Sierra Wood Burning Zip Stove
an awesome wood burning camp stove
A wood burning backpacking camp stove? Yes. The Sierra Zip Stove. No more buying and carrying packaged fuel. Just a handful of twigs is all it takes to cook a meal with this wonderful stove.
The Sierra Zip Stove comes in titanium or steel. This review is for the titanium version which I have been using for close to ten years now. Originally purchased directly from the maker online. Follow this link to their website.
My first time using this stove was on a sea kayaking trip along the coast of British Columbia where packaged fuel was scarce or non existent along with stores. Anything actually. At my most remote spot I was five days difficult travel from the nearest anything. This trip was almost immediately followed up with a through hiking the length of the Sierra Nevada Mountains from north to south along the Pacific Crest Trail. A five week trip. The idea of not having to carry fuel or resupply fuel really appealed to me.
I wrap this stove with a bandana and fit it snugly inside a small titanium camping pot I picked up at REI. Its compact and light weight. The Zip stove uses one AA battery to power a small fan with two speeds to stoke the fire that burns within the stove. I use the high setting to get water boiling then switch to a mix of the low setting and having the fan off to simmer. Two batteries lasted me the entire five weeks it took me to hike 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I cooked one meal every night and heated water in the mornings.
It turns out to be an awesome stove. It's fuel source is wood picked up off of the forest floor. Small bits of sticks and twigs lying around wherever I chose to make a meal. Ideally I'm looking for sticks about three inches long of any thickness up to a couple inches. The thicker the better. I have found old coals leftover from a campfire to be one of the best fuels because it burns controlled and cool without huge flames. So if I'm cooking jambalaya with fresh onion, green peppers and pepperoni I will start the fire with dry grass and small twigs then add bigger twigs. The higher heat and flame of the twigs will get the water boiling quick then once boiling I will switch to old campfire coals to get an easy simmer that does not require the addition of more fuel regularly. In fact once I switch to coals I'm typically done adding fuel and can just let the coals simmer. There are usually coals still hot in the stove once the meal is cooked after twenty five minutes of simmering. Two cupped hands held together is about how much fuel is needed to cook a meal. Pinecones work too.
One potential draw back to this stove is that it would technically be illegal to use where fires are prohibited. I worked as a volunteer wilderness ranger for the forest service for a summer and used this stove. My co workers and many bosses were intrigued by this stove with no complaints though had I been a recreational wilderness user using this stove where fires were prohibited we certainly would have given me a hard time because that just seams to be what we do in the forest service. ( Forest Circus as we liked to call it).
Another theoretical drawback would be using it where there were no trees like in a dessert or above tree line. That has never been an issue for me. There always seams to be some woody stuffs lying around that work no problem even if it comes from bushes or shrubs.
Over all a great stove excellent for through hikes or long distance bike tours. I also use it for car camping and overnight backpacks. Now that I think about it I have not used any other stove in quite some time. I do like to cook directly over a campfire too so that is what I have done when not using this zip stove. I suppose if one liked to eat freeze dried foods rather than cooking a real meal than this stove might not be practical compared to something that simply boils water quickly.
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