Monday, July 30, 2018

Review: Firebox stove

I'm a notoriously difficult present recipient, mostly because I like eclectic and specialized kit and often get my own. When my birthday rolled around this year I was in the fortunate position to have made a list of cool things that I had not yet acquired. One such item was the flat packing and portable fire place system called a Fire Box Stove. This is the Gen2 5" Folding Firebox Campfire Stove which is a multi-purpose super tool for fire.Thanks Basse and Barry!

It's a multi-fuel cook stove designed to be able to utilize wood and other fuels found in nature, solid fuel tablets, alcohol burners, iso-butane gas burners, gel fuels (such as Sterno), wood pellets or charcoal briquettes. I haven't yet tried it but i'd think pine cones would work nicely in it, as would shredded or twisted cardboard.

The folding Firebox's large size and its sturdy construction makes it reportedly stable enough for a large dutch oven yet it can be used with cookware as small as a camping cup. BE sure to set it up on stable flat ground to avoid spilling your pot of 'pocalypse stew ... The Folding Firebox Stove is also easy to set up. It's four hinged sides effortlessly opens into position, the internal fire base folds down to lock it into its approximate box shape and the accessory fire sticks and ash-tray slot into place as desired. When it's time to go it folds flat, clips together and slips into its own handy leather case ready to slide into your pack, cleanly and easily.

Constructed of Stainless Steel, it stands 19cm(7.5") tall, 12.7cm(5.0") across when set up and all told weighs 907g 92 lbs). Folded it lays a mere 0.95cm (0.375") thick. The hinges are well enclosed longways loops of rolled steel and steel pins. I found the hinges to be smooth and whilst not stiff, to be firm enough that the walls did not flop around when setting it up.
When the internal base is deployed , it braces the walls and fits it securely. Even after use, the hinges moves smoothly. The ash tray was a bit fiddly to fit but it has a right way and a wrong way, as its not square and neither is the stove. (It's a trapezoid.) The fire sticks either slots through the walls of the stove to offer coal support or into notches in the top to provide stable cook surface.
A perforated grill plate can also be fitted into the top of the stove in place of the fire sticks. This allows food to be directly cooked on the fire, without need of pot or pan but also makes good cooking platform for a pot or pan.

As well as the perforated sides which give good aeration and wind shielding a fold down lip at the top of one side gives when more heat and burn control. Fuel can be fed in through this gap or through the larger holes in the base of the walls. Short sticks, twigs even straw can be fed in though these side slots without having to remove cooking items from the heat. The relativity small size of the stove means that only a small volume of fuel can be loaded in at any one time so no big logs for long slow nighttime burns and it will require constant feeding. The Firestick posts made good fire tending tools and allowed me to lift and shift components such as flaps and the grill plate without burning myself.

The modular design of the FireBox means that a variety of fuel can be used, in a variety of amounts and applied to a variety of cooking methods. My only complaints with the design are that some of the tolerances are very tight, such as the holding pegs of the grill plate which can be; fiddly to seat and popped loose under heat.

A fire chimney isn't new to my firemaking kit. Astute readers may recall the CampMaid charcoal chimney fire starting system I covered. In principle the two are every similar but the Firebox is purpose built as a stove, whereas the CampMaid chimney is designed as a BBQ starter.

With its multiple cooking configurations, useful accessories and collapsible design, the Firebox leverages its lightweight design and sturdy materials it can use virtually any size cookware and make use of some pretty marginal fuel sources to not only cook food, boil water to make safe but it also functions as a portable campfire.

It's small, not for for burning logs but it certainly beats trying to clear a dry spot for a fire after a rain, and preparing a fire pit, or leaving one improperly quenched. The Fire box, being so well vented, burns very completely leaving only fine ash if left to burn out.

As a backyard stove, it was excellent, and meant I could set up a small fire in a controlled way to burn off scraps and have some fun with my little one Tactical Baby, and teach her good fire behavior in a controlled space. In a wilderness setting it might be wise to set it up with some wind shelter, as the perforated sides and base let embers fall through and it would be irresponsible to spread fire, also it shelters the fire and ensures an even burn essential for cooking.

I used my EverFire brick firestarters to both get it going and to do some initial cooking and it worked really well with those. The Firesticks allowed me to tailor the burn height and positioning. With these to maximize their effectiveness.

I noted a little warping of the grill plate after its first use, and some thermal discoloration of the steel from where the stainless steel reached sufficient temperatures. Not that this was a surprise or is a problem but good to remember.

Its a little too big to fit in a cargo pocket,  but small enough to fit in the front pouch of almost any daypack i'd want to take on the trail with me.

I look forwards to collecting the accessories and trying out my lightweight camp cooking skills.

with an Everfire brick as fuel. supported by Firesticks

Off cuts and woodwork scraps kindled by the EverFire brick

time for a nice mug of tea!

Baby wieners toasted and consumed! Vacation fun!

Non-sqaure base plate folds to holds it rigid
A single methylated spirit charged EverFire brick gets it red hot

Heat your tea, cook your dinner, warm your hands!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Review: EverFire fire brick

When it comes to fires, we have many traditional options available from: gas, charcoal, heat beads, and wood. Apart from gas, lighting a fire can be tricky and time consuming.  I like to use off-cuts and dead-fall whenever possible, and heat-beads to cook on, and reclaimed timber as firewood.  In getting a fire going, the use of everyday firelighters although cheap, sometimes produce fumes or smoke that isn't pleasant. Also you can only use them once.

 I believe I have located something that is a cheap, cost effective, eco-friendly alternative. A clean burning reusable firelighter combined with methylated spirits that burns odorless and can be used again and again. These are the EverFire fire-starting system. They can not only used as a fire lighter, you can use them to cook a meal with no other fuel source. Just place them on a solid non-flammeable surface light them up and place your pan right on top.

The EverFire bricks are made from a 100% natural mineral which is used in various industries and it's totally environmentally friendly.

The bricks are soaked in a liquid accelerant and lit. The creators recommend methylated spirits or ethanol as it is clean burning, with no fumes or smoke emitted while burning. Otherwise you may use any accelerant of your choice, but always be cautious and store in container of choice in a safe location out of the reach of children. Watch their accelerant tests.

The bricks are then lit with match or lighter and the fuel burns. Burn time for metho is normally 10-12 minutes. When cooking only with EverFire firelighters by placing the pot or pan directly onto the firelighters you can increase the burn time to around 17-20 minutes.

  I've found by the firelighters' third use it will give the longest burn time. Burning itself in and having its "pores" burnt clean of the manufacturing process I believe.

After many uses the firelighters will eventually break down back into their natural form. All you need to do is crumble them up and place in your garden as it is very good for your soil and plants.

After their full burn time, and after 15-20 minutes cooling-down, it can be returned to a fuel bath and recharged. The big ones use between 50-70ml per charge. The small ones between 25-50ml. If you remove the firelighter from the fire and put out with a damp cloth, you will use less than a complete burn. Cooling the bricks reduces the thermal shock they experience when dropping into fuel, thus reducing the risk of cracking and becoming less effective. That said the makers suggest hat even cracked they will function effectively.

I found that a single EverFire brick, soaked with methylated spirits was not only hot enough and long lasting a burn enough to send my Fire Box stove red hot but also boil enough water to make two cups of tea and toast some mini-hot-dogs, as well as starting a fire to make lunch on.

For the purposes of domestic fireplace use, its possible to leave the bricks in the fire until it's died and then retrieve them for recharging, to no ill effect. In some scenarios if it is easy to remove, you can do so. This will increase the overall life of the bricks. In closed fires like Coonaras, or other enclosed indoor fires, you can ease he retrieval process by starting the fire with the firelighters towards the front of the fire. After about 15-20 minutes of fire-starting, just remover firelighter and place somewhere safe to cool.

Once cold return to storage container and recharge for next time. The creators suggest they will last for 30+ fire before they are at risk of cracking and crumbling, but this may vary with use. They seem pretty hardy to me and if treated gently, I can't imagine them just falling apart.

A question came up about dousing the EverFire bricks, should the need arise, and what happens if they get wet or are submerged/dropped in water? smothering with damp cloth should be sufficient to extinguish a metho fueled brick, but if it comes to pass that a brick is submerged in water, thy will absorb it, reducing its effectiveness. However correction this is as simple as returning the brick to it's recharging station and soaking it in fuel. Letting it soak for about 30 minutes. Remove the brick, light it and let it burn out, repeat this process a couple of times and the EverFire brick will steam off any absorbed water will be as good as new again.

In all Webers, fire pits, BBQs, Spits, open fires, or anywhere you need to light wood, heat beads, charcoal, or even to use by themselves to cook or create a heat source. As well as a heat source and limited light source, they can be used as a mosquito repellent by adding a few drops of citronella oil to the metho it is fueled by. Multi-function is huge selling point in my books.

The EverFire brick can be cut and trimmed by hacksaw cutting, should the need arise. The bricks themselves are surprisingly light, even when soaked. Jeff the creator suggested pre-soaking the bricks in metho and then bagging them individually before putting into a tub for transport. A small bottle of fuel can be brought along for on the fly recharges but three pre-primed bricks gives a lot of burn-time ready to go. I did so on a recent hiking trip and we had hotdogs and tea on a windy bench and minimal weight addition. The standard sized bricks weigh only 100g but the larger jumbo bricks weigh 250g and both absorb more fuel and burn longer. Three individually bagged bricks, and a lighter fit nicely in a take-away tub, and seal in any fuel vapors nicely.

EverFire sells their blocks in three sets:

Combo 3: 500g containing 2 large bricks and 1 standard brick. Also a handy storage container for the firelighters.

Standard 5: 500g containing 5 standard bricks. Also a handy storage container for the firelighters.

Jumbo 5: 1250g containing 5 large bricks. Also a handy storage container for the firelighters.

I found these to be easy to use, kid and pack-safe, light and handy fire starters as well as a novel stand alone fire source. Methylated spirits are a cheep, safe and easy to manage fuel. My thanks to Jeff for the free sample pack. I can see these becoming a staple of my camping and backyard firepit kit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Home Front: Rules of Threes (or more)

In survival, the rule of threes is a quick reference guide for how long one can generally stay alive in a survival emergency.

Originally posted on my birthday on Breach Bang & Clear you should go check out the other good reads there too! go there t orea dthe full article. 

Normally, it contains the following:
  •   You can survive three minutes of severe bleeding, without breathable air (unconsciousness generally occurs), or in icy water.
  • You can survive three hours in a harsh environment (extreme heat or cold). Think blizzards, the North Sea, at a Celine Dion concert ...
  • You can survive three days without drinkable water.
  • You can survive three weeks without edible food.

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