This has been my go to stove for the past ten years. It’s the Sierra Zip Stove, made by ZZ manufacturing. Winner of a Backpacker magazine award for best stove, this stove has accompanied me on countless overnights, through Maine’s 100 mile wilderness 4 times, and cooked my food nightly for a month as I backpacked the length of the Appalachian Trail through Maine. Lately, I’ve been using it for canoe trips. It’s been absolutely reliable and a great conversation starter.
The stove works on the same principle as a blacksmith’s forge. On the top, there’s a burn bowl in which you’ll light a fire. You can put in sticks, pine cones, moose droppings, charcoal, or anything that will burn. I find that a dry branch, as long as your arm and as wide as your finger, broken into three inch pieces, is adequate fuel for most meals. Underneath, there’s a small fan powered by a small electric motor. The result is an incredibly hot and efficient fire, bringing water to a boil in a matter of minutes.
Not knowing, people try to talk it down. Why don’t you just make a fire? They don’t understand. This thing is a whole lot hotter than any fire will ever be. What happens if all the wood is wet? It doesn’t matter. It tried it once, specifically gathering all my wood from a mud puddle. Get a fire burning with some birch bark, turn on the fan, and you’re good to go. The heat dries out the wood pretty quickly and the fire burns as before. It’s that hot.
The obvious advantage is that you don’t have to pack fuel. If there are trees, or if you can otherwise find something that will burn, you can cook your dinner. Admittedly, the fan does run on batteries. The manufacturer advertises that two AAs will last for six hours. That’s a lot of cooking. I have the D cell upgrade, supposedly good for 40. That will cook a whole, whole lot of ramen. When I hiked with an MSR whisperlite, a bottle of fuel lasted about a week, after which I needed a resupply. This eliminates that aspect.
Even better, since fuel’s not an issue, you can be a little more elaborate with your cooking. Not having to worry about running out, I can easily simmer rice for 20 minutes. Cooking pasta for ten is a snap. I’ve even fried up a fish, using a cast iron frypan. I may get a lighter frypan soon, but it easily did the job. And while many stoves are simply on or off, this stove even has a simmer setting to regulate the heat. And you can use it to roast a marshmallow. It makes a nice, bright flame, and I sometimes set it up, just to watch it burn. It’s handy for when you want to enjoy a fire in a no fire area. If you consider yourself a gourmet, you may consider this stove.
Like anything, there are drawbacks. The thing’s kind of heavy. The manufacturer advertises it at 2 pounds, and the D cell upgrade makes it weigh a little more. It’s similar in weight to my MSR Whisperlight with a full tank. But you don’t consume fuel, so it never gets lighter. If you’re going ultralight, by all means, take your pepsi can stove. Also, being electric, I’d imagine that a good immersion in water would be the end of it. So, don’t immerse it in water. There, that was easy. There are some other, nitpicky things. It’s smoky, I figure it keeps bugs away. It turns things black with soot. Whatever. You’re in the woods. If you want, you can easily find a reason to dislike it. Me? It’s one of my prized pieces of gear.
I bought my stove about ten years ago. I haven’t dealt with the company since, but their website is still active. They can be found here at http://www.zzstove.com, and the stove seems still available. It’s neat. You won’t be disappointed.