On my most recent trip to Texas, my fiancé and I decided we’d like to go beach camping near Galveston. I packed a few camping supplies I thought we’d need including an old tent I never use (another story) and one of my extra JetBoil cooking systems. Once in Texas, we discovered that I only brought the cup portion of the JetBoil…not the stove. Unfortunately, you can’t buy “just the stove” at retail stores and so we were stuck looking at alternatives for being able to cook.
So at the Houston REI, while I nervously debated buying a brand new JetBoil for the trip, Merelyn found the Original Pocket Stove from Esbit. At only $10.50 (versus at least $100 for a new JetBoil) it sounded like a halfway decent idea. For this trip, we really just needed a little something to boil water since we were going to cook our dinner over a campfire (see mini-review at the end of this post). I, of course, jumped at the opportunity to try out a new piece of gear…especially inexpensive gear! We bought the Pocket Stove for $10.50 and even though it comes with 6 fuel tabs, we bought an extra pack of solid fuel tabs for $6.25. Total investment was well under $20 for a stove and 18 fuel tabs (supposedly enough to cook for 3 hours).
The Pocket Stove is basically a small, folding metal stand that will support a cooking receptacle about 1.5″ above the fuel tab. There are two cooking positions depending on conditions and how focused you want the flame. It weighs in at about 3.25 ounces without the fuel and, when closed, the stove stores up to 6 fuel tabs inside. According to the box, the solid fuel works well at any elevation and boasts a boil time of 8 minutes in most conditions. The REI website specs actually list average boil time at 14 minutes which is probably closer to the truth.
We also purchased the Halulite Ketalist nested kettle and cooking system for boiling our water over the Pocket Stove. The Ketalist was $34.95 at the Houston REI and comes with a hard-anodized aluminum kettle, two small plastic bowls (one with an insulated sleeve and drinking lid) and a spork. The total weight is about 11 ounces and is made for backpacking. I would consider more of a car-camping product because of it’s size.
We set up camp on the beach outside of Galveston and, as it was incredibly windy, I dug out a firepit and built up a wall around it to try to block out some of the wind. It worked well enough for me to be able to set up the Pocket Stove and light one of the fuel tabs. I filled the kettle with about two cups of water and set it on the stove. After 8 minutes, we still didn’t have boiling water. After about 12 minutes the fuel tab had burned out and we still didn’t have boiling water. I tested the water and it was plenty hot enough for cocoa, coffee or oatmeal but not boiling. I wanted it to boil! I lit another fuel tab and let it run it’s course. We never did get the water to boil using the Pocket Stove. I reasoned, after the fact, that if I were to burn two fuel tabs at once I could probably generate the heat I needed to get the water boiling but never had the chance to try it.
I was able to put the kettle on the campfire later that night and got the boiling water I wanted pretty quick. The kettle worked well and was kind of nice to have. The wind had really picked up and it had become pretty cold so I made some nice hot tea to take to bed with me. All in all, I like the concept of the Pocket Stove…it’s a very simple design and it works, somewhat. If I had limited space and time to wait for hot water, I’d use it again. The Kettle will probably become a regular addition to our car camping trips, I just don’t see it going backpacking with me anytime soon.
Car camping affords you many luxury items that would normally be too heavy, too big or too awkward to take backpacking. Large comfortable tents (not something we had), blow up air mattress with powered pump, huge jugs of clean water, etc. While we were at REI preparing for the trip we came across one such luxury item that we couldn’t pass up. The Camp Chef Cooking Iron is a cast iron sandwich grilling contraption for making grilled cheese sandwiches (or any number of other things). It folds open allowing you to put buttered bread on either side of the irons and then fill it with cheese, meat, veggies, etc. Then carefully fold it back together, lock the arms in place and lay it over the campfire. You will want to flip it a couple of times so it doesn’t burn one side of the sandwich, but the result is fantastic!! We had some amazing grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner that night along with some vegetables we pre-marinated and wrapped in foil to toss into the fire. The sandwiches were nice and crispy on the outside, but the bread was still soft inside and the cheese melted beautifully. At $17, I would totally recommend grabbing a couple of these to toss into the car for your next outing….or just keep them for cooking in the back yard!