My brief dalliance with the Evernew Ti DX multi-fuel stove I tested here piqued my interest in using wood as a fuel for my backpack cooking needs but left me slightly disappointed and in search of something more suitable. I knew I wanted it to be primarily a wood burner but one that could also use other fuel sources in a pinch. I also wanted it to be small enough to fit inside the 700ml pots I use on solo trips. Some internet research and discussions with Hendrik lead me to try the Four Dog Bushcooker LT1, the smallest of the three Bushcooker LT stoves. The stoves are available in Scandinavia through Riheda Outdoor, Finland.
Designed and handcrafted from titanium by Donald Kevilus in Minnesota the LT1 weighs in at just 76g according to my digital scales. The finish is top drawer and the design is simple, neat and very effective. The key is the two walls. The outer is a cone which makes the stove very stable. The inner wall, that makes up the 'firebox', is a straight sided cylinder. This creates a space for air to be drawn in through the holes in the conical outer wall and then into the firebox in two ways. The first is through the 'fan' shaped base and the second is up the sides, between the walls where the air is heated and 'injected' into the firebox through subtly tweaked ports. Four simple legs act as pot supports and that is really it. No moving parts to break. Despite being constructed from thin titanium sheet the LT1 has a robust feel to it. It doesn't feel flimsy or 'tinny' although I would always transport it inside my cooking pot to prevent accidental crushing.
I'm finding the LT1 a joy to use. It burns quietly and efficiently and with far less 'fussing' and blowing than I found the Evernew DX required. Sure, you still have to sit there and feed the little beast but ask any pyro-inclined backpacker, that is a good thing. It's nice to sit there and take your sweet time over the process. It doesn't take too long either to be honest. The Four Dog website claims a pot of water can be brought to the boil over dry twigs in 6 minutes. I'm not sure that I've quite managed it that quickly yet but that may be because Bergen has been 'enjoying' lots of rain and heavy thunderstorms recently that have left all the wood a little damp. Has that prevented me using wood as a primary fuel source? Hell no! A pinch of pocket-dried birch bark and the smallest, driest twigs I could find soon had a fire burning that was hot enough to burn even damp pencil-thick twigs. I found it easiest to light the kindling through the fan-shaped base then added very small twigs until the fire really took hold. Once I placed the pot on top it was easy to feed the larger twigs in between the pot and stove.
I'm sure it's all to do with the design but the LT1 definitely burns faster and with far less smoke than the Evernew DX. It's also more stable thanks to it's conical shape. The Bushcooker stoves come supplied with an ash pan and a shallow alcohol/esbit pan that can be used as a 'starter' when using wet wood. You start with a bit of an esbit or alcohol, just to get the kindling started, then switch over to just wood once the firebox is nice and hot. This is especially useful above the tree-line where my main fuel source will be dwarf birch and low-lying berry stalks that are more open to the elements than the nicely protected dead branches of trees at lower elevations. I have read that the Bushcookers can also be fuelled with other 'biomass' fuels such as pine cones and dry animal dung. With all these options you can see why fuel weights with these stoves are so low, you really don't need to carry anything beyond a couple of emergency 14g esbit tabs, even on long trips.
Now to another crucial factor for me. Compactness. I like my 'kitchen' to fit inside my cook pot with no need for caddies or separate stuff sacks. The LT1 slides into my Evernew Pasta Pot like a glove. I mean really sweet. It's like they were made for each other. No rattling, no scratching. It's perfect. There is enough space left over for kindling and fire-lighting supplies and Hendrik showed me another neat trick with these kinds of stoves, priming them with kindling and twigs whenever you find suitable fuel so they're ready to rock when you need them down the trail. Especially useful on long, cold wet days.
Donald has created a masterpiece as far as I'm concerned. The design is simple and effective and the faultless construction should provide years and years of reliable service. That I don't need to rely on gas canisters or alcohol not only saves me weight on every backpacking trip I take but it also saves the world's natural resources during my journey through life too. A stunning bit of kit.