The Super Cat Alcohol Stove (Major Update) November 18, 2008
The Super Cat alcohol stove was first shared with the online backpacking community in January, 2005. Since then, it's become one of the most popular do-it-yourself alcohol stoves among hikers worldwide for probably two reasons: it works exceptionally well and it's very easy to make.
This major update to the original article incorporates many of the design ideas that Super Cat users have contributed over the years, while also significantly expanding the scope to include new information about materials, build methods, fuels, windscreens, stands, accessories, and real-world usage techniques. It's also being published concurrently with another article, "The Fire Bucket Stove System", which introduces an important new companion product (see below).
The Fire Bucket Stove System November 18, 2008
This article discusses a new high-performance windscreen for alcohol stoves (especially the Super Cat) that can also serve as an efficient, stand-alone stove for burning wood and solid-fuel tablets. In its lightest implementations, it weighs only about two ounces. The Fire Bucket can be constructed from a variety of easily-obtained, inexpensive materials in either collapsible or permanently assembled models using simple tools.
When used together, the Fire Bucket and Super Cat form an integrated, lightweight stove system that's easy to build and fun to operate.
Near Italy Pass in the Southern Sierras (+)
Three Mods For Your Mug August 4, 2008
This new article discusses three easy do-it-yourself enhancements that can help you reduce pack weight and improve the utility of your backpacking kitchen gear. You've probably never seen anything quite like the first two mods before, while the third includes a description of Jim's technique for building an old favorite.
KiteScreen Update July 22, 2008
The KiteScreen is a do-it-yourself backpacking stove windscreen that represents a different approach to solving an old problem. Constructed from ultralight, windproof fabrics or films (rather than the usual sheet aluminum) the KiteScreen offers a number of compelling advantages over conventional designs. Of particular interest to top-mounted canister stove users, who thus far have had few appealing windscreen options, is the fact that the KiteScreen reflects almost no heat back into the cooking area, making it safe to use with butane/propane cartridges.
The original article was published in April of 2005, but with the experience that's been gained by myself and others over the past 3+ years, I thought that it was time for an update. This significantly revised article discusses new materials, tips and techniques that were not included in the original.
Interactive Trail Maps September 9, 2007
I've been experimenting recently with several free software technologies that allow for the creation of interactive trail maps that are based upon either planned routes or upon actual tracks that have been downloaded from a GPS receiver. A few sample maps can be found using the link above. Cool stuff.
morning view from the PATC Conley Cabin
"Dry Gear" Article Update May 22, 2006
One of the most popular Base Camp articles, "Keeping Your Critical Gear Dry" has been updated with test results for the new Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry bags. Ultralighters have been eagerly awaiting the general availability of this innovative new line of products, but poor water resistance (very disappointing) will probably limit market appeal.
Add a Flip-Diffuser to Your EOS Headlamp December 19, 2005
This quick little project will easily remedy what is probably the only significant weakness in the otherwise excellent design of the Princeton Tec EOS headlamp. Because the beam of this light is focused primarily for navigating at night, it's really too narrow to provide the kind of floodlight that most backpackers want for working around camp. This simple add-on will solve that problem, enabling an EOS user to now switch instantly between spot and flood modes.
A Gear List Super Model December 4, 2005
With the upsurge of interest in lightweight backpacking that's occurred over the past few years, more and more backpackers are now managing pack weight with the assistance of computer-based gear models. This article describes some of the issues associated with existing tools while offering a new spreadsheet template (free download) that includes enhanced reporting capabilities.
Works in Progress November 1, 2005
Yes, there's still a heartbeat here at the Base Camp. For the past few months, I've been hard at work on a number of projects that I'll soon be writing about. The most significant is a new tent that's now under construction. Last year, I built a single-skinned, 2+ person, "go-anywhere, do-anything" ultralight tent called the "AireFrame" that I've since been trail testing. It contains features not seen on any other shelter on the market and so far, has performed even better than I had hoped. This year's model will incorporate many of the same design elements as the original, but will be optimized for solo use (though it will sleep 2 in a pinch). Stay tuned...
Keeping Your Critical Gear Dry June 4, 2005
Hypothermia is statistically one of the most significant risks faced by anyone who ventures into the wilderness. Because sleeping bags and insulated clothing are often the last lines of defense against this potentially deadly affliction, it's imperative that backpackers be able to keep this critical gear dry. Unfortunately, many of today's popular strategies for doing so can fail under challenging conditions. This article explains why, discusses new research into the latest ultralight technologies (some of which may surprise you), and offers a model for a dependable, lightweight "dry system" that can work for anyone.
A Treatment for Silnylon Floors May 11, 2005
Originally developed for high performance parachutes, silicone impregnated nylon ("silnylon") is now being used in a wide range of ultralight backpacking applications (great!), including floors for silnylon tents (not so great!). When used as a flooring material, this fabric can reduce a tent's weight, but at the same time, creates three problems that cause frequent user complaints. This article presents a single do-it-yourself treatment that solves all three problems at once, transforming silnylon from a generally poor choice for tent floors into an excellent replacement for the heavier polyurethane coated fabrics that have traditionally been used for this purpose. It even works with other silnylon-based products (like stuff sacks) to improve water and puncture resistance.
The Secrets of Deep-Cycle Breathing April 22, 2005
Trudging up steep mountainsides while carrying full packs is one of the most demanding things that we backpackers do. For many years, I've been using a breathing technique that has helped to make the struggle a lot easier, and thought it might be of interest to others. Called "deep-cycle breathing", the technique (along with a few other hill climbing tips) is described in this brief article.
Backpacking and Weight Loss April 14, 2005
One of backpacking's greatest secrets is its ability to promote rapid weight loss. When hiking in demanding terrain, an overweight backpacker can lose 5 to 10 pounds a week (or possibly more) while at the same time, significantly improving fitness levels. This new article describes in detail why backpacking almost certainly ranks among the very best ways there is to lose weight quickly and safely.
Product Review: Canister Stove Stabilizers April 3, 2005
Over the past few years, top-mounted butane/propane canister stoves have become exceptionally popular with lightweight backpackers. These stoves enjoy a long list of advantages over alternative technologies, but still, are not perfect. One of their principal weaknesses is poor stability when used on uneven surfaces, an issue that often limits safe placement options in camp. This new review discusses three approaches to solving this problem: two commercial and one do-it-yourself. If you use a canister stove, you'll want to read this article.
Build Plans for Super Legs Released April 3, 2005
Attaching a set of Super Legs to your stove (or lantern) canister will significantly enhance steadiness and safety, while also allowing you position your stove in places you would never have thought possible. This is great news for anyone who has ever wished he or she could locate a stove on a rock or log in order to raise it to a more convenient working height.
Autumn morning in the West Virginia Highlands
Build Plans for Spoon Extender and Bagel Toaster April 3, 2005
Do you ever eat directly from Ziploc or freeze-dried meal bags and end up with food-covered hands? When stirring a simmering soup or stew on your stove, have you ever wished for more of a buffer zone between your naked hand and the hot liquid below? Have you ever pined for a way to toast bagels or other breads using your camp stove? Ever wish for a way to dry out kindling in order to build an emergency campfire? If so, then you may find this two-part project interesting
Slide Show Gallery Launched April 3, 2005
Populated initially with five self-contained slide shows from Jim's library, the Slide Show Gallery will be made available (if there's sufficient interest) to other backpackers who may wish to post chronicles of memorable expeditions.
Base Camp Website Launched April 3, 2005
The Base Camp website was launched today following the publication of two previous articles regarding the Super Cat alcohol stove and a do-it-yourself stand. Both generated a great deal of interest among alcohol stove fans and contributed to the decision to create this site.
Copyright © 2005-2009 James E. Wood. All Rights Reserved.
This non-commercial site is designed to serve as a means for sharing information among those who are passionate about wilderness travel, especially in the form of lightweight backpacking.
Over the next few months, I expect to publish dozens of articles containing product reviews, tips, build-it-yourself project instructions, and a wide range of commentary.
The site also incorporates a feedback mechanism to allow readers to express their views about the content presented here.
Thanks for visiting and good trekking...
About the Banner Photo
Taken in early September, 1998 during a backpacking trip to central Alaska's Denali National Park.
The weather had been cloudy during the most of our visit, but on the final day, the skies cleared spectacularly, revealing Denali's (Mt McKinley's) peak for the first time.
This shot was taken by my brother (Jonathan Wood) from a flight-seeing plane at about 12,000 feet as we circled Denali's summit (20,320 feet elevation).