depending on configuration isn’t that heavy especially when you consider how well a steel pot transfers heat and how easy it is to care for in the field compared to other metals. This is the kind of pot that you can put directly on a campfire or twig stove without concern. Just scour it quickly with a Scotch-Brite pad or a wad of dried ferns and move on.

Wrap Up

This pot has the kind of details that you really want in a cook set but, surprisingly, many of these details are lacking in much more expensive pots. It even has some details that are just really unexpected but cool. This would be a great deal at twice the price.

As I mentioned above, you can find these in just about any Wal-Mart outdoor section for $15. If you need an even easier way to add one to your kit, Amazon has them for the same price with Prime shipping (affiliate link): Stanley Adventure Camp Cook Set on Amazon

Lynch Northwest Replacement Pocket Clips

I recently purchased a Spyderco Para 3. It has been a delight to carry and use except for one nagging issue – the factory clip placement sucks. Spyderco designed the Para 3 with the same size lanyard hole as the Paramilitary 2 which means there is less room at the butt end for the clip on the smaller Para 3. This means the clip had to be placed in such a way that the knife carries very high in the pocket and it took up most of the side of the knife. It felt like a strange oversight from the company that invented the pocket clip.

Fortunately, there is a solution to the problem. Lynch Northwest makes a variety of pocket clips for many popular knife brands. Their clips are made in the USA from titanium and feature a looped shape that provides a very deep carry. Their clips are lifetime warrantied against loss of tension or breakage which is impressive considering how many clips I’ve broken over the years by catching them on car doors, door frames, table tops, etc.

Lynch Northwest happens to make a clip specifically for the Para 3 that addresses my issues with the factory clip (it’s nice to know that I’m imagining the problems with the original). I bought one and I’m thrilled with it. It provides a more sensible carry depth and is relieved so that it doesn’t interfere with the lanyard hole. It’s proportions also fit better with the size envelope of the Para 3 which improves how the knife fits in your hand. It’s a simple and elegant solution that makes the Para 3 a much better knife.

Lynch Northwest makes a variety of clips for knives you probably already own. If you’ve ever broken a pocket clip, you’ll appreciate their warranty. Check them out at LynchNW.com.

Review: OC Tactical KGB and KGB 2.0

I’ve used an OC Tactical Kickass Grocery Bag (KGB) for years now to carry just about anything. It’s a great do-all bag for everything from firewood, to gear for a range session, to groceries (which, ironically, I have never carried in it). I have come to love the simple utility of that bag so when OC Tactical rolled out a new and improved KGB 2.0, I couldn’t resist trying it out.

KGB (right) and KGB 2.0 (left)

Overview and Improvements

The KGB is kind of like those reusable grocery bags available at a lot of higher-end grocery stores… except its actually made in such a way that the handle won’t blow out on the second time you use it (or ever). The original KGB featured 1000D Cordura Nylon construction with a one-piece, seemless Vinyl Coated Polyester bottom that is completely waterproof. The handles are made from 1.5″ wide webbing and are long enough to put on your shoulder.

The new KGB 2.0 has all of that but also has some additions. It has a removable shoulder strap (the strap is included). It also has an internal lanyard clip so you can hang items like keys inside the top edge of the bag. Finally, OC Tactical added a slip pocket on one side and a zippered stash pocket on the other so you can organize smaller items.

Zippered pocket on KGB 2.0
Stash pocket on KGB 2.0
Internal swivel on KGB 2.0

Observations from Use

I have similar overbuilt grocery/carry-all style bags from other makers and the KGB and KGB 2.0 stand out among them for one big reason – the waterproof bottom. The bottom of this bag is totally waterproof (really) which means you can set it down on wet snow without fear of water soaking through. On a recent adventure with Ivan at KitBadger, I used these bags to carry firewood for a pack stove, placing the bags directly on nasty, wet snow without fear of dampening the wood inside.

The waterproof bottom also has another benefit which is probably my favorite thing about the KGB. The vinyl bottom is stiffer than the 1000D Cordura used in the rest of the bag and it gives enough structure that the bag will actually stand mostly open and mostly upright on its own. This makes loading the bag a lot easy than bags with no structure.

These bags are extremely durable and versatile. You can basically store whatever you want in them within reason. I’ve used them to store winter gear like gloves and hats, as range bags, to pick up brass on the range, to carry gear like a chest rig and belt to a carbine course, as totes inside a pulk sled, to carry firewood, to carry river rock from the creek on our property for landscaping, to hold recovery gear in the bed of my truck, to hold emergency winter layers in a winter vehicle kit, and basically anything other than carrying groceries. If it fits and you can lift it, it probably won’t hurt the bag.

This KGB keeping firewood dry in some challenging conditions.

Wrap Up

Think of these bags as a big Cordura bucket. They are as versatile as can be and just about bomb-proof. I review a lot of gear that I “like” and some that might even be my favorite pieces of gear of a certain type. The OC Tactical Kickass Grocery Bags are among my favorite pieces of gear, period, regardless of type.

Check out the KGB and KGB 2.0 here:

KGB at OC Tactical.com

KGB 2.0 at OCTactical.com

The Perfect Christmas Gift – Olight I1R 2 Eos Mini Keychain Flashlight

The perfect Christmas gift would be the kind of thing that anyone would like, whether they were into the types of things you read about on JTT or not. It would inexpensive enough to buy for someone you don’t know (like the mailman) and cool enough to give to family or a good friend. It would small enough to ship inexpensively or fit in a stocking. Most importantly, it would be available via Amazon Prime so you could shop last minute…

I found it.

Olight’s I1R Eos has always been a very cool flashlight. It’s ultra-tiny, USB rechargeable, well-built, incredibly bright for its size, affordable, and it has two useful modes that are easy to access in spite of the small size. This light is about as handy as a flashlight can be. It recently became an even better light. Olight updated it with a new version, the I1R 2 Eos, that has all the same great features of the original but with increased output – a surprising 150 lumens!

I’ve been using one of these lights on my keychain and it is easily the best keychain light I have owned. It is small enough to work in this role, bright enough to do real work, and the fact that is USB rechargeable means that buying odd batteries to keep your keychain light fed is a thing of the past. I especially like it as a sort of task light that prevents me from having to use my main EDC light. I love this light.

The Olight I1R 2 Eos ticks all the boxes mentioned about for a perfect gift. I’ve already ordered several for gifts this year and I may need to order a few more. It’s like gift giving cheat mode. Shoot, it’s cheap enough to treat yourself to one too.

Where to Buy:

Olight I1R 2 Eos on Amazon (affiliate link)

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