Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Esbit Hard Anodized Aluminum 585mL Cookset (Review)

This Esbit Solid Fuel Cookset makes a lightweight, compact package for heating water. Fit and finish on my set is quite good, and the stove base—built to receive a hexamine solid fuel tablet—nests perfectly inside the lidded cup with plenty of room to spare for several tablets, a cleaning sponge, etc. Moreover, this base has a large cut-out on one side and thus, in a pinch, could be pressed into service as a twig stove. The 585 mL cup/cookpot easily hold two cups of water and has several desirable features that include: pressed-in volume measurements from 200-400 mL / 8-16 oz., fold-out handles with insulation, a small pouring spout, and a well-fitting lid that also features a folding handle. The set comes with a nylon mesh bag that makes for easy carry, and when nestled inside the bag, is roughly the size of a softball.

I ran three trials in testing this stove. All used MPI/"Grabber" brand hexamine solid fuel tablets. Each trial used 2 cups of water that was 36 degrees at the outset. All trials also employed a small piece of aluminum foil in the tablet recess for easier cleanup.

Trial 1: With a covered cup, I used one solid fuel tab laid flat in the tablet recess. I peeked in on the water at 7, 9, 11, and 13 minutes. The solid fuel tablet burned out completely around the 13 minute mark. Water was hot and steaming, but it never came to a boil.

Trial 2: With a covered cup, I used one solid fuel tab laid flat in the tablet recess. I kept the cup covered and looked in at the 11 minute mark as the solid fuel tablet's flame was starting to weaken. Again, water was hot and steaming, but it did not boil.

Trial 3: With a covered cup, I used two solid fuel tabs standing side-by-side on end. This tactic (a) generated more heat, and (b) put the flame closer to the bottom of the cup. The flame did blossom outside of the stove base more readily, and for a moment during the initial burn, I worried about melting the plastic insulation on the handles. No damage resulted, however. The water began to boil around the 10 minute mark, and when checked at the 12 minute mark, the water was at a rolling boil. The tablets totally died out around the 14 minute mark, and the rolling boil only lasted a short while.

Conclusions: With one tablet, this Esbit solid fuel set is best suited for heating water that is already treated. In the first two trials, water was sufficiently hot to make hot drinks or to constitute freeze-dried meals. As my third and final trial showed, the Esbit set can boil water, but this result required two of the hexamine tablets. The tablets do burn dirty and produce a lot of soot. Thus, a small piece of foil works well to limit soot accumulation in the stove base, and I recommend carrying a scrub sponge for clean-up of the cup. Otherwise, a paper towel or bandanna could be used to contain the soot and prevent it from rubbing off inside a pack. At just under 7 ounces (not counting fuel, sponges, etc.), the set is a fairly light option for day hikes or for overnighters with freeze-dried meals.

Two final comments: (a) I would not rely on this stove for more traditional cooking unless I were using it as a twig stove or unless I had a lot of solid fuel tabs at my disposal. (b) Of course, this cookset is not as light as titanium, but it's also considerably cheaper than titanium. The set runs around $25 to $30 from most merchants, though I lucked up and caught it on clearance for $10. However, it's still a good value at the $25 price point.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Harpeth Narrows Loop

Yesterday, I took a break from work to rendezvous with some Kentucky friends for a quick paddle around the Harpeth Narrows. The weather and water were perfect, and we enjoyed a temperate beginning-of-fall day with Harpeth water levels right around 2.5 feet. My companions launched at the Highway 249 access, and I timed our meetup at the state-park pretty well. I paddled up-river about a half mile, and there they were. It was a fairly busy river, but people were nice, with the exception of one frustrated soul who probably should have stayed home and watched football. At the end of the float, we paddled up the inlet to the lower side of the Monty Bell tunnel and took a few pictures. All in all, just a fantastic day on the water. Well, except for the snake my friend thought I wanted to see up-close. They must have different attitudes about snakes up there in Kentucky.

As we were doing final pack-up, a park ranger came by and distributed some river access and mileage maps that are currently in process. Eventually, a color-coded and updated version of the map will be available on the Harpeth State Park website. The version below enlarges in a separate page when clicked.

On the way home, I scouted both the Hidden Lake access and the Newsom's Mill access. Both have large, well-kept parking lots that open at 7 a.m. and lock around 7 p.m. And both require about a hundred-yard portage to get to the water, but the access points to the river are quite good. We may do a future overnighter from one of these put-ins.

Harpeth Narrows Run