Sunday, 4 July 2010

Four Dog Stoves Bushcooker LT1 stove review

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.

15 comments:

Mac E said...

I've found that double wall stoves are more efficient as they help to retain heat in the firebox and aren't as easily choked which allows you to burn a bit faster.

I would recommend using a secondary windshield which is as tall as the stove and pot though, even made from doubled up kitchen foil, this will definately improve the boil time.

Thomas W. Gauperaa said...

Thanks for the review - looks like a really nice stove! I would get one if I didn't already own the Inferno, the Bushbuddy and the Ti Keg-H. I need to get some help..

Joe Newton said...

Richard - I believe Four Dogs had played with the idea of a titanium sheet windscreen that sat around the area between the stove and pot, balanced on a couple of titanium tent pegs 'skewered' through the vent holes in the outer cone. Might be a good idea. In the meantime I'll just have to find more sheltered spots!

Thomas - you don't need help, you just need more situations that require different kinds of stoves! ;-)

Ben said...

Nice photos, they show how well it is put together. Inspired by one of your previous photos I have made a Ikea cutlery stove which I have enjoyed using. It does created a bit of smoke put it has convinced me to get a Bushcooker or Bushbuddy just cant decide...

Joe Newton said...

Ben - thank you. The Bushcooker is very well made I agree.

Bush Buddy or Bushcooker LT. It's a tough choice. I've seen the Bush Buddy in action and was very impressed. I went for the Bushcooker LT1 because I wanted a small wood burner for use in small 700 sized pots for solo use, which is my usual way of backpacking. The Bush Buddy needs a 900/1L sized pot and would, for me, be better suited at groups of 2+ or people who want a larger pot for cooking.

If you can wait Ben, I know Hendrik has a larger Bushcooker LT3 on test and it will be interesting to see his conclusions as he's a huge fan of the Bush Buddy.

I still use my Ikea stove but for me it's purely a good weather, camping-with-friends stove. We use it for boiling water for hot chocolates laced with Mintuu and the obligatory hang-over cure coffees the following morning :-)

Gustav Boström said...

Thanks for the review Joe! I didn't know this one existed. Even though I'm a Bushbuddy fan I must say I'm tempted by this stove. It's so light and seems to have the extra power that the Evernew lacked. The primer pan seems like a very good idea too. I would like to see a picture of that and how it is used.

Martin Rye said...

I won a wood stove of Section Hiker. Need to give it go. I am open to new ideas. That stove is sweet. Nice weight and design. Of all the wood stoves have seen reviewed that looks the finest to date.

Dave Hanlon said...

Aah. The truth outs. Nice purchase! Looks like the pot and stove were made for each other. Seiland has taught me something of the potential of found fuel. Bushbuddy or bushcooker is the question. It may just come down to availability but I'll wairt for Hendrik to pronounce a winner.

Joe Newton said...

Gustav - more detailed testing and photos will follow. I haven't quite decided which stove/pot combo to take to the Hardangervidda but I'm more than likely going solo so it will probably be the LT1 and small Pasta Pot.

Martin - the Sweden trip opened my eyes to the conditions and terrain where wood is a viable option but the big test will be the 'treeless' mountain plateaus in unfavourable weather.

Dave - Interesting to hear that you thought Seiland offered potential fuel, that makes me feel better setting off for Hardangervidda with nothing more than a couple of Esbits...

I await Hendrik's head-to-head with interest too.

Nielsen Brown said...

Joe a very comprehensive and compelling report, well done. I like the look of the stove, though already having a bushbuddy I need to use it more. On my trip there were times when a wood stove would have been ideal, though a couple of nights with high winds and fog in a rocky landscape would have required Esbits as a backup. With sufficient smoke the mossies would have been a minimal issue. I like the look of the pots as well.
Thanks.

Jörgen Johansson said...

Very interesting stove, Joe. I'm looking forward to your further experiences with it.

Joe Newton said...

Roger - I'm sure there are places and times when these kinds of stoves are not ideal and a cannister stove would be quicker and easier but as you say, there are places where they can be made to work too. And with some esbit as back-up I'm sure I'll be fine.

Jorgen - It's coming on my Hardangervidda trip so stay tuned!

Dave Hanlon said...

Still pondering the Bushbuddy or Bushcooker LT quandry. Found this direct comparison that makes interesting reading:

http://ccorbridge.wordpress.com/2009/08/08/bushcooker-lt-ii-vs-the-bushbuddy-ultra/

Leaning towards the Bushbuddy again.....

Joe Newton said...

Dave - it's a very interesting comparison and if I just had to have one stove the Bush Buddy Ultra might be it. But when going solo and counting every ounce (and volume) I'd still take the smaller and lighter LT1, a smaller 700 pot on the understanding that I might have to 'tend' the fire a wee bit more. I like tending fires anyway!

Anonymous said...

I just got a Caldera Cone Sidewinder Ti multi-fuel stove.

As a woodburner with the Inferno option its inverted inner cone & mesh screen bottom provide the same "double wall" efficiency as the Bush buddy and Bush cooker.

True the Sidwinder does take a bit of assembly (& disassembly) for each use but it is VERY compact and does teh job well on just a handfull or two of finger sized twigs.

I pefer the Sidwinder for its better heat efficiency with the cone shaped outer windscreen/pot support. In ESBIT form it is THE most efficient burner I've used.