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Gear School 2009: Essentials

From sleeping pads to trekking poles, we'll have you good to go in no time.
Gear School 09 Essentials 200x170Gear School 09 Essentials 200x170


  • Priming liquid fuel stoves requires practice and varies slightly from stove to stove, but here’s the gist: Open the valve to allow a bit of fuel to flow into the primer cup. Close the valve (or fuel will keep flowing and you’ll end up with a fireball!), light the fuel, and let it burn for a few seconds. When the flame is almost dead, open the valve again and the stove will puff to life. It may be a few minutes before the hot, blue flame kicks in.
  • Heat meals faster by using a windblock, which boosts efficiency and improves boil time. Buy an aluminum screen to use with liquid fuel stoves, or make one out of several layers of heavy-duty foil or an oven liner. Never use a windscreen with a canister stove; it can create too much heat and melt controls. Instead, site your camp kitchen behind rocks or trees, or use your backpack, pot lids, or stacked rocks to block wind.

Problem Fuel won’t pressurize when pumping
Solution Your pump cup could be dried out. Unscrew the stove’s pump assembly, find the tiny circle of leather or neoprene, and moisten it with olive oil, lip balm, or saliva.

Problem Weak or sputtering flames
Solution White-gas models struggle when the burner parts and innards get sooty. Periodically take apart your stove (following the manual’s instructions) and wipe down the parts with a rag sprayed with WD-40. Clean the fuel line by removing the cable, wiping it down, and reinserting it into the line. Using short, quick strokes, scour the line clean (as if you were using a pipe cleaner), and reassemble.

Estimate Your Fuel Needs

In the summer, plan on using 5.5 ounces of liquid fuel and 2 to 3 ounces of canister fuel per person per day. Need to melt snow? Triple that number.

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