Sunday, March 4, 2018

Brand name gear fail. Coleman Pack Away camp kitchen.

First things first, full disclosure, the Coleman Pack Away camp kitchen that we own was purchased probably 12 years ago. However it is ben very lightly used, and stored dry, never exposed to anything aside from normal southern humidity that, well everything around here is exposed to.

The Coleman Pack Away camp kitchen is a well designed, well thought out compactly foldable little table with just the right tack on thing a ma bobs to be really handy on a camping trip.

The entire thing folds up to roughly the size of a long laptop bag, and folds out to provide ample food prep area, with a perfect spot for your Coleman liquid fuel camp stove.

There is an adjustable height pole with hook for hanging your lantern, An upright, well goal post sort of thingy with 5 S hooks that are ideal for hanging your cooking utensils for easy access, and a mesh "shelf" under the table top for holding your camp dishware. All in all a fairly good setup for keeping the family fed on those trips where the campground picnic table is going to be occupied...

There are 2 areas where this camp kitchen fails, and does so pretty massively.

The first, and it's a pretty major flub from Coleman considering they sell WAY more propane stoves than liquid fuel these days, is that there is no suport for a propane bottle, or hose, so if you are using a propane stove, YOU will have to MacGuyver some way to support the fuel supply.

Coleman's own product photography shows the product being used with a propane stove, witht he fuel bottle just hanging off the regulator in mid air. This puts a LOT of leverage on that aluminum line. At best, this will over the long term, cause the regulator line to bend. At worst, it can cause a fuel leak while the appliance is in use, causing a fire, or potential fuel explosion. Long story short, DO NOT USE YOUR STOVE LIKE WHAT COLEMAN PICTURES!

I've talked about this in some of my videos in the past, I use a hose / bulk tank rig, and I support the hose with the legs of the table to keep pressure off the fuel regulator. 

You can see where I discuss this in my description of the Brinkmann Stainless Steel 2 burner camp stove. 

The second, and more annoying to me issue is one of quality of materials. The framing is high quality aluminum, the legs etc.... all are well made, it's the laminated MDF top pieces that are, well an incredibly poor choice of materials for any sort of durability in an outdoor envioronment.

In the case of mine, less than 3 camping trips and years of storage have resulted in tops that are badly bowed in, and in need of replacement.

Now I could just replace the unit, but let's face it. I am going to end up with EXACTLY the same problem. So instead, I am looking for inexpensive, sufficiently large plastic cutting boards that I can trim to fit, and then get busy with a router, power drill, and riveter, and modify this. I seriously doubt coleman left me with a lwide enough slot to do it internal to the frame, so I will just tack them over the outside... But I have yet to find a suitable cutting board....

In the mean time, I use it as is... but I am honestly not really thrilled iwth the quality corners that were cut...

Long story short, I do not really recommend this unless you are going into it knowing the shortcomings, and are willing to address them on your own.

Top surface replacement options could be any of a myriad of plastics, aluminum, or even if you have the funds, stainless steel.

Best of luck, 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Should I spend more to buy the brand name gear?

It really never ceases to amaze me how often I see this question. It's not unique to camping gear either... But for the sake of this blog... we are talking about camping gear...

The anser is pretty complex, and really is, maybe, maybe not. Let me explain...

The big issue, is what item specifically are you talking about?

Is it fairly complicated, or likely to need service or replacement parts sometime in the future? Things that need replacemen parts are things like camp stoves, lanterns, grills etc...

If the answer is yes, then absolutely you need to buy quality brands. Specifically, and I don't want to sound like a brand snob here as they really are middle of the road cost wise, but Coleman products have great reliability and parts support, but to top it off, I will give you another example...


I have a large number of tents, from different manufacturers, they are...

Sierra Designs
Swiss Gear
Ozark Trail.

There are 3 of these brands that stand up well to foul weather, and hard use. They are, in ascending cost category...

Sierra Designs.

I cannot personally attest to the truth of this, but there have been enough stories written up about it I tend to believe this, but the Oaark Trail tents are reportedly only intended, and supported by their manufacturer for use in ideal weather, and make no claims whatsoever about storm worthiness.

The Texsport, well, that thing is a joke. The poles are so thin they basically fold under and collapse with the slihgtest breeze.

The stansport tent in all honesty has been durable, and held up to lots of use, but even with lots of seam sealing, it leaks like a sieze under a hard rain.

Same goes for the Swiss gear. VERY sturdy construction, but with the complicated design with a huge number of seams, it leaks, badly, under a Texas spring rain storm... Not much fun to be trying to sleep with a steady stream of rain pouring on your head...

Mind you, there are some very innovative ideas going on with these brands, like Ozark Trail has the Dark Rest tents, that do a great job of blocking out sunlight, and much heat gain at least early in teh day, as well as some models in the past have had AC ports for literally using a window unit Air Conditioner in your tent! I know camping purists hate the idea, but let me tell you, as a camper in Texas, I LOVE it...

On some other items, the differences may or may not be so vital. For example my family cook set is Ozark Trail branded, but really a rebranded Texsport set, that I have had for 14 years now, with only one issue, and that is that a pot metal wing nut and screw rusted up and broke, easily replaced at Home Depot, although I had to trim the screw short to match the original, and yes the metal is thin, but judicious use of heat settings and all is well with my cooking, and cookweare... And ithe whole set weighs about 1/4 of what one cast iron skillet weighs...

This whole issue has been brought up to mind most recently, not by a lower cost alternative, but a brand that just isn't standing behind their product. At least not the way their competition does...

I am talking about Brinkmann. You see back in late 2004, early 2005, I bought myself a beautiful 2 burner propane camp stove, but not just ANY 2 burner propane camp stove. I bought a Brinkmann because, it was priced right about where Coleman had their self ignition model, but the brinkmann had a feature that the frequent beach camping I was doing then called for. Stainless steel construction.

Now I've going on and on particularly in my videos about how much I dislike 1lb propane cylinders. About the risks they pose in the waste stream, how much more expensive they are than either liquid fuel, or bulk propane etc... I would never knowningly buy any propane appliance that I could not run on a refillable bulk tank.

Well the first time I hooked a bulk propane tank hose up to the regulator of the Brinkmann, and turned the gas on, the regulator simply quit working. The stove was new, and Brinkmann send me a replacement regulator. Fast forward some years, and I am looking for a replacement regulator again... None to be found anywhere.

Now mind you, regulators for Coleman stoves have pretty much been the same for, well my entire long lifetime. I can walk into just about any sporting goods store that sells campign gear, or a Walmart, Target, whatever, even many grocery stoves and buy a replacement regulator for a coleman, and be assured it will fit and work...

So long story short, it's not really the COST of the item that makes the difference, but rather the company, and the care they give the customer after the sale, long after the sale that make the difference... I mean if Brinkmann had been usable, and maintainable, not only would I have bought a second stove from them for more in depth trips, but I would be recommending them due to the stainless construction. but since they are, well planned obgsolescence, I am not doing business with them from now on...

Too bad. I really like my shiny silver stove...

Friday, April 7, 2017

What Wildersport Outdoors is all about, and unboxing an iRegro wood gasifier stove.

A quick video about Wildersport Outdoors, what we are all about, and the unboxing of a pretty cool new wood gasifier backpacking stove.

Mr. Heater Portable Buddy pilot fox.

So our mr. Heater portable buddy that we use camping fishing in the shop pretty much everywhere finally decided that the pilot wasn't going to work we did a little research and found the fix here it is to share with you.

Reliable camp lighting.

We've been through many interations of camp lighting over the years, The experiments were
  1. Propane lanterns
  2. Flashlights
  3. Mag lights in lantern mode
  4. Headlamps
  5. kerosene lanterns
  6. White gas / Gasoline lanterns
  7. Butane lanterns.
  8. Candle lanterns
  9. and most recently. The Tac Light lantern. Those super bright LED lanterns.
All of them have their advantages, and disadvantages. And just like the liquid fueled / gasoline / white gas stoves, we come back to white gas / gasoline every time.

Simply put, While the tac light lantern is a good lantern, there are many imitators, and the light, well, it's too stinking bright close up to be anything but blinding, but does not disperse well enough to make a good area light.

Propane has proved over the years to be expensive to use with any frequency, especially with the fuel consumption that we deal with in propane lanterns. 

Kerosene works well, but produces too limited of a light be to useful beyond a small camp kitchen, or a tent / cabin room. And considering the fuel isn't used on anything we own other than the lantern, it is a bit hard to give serious consideration to use... Having said that, if I could re jet the stove to use Kerosene, it would be a GREAT option for international travel. And with a stove like the MSR XGK you can do just that. Kerosene is readily available pretty much anywhere so you would never need to worry about fuel but...

As we prep our gear for the spring camping season that is almost upon us here in Texas, we are getting the gas lanterns ready White gas is hard to find outside of the US and Canada, but unleaded gasoline is readily available. SO a dual fuel model makes for great fuel availability. 

Our prep work as you might recall includes testing for leakage, and doing a pre burn at home to insure that the lantern lights and operates. We have two of them, one of which had a failed pump seal that was easily replaced with parts from our local big box retailers sporting goods section, and it simply took a few starts to clear the cobwebs out.

It should be mentioned that we stocked up on fuel a long time ago, thinking white gas would go through fairly quickly. We did not find that to be true.

In real world use, we would burn up 2 1lb propane cylinders in a 24 hour period in the lantern. We could fill up the white gas lantern 8 times with a 1 gallon can, and each fill up lasted for 2 days. 

The results in fuel usage are similar with the stove. Have we made our point clearly enough on why we chose gasoline / white gas over propane yet?

So now that the lanterns are ready to go and stuffed back in their cases, we await delivery of our replacement packings for the stove, and we get that leak fixed, and we are ready to go.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Pre-trip prep things to check on your camping appliances.

Something not often covered but far too often discovered while at camp is that your appliances have some sort of issue.

You are most likely issue is going to be a leak of some sort. You should know how to detect and possibly fix those leaks.

With liquid-fueled appliances leaks tend to be readily apparent. On stoves you typically see fuel pooling up in the little recess where the pickup tube comes out of the tank. Or the tank simply will not take pressure due to either a bad pump or a bad cap.

If you see fuel pooling chances are you will likely be able to see where it is coming from. The most likely culprit is the packing behind the valve stem nut this is a piece of graphite that does tend to go bad over time. To fix this you can try to turn the valve wide open and then using 1/2 inch open end wrench simply snug the nut down a little at a time no more than 1/8 turn.

If it is a bad cap he will smell fuel leaking from around the cap and quite possibly see fuel leaking down the tank near the fill cap The fix there is to Simply replace the cap.

A bad pump is usually do to the leather cup getting dried out and shrinking you can try rehydrating and swelling that cup by removing the pump and soaking the leather cup in vegetable oil for about an hour or so. Then reinstall the pump and try generating pressure in the tank. If that fails a new pump repair kit is in order they are inexpensive and readily available get many retailers.

Propane and butane offer a unique problem. Since we are addressing car camping in this post I'm not going to go into the issues of butane as it is a very Cod fuel to use for out of the car camping and more commonly used for backpacking.

Determining where or even if propane is leaking can be far more complex then determining if liquid fuel is leaking and it requires additional equipment to run a test. You will need a household spray bottle filled with soapy dishwater the idea here is to spray around any and all joints and fittings where the propane runs if the propane is leaking the soapy water should bubble up so make sure you use enough soap and that it is the kind that gets very sudsy.

To run the test make certain you are outdoors and no where near  any sort of ignition source  then simply attach your fuel bottle or line to your Appliance and spray down the joints where the bottle screws in where the valve that operates the fuel flow is and look for any bubbles. Open the valve slowly and continue the test spraying around the valve until the valve is all the way open and then close the valve make sure you don't see any bubbles other than what you expect to see was just soapy water.

Depending on the manufacturer and the model of the propane Appliance in question you will likely need to Source up whenever components you find leaking if they are available. We have found with Coleman, Zodi and Century appliances that Parts availability tends to be fairly good. Other brands can be hit-or-miss. Sometimes all you need to replace is a simple rubber or cork gasket comma sometimes it's an entire valve assembly or even a regulator. This is just part and parcel of taking care of your equipment.

It should be noted that with proper care there is no shortage of late 1940s and early 1950s camp stoves that have been cared for and lovingly used by generations of the same family. The build quality today is no better or worse than has been in years past thankfully. With appropriate care and maintenance you can expect you're Camp appliances to provide great service literally for decades.

It should be noted then we our cells have had to replace a valve stem packing on our Coleman 424 stove and a pump rebuild kit on one of our premium fuel lanterns. We also have a leaking fuel control valve on a Century single burner camp stove that we got in the 1980s. We are not planning on fixing that particular stove since the replacement part cost more than the stove.

Hopefully the information we've provided here today has been of some value to you. Before you fully rely on this information we encourage you to seek out Diagnostic and repair information from your specific Appliance vendor. They can be very good at helping keep your equipment running in top condition with maximum safety.

Somero you've got the information hopefully you've taken care of your equipment so get out there and find your own Road Less Traveled.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Setting up your camp kitchen part 3. Selecting a camp stove,

So you want to actually cook, not just grill or stick hot dogs on a stick over a camp fire for a weekend of camping. You are going to need a stove for that.

You have decided you are going ot do out of the car camping. So ultra light single burner butane stoves probably aren't for you either...

Nope, you need a good 2 burner camp stove. But there are so many options out there. Let's compare the main types side by side and give you the options, and a bit of a story behind why we prefer one over the other.

When it comes to full size camp stoves, 2 burner jobs, there are 2 main types. Liquid fuel, and propane. Yes there are other compressed gas types but propane and liquid fuel are the MAIN types you are going to run into here..

Each type of stove has its advantages, and disadvantages, let's run down the list...


Liquid Fuel:

  1. Reliability.
  2. Environmentally friendly fuel consumption.
  3. No waste cartridges.
  4. If using unleaded gasoline, fuel is available pretty much everywhere 
  5. Parts readily available to repair if needed. Little down time.
  6. Performance does not reduce in cold weather. 
  7. Impress your family, friends, and fellow campers with an almost steam punk sort of retro tech.
  8. Fuel readily available if using unleaded gasoline, when travelling outside of the continental U.S. You might not be able to source up, or carry your own propane accross the borders... 
  1. Lower initial cost.
  2. Easier to use / more intuitive use.
  3. More compact overall dimensions for similar cooking capacities.
  4. Greater number of options of manufacturers and models. Including some Stainless Steel models.

Liquid Fuel:
  1. Higher initial cost. As of March 8 2017, on, the Coleman Guide series dual fuel stove currently retails at Amazon for $89.36 The Coleman "Classic" 2 burner propane stove retails for $42.95, so the liquid fuel model retails for just over double the propane appliance cost.
  2. Coleman branded Fuel, as it is called, can be hard to come by in gallon cans at certain giant international retailers, and the cost is typically. There is another national brand they seem to carry called Crown Camp Fuel in the gallon cans. I can not attest to the quality of Crown, but have used Walmart's own house branded Ozark Trail Camp Fuel for years. (No longer available). I suspect that is / was Crown in a different can.
  3. More complex fueling / lighting procedure. Not a big deal once you get used to it, but if all you ever used camp appliance wise is propane / butane appliances, liquid fuel is going to come as a shock.
  4. Fuel spills into clothing leave a stink, and can irritate skin. PLUS if you spill camp fuel on yourself, you will want to steer clear of the camp fire!
  1. Lower reliability. I have had to replace pressure regulators on one camp stove 3 times in 2 years due to leaks.
  2. Sensitive to canister pressure, many stoves will only work with 1lb canisters, using them with a tee off of a 20lb tank for example can damage your regulator (the first one that broke!).
  3. The seals tend to dry out, and unlike liquid fuel stove seals don't respond well to soaking in vegetable oil. 
  4. 1lb propane canisters, even when no more fuel is escaping, contain enough potential energy to explode violently if heated. Many jurisdictions consider them hazardous waste making them difficult to dispose of properly.
  5. Propane functions off of the pressure difference between the tank and the outside air. At lower elevations and at sub freezing temps, the pressure differential can be zero, meaning the propane will stay in the cylinder. A liquid fuel stove would simply require a few more strokes of the pump to generate that pressure difference. 
  6. Considerably higher total cost of fuel when used semi, to frequently. A gallon of camp fuel, typically is equivalent to if I recall correctly 8.5 1lb propane cylinders. 
There is some debate among owners, and Coleman themselves states that their fuel only lasts a maximum of 7 years in proper storage, but to be honest. I think their numbers might be conservative as there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that people are using 20 + year old Coleman fuel and similar white gas fuels with no ill effect on their appliances.

Long story short, use your own decision making power. For me, the lower total cost of ownership, combined with fuel availability internationally in the form of regular unleaded if need be, and the easy as pie reliability of a dual fuel / liquid fuel stove vastly outweighs the ease of use, and lower initial cost of propane appliances. Your needs and desires may vary. 

Not saying we don't own a propane stove. We do, but it is used for very limited applications where a liquid fuel stove won't be appropriate. I.E. the propnae stove is a Brinkmann stainless steel stove, that is great for beach cookouts where sand, salt, and wet air are the order of the day. but aside from that, it's liquid fuel for us all the way!