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.
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:
- Foam pad scraps (we all have some form of CCF in our closet, it seems. )
- Foil oven liner or similar
- Grab a piece of foam and cut it down to about 9″ x 9.”
- Cover the 9″ x 9″ foam pad with foil. This size works well for my stove and pot.
- Have foil about 1/2″ around the edge of the pad on the bottom
- Place pad on snow and place stove on pad
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.
While it would not be my first choice for deep winter camping, this stove base will also work with an alcohol stove.
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.
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.