Dirt Bagger Winter Stove Platform

For three-season backpacking, I take a canister stove when it is Joan and myself, go stoveless when solo during warmer conditions, or the increasingly rare times when I take an alcohol stove.

When winter backpacking in the snow? The above stoves do not fit my needs. I am melting much snow for hot water and need something efficient in cold weather. I take a white gas stove.

One of the challenges of backpacking in winter is the snow. In particular, where to stick your stove on it.   When you light your stove, the heat will cause the stove to sink into the snow as it is heating up your glop du jour. No fun.

A few tried and true methods have been used by people over the years: The bottom of an avy shovel, an old license plate, plywood, commercial solutions, and even foil-wrapped cardboard.

All can work.

But, I found a solution that uses material found in a typical backpacker’s gear closet and kitchen, does not cost much at all, and takes minutes to make.

It is simple, cheap, effective, and light. As a bonus, this dirt bagger design also works as a  heat reflector. It’s a piece of scrap foam and foil. Easy!

Here are the handy dandy steps:

MATERIALS

STEPS
  1. Grab a piece of foam and cut it down to about 9″ x 9.”

    Blue Foam Pad

    Old blue foam before cutting it down. Stains are strictly optional.

 

  1. Cover the 9″ x 9″ foam pad with foil. This size works well for my stove and pot.

  1. Have foil about 1/2″ around the edge of the pad on the bottom

  1. Place pad on snow and place stove on pad

A rare form of wood-grained snow…

That’s it.

As mentioned, the advantage of this setup is that it also reflects back the heat. Reflected heat, of course, helps heat the water and food faster. Which in turn saves precious fuel.

In my use, I find the foil-covered foam reflects the heat with no issues.

This dirt bagger special weighs ~ 1.5 oz.

In use in RMNP by Andrew Skurka.

While it would not be my first choice for deep winter camping, this stove base will also work with an alcohol stove.

DO NOT use this stove platform with a canister stove, such as an MSR Pocket Rocket.   However, a remote canister stove such as an MSR Windpro will work fine.

Happy snowy trails!

 

UPDATE December 2023 – 

After ten+ years of use, I finally replaced the foil for the original platform…but still using the original foam!

Joan and I have used an AliExpress remote canister stove special for the past two seasons for the High Desert’s cold (routinely in the teens) weather. If not as snowy and cold as the mountains where I initially used the platform, the remote canister stove (about  6 oz) works well with its pre-heating tube for this still colder weather of desert nights.

It’s a stove I bought a while ago, perhaps not long after I wrote the original article above, but I have not used it much until these past two winters with Joan.

I’ve realized that I prefer white gas for snow melting, but I like the remote canister stove for the night or two we are backpacking in our desert home.

Rather than a photo of a stove, here is an image using the platform and stove to heat some leftover sausage, orzo, and lentils in Joan’s pot during a recent trip.

The dirt bagger stove platform works very well in providing a stable platform for the stove, helping to retain the heat, and making the stove efficient. This simple DIY tool has worked very well over the past decade.

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Gary
11 years ago

That’s a great idea, I love simple solutions like this. Unfortunately, we’ve not had enough snow in the Ozarks this year to warrant needing it 🙁

We’re not ultralite fanatics so we usually stick with white gas for throughout the year.

Dave Schlewitz(SunnyWaker)
Dave Schlewitz(SunnyWaker)
10 years ago

Mags, Would it make a Caldera Cone/Alchy stove to hot? (melt or something like that?) Thanks, BUD!

-SunnyWalker