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  1. What is the BEST emergency cook stove for your bug out bag? The best stove should: Be compact. Be light-weight. NOT require fuel purchase and storage. Be flexible to work with a variety of fuels. Be dependable to last a long, long time. Be free of needs such as electricity or batteries or fuel canisters. Be elegantly simple. It just needs to work dependably. Be affordable. Make your life better or more fun today as well as in an emergency. It should NOT: Be dangerous. Keep costing more and more money to keep using it. Take up a lot of space in your bug out bag. Be heavy or bulky. Depend on unique or specific fuel types. Break in the field. Have a lot of potential failure points. Be made of corrosive metals. Be difficult to use. Risk spilling your survival food. Yes, Curt Linville here. This is an unashamed, completely biased review of the emergency and reliable cook stoves invented by my friend Travis and me. This article is not about corporations, or the government, or economics. This article is about what Travis and I have done to contribute to preparedness for our families and for all who want to have a reliable way to cook or sterilize water. It is also about my attempts to practice what I preach. We have a young company called 180 Tack that invents and brings to market useful and dependable products for the outdoors and prepping industries. We are doing what we can to make some very useful products available for times of fun and times of need. Our stoves are made in America. Our stoves are dependable. Our company is all about moving away from the problems of corporate America and toward people helping people to live a better way. That is why we named our company 180 Tack. We are all about going in a new direction and running with the wind! Back to cook stoves. Every stove has a niche that it fills. Our stoves are not for every application. We designed our stoves to be light, dependable, versatile, easy to use, and fun. We have tested our stoves in all kinds of weather and conditions, indoors and outdoors, and with a variety of fuels. Our stoves are designed perfectly to work in a backpack for a picnic or a month-long backpacking trek. But more than that, they are designed to work for years if necessary with NO NEED TO BUY OR STORE FUEL. Really? Really. The 180 Stove and the 180-VL are not big, heavy stoves. While I have cooked for 10 on these stoves, they were never intended for preparing Thanksgiving dinner. That said, they are about the most versatile, compact, light-weight stoves you can find. Why? The reason is because our stoves are designed to cook with natural fuels. All you need to boil water or cook your dinner is a handful of twigs. That said, the stove also works great with gel fuels for indoor cooking, with charcoal for grilling, as a wind break and stable platform for alcohol burners, and (although we feel this defeats the purpose of the stove) some people use our stove as a stable cooking platform for their toxic-fueled micro-stoves to keep from spilling their dinner. I suppose some folks don’t want to learn how to start a twig fire. But let’s cut to the chase. Here are the stoves. Below I will go over the pros and the cons. We want our customers to know exactly what they will and won’t get with our products. 180 Stove: Our favorite and most versatile stove. Weighs 10.1 ounces – lighter than micro-stoves and one small fuel canister. Made of 304, .024 stainless steel. Made in the USA. 6 x 7 inch cooking surface is the size of a burner on your range at home. No hinges, rivets, welds, bolts, nuts or screws that might fail in the field. Environmentally friendly. No toxic fuels to spill. No canisters for the landfill. Lighter than the competition. Very compact. Stows in its own 3.25 x .6 x 7 inch self-forming case with all the smoky parts on the inside. Small enough to fit in your pocket. Much more stable than other backpacking stoves. Can securely hold even the largest cooking hardware and supports dozens of pounds. Generous, easy to load firebox to maximize performance and safety. Weighs 5.8 ounces. Made in the USA. Nests around the stowed stoves to maintain compact form factor. The ash pan is an optional accessory designed to work with either stove that provides a necessary surface for cooking on snow or on sensitive soils that should not be disturbed. It also provides extra protection for your counter top when cooking indoors with gel fuels. In most areas, I simply scrape a little soil to the side, cook, douse, and cover the small amount of ashes. That way, I leave no scars on the land. But in some sensitive areas or on snow, I use the ash pan. 180-VL: VL stands for Very Light. For those who don’t mind a smaller firebox and do want to save weight. Weighs 5.9 ounces – lighter than micro-stoves and one small fuel canister. Made of 304, .024 stainless steel. Made in the USA. The triangular cooking surface is generously sized with a 7.25-inch base and 5.75-inch height. No hinges, rivets, welds, bolts, nuts or screws that might fail in the field. Environmentally friendly. No toxic fuels to spill. No canisters for the landfill. Very, very light. Stows in its own 3.25 x .6 x 6.75 inch self-forming case with all the smoky parts on the inside. Small enough to fit in your pocket. Very compact. Much more stable than other backpacking stoves. Can securely hold even the largest cooking hardware and supports dozens of pounds. Easy to load firebox. I have been using these stoves for over two years now both at home and while backpacking in all seasons and weather conditions here in the Colorado Rockies. These stoves have never let me down. As a backpacker, I really appreciate the light weight of the stoves as well as not needing to buy expensive, toxic fuels for each trip. It is also very nice to know that I do not ever need worry about running out of fuel. As a prepper, I like knowing that I can cook food safely, dependably, and conveniently with a large variety of fuels, and I don’t need to store fuel to do so. These stoves easily go with me anywhere. I love the windscreens the stoves form and how close to the flame the stoves keep my pans. This makes for very efficient cooking with very little fuel. I have given up trying to cook on fire grates over camp fires. The heat is too uneven, too far from the pan, and it takes far too much fuel. Besides, I like to keep my eyebrows and hair! In my opinion, cooking over a campfire with a grate is inefficient at best, frustrating, risky, and dangerous at worst. What’s more, the grate weighs much more and takes more space than our stoves! I really do believe that these are the best bug out bag stoves you will find. There are other wood burning stoves on the market. However, they are either too heavy, bulky in format, require breaking fuel into little nuggets, difficult to start fires in, fed from the top requiring one to set the cooking pot in the mud to refuel, too tall and narrow to be stable, made of corrosive metals, have failure points like hinges and rivets, or use gadgets like batteries and fans to keep the fire going. Our stoves have none of these problems. Now, I promised to go over the cons of our stoves as well. To use natural fuels, you will need to learn how to build and maintain small fires in all weather conditions. As a prepper or a naturalist, this is one of the most basic skills required. Whether you use a natural fuel stove or not, you need to learn these skills! It is not difficult to build reliable fires in all weather conditions. We have videos on our site that teach how to do this. The huge advantage that our stoves have over others is that one can feed the fire without disturbing the cooking and without needing to break the fuel into tiny little nuggets. This makes maintaining the fire much simpler. Natural fuels create smoke. Learning to make hotter, low-smoke fires helps a lot with this problem. But natural fuels will smoke up your pot. I carry a small, light rag that not only allows me to safely handle hot cooking utensils, but it also allows me to dry wipe down the stove parts as I put them into their self-forming case. This is all the cleaning that the stove requires, and keeps my hands and pack clean. As for the pot, I don’t mind a smoky pot for cooking in the woods. When cooking with gel fuels at home, this is not a problem. Don’t stomp our stoves. Our stoves will last for many years with proper care. Matter of fact, on level ground we have had over 180 pounds on top of our stoves. But I stomped one sideways in the dark on one camping trip and it did not fare well. That will happen with lighter gauge metals. But here is the good news. I really smashed this stove up, but I was able to bend it back into shape and use it the next morning for breakfast with no problems. So even if you smash your stove, you can still depend on it. It is possible in some conditions to slightly warp the ash pan or side walls of the stove. This seems to happen only with VERY, VERY hot fires or uneven heating of the metal when cooking on snow or ice. Again, this is light-weight stainless steel. After two years of use and abuse, my stoves have not warped, but it can happen. But again, this in no way reduces the functionality of the stove. We would rather have the rare, slight warping than produce heavy stoves that don’t work in a pack or a bug out bag. You will be cooking on the ground most of the time. Of course, this is standard when backpacking and camping away from campgrounds. I have used an ash pan and cooked on higher surfaces, but safe surfaces are not always available. Cooking on the ground is the safest and most environmentally correct way to cook. But the ground is low, as you know. Sometimes you may want to blow the flames to kick up the heat. A two-foot piece of flexible tubing makes this much easier. But I don’t carry tubing. Our stoves are NOT full-sized campfire grates. Yep, just as advertised, they are compact. They are intended for cooking with inch-sized and smaller sticks. They are very stable for large pans, but they are not designed to be fire pits. They are roughly the size of a burner on your cooking range at home. Really. That is the size. They provide the largest, most stable cooking surface of any compact, light-weight cooking stove I know. But if you want a fire pit, then go buy 50 pounds of cast iron. The stainless steel will take on a bronze color. This in no way reduces the functionality of the stove. But stainless, when it gets really hot will lose a little of its shine. The heat of natural fuels is not hot enough to re-temper or melt the metal, but it will change color a bit. Our stoves are not cheap little, fall-apart emergency stoves. Our products are made of solid, dependable materials. Our stoves are made by American workers in the USA. I would love to sell our stoves for less, but frankly, stoves of this quality cost more to manufacture. We know that we are competing with flimsy, foreign-made products. There are plenty of small, flimsy stoves on the market. They may not be dependable, but they are available. But we are investing in our own country and economy and building innovative, sustainable, and dependable products. One more point. I don’t see this as a disadvantage, but I should mention it here. Our stoves are not tall, precarious, stovepipe-shaped towers of tipsy danger. They are low to the ground, stable, and compact. But that means that our stoves are not wood gas stoves. I suppose that one might get a hotter fire going with a tall, precarious stovepipe-shaped tower of tipsy danger, but it is not necessary. I boil a pint of ice water in the winter in under seven minutes with our stoves. And, I have boiled water much faster. A tall, precarious, stovepipe-shaped tower of tipsy danger might boil water faster. I suppose I am just not in that much of a hurry. I prefer keeping my dinner in the pot rather than on the dirt and not scorching my eggs. The 180 Stove and 180-VL keep the flame on the cooking surface, provide a wind break, and reflect the majority of the heat onto the cooking surface. They cook safely and efficiently. What’s more, you can grill with our stove. Will a tall, precarious, stovepipe-shaped tower of tipsy danger do that? So, there you have it folks. We love these stoves. We believe they will save lives. But we also get a real kick out of using natural fuels and polishing our fire building skills. These stoves are just plain fun to play with. Whether boiling water, grilling trout, frying up your eggs, or roasting marshmallows, these stoves are dependable, and fun. Elegant simplicity. Learn more at www.180stove.com. Our stoves are available on our website or at Amazon as well as other stores around the world. If you are a retailer who would like to carry a dependable emergency stove, then please contact us at info@180tack.com.
  2. Curt Linville

    Wilderness Survival – Snow Caves

    Wilderness survival my not be the top priority of skills to learn on your prepper transcript, but it should be on your list. After all, being prepared means being prepared to thrive in most any environment you encounter. Clearly, the best place to weather disruptive times is at home. But, if it is no longer safe there, you may find yourself out in the woods. Learning how to be safe, comfortable, and well provided for in nature is not only worth the effort, it is a ton of fun! With that in mind, let’s delve into some wilderness survival! Second to maintaining the right attitude, shelter is the most critical element of wilderness survival. Entire Books could be written on natural shelters. Rubbish huts, wigwams, rock shelters, lean-tos, dug outs, various log huts, thatched and grass shelters, snow caves, and on and on. Many of these shelters take quite a lot of time to construct. For longer term living in the wilderness, these are great. But for emergency shelters, one needs something that can be thrown together quickly in poor conditions. When it comes to survival, think small, dry, insulated and quick. Since it is nearly winter with fresh snow on the high Colorado peaks, a discussion of snow caves seems timely. Snow is a wonderful construction medium. From it one can build shelters as simple as a hole in a drift through mound caves, a-frames, and igloos all the way to ice castles. These shelters can be surprisingly warm. But which of these work when time is limited, darkness is falling and a blizzard is moving in? How can an overdue adventurer create a life-saving shelter in a minimum of time to get through a surprise night in the wilderness? Most snow shelters take a lot of time to make and they are all dependent on snow conditions. For winter adventures, one should plan to spend a minimum of a couple of hours building a snow shelter, and they often take longer than that. But when time is minimal and shelter is critical, we need a faster solution. Perhaps the fastest is a simple hole in a snow drift. This solution may save your life, but it can be cramped, wet, and quite cool. On the other extreme might be igloos which can take many hours to build, but can last for months and provide plenty of room and stability. The Snow Mound Cave For a medium-fast solution, a snow mound cave may suffice. I have spent many a winter’s night is these shelters, and have found them warm, quiet, and spooky. These caves depend on snow conditions for stability and some adventurers have died when their poorly built cave collapsed and buried them in their mummy bags. Not a nice way to go. When snow conditions are good and there is enough time to make sure the cave is stable, then snow mound caves do provide excellent shelter. Let’s explore this one in a little more detail. Snow mound caves can be dug in a snow drift or in a mound piled up for this purpose. They can only be trusted when the snow is of the right nature to consolidate. I have had multiple caves collapse on me while under construction because the snow was either too cold and fluffy or had already morphed into sugar snow (hard ice crystals that act more like marbles than snowballs). If you cannot easily form a quick snowball from the snow, then it will be a challenge to use for a snow mound cave. For best success, a mound should be built out of non-sugar snow, packed thoroughly layer on layer and then allowed to sit to consolidate for at least an hour before being hollowed out. This takes a lot of time and only works in emergencies when that time is available. After hollowing out a cave, heating the cave on the inside and then allowing it to re-freeze will help its stability significantly. Keep in mind that if you use a drift, you will not know how well packed the snow is. It might sag down on you or worse during the night. Critical components of a mound cave are: A door a bit lower than your sleeping level. This allows a pocket of warm air to build up above the door where you will be sleeping. An air vent the size of your arm at the peak of the cave. This air vent will keep the air fresh and literally save your life. People can suffocate in snow caves. This is critical! Walls and ceiling a couple of feet thick or thicker to provide insulation and stability. Room enough to sit up, crawl around, and stretch out for sleeping A door that opens sideways to the dominant winds. If it is pointed toward the wind, it will act like a wind tunnel and steal your heat. If it is pointed away from the wind, it could drift completely closed and provide challenges in getting back out. By pointing the door perpendicular to the wind (or just slightly downwind), the door should not catch the wind nor drift up. The floor of the cave must have a dry tarp or plenty of leaves or pine boughs to keep you from getting soaked by the snow floor. You will need an insulated sleeping pad to stay warm unless you have a thick pile of leaves or limbs. I usually use a backpack to “close the door” and a candle can be really nice for light and also for heat. Even on frigid, stormy nights, a properly built snow shelter will maintain temperatures in the 50s just heated by body heat alone. This may not seem like the tropics, but it is warmer than a tent, and downright cozy with a winter sleeping bag. After being warmed all night by body heat, your cave will support many times your body weight, and should last for weeks. A shortcut to building a mound cave is to dig down into the snow, pile up your packs, and then cover them with about four feet of snow. Pack the snow as you cover the packs. Then leave the mound to consolidate for an hour or so. When you come back, dig a low door, and pull the packs out. This will provide a head start on hollowing out the cave. Another tip is to bring a complete change of clothes all the way down to the undies. You will likely get quite wet from sweat and snow while digging out the cave. Changing into dry clothes is critical for staying warm. The A-Frame Snow Cave The A-frame cave offers some advantages over a mound snow cave, but it is more dependent on the right snow conditions and is not as roomy, making only enough space for one or maybe two people in the best of conditions. Advantages include being able to build one of these caves without a shovel. These can be built using only a stick or snow ski for cutting snow. Also, these caves are lighter, not likely to collapse, and not seriously dangerous if they do. This shelter is faster to build than a mound cave, and therefore better in emergencies—IF snow conditions allow for it. To build an A-Frame Snow Shelter, start by packing down a trench of snow about twice as wide as you are and more than twice as long. Then leave the trench to allow the snow to consolidate. Even well stomped Champaign powder might consolidate given enough time and the right temperatures. Warmer snows should pack nicely. Sugar snow is nearly hopeless for attempting this type of shelter. Once the trench is firm, cut snow blocks with a stick or ski as long as the width of the trench and at least a foot thick and wide. Once you have cut two, place them on end on opposite sides of the top of the trench and lean them together to form an “A” shaped roof. Continue making rows of these “A”s until your roof is about a third longer than you are tall. Then pack any holes in the blocks with plenty of snow and cap the upper end. Cover the floor of the cave with a tarp and/or pine boughs or leaves. Make a couple of large blocks for a door. Be sure to have an arm-sized air hole in the peak of the roof. The same rules about orienting the door to the wind apply. I have used this style of cave a few times, but have found it difficult to build if the snow is too cold to pack well. The Tarp Trench Snow Shelter This type of snow shelter is fast and easy to build. It requires cordage, a tarp, and anchors to hold the tarp in place. These shelters are warmer than a tent, but not as warm as other snow shelters, and they depend on having enough snow depth to work. To build one of these, tie cord or rope tightly between two trees a couple of feet above the snow. Then dig a trench about ½ the width of your tarp and a bit longer than you are tall. The trench should be about three feet deep. Cover the trench with the tarp over the rope, and anchor the tarp edges in the snow using cord, long sticks or snow anchors. Then shovel a significant amount of snow on the lower edges of the tarp to seal it up and hold it down. Use snow blocks to close the head of the tarp and to make a door for the foot. Again, line the trench with another tarp and insulating materials and make sure you have an air hole. The Tarp Trench Snow shelter is more susceptible to wind noise and wind failure. However, there is no real concern about collapse, and they can be built in minutes rather than hours. If time is of the essence, and you have a tarp on hand (after all, it is winter and you would never head into the wilderness without a tarp in the winter, right?), then this life-saving shelter might be your best bet. All of these shelters depend in degree on the snow conditions. If there is not enough snow to build a snow shelter, then opt for a rubbish hut. In all cases, the key is to start your shelter early – before you need it. Don’t wait until you are battling hypothermia to get started. Build the shelter while you are still warm then relax knowing that the night will pass safely if not comfortably. With all of these options, choose a location that is sheltered from the wind and has plenty of snow. As always, don’t forget your 180 Stove! The ash pan is recommended for cooking on snow. www.180tack.com. These snow caves are a lot of fun to build, and if built correctly, a lot of fun to sleep in. Try making some without planning on spending the night, and experiment with different types of designs to accommodate varying snow depths and types. Get out there with your kids teach them these basic skills. Nature provides. Enjoy it! Please comment with your own snow cave tips. Do you have any funny snow cave anecdotes to share?