Monday, February 15, 2010


I am pleased to announce the TransWisconsin!  The midwest's first multi-day, self-supported mountain bike race!  These types of events have been popular for several years in the west.  It's time we begin to develop this form of mountain bike racing here.

Registration is open!  Race day start is June 18th, 2010.  To enter you need only to send an e-mail with your name, age, and address as the only information needed. 

For more specific information on the race, check out the race details page. 

TransWisconsin will follow the 550 mile Trans Wisconsin Adventure Trail from Wisconsin's southern border with Illinois to the northern most tip of the Bayfield Penninsula, finishing on the shores of Lake Superior. 

Along the route riders will travel through the distinct geographical regions of Wisconsin and towns settled by trappers, farmers, and fisherman.  The trail will vary between gravel road, two-track, ATV trail, singletrack, and an unfortunate bit of pavement.

If you've been dreaming of an Ultra Race here in the Midwest, look no further! 


Thursday, February 11, 2010


Knee high, yep... Thick, yep... Unbelievably luxurious, yep...

I purchased two pair of socks at our local shoe shop this weekend.  I had seen them once before while in the shop, but scoffed at the prices.  Last week, riding by the shop on the way home I noticed a 'buy one get the second half off' sign.  So hard to resist and so I indulged.

New Socks

Socks aren't necessarily one of those items you look at and have fond memories of.  Phrases like, 'remember that time...' don't usually come to mind.  Thing is, I've got a couple of pairs of socks where these types of phrases do come to mind.  I've got a couple of jerseys, and one sweater in particular, where these types of phrases come to mind.

Pieces of gear like this, are this grown man's blanket.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Alcohol Burners

 It's been awhile, but it is time to get back to the cook kit series.  I've been a bit busy with winter recreation and spring/summer planning

Alcohol Burners, otherwise known as stoves are the heat source for many ultralight cooking systems.  What stove you choose is based on your needs.  Are you going fast & light, or just light?  Do you want to boil water for quick noodles, or cook full meals?  Fortunately, most of the best alcohol stoves are designs that can be made at home with minimal tools and just a bit of skill.  Here, we will explore two types of stove designs, discussing their performance and best uses.

Pot Pressurized Stoves

I first became aware of PPS style stoves via Mini Bull Designs.  Mini Bull's proprietor "Tinny" developed his version of this stove into a one piece design that is easy to duplicate.  He has several videos that show how to make this stove and he encourages his 'followers' to produce their own.  While it is easy to produce, he also sells his own version, the B.I.O.S. 2.2. that is much nicer than anything that I can make in my own shop.

These stoves are quite simple in concept, construction, and use.  MiniBull's name, B.I.O.S. is an acronym for Basic In Out System, meaning fuel in, heat out.  They are constructed with recycled aluminum bottles from cosmetic products, beer, and soda.  MiniBull has many photos on constructing them, I suggest you go to his site for more information.  In use, these types of stoves create a very low pressure system with the pot set on top.  Heat in the stove causes the fuel to vaporize and the pot on top forces the flame out the jets.  The pot does not actually seal the top of the stove, but does sit on the rim and allow some air into the system. 

While Mini Bull's design is clean, efficient, and affordable it has one caveat...pot size.  Mini Bull's B.I.O.S. 2.2 is only recommended for pots with a diameter of 4-1/2 - 5".  With PPS style stoves, the diameter of the stove limits the pot that can be used with it.  Considering that I already had a Snow Peak 700 pot, I set out to find an aluminum canister that would work for my needs.  It didn't take long...

Pot Pressurized Alcohol Stoves

After playing with several sizes of canisters, making 10+ prototypes, I have settled on three stoves, in order of size:
  • The Venom Energy Drink aluminum canister
  • The Burt's Bees deoderant canister
  • The Cutter bug spray canister
The Venom Energy Drink bottle is just a bit larger than the Budweiser bottle, it is a great stove for those pots over 5".  This is a stove that pairs well with an MSR Alpine cookset for 2+ people.  It is probably not something that I'll use often, but it was a good experience.

Burn Time: 10 minutes on 2oz. of fuel
Boil Time: 5 minutes for 2 cups of water

The Burt's Bees canister is the perfect size for a 4" pot.  It boils water fast for overnighters and multi-day experiences were speed is key.  It's slightly more efficient than the Venom stove with the same boil time

Burn Time: 10 minutes on 1.5oz. of fuel
Boil Time: 5 minutes for 2 cups of water

Finally, the Cutter bug spray canister.  For boiling water, this stove is the pinnacle of performance and efficiency.  It's perfect for sub-4" pots and great for fast & light experiences.

Burn Time: 15 minutes on 1oz. of fuel
Boil Time: 8 minutes for 2 cups of water

While these stoves have many advantages, their primary disadvantage for my use is stability.  A small stove supporting a full pot works well, but is more prone to tipping over in some situation.  This could easily be solved with a base that allows the pot to sit on the stove, but still stabilizes it.  Potentially great for a commercial version, but defeating to some of the simplicity.

"Penny Style Stoves"

This style of stove is likely the most common and often reproduced Alcohol stove.  They are produced commercially and there are many sources online to learn how to make your own.

When I set out to build my own I was not interested in the soda can method.  I wanted something more durable, so I set out to use the same aluminum bottles as the PPS stoves. 

These stoves are constructed from two cut bottle bases pressed together and ported with jets.  The hole in the center allows the stove to be filled and primed for burning.  After the stove is burning a penny, hence the name, is placed over the hole and the system is pressurized.  They are more efficient with fuel than the PPS stove, but do not produce as much heat.

 Penny Stoves

Large Stove

The large stove is made from a Venom energy drink can.  The drink smells and tastes like cotton candy...I won't find myself drinking that again.  This stove is good for large pots like the MSR Alpine mentioned above.  I don't think I'll use it often.

Burn Time: 25 minutes on 2oz. of fuel
Boil Time: 8 minutes for 2 cups of water

Mid Size Stove

This stove is easily the most efficient one I've built to date.  It is made from two Cutter cans pressed together.  This will likely be my go to for summer trips, overnighters, and mornings on the river.  It works well with small pots like my SP 700.

Burn Time: 25 minutes on 1.5oz. of fuel
Boil Time: 10 minutes for 2 cups of water

Small stove

This was an experiment gone wrong using two Axe spray bottles.  It burns .5 oz. of fuel for 20 minutes and basically warms 2 cups of water to just below boiling.  I see this going in the pile of prototypes that never get used.

Personally, I like penny style stoves better than the P.P.S. stoves I've built.  They are more efficient, allowing me to carry less fuel, and when used in conjunction with a windscreen pot stand they are more stable.  I've yet to find any major drawbacks for using penny stoves when boiling water for noodles and/or drink for 3-season camping.

Next up we'll explore windscreens!  They are crucial to the performance of your cook system and easy to make with just a few tools...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Chequamegon 100!

By now you've heard, but if not...

We are very pleased to announce, another great addition to the assemblage of midwestern endurance events, the Chequamagon 100.  One Hundred miles of sweet northern Wisconsin dirt, the great majority of it on singletrack, and the first endurance event to be held on the great CAMBA system trails.  

Based on the self-supported ethos that has gained popularity with other events, the Chequamegon 100 will continue the tradition of self-reliance, riders that finish through determination, and best of all, NO ENTRY FEE!  Limited to the first 100 people, all you have to do to sign up is send in an email. has been set up to provide all the race details and create a central place for riders to communicate.  As we draw closer to the event, organizers TK and JM will be providing details on camping, meet up locales, and the final route selection.