Alcohol Stove Result

This isn’t my first experiment with my homemade alcohol stove. It just the first documented one, if you will.

I cannot remember the specification of the can, but I can tell you it has 10 jets and one center hole. After denatured alcohol is poured into the center hole, I cover the hole with a penny. (Don’t bother asking me why, the explanation is beyond me. I just followed instructions from a guy who knows a guy that knows a guy that knows his stuff.) It takes roughly 2-3oz of alcohol for the liquid to seep out of the jets and when it does, I light it! The flame is large in the center at first, then it’s eventually coming out of the  jets. There is a bottom piece to capture any liquid that runs of of the jet so that it doesn’t burn the ground. Then finally I have a pot support that I made from a can that once housed baked beans. Just enjoy the pictures:

Alcohol Stove 4

Alcohol Stove

Alcohol Stove 3

Alcohol Stove 2

For the statistical results: It took 14:34 minutes for 2-3oz of alcohol to completely burn out. I got 2 cups of cold, cold water to boil at the 9 minutes mark. Overall I was pleasantly please with the result. I’m working on an idea for a windscreen, and I’m thinking of another pot support idea that will be shorter to the jets to increase heat. I’d love to have a new titanium mug with a lid to cook with as well.

Instructions to making your own penny stove can be found by using YouTube or this website:

Thanks for reading!

Warning: playing with flammable alcohol is dangerous! I have burn marks on my porch! It will be better to store and pour alcohol out a container that will not drip down the bottle onto the ground.. You cannot see the alcohol flame in broad daylight; dark lights will reveal the blue flame and table salt will show the flame as well.


Alcohol Stove

Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I’ve been having computer issues and I’ve been working on an alcohol stove for backpacking.

I been working a DIY Penny Stove using alcohol to boil water in the backcountry. I been struggling to get a consistent boil time. I think most of my issues may be the seal of the stove. (Uneven edge from cutting the aluminum.) As well as some other variables such as: the mug. The one I have doesn’t have an easy on and off lid to trap heat in the mug as it cooks. Another could be windscreen, well lack thereof, blocking wind and reflecting heat back to pot to increase boil time. Of course amount of fuel I’ve been adding has been in different amounts as well.

Why am I going through all this trouble? I’m just bored. Of course it’s kind of cool having a stove system barely weighing an ounce using lighter, cheaper, hotter, and less fuel than canister stoves. All the cool kids are doing it these days. Ha! I could just buy one, but what fun is that?!?! Pictures and experiment results will be coming soon!!!

Choosing a Tent


The funniest thing for us gearacholics: is brainstorming criteria we seek in selecting gears. Recently I have been engaged in an online discussion with a group of veteran backpackers with combined experience well north of 100 years, maybe 200. It was so fascinating learning how everyone is different (it not new to me but bear with me here) when it comes to needs. I used to think tents were universal. What I mean is that I thought you would select your tent base on statistic involving its weight, price, and size. (Not in any particular order.) Of course the company’s reputation played into the decision making.

The criteria has now evolved. With more companies making a wide range of tents loaded with features that cannot be accounted for with numbers, the decision making has became more in-depth and personal. My criteria does start out with numbers.  My next non-mountaineering tent will not weigh over two pounds. The next step is to look at the price and see if it friendly for my budget. Once I have found several tents in the weight and price range that I can live with, I start comparing its size using square footage, vestibule size, and height as the primary data. Here where the complication comes into play, or you could call it insanity: all the data in the world can be irrelevant if you do not account for your primary backpacking locations and tent features you can live with or without. I think locations and the seasons you do most of your backpacking can be self-explanatory for the most part. I will focus on features in this post rather than climate and location.

Ventilation is every veteran backpackers first observation. Certain tents cannot breath very well. You could have two tents that meet your weight, price, and size requirements, but one of them does not vent as well as the other. If you live somewhere in the south or on the east coast where humidity is rough you’re going have major condensation problem if your tent vent poorly. Single wall tents are notorious for condensation, and winter months can be just as bad or worse in regard to condensation. I’m currently using a Big Agnes Seedhouse and I have more condensation problem in the winter than summer months. My condensation is very minimal in the Seedhouse in the winter; this is not big enough of an issue to completely change tent for winter use. You could be very hot in the summer months if the tent doesn’t have ways to allow fresh air to flow through.

A popular feature I have found among veterans is the door. This may seem odd, but a door can make or break a tent. My Seedhouse has a door that you would call an end entry. When I backpack in the Smokies, I hang up my backpack on the steel bear cable. I quickly learned at places like Linville Gorge and Grayson Highland why I now dislike end entry door. I was at Linville in the dead of the winter so I kept my backpack in the vestibule, and I only hung up my food sack to keep small critters from attempting to gnaw into my tent. At Grayson Highland, heh, I kept everything in the vestibule. (Not a smart move, but I had no ropes and it was storming hard.)  The same storm system that destroyed Tuscaloosa in April of 2011, I was at Grayson Highland when Tuscaloosa was about to be destroyed.So, I kept my craps in the vestibule to stay dry. It was a pain in the butt, getting in and out of my tent with stuff in my vestibule. It’s also kind of awkward trying to cook with a end entry vestibule. One way is to sit with your legs crossed while facing the opening of the door, but I cannot do this anymore with a plate in my leg. These are the primary reasons why I want my next tent to have a side entry. Dual side entries would be even better! One side you can put excess gears, and you get in and out on the other side. If you have to cook a meal in the vestibule due to bad weather I find it easier to sit and cook with a vestibule that has side entry.

The next popular feature is about take down and set-up. You want a tent that easy to set-up in the rain without getting the interior wet. Tarptent (This is not an endorsement, just an observation.) took this feature to the heart. A feature for one of his tent, you can set up the rain fly first then climb into it to clip the bug net and tent floor on the inside. He has another one where the bug net and tent floor are connected to the inside of the rain fly; the loop for the poles are on the outside of the rain fly. This design makes it easier to set up a tent in the rain without getting the interior wet. My Big Agnes tent the pole goes between the rain fly and the tent body. This makes it very difficult to set-up in a down pour without getting interior wet. I have a trick to getting around this and it requires another piece of equipment, but it unrelated to this post.

Lastly, is how it’s set-up. For example, is it a freestanding tent (meaning it can be set up without stakes.), can you use trek poles, how many stakes require, etc. Some people hate tents that has too many stakes. Some minimalist like to carry tent or tarp using only their trek poles as support and stakes to set up. Some may consider the wind at certain elevation and see where all the anchor points are on the tent to be confidence it will not blow away due to design. (Human mistake(s) causes tent to blow away as well.) My personal thought is that I love the idea of having a tent where I use trek poles, but I plan to use tent more in the winter months where I’m expecting snow at any time. While I have no personal experience using trek poles as the primary support, people have said poles crossing over the entire tent is better suited for heavy snow. I trust their advice and this is one of the criteria I will use for my next tent. I’m using my hammock more often, but I will use a tent for snowy conditions or places where there are no trees.

Bottom line is, you need to understand every features. There is NO product designed for backpacking that is perfect for every locations in the U.S., or for every individuals. EVERY piece of equipments has a tradeoff. Accepting this and being able to live without the tradeoff(s) is how you choose to buy your gears. If you don’t believe me, try me. I can find tradeoff(s) in every products known to the backpacking community by comparing it to similar products.

Thanks for reading and happy trails.


Memorable Hike: Day 2

This post is a continuation of Memorable Hike: Day 1.

Day 2: I woke up early the next day still feeling tired since I didn’t get a lot of sleep due to the stupid bear. I started the day by making grits and taking some ibuprofen. I was mildly sore in my calf and I took some the night before as well. After I ate, I packed up my stuff and started stretching because we were roughly 17 miles from Big Creek Ranger Station. We were going have to make a short ascend to Mt. Guyot which is the 2nd highest mountain in the Smokies. Actually, you don’t really summit Guyot; the AT runs next to Guyot. There is no cairn stone or sign to mark the true summit. You can’t see anything up there in the summer months due to trees and vegetation that grows at that elevation. After we reach the point where we’re suppose to be parallel from Guyot, the elevation profile would remain steady until we reach Old Black Mountain. There is a high elevation meadow that is really awesome. At the time of my visit, the meadow was thick with a good view of North Carolina and Mt. Sterling Ridge to the east. From Old Black Mountain, the AT goes on a steep descend which is where my knee pain came back. This long downhill to Inadu Knob, Cosby Knob and Low Gap really took a toll on my knee.

The pain was escalating on every step I took going down, and my hiking partners just kept going faster as I slowed down. When I reach Cosby Knob I was in some bad pain and I made it to the shelter were I planned to eat lunch, but the shelter was closed due to bear which motivated me to keep on trekking. I made it to Low Gap where my hiking partners were resting. We discussed my pain level and I had the option to descend 2 miles on Low Gap trail to Big Creek and take a fire road back to the car; this fire road was flat with 600 feet of elevation loss over 5 miles. I told my partner I wanted to finish this. At the time of this hike, I had never been to Mt. Cammerer. So we climbed Low Gap to Sunup Knob and finally made it to Mt. Cammerer trail. That climb took me a while because that downhill hurt my knee so bad that it was killing me every step of the way whether I was going up or down. After what seemed like forever, I made it to Mt. Cammerer Trail where my partners were waiting on me while talking to someone. Mt. Cammerer was .6 miles one way from this point and the man said there is no view. Cloud and fog has already engulfed the fire tower and you will not be able to see anything.

I was frustrated because I decided to finish this trip the hard way, so I could be rewarded by this view. From were we was resting, we had 5.9 miles of long downhill to the car. I ate half a protein bar and chugged some water and continued downhill. I was in pain on every single step. I maxed out on ibuprofen and just tried keep my mind off the pain by saying I was almost there. I reached a sign and thought I was finally done only to find out I had 1 more mile to go, only then to find out I had 2 more miles to go to the car. Let me tell you something folks, that final 2 miles was the hardest! I was so frustrated because I thought 2 miles was short and I should have already arrived to the car. It was messing with my mind that I would never make it, but I had to keep going to get off this mountain and into a hot bath with booze. I even sat down for a minute trying to recollect my thoughts and motivations to get off this trail. I must have sat down for 5 minutes drinking water and thinking about the end. I finally got up and about 15 minutes after that break I arrived to the ranger station.

I dropped to my knee when I arrived to the car in sheer exhaustion and joy! I finally completed the entire 33 miles in about 18 some hours of walking time. It was the longest I had ever done and it still remains my personal feat to this day. My partners and I rode on to Newport to eat a local Mexican restaurant and the meal was fantastic. We talked about the scenery, the pain, the bear, and other things related. I could barely walk and when I made it home, I fell into a hot bath then I must have slept for 10-15 minutes. I slept hard that night. Three days later I would visit my orthopedic doctor and have an MRI on my knee and leg. The doctor said I would need surgery to fix the pain, I held off on the surgery until December when I was on winter break. This trip didn’t cause me to have surgery, it just uncovered a weakness in my leg and knee that I never noticed. I would do this trip again, except I would like to do the entire 70 miles of AT in the Smokies. I would only do it if I can do some hard trip(s) leading up to it to get my ligaments trail ready.


Camp Morning on the AT

View from high country meadow View of mt. sterling ridge

The last two pictures are from the high country meadow near Old Black Mountain. The picture of the shelter is one of my hiking partner. Thanks for reading!

Memorable Hike: Day 1

I was thinking about the toughest but memorable hike I ever done in my life, I did in July of 2011. A couple guys and I set out to do this hike in 1 night and two days in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The plan was to park our cars at Big Creek Ranger Station and get a shuttle to take us to Newfound Gap. We would hike the Appalachian Trail starting at Newfound Gap parking lot and hike 33 some miles to our cars at Big Creek Ranger Station.

Day 1: We parked at Big Creek and met the shuttle guy who shuttled us to Newfound Gap. It was a warm summer day in July and tourists were flocking to the park to enjoy the park’s majestic beauty. Despite humidity and drought we was having in the lower elevation that summer, at the elevation we would be hiking the temperature rarely goes over 80 degrees and the humidity isn’t as bad or minimal. We started hiking at Newfound Gap where there were an army of tourists; we would pass a lot of people for the next 4 miles as the tourists are flocking to Charlie Bunion. Charlie Bunion is a well known and popular day hiking destination with a magnificent 180 degrees panoramic view of the valley. You can see Douglas Lake in the distance and Clinch Mountain on a clear day.  We left the tourists behind at Charlie Bunion and kept on trekking northbound on the AT. We crossed over a lot of key landmarks such as: The Sawteeth, Laurel Top, Hughes Ridge, Eagle Rock, Mt. Sequoyah, and Mt. Chapman, before arriving to our destination at Tricorner Knob.

Hughes Ridge is one of the most amazing ridge in the Smokies. It situated near Pecks Corner Shelter, it like a 10-20 yards stretch on the AT where if you’re walking northbound, to the left the forage prevent you from seeing anything in summer months and to the right you can see mountains. We sat on that ridge for a 15 minute break just starring at the beauty of the Smokies. It’s one of my favorite place to sit and enjoy mountainous views if you don’t want be near the tourists. (I say this because I haven’t explored much of the other side of the park where Thunderhead Mountain and Shuckstack Fire Tower is located.) After leaving Hughes Ridge, I got a good view from Eagle Rock that was breathtaking. After crossing over Eagle Rock a fog started to engulf the the trail. I was only able to see about 20-30 yards up the trail, then it got thicker as I got closer to the shelter at Tricorner Knob. We finally arrived at Tricorner in sheer exhaustion of walking 7 or 8 hours totaling around 15 some miles.

There were another hiking party already at the shelter and told us they’ve just scared a bear away no more than 5 minutes ago. We told them we didn’t see a bear on the way in and I proceed to cook my food. (Bear or no bear I was hungry!) For a random reason, I looked to my left while cooking, lo and behold a bear no more than 10-15 yards from me just starring at me! I turned to the other hiker and said *pointing as if I was hitching a ride* you mean this bear? This bear was huge!! He wouldn’t run off, no matter what we did. I say after about 5 minutes of pictures being snapped, rocks thrown around him, sticks banging on the tin roof of the shelter, etc., he finally ran off. I went from being tired and hungry to alert and hungry in a span of 40 seconds.  I was walking to the privy in the dark paranoid out of my mind and my heart was racing, because that was the closest encounter I had ever had with a bear in all of these years I spent in the woods. It be a crappy way to go sitting in privy and get mauled by a bear…I always try to remind myself of the statical chance of fatal bear attack, but the problem with statistic is that someone gotta be that rare occurrence and hell it could be me! As I got ready to sleep, I was still a little jumpy about that stupid bear that had to be that close to me, I gathered some big rocks to sleep next to in-case Smoky the bear wanted make another appearance. I wasn’t the only one to do this, some other guys did the same. It took me a couple hours of tossing and turning to finally get a peace of mind to sleep a solid 4-6 hours! Stupid bear.

Day 1 pictures:

Hughes Ridge 1 Peck's Corner On the AT bear at tricorner knob 3bear at tricorner knob  Fog in the Smokies Somewhere in the Smoky 2 Fog on AT Summit of Mt. LeConte in the cloud View from Charlie Bunion

Day 2 post coming soon!

Workout Regime

Let me preface: this post is about keeping muscles and ligaments active for long delays between backpacking/hiking trips. This is not a workout guide to losing weight or gaining muscle mass. This guide is base on my experience only. I’m not a professional, I have a degree in accounting not exercise science or kinesiology, or whatever degree you need to be a fitness expert.

Ordinary people who loves being outdoors are at disadvantage compared to mountain guides, rangers, or athletes due to lifestyle. Ordinary people tend to work a lot or have general life obligations that prevent them from backpacking/hiking a lot. As a result, when they go on trips they tend to be sore for a few days or week at a time depending on a lot of variables. I try my best to go backpacking once a month; I ride mountain bikes about 3-4 days a week at 10 miles at a time with occasional 20 milers sprinkled in every other week. I still encounter muscle soreness on occasion, but not like some people. I took a friend backpacking last August, the trip was 12-13 miles in two days with 2,000 feet of elevation gain/loss, approximately. We descended on the first day 2,000 feet, again approximately, to the campsite then backtracked back to the car on day two. my friend was sore and worn out to the max at the end of the trip while I was ready go ride 15 miles of mountain biking the next day.. (I actually rode 8 miles the very next day, but I felt I could ride a lot longer.) I knew how he felt though, I have felt some prolonged soreness after a tough hike. It also hard for me to get out every weekend and get my body use to the stress I put on it. So, I came up with a workout as well as some I copied from Backpacker. I will not cite the exact issues as I’m too lazy to go back and look through them.

I remember a couple of years ago, I went backpacking for the for the first time ever in December. I wouldn’t go backpacking again for nearly 4 months later. I had planned to go 2 months later, but it fell through. Anyway, I knew I was going to carry a heavier pack and it would going be more strenuous of a hike than the first one.  To prepare for such long delay I started targeting muscles that would be used the most while backpacking which is your core and legs. I was in college at the time and had access to a very quality gym, so I set out to target those key muscles. My exercise routine consisted of 3 days a week of the following workout:

  1. 3×10 lat pull-down
  2. 3×15 seated row
  3. 3×8,10,12 inclined dumbbell chest press
  4. 3×20 leg press
  5. 3×20 leg curl
  6. 3×20 calf rise
  7. 3×10 barbell curl
  8. ab circuit

The above list targeted all the major muscles used in backpacking. After 20 miles trip which included walking 15 miles in one day carrying 43 pounds, I wasn’t sore at all in the upper body, but I did hurt my knee on a 5 miles run downhill to get out of an intense thunderstorm. I was sore for just 2 or 3 days. (a few months later this knee pain would persist that led me to getting surgery.)  A proper fitted pack is supposed to take the weight off your shoulder and transfer it to your hip, thus, your core muscles can be sore if you have never carried such load. Over time, my workout routine starts to change. It transfer to simple exercise that don’t necessarily require weights, but a weighted pack will accurately stress the muscles. I tend to bounce between the two lists every other months. (One day I may actually attempt yoga) These exercises includes:

  1. 3 sets of pull-up as much as you can do. I try to increase the rep for each set.
  2. 4 sets of around the world lunge with a weighted backpack or holding dumbbells (YouTube video of how to do this:
  3. ab circuit (my ab circuit is about 4-6 sets of different ab workouts)
  4. 3 sets of superman while counting to 20
  5. 3×15 push-ups
  6. 3×15 squats with a weighted pack then explode off the ground (Also, you could try a yoga exercise where you to squat on one leg with your arms straight in the air and hold for 20 seconds, 3 sets for each leg.)
  7. 3×20 chair dip (be sure to take a safety precaution while doing this!)

Mountain biking definitely keeps my major leg muscles in shape between backpacking trips as well as my cardio needs, but it doesn’t stress certain ligaments and muscles when going downhill from a steep mountain; that why lunge and squat made the workout list!!! Targeting specific muscles and ligaments I discovered I don’t get sore like other people or I’m not sore at all. I’ve been known to hike 15 miles in a day, then ride bikes 2 days later for 10-20 miles. I don’t workout to look sexy for potential mate or being a fitness freak, I workout to enjoy doing what I love with very minimal to no pain at all, and having the endurance to do it. The former is just a side effect. I kid. For the most part, my soreness are minimal and I’m pain-free within 24-48 hours and that assuming I don’t hurt myself while carelessly walking. There is just no substitute for actual hiking up and down steep terrains, but I think this workout routine definitely minimize soreness and prepares you for the strenuous climb and downhill when you have long time between trips due to life.

I’m also curious to know if any of you guys try this and have noticed minimal soreness and increased endurance when hiking.  Again, intense mountain biking serve my cardio needs, if bad weather prevents me from riding then I’ll ride the crappy stationary.




Gear Review: Granite Gear Blaze 60L Backpack

I believe I have used this backpack enough to finally write a decent review for other gearacholics to read. I bought this backpack in September of 2011 and used it exactly two times before I had to have surgery on my leg and knee. There were few months delay of not using this pack as I recover from surgery. I have since recovered and gotten some more use out of it in several different seasons and trip styles. Disclaimer: I have used two other packs prior to purchasing this, so I do not have a lot of experiences to compare this pack to others.

The pack:


The picture above was the first time I used this pack on a trip. It was a weekend trip in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in October, and I loaded it with 28 pounds for three days. In comparison to the Kelty backpack that I used prior to this, this pack is very comfortable and fits my torso really well. I had the hip belt and should straps swapped (it was originally a woman’s model) at the store to fit me better. It’s extremely important that the pack fits you perfectly. No one’s body is the same. This pack may fit me well but to someone else it will not, therefore, it’s comfortable on me and the worst pack ever for someone else. The store I purchased it from added weight to the pack and let me walk around the store to see how it felt on me before I bought it. I bought it and was ready go backpacking.

With 28 pounds to haul, I had no shoulder soreness by the end of the trip that was related to the pack. I woke up with stiff left shoulder which I placed the blame on my sleep pad. Granite Gear claimed the maximum comfortable load for this pack is 35 pounds. The problem is, I don’t have 35 pounds worth of needs to carry on weekend trips. I really bought this pack for simplicity. It’s lightweight (2.14 pounds) and doesn’t have zippers. It’s just has one giant black hole that serves as the main compartment to stuffing your gears in. You may be wondering how gears stay organized like this, I use a lot of stuff sacks. Using stuff sacks as the organizers, all my gears are neatly stacked in the hole. I pack my sleeping bag at the bottom, then pad and shelter. On top of that I put my extra clothes if I have any, then food. Food is packed last in-case I need a snack break I won’t have to dig through the pack for it. On the outside, the pack has two stretchy side pockets that I use for my water bottle, water filter, and map. It also has a long pocket that goes the length of the pack. This pocket has small items in it, as well as my rain-fly for the pack and sometimes there be a wet tarp in it, or protein bars. This organization system seems to work for me but may not work for others. If you need a lot of pockets in addition to the main compartment, this pack is not for you. If you can live with my organization system, this pack is solid for you bearing it feels comfortable on you. You will noticed in the picture above, there are cords running across the pack. These cords are the pack’s compression system. If you have less gears you can tighten them to shrink the pack and vice versa.

I do have a major gripe with this pack, lack of lid. You will noticed in the picture there is no top lid. Granite Gear sells it as an accessory for $40 at retail. I hate this marketing move. I feel Granite Gear should have sold the pack with a lid and give people the choice to remove or include it base on trip. When this pack first came out, it was retailed at $200, I got it $10 less. A few months later Granite Gear introduced two more packs and those packs were retailed at $200. They Increased the Blaze to $229 and you would think for the price the freaking lid should have came with it! Mountain Hardwear makes a pack cheaper than this with a lid that is removable. Fortunately for Granite Gear, the store I was buying this pack from didn’t have that model, so I couldn’t try it on to see how it fitted me. On my weekend trips I could have used the lid for map storage, snack items, my keys, and id. If you are the kind of person that likes to carry a water bladder, this pack is probably not for you either. They added a pocket inside the main compartment to add a water bladder. The bladder I have does not really fit in that pocket. It not a very big, and when I open it I can barely get my hand inside the pocket. It’s not a major issue with me since I carry a water bottle, so beware of this if you’re the person that has to have a bladder or need it to carry a lot of water in places where water source is limited.

The bottom line is, if you need a simple-lightweight-no nonsense-pack, this is the one for you. If you need a feature loaded pack such as integrated rain-fly, top lid, various of small pockets, etc., this pack will not make the cut on your list. Looking back, I do love this pack and have no intention of getting rid of it. It’s lightweight, comfortable, simple, and I really like my organization and packing techniques for this pack. I wish I had the lid, although. I just have not gotten around to paying $40 for it. I might have liked a integrated rain-fly since I always put one over the pack when hanging it on the bear cable in the Smokies. I will not be purchasing Granite Gear’s rain-fly due to the price when I can make one cheaper and just as light. Also, if you’re a fashion person, the color scheme for this pack might be kind of wacky taste for you. Ha!


Thanks for reading.