Sunday, February 24, 2019

Gear I Use: Bushbuddy Stove

Quite a while ago I wrote about the various stoves I use, and this blog post is about the one I use the most when I'm out solo, the Bushbuddy Stove.

Cooking up a batch of potato soup on the Bushbuddy Stove.
There are several things that make the Bushbuddy Stove ideal for my use...

First and foremost, with a Bushbuddy (a gasifier type ultralight wood burning backpacking stove), you don't have to carry any fuel because you're surrounded by an unlimited supply of fuel (twigs, pine cones, bark, and assorted biomass).  This is important in and of itself for several reasons.  The absence of white gas fuel bottles (which I would use for my MSR Whisperlite) in my pack logically equate to lighter pack weights.  The absence of iso-butane fuel canisters (which I would use for my Pocket Rocket or Coleman Exponent F1) also mean lighter pack weights, as well as eliminating the waste of discarded empty 110g or 220g canisters.  Lighter pack weight and no wasted empty fuel canisters!  Low impact on both my back (pack weight) and the environment (discarded fuel canisters).

My Bushbuddy stove, and a Four Dog 1.1L Mors camp pot,
cooking up a batch of dehydrated kasha with brussels sprouts.
Secondly, the Bushbuddy has very little impact on the environment.  This is especially good in the canyons where I explore, fish, and guide tenkara trips.  By the time Lieutenant Zebulon Pike poked up into these canyons in the winter of 1806-1807 during his southwest expedition, Native Americans had already been doing so for hundreds of years.  Fire rings dot the narrow riparian zones along the creeks in my canyons.  Because the Bushbuddy stove is a self-contained fire-powered stove, there's no need to use the old fire rings or make new ones.  It's literally a "Leave No Trace" way of cooking with fire.  Because the Bushbuddy uses small twigs, pine cones, and bits of bark, the impact on the dead and downed trees is minimal, and requires no unsightly cutting of branches with a hand saw or chopping of wood with a hatchet.  Again...low impact, this time on the local environment.

The fire starter I use the most with the Bushbuddy...cotton balls soaked in Vaseline.

Finger-sized fuel!
Third, the Bushbuddy stove has become an integral part of my cooking "system, and I've found a couple of cook pots that it nests into, saving space in my pack.  I had been using titanium pots made by Snowpeak for many years, but in the past few years I've migrated to the hard anodized aluminum pots offered by Don Kevilus over at Four Dog Stove.  Don's purpose-driven 1.1L Mors bush pot, originally used by the bushcraft legend, Mors Kochanski, is a perfect fit with the Bushbuddy stove.  It's this duo that claims a spot in my backpack, and they are tailor made for each other.  I will be covering ideal cooking pots in a future blog post, but rest assured that the Mors camp pots made by Four Dog Stove are bulletproof and affordable.

The Four Dog 1.1L Mors bush pot.  The Bushbuddy nests inside it perfectly!
Lastly, the Bushbuddy stove is handcrafted by an acquaintance of mine in remote interior Alaska.  It's a US-made, small batch piece of gear, crafted by a couple who live off-grid near Tok, Alaska.  This is no late-to-the-party offshore cookie cutter knockoff made by workers who will never know how it's used, or even the genius of its design.  Originally developed and handmade by Fritz Handel in Canada, and then passed down to his apprentice, Jeff Tinker, the Bushbuddy is truly a homespun piece of gear.  I have much in common with Jeff, and his wife, Belle.  We both heat our homes with wood we cut and split ourselves, although their needs in Alaska eclipse those of mine in the southern Colorado foothills.  We both enjoy doing things our own, self-supported way.  The stainless steel stove material Fritz Handel originally used, and is now used by Jeff, was first given to them by my dear friend Patrick Smith, founder of Mountainsmith and owner of Kifaru, International.  I highly respect Jeff and Belle for the lifestyle they've chosen, and it's very satisfying to fire up my Bushbuddy stove, knowing that Jeff and Belle's hands were the only ones that touched my stove before it arrived on my doorstep.

As for the crafting of the Bushbuddy stoves, all of it is done by Jeff and Belle.  According to Jeff, Belle does at least half of the work.  Jeff does all of the forming, drilling, grinding, and welding of the outer shells, pot supports, and fireboxes.  Belle does all of the material processing, which includes shearing stainless steel pieces (they get them in bulk rolled coils), cutting out discs for forming, hammering out pot supports and ash pan tabs on the anvil, welding all of the ash pans and heat shields, and etching the logo on the bottom of the stove.  Belle also processes all of the cardboard used for packaging.  All while caring for a 16-month-old baby while pregnant with their second child.  My respect for Jeff and Belle goes beyond the crafting of the Bushbuddy stove, as it takes Jeff around 20 hours a week just to keep up with the demands of living an off-grid life in remote Alaska.  Add that to the 2-3 hours it takes the two of them to produce just one Bushbuddy stove.  I'm both amazed by their grit and ingenuity and thankful that there are people in this world like Jeff and Belle!

I couldn't be happier with my Bushbuddy stove (made by Jeff and Belle several years ago, under the previous Nomadic Stove label), and the history and deep workmanship that it represents, going all the way back to Fritz Handel's original hard work, and all way up to the present with the crafting of these wonderful stoves by Jeff and Belle.  I've said it before many times...utilitarian ART!