The following gear tip and review is brought to you by Ray Culbertson. Ray is an avid alpinist who doesn't stop exploring when the winter arrives. He'll be joining By Land as a regular contributor and I'm really excited to have him on board.
This post is a great counter point to the one I wrote on the MSR Reactor . There's not always a perfect cooking solution and not everyone can drop hundreds of dollars on gear. Ray points out that for under $50, you can have a dependable and well performing backcountry cook set. He's used this kit for years and still continues to do so. It's seen it's fair share of adventures and I have no doubt it will see many more.
Enjoy the article!
If you’re like me, then maybe you will recognize this feeling; you just re-charred the outside of your camp pot in a hot, wet, winter bonfire and a twinkle of admiration for that little piece of gear begins to form inside of you. Each piece I bring with me is like one of my children. I watch protectively as my gear collects every dent, scuff, rip or stain. But while watching the gear grow older wrenches my heart, it also kindles a reserved pride as we become dirtbags together. My pants are worn through from so many dirty glissades and patched back together with duct tape. My expensive Feathered Friends down jacket is patched left and right (“this one here is from St Helens summit 2016!”). And so it is, in this vein that I describe to you my dirtbag stove combo. It works, it’s cheap, and you can beat the tar out of it time and again. In fact, I used this little stove and pot combination on thirty trips throughout 2016 without a single issue or frustration. Whether high on the flanks of Shasta, roaring away in a snow pit in the North Cascades as a wolverine passes by, or making “macky cheese” with my daughter after watching the climbers on Monkeyface at Smith Rock State Park, this low cost stove combo gets the job done.
What it lacks in tech, it makes up for in versatility and reliability. This stove can receive a multiplicity of pots and I've also used it several times to start fires when things are too wet to use purist techniques (think blow torch). If you’ve got a fire going then you can ditch the stove entirely and save fuel by tossing the MSR Stowaway pot in the fire by itself. With few parts and fewer features, there is virtually nothing that can fail on this unit.
Having no built in wind protection on the burner, the Primus Stove is susceptible to the elements if you intend on cooking on a wind blown ridge without first digging a pit or making a wind break. That said, if you have a tent vestibule big enough to safely cook in, this little warrior will work great!
This combination basic propane canister stove and top latching MSR cookware enables a reliable and durable cook set for only $35-45. The stove comes in two pieces – the burner and the fuel valve – which are easily assembled with gloved hands. The parts simply screw together then the assembly screws onto the fuel which can be adjusted with an easy flow valve. This setup does require a lighter, or I have used flint when the lighter was forgotten at home. The Stowaway Pot conveniently uses the handle to latch on the lid when not in use, which works well for general storage in the pack or as an animal canister for stashing food far away from the tent at night.
8oz - Primus Classic Trail Stove
9.5 oz – MSR Stowaway Pot (475mL – summer size)
15.5 oz – MSR Stowaway Pot (1.1 L – winter size for melting snow)
The Primus Classic Stove and MSR Stowaway Pot combination weighs 23.5 oz which is 9oz more than the MSR Reactor series cook system, but is much less expensive. For those of you looking for alternatives to a cook set and at this point are not able to purchase a more expensive kit such as the MSR Reactor series, this kit described above will enable you to get out there with minimal investment.
P.S. - I moved away from the MSR Whisperlite after a suspected clog left me cleaning the nozzle and fuel tube sheathing high up on Angry Mountain trail in Goat Rocks Wilderness before resorting to building a fire. I certainly do not miss the priming fire and low-flow burner of the Whisperlite, but I do regret the canisters for the Primus Classic each time I pitch one in the trash.