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!

Setting up your camp kitchen, part 2. The morning cup of coffee.

Continued from Setting up your camp kitchen, part 1.

As you continue setting up your camp kitchen, there are must haves, and nice to haves, and what was I thinking items. Depending on your sensibilities, the definition of must have can be pretty broad, so with that said, let's dive in and talk about the gear.

I should mention that where possible, I WILL steer you away from anything that touches your food or beverage when hot that includes either plastics, or aluminum. The health concerns of both of those materials are well documented and long standing. I do have safety / durability concerns with glass as well, but will select glass over plastic almost every single time. In a later post we will discuss glass food storage containers.

#7. Coffee making equipment. No morning for me is quite complete without a good cup of coffee. When I first started out of the car camping, I would boil water in the regular cook pot, and dunk a Folgers Coffee single into a mug and steep it like a tea bag. The results were barely adequate at best, and honestly, I think cowboy coffee where you use your teeth to filter out the grounds provided better results. Through many years of trial and error, I have found 2 solutions that work well, but may or may not be your cup of... well not tea in this case...

The first solution I tried that gave marginally acceptable results, was a Texsport stainless steel percolator. This is probably the most popular method for brewing coffee until the 1970s when the automatic drip coffee maker rose in popularity, but for most people, taking your Mr. Coffee tot he camp site was beyond unreasonable, so for camping, many of us, myself included, suffered through with percolator brewed coffee on camping trips. The flavor certainly is much better than the coffee singles approach, but once you get to drip brewed coffee, percolated coffee is, well... bitter. I don't mean to badmouth percolator brewed coffee, it's just not my favorite, HOWEVER, a percolator is super reliable, and even if your camp stove fails, you can brew percolated coffee on a camp fire which is an extra special experience.

In the 1970s, particularly the late 1970s, drip brewed coffee has been the norm for almost all coffee, except for when camping. I do not recall exactly when I first saw one, but in 2006 I discovered for myself the joys of owning a camping drip coffee maker that runs off of your camp stove. The Coleman Camping Coffee maker. It is almost a normal drip coffee maker, except the heat source used is from your camp stove, either propane or liquid fuel. It is designed to be used on the Coleman 2 burner camp stoves, but works on similar stoves, and I have seen it used in RVs, boats, and residential applications where there is a gas stove. My home brewer is a Ninja Coffee Bar, and while the results aren't as fancy, the quality is quite good from the Coleman, and the brew time is acceptable, On par with the old Black and Decker coffee maker I wore out. My only complaint is that the glass carafe always leaves me scared I am going to drop and break it far away from a source of replacements.

Fast forward to late 2016 when I learned about a stainless steel replacement carafe for Coleman's fancier propane fueled stand alone Quickpot coffee maker. It would appear the carafe is the same between the two. So my latest iteration of the coffee maker is the Coleman Camping Coffee Maker fitted with a Quickpot stainless steel carafe. This eliminates my terror of being coffee less on a camping trip. The remaining item I need to add to my coffee rig is a permanent filter to take the place of paper filters. I want to do what I can to reduce waste and excess use.

There is also the Melida Cone filter brewer. A simple funnel shaped to hold a coffee filter, and brew your coffee one cup at a time. I used one of these as my first home coffee maker when I got my first apartment when I moved out of my parents place. It works, reasonably well, doesn't use much space, and has the advantage of making you brew a fresh cup of coffee every time. It's not like you are going to be able to brew an entire pot at once. I guess you could, but it's not going to stay hot...

Another method for brewing coffee in camp is a French press, again for durability sake, I strongly advise if you do go this method, get and use a Stainless Steel model.

Lastly, if you are like me, and you love a hot mocha, or a good approximation of a cappuccino then a milk frother is a msut. Just like the carafe, the french press etc... you are going to want to have a stainless steel frother. One thing I found was in a clean protein shake shaker, milk froths up VERY nicely if you don't fill it up more than 1/4.

Of course you will need your supplies. For that I use old / reused 1lb plastic coffee cans. You will want filters, or your favorite permanent filter, coffee grounds, sweetener of your choice, milk, creamer, or even almond milk, and any add ins you would like such as chocolate or caramel syrup, whipped cream etc...

Now picture if you will, you get up before your spouse, go start up the stove, brew a pot Mexican Chocolate flavored coffee (It's a thing, if you can find it, do yourself a favor and try it!), froth the milk, and...

In a 20oz stainless steel vacuum tumbler add.
5 packets sweet and low.
4 oz skim milk, frothed.
1 oz sugar free chocolate syrup
Fill to 7/8 mark with coffee and stir.
Finish off with whipped cream and drizzle a few stripes of chocolate syrup.

See if you can get that into the tent to your spouse before you start drinking it!

Probably better make 2 at the same time to avoid that issue...

So while you are considering the coffee options, remember...

Get out there and find your own... road less traveled.

Amazon links to the equipment and supplies from this post. The coffee and sugar free chocolate syrup are not the lowest prices, but can be hard to find.