Two Men, Two Pits and a Blog

Posts tagged “survival

Secret Spots: How to Survive in the Woods Like a Boss

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Somewhere in northern Minnesota

When the wind stopped talking to the stately pines, and the waves settled into calm glass, I could at once hear the lonesome wail of the loon and the distant cry of an eagle in flight. The sun waxed amber over the western shores, distantly beautiful and studded in balsam and papal and birch. The pine-scented air hung freshly in the encampment, as I came down to the canoe for to survey my kingdom and the wilderness sanctum that which spanned the miles nary soiled by the hand of man. I stood there at the water’s edge, gazing, letting the silence which echoed through the forested primeval melt into my mind, and drip down hither into my soul. This is where I longed to be. Where I simply had to be.  Living deliberately. Somewhere in northern Minnesota.

My Secret Spot

No, I shall not in a thousand and one blogs be likely to illuminate you as to where this lovely photo was snapped.  I cannot reveal my paradise, not even to you good folk and readership of the POTP. You must understand the glories of the quieter places, and the toils upheld there to preserve them.  Nay, you’re just going to have to go find your own wilderness sanctum, let it’s magic sidle upon you and nestle into your heart, and when you return home, figure out yourself  how to not mistakenly divulge your secret spot’s location.  It’s hard not to tell people, but alas, it would not be a secret spot any more if you did. So I won’t. I will tell you however, that we did eat well out there. Not all camping is hardtack and swamp water you know. Not if you’re a patron of the pit.

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Brought the Solo Titan along on this romp. You might remember this piece of kit from last autumn. We did a review on it. A wood gassifier stove! Yeah,  it’s a wee bit too heady to explain right now, but if you want to read the review and learn all about it, here is a link for that. Solo Stove Titan Review

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We cooked up a couple of bannocks and this lovely dish of corned beef hash and eggs for breakfast. A filling way to start a day in the bush. Or were we ending the day? No matter, good is good.

Somewhere Else in Minnesota

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Oh we’ve been getting around. Let me show you another secret spot about 7 hours away from the last spot. Stream-side we were, where the native brook trout make their home and lives in the swift flowing currents of this quaint river. I couldn’t catch trout this day, but that did not mar my dinner plans. I knew I wouldn’t woo any trout so I brought along a suitable protein in it’s stead. Steak!

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For this cook we broke out the old Mojoe Griddle. Remember this beast? If ever there was a love affair with a 1/4 inch, hot-rolled, 35 pound steel disc, then this is it. As always, a privilege to cook on, especially in the prettier places.  It’s a restaurant grade griddle, and could not be more fun. If you want to learn more about the Mojoe, check out our review in this link – Mojoe Griddle

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Aside the babbling stream we fried up a massive hunk of steak, sided with several piles of black beans and corn and fajita stuff; all of this was served over a good bowl of red beans and rice, and thus topped with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. Go ahead and wipe the drool from your chin now…We’ll stand by and wait for you. Oh man that was good! I could eat this every day!

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And….Somewhere Else Again…Still in Minnesota

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This secret spot was along Lake Superior. That’s all I’ll disclose. Suffice it to say there is no better place to cool off on a summer’s day than on the rugged shore of the big lake they call “Gitchigumi” .  That’s Ojibway for “Huge Water“, in case you’re interested. Anyways, we ate good here too! Man was it pretty!

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More steak and beans, this time on the Instagrill. Yet another cooking gem we reviewed not long ago. Truly a portable charcoal powered cooking unit fit for the gypsy and wandering nomad in all of us. Love this little pit!

IMG_1835 We cooked all our meals on it at this campsite. Here is a lovely breakfast burrito in the making. We’re toasting the tortilla whilst the ham and egg and cheese innards stay warm up in the corner. We really enjoyed cooking over this thing. The perfect camping grill.  If you missed the review of this one, you can check it out here, InstaGrill Review

Or better yet, just check out their website Myinstagrill. By the way, they met their kickstarter goal, and are supposed to go into production of this little cooker this summer sometime. Good on you Jonathan!

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A fine little grill to be sure. But if you can swing it, and have the inclination, not to mention perhaps a fair degree of lunacy, then nothing beats a 22 inch Weber Kettle grill in camp!

Somewhere Else’s Else….Yes, still in Minnesota

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Boy we’ve been living the camper’s dream this spring. Gone every other weekend, living sweet lives. My cronie, bless his heart, he done dragged this Weber kettle about an 1/8 of a mile down the winding trail, through the woods and across creeks, to one of our favorite campsites, where upon we enjoyed quaint billowing clouds of wood smoke and the aromas of slow cooking pork ribs. Nothing is quite so fine as that in a rustic, backwoods encampment. It would have been better tho, I suppose, had he remembered to bring the cooking grate.

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Indeed. But with a few pop cans and some green branches procured from the camp-side thickets, we were able to make do and eat well anyways, patron to the pit.  Let no obstacle stand between a man and his meat! It’s all about working with what you’ve got, and adapting to your place in the sun. And that is how you stay alive in the woods, not to mention some secret spots of paradise that we can’t really tell you about. You understand.

Life is good when you go bush. Life is even better if you have good food there. And we did.  And you can too! Amen.


A Study in Flame: Solo Stove Titan Review and Giveaway!

*To the readership. This is a rare event on PotP. Don’t miss your chance to enter to win a free Solo Stove Titan in our first ever giveaway. All you need to do is leave a comment below, then go to this link, Titan Giveaway – Patrons of the Pit, and it will guide you from there. Another way you can enter the giveaway is to like our Facebook page, and again, just go through the link above, and it will direct you to Facebook from there. If you can’t do either of those, an Email address will enter you into the contest also.  Regardless, use the link if you want to participate in the giveaway. Think of the link as a conduit for getting things done. The widget needs the attention so it can keep track of who has entered the giveaway. Oh, and if you have previously liked our Facebook page, sorry, those likes do not count in this giveaway. Anyways, now let’s get on with this review already!

img_1281Not too long ago, last week in point of fact, I was backpacking through the hinter regions of northern Minnesota. Was on one of my usual haunts there, afoot with a pack on my back, enjoying some of the swiftly vanishing perks of wilderness travel. Solitude. Clean rushing rivers. Pure air in which to breathe, ushered on a breeze that which murmurs like poetry through the long-standing pines. It was October, and the tamarack along the way were turning golden there, kissed in an autumnal sunbeam. It was just plain lovely. So much so and in fact, it rather demanded a spot of tea.

Solo Stove Titan – Larger Version of Original Solo Stove. Lightweight Wood Burning Stove. Compact Kit for Backpacking, Camping, Survival. Burns Twigs – No Batteries or Liquid Fuel Canisters Needed.

Enter The Titan

solo_titan_nocookingring__69207-1445351399-95-95I had along a new piece of gear this hike, one sponsored to us by the kindly folks at Solo Stove. It’s a backpacking stove, good for car camping too, that runs completely off wood, or what ever other forest debris, or bio fuel, you might find laying about. It’s pretty slick. And I don’t think I have ever had a more poetic, scientifically satisfying, trail-side cup of tea in my life, than I had with this ingeniously designed cooker. The Solo Stove Titan. The glory is in the flame. So grab yourself a cup of tea likewise, and let’s disect this thing, shall we.

Natural Convection Inverted Down Gas Gasifer

What???

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solo_titan_top__35990-1445351431-95-95Here’s how it works. You build your fire on the nichrome wire grate down in the stove. Air comes in through the holes at the bottom of the stove, feeding oxygen to the fire there. With me so far? Simple enough. Here is where it gets interesting tho. The stove is double walled, and so warm air also travels upwards, heating up as it goes, between in the inner wall and the outer one. Once it reaches the top of the stove, it is expelled through another set of slightly smaller holes there. The oxygen coming out these holes, as mentioned, has been preheated in its ascent, and when it dumps back into the firebox, a literal secondary combustion occurs. And that, my friends, is the magic of the Solo Stove.

So What Does It Mean?

What it means is efficiency. This additional act of combustion assists the fire in burning more complete, they say. In point of fact, when the fire is going at full tilt, there is very little smoke produced at all, because it is so efficient. In theory, the stove will cook the smoke right out of the wood. Least wise that’s what the flame wizards at Solo Stove say. The efficient burn also means you will use less wood to cook with, when compared to cooking over an open camp fire. Not only that, when the fuel burns out, there is nothing but a fine, powdery ash remaining. No glowing embers to deal with, courtesy of that efficient burn. Needless to say, I was intrigued. So let’s get after that cup of tea, shall we.

img_1275It comes with a nicely crafted pot support, that nests inside the stove for travel. Anyways, I had a fire quickly kindled in its steel bosom, and set my old, blackened kettle on to boil. Enough for two cups of tea, I should wager. I sat back and watched the river gurgle by and admired this piece of cooking technology before me. Occasionally I fed it a small twig or stick to keep it happy. As the fire established, I must say, I was smitten by the results.

Solo Stove Titan – Larger Version of Original Solo Stove. Lightweight Wood Burning Stove. Compact Kit for Backpacking, Camping, Survival. Burns Twigs – No Batteries or Liquid Fuel Canisters Needed.

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It didn’t take the fire long at all to stabilize, and the initial plumes of smoke on start-up, to dissolve into distant memories. There is an opening on the pot support, or cooking ring, as you can see, in which to further feed the fire as needed. We had to do a little of that. I’d wager the amount of wood used for two cups of water was something like two large handful’s of sticks broken into finger length pieces. Thicker hardwoods, of course, burn better and longer than the soft balsam fir sticks that I used, but I had about one million square acres of forest and wood to play with, so it didn’t really matter. That’s another joy of a wood burning backpacking stove, I discovered. You will never run out of fuel. Leastwise in the north woods of Minnesota, you sure won’t.

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After a fashion, I also noticed the secondary combustion thing kicking in. It actually worked! Of course I failed to capture it in a photo for you, but if you were to peer down into the fire chamber a little more, you would see the fire seemingly coming out of that higher set of holes that we talked about earlier. Indeed, the main fire down on the grate was blazing away, but it was also shooting out of the holes up near the top. And the smoke was curiously absent, just like they said. I gotta say, I was impressed. Even my wife, who is not often impressed by scientific stuff, was suitably awed. We were sipping tea in no time, enjoying the warmth of a hot mug in our hands, and further admiring this little stove .

Later on in camp, we fired it up again.

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The inner pyromaniac in me couldn’t get enough play time with this stove. I discovered its engineering went other ways too. Subtle ways. For example, I discovered that even when the stove is fiercely hot, that I could still move it around if I had to by gripping it below the lowest set of holes. It wasn’t exactly cool down there, but not hot enough either that you couldn’t hang onto it for a while if you had to move it for some reason. The reason that impressed us was because if it’s not hot down there, then that means you could set it on a picnic table, perhaps, and not have to worry about burning a nice 5.1 inch circle into your table top. Always a nice thing.

Here are some specs on the Solo Stove Titan, if you’re curious

Specs for the Sole Stove Titan

Packed size: Height 5.6 inches, Width 5.1 inches
Assembled size: Height 7.9 inches, Width 5.1 inches
Weight: 16.5 oz
Materials: 304 stainless steel, nichrome wire
Fuel: sticks, twigs, pine cones and other biomass
Boil time: 4-6 mins (32 fl oz of water)
To read more on the Solo Stove Titan, do check out their website at:

Bonus Thoughts

It’s a lovely piece of kit. Just holding it in your hand, you’ll notice the quality and the craftsmanship are very nice. No moving parts, simple, and robust. The thing is built to last, and more over, do what it was designed to do. Burn wood. As old bush master, Horace Kephart once said, “A sourdough is known by the fitness and simplicity of his equipment“. Well, we think the solo stove passes the grade in that respect. It’s also rather nice to romp through the woodlands on a multi-day trip afield, and know that you can’t run out of fuel for your stove. That if you should get stuck out in the hinter lands for a few extra days, that at least you will have a way to boil water for as long as you need to. Say what you will, but there is a certain comfort in that.
But I hate camping! Roughing it to me is when my furnace dips below 70 degrees!“, some of you might croak. Well first of all, you’re kind of a wimp then, but even so, we still love you, and such a stove in your supplies could still prove useful someday. It is always well to be prepared, say, for power outages, off-grid work, natural disasters, or the inevitable zombie invasion. You never know. As long as you can find yourself a small pile of sticks, and you possess the primitive “know-how” to light a fire, well, then you can cook on this stove. I suppose you could even light up a few charcoal briquettes, if you had to, toss them into the stove, and manage to cook over it. The beauty tho is burning things you have lying around. We highly recommend starting with the political section.
What are the short comings of the stove?
Well, the biggest one is probably soot. Your cooking pot will no doubt get caked in the stuff after a couple of cooks. But this is how it is, and how it always has been when you cook over real fire. Your stuff gets sooty. It just does. If you can’t accept that, then I guess cooking over fire just isn’t for you. You can try the old bush trick of wiping your pots down in soap before each cook, if you want. That’s supposed to help. But I find it’s much simpler to just dedicate an old sack or bag for your cook pot, thus containing the soot at least to its own little quarantine of funk when in travel mode. The technique works fine, and of course, it’s simple. We adore simple.
We also found the Titan to be a little large for the backpacking we like to do. Now mind you, this isn’t the stove’s fault. It was designed to be able to cook for 2 to 4 people, and not necessarily be the size of the petite solo gas stoves I normally pack. But I wanted to try it backpacking anyhow, you know how it goes. Considering the savings in fuel bulk and weight, well, it sort of makes the size of the stove acceptable. If you’re a car camper, or a canoe camper or something along those lines, then the size of the Titan is of no issue at all. Off-hand, Solo Stove solved this problem anyways, as they have other sizes of stoves in their line up. The Solo Stove Lite, for example, is a good deal smaller than the Titan, and is designed with the backpacker in mind. Judging from how much fun I’ve been having with the Titan, I might have to put the smaller Solo Stove on my Christmas list.
The last knock we could give it is it’s kind of pricey at $90.00. Boy there are cheaper ways to fry your bacon. But again, from what we can tell of it, it looks like something that will last a long time. And best of all,  when you consider you’ll never need to buy fuel for the stove, like ever, well, then it’s only a matter of time before the Titan should pay for itself. And in the long run, be cheaper to operate than cheaper gas camping stoves which must always be refilled. The more you use it, the more affordable it gets! (Price doesn’t matter anyways if you win our free giveaway!)
Final Thoughts
Anyways, and in closing, we really enjoyed field testing this one. Not exactly a BBQ thing, but if you’ve been in our readership for long, you’ll know we do tend to take to the hither lands with some frequency, and further more, love to cook there. It all falls under the flag of outdoor cooking, a particular joy of which resides at the heart of this blog. So we were excited to do this review. Privileged in fact.  Anyways, if you’re in the market for a new camping stove, you may want to consider this wood burning alternative. Just come up with a system to deal with the soot and you’re good to go!
A kindly thanks also to the good people at Solo Stove for setting us up. Great folks. Wonderful gear. And lots of clever ideas circulating around over there. Do check them out some time if you’re into this sort of thing.
Or check them out on amazon.

Solo Stove Titan Giveaway!

 Sorry, you missed it!
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And finally, the part you’ve been waiting for. As mentioned, Solo Stove has offered to do a giveaway for one lucky subscriber of Patrons of the Pit. We’ve never done a giveaway before, but you guys deserve it, and well, it might be fun. As mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are three ways to enter.

Three Ways to Enter!

1. Leave us a comment below, then click on the Titan Giveaway link to finish the formalities.
Or
2. Click on the Titan Giveaway link and like our Facebook page from there.
Or
3.Click on the Titan Giveaway link and enter an Email address
Think of the link as a conduit to make things happen. The Giveaway lasts for 14 days from the time this post goes live. Then a program called Gleam will randomly select the winner, and Solo Stove themselves will ship the stove to your doorstep. Now you can’t beat that! And it really is an amazing little stove. You will like it! Good luck, people!!
 Blessings,
-PotP

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