The Fire VS The Stove

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In preparing for my upcoming kayak expedition I thought long and hard about purchasing a backpacking stove. After all, everyone else uses one, right? I thought about the pros and cons, comparing my past experience of stoves vs. cooking on an open fire, and in the end, fire won hands down.
Of course, many others would benefit more from a simple stove, especially those travelling through areas with fire restrictions. Ultralight backpackers would probably benefit more from stoves too. Then there are the polar explorers, and other outdoorsmen who travel through areas where combustable materials are in short supply. Stoves are quick, and easy. They also take very little knowledge to be able to control.  But, for my situation, I have to say that the fire wins by a long shot.
Melting snow over the fire in the Gila Wilderness
An Open Fire Takes Up No Space In A Pack Or Drybag
With a stove, you're forced to carry it, and any fuel you'll need. With a fire, it's as simple as carrying a ferro rod, or some matches. It's as simple as that. By leaving behind a stove, I can carry more food, and thus, stay in the woods longer. 

An Open Fire Throws More Heat
Why does that matter? You may ask. After all, it doesn't take much to cook a small meal. Picture this...  
You're canoeing down a river and after a long day of paddling the temperature begins to drop. You accidentally tip your canoe in a rapid. At this point, would you rather sit next to a little cook stove, or a roaring fire? Many stove users carry extra fire starters just for situations like this.  
It's also reassuring on cold winter days to have a way of heating up someone in your party if they are showing signs of hypothermia. However, the real benefit of the open fire is its versatility!

An Open Fire Is More Versatile For Cooking And Heating
A stove confines you to how many burners you have (which in most cases, is just one) where a fire can provide more cooking space then I could ever use. This means that after I catch 5 trout, I don't have to wait to cook them after I'm finished with the rest of my meal, I can cook the fish and a bowl full of rice, all at the same time. 

Evaluate which option is best for you, and go for it!
Here's an awesome photo taken by my friend Tim Smith of Love the snowshoe setup Tim!

Samuel LarsonComment