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One of my 20-somethings and thier friends are talking about a test walk of the Appalachian Trail in 2 weeks. I bought them each GPS units to clip to themselves, opened a tub of Mountain House meals to them and gear. They are in that sweet spot between having real paychecks and getting married so its a good time.

What do you guys prefer for heating water on the trail? I'm a believer in three kinds of heat with three kinds of starters. Any thoughts?
 

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If you're just on a well traveled trail, i'd just stick to an alcohol stove (if permitted, as jfountain2 says. Firebans do apply to any open fire, including alcohol stoves, in most places). It's not the fastest, but it works, is cheap, and you can find fuel easily. I also use an esbit foldable stove as a base, so that's a good emergency second option. If there's a fireban, i just use a burner.
Even if things would go horribly wrong and the alcohol stove is crushed and the esbit cubes get ruined somehow, the AT is well traveled and hikers usually help eachother. And even if that wouldn't work, they won't die from hydrating their meals with cold water (let it soak a few hours, best done in a separate cup with a lid which seals well), or even walking to the next town. Think the longest section between towns is 7 or 10 days from what i read, and doubt they'll do that section.

I'd advise somekind of waterfilter though. A couple of days without food in the absolute worst case scenario, is unpleasant. A couple of days without water would be more of a problem. Pretty sure you considered the water supply situation already though, so just mentioning it just in case.

Your thought of "3 types of heat" is good from a survival perspective where you'll be out of supply for a long time and your life depends on it, but it is a bit overkill for a trip on a well traveled trail. ;)

Edit: And i forgot to mention firestarting: Just have a bic lighter in every pack i have, and in my cooking set there's a ferrorod. Those work great for lighting alcohol fires, not just emergency/hobby-firestarting use like most see them ;).
 

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This time of year, for a not-through-hike of only days duration (or a week plus)... a simple iso-butane canister stove is convenient, simple & safe (with regard to prudent use of flame during fire season). Economical, lightweight, dependable, durable, and instant on/off simple to use. Also very safe to operate (no liquid fuel to screw around with). Performs well in all but extreme winter conditions.

Anything by GSI, MSR, Optimus, Snowpeak, Jetboil, etc. on the higher end of price. Generic versions from Coleman, Primus, Wally-world on the lower end.

My personal choice is the MSR Pocket Rocket for about $40. But you can find functional stoves for half that. Plus...

Box of backup Esbit solid fuel heat tablets for alternate food/drink heating (or emergency wood fire lighting). BIC lighter & BIC backup lighters (2-3 per person). Magnesium striker for emergency.

Pretty much what I always actually carried on the Southern AT.

Primary fuel. Alternate fuel. Multiple means to light them. Done. I did that first AT adventure as a teen. Barely had a clue about hiking and our self-selected cheap/improvised gear was barely adequate. They're going to have a blast.

https://www.rei.com/blog/camp/how-to-choose-the-right-backpacking-stove-fuel

https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-ad...uel-should-i-take-on-my-backpacking-trip.html
 
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If you chose alcohol, check out
Brass lite stoves, stove & stand in one unit, ultra lite weight but strong.
If you like propane check out the Cole man peak one at walmart, $20.00 +/-.
It is a simple, cheap, rugged stove and reasonably light weight.
Regardless tho, whatever stove you chose be sure to take a decent windscreen. Using one will cut your fuel use and cooking time at least 20% whatever type or make of stove you chose.
 

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Bic lighter in a jacket. 2' for recoverable artificial sinew. The long seam is treated with jewel's rouge so it can be used to strop a knife edge. On a lanyard it hangs inside your shirt warm and dry.



Ferro rods. Case is threaded and sealed with a red rubber gasket and a grade 8 bolt lathe cut to a square edge for use as am emergency striker. Waste gunpowder in side is enough for 10 emergency fire starts (30-06 case) more in the 50 BMG. Carbide knife sharpener is an excellent striker, if you don't have a square edge on the back of your knife.



Infantry grunt stove. Any empty can, some dirt/sand/gravel as a moderator, gasoline/alcohol in a fuel bottle, your P-38/multitool/knife to construct.



 

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Not for backpacking, but I make firestarters by filling a cupcake paper with chainsaw shavings, pour in a tablespoon of melted wax, let it dry. I make a dozen at a time in a muffin pan and use them for firestarters in a wood stove. They will burn for 10 minutes which is plenty of time to have a good fire going. The cupcake papers are waxed so you only have to touch them with a lighter and they're going.
 

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My go-to is a ziploc baggie of little birthday cake candles and a disposable lighter.

It's still necessary to stack the campfire properly (tinder, kindling, wood) but it's easier to light with a candle, especially when it's damp.

If your tinder catches quickly, great! You can blow out the candle and put it back in the bag to reuse later. If it doesn't catch quickly, you can keep holding the candle under it until it does, without wasting your lighter's fuel.

sometimes I'll rub one of the candles on the kindling to make it burn hotter and longer, if I think it might have issues igniting the wood without the extra help.
 

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As far as a fire starter gos , I keep a length of 3/8nylon rope in my pack .
It just lites with a match and makes a big blaze in a few seconds .
I keep about 6th or so .
 

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If you chose alcohol, check out
Brass lite stoves, stove & stand in one unit, ultra lite weight but strong.
If you like propane check out the Cole man peak one at walmart, $20.00 +/-.
It is a simple, cheap, rugged stove and reasonably light weight.
Regardless tho, whatever stove you chose be sure to take a decent windscreen. Using one will cut your fuel use and cooking time at least 20% whatever type or make of stove you chose.
I'd just like to point out that using a windscreen which isn't specificially made for a canister stove and sits so the canister is surrounded by it too, can cause fuel canisters to explode due to trapped heat.
NEVER use a windscreen for those, unless specifically made for the stove. You can make it yourself too.
 

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Sorry, yes a dha moment.
I make my own wind screens with roof flashing. I design my screens to only surround my stove/pot 75% of the way. I leave at least 1/4 open top to bottom so my stove canister does not overheat.
Using roof flashing it is very easy to adjust the blocking area of your windscreen.
 

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Depending on how much weight they already have, a common Coleman stove bottle with a single eye burner might be a good option. Pretty fool proof. and big enough to do group meals to save time and fuel.

Stove

https://amzn.to/2QvBOq0

Bottles

https://amzn.to/2QxSz3C

Esbit stoves are a backup I usually keep around. I just find them a tad under powered for anything more than mildly warm water. YMMV The upside is the stove itself could be pressed into service as a wood burning stove.

https://amzn.to/34Ehx9O

I also have a butane/propane mix canister stove. I do like it, but the canisters are less accessible in my area.

Stove
https://amzn.to/34zBLBL

Fuel
https://amzn.to/2QvW1vG

Here is a decent alcohol stove option

https://amzn.to/2QqAJj8

Wind screen
https://amzn.to/31yAoBu

And what I think is one of my favorite personal totally basic cook sets. Should be sufficient if they are only using Mountain House meals and such. If they drink coffee, send them instant. Much quicker than trying to boil water completely for a cup.

https://amzn.to/2QuFwAa
 

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I make FIRE GEL a mixture of Vaseline & charcoal lighter fluid to hand lotion consistency. A small amount mixed into a cotton ball or 2 lights instantly even in tough conditions.





Waxed dipped make-up remover pads also work great as fire starter tinder.



 

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second cotton balls and a small container of petroleum jelly. could premix/soak cotton balls, but you never know - the separate cotton and jelly may be useful on their own for some reason. any ignition source, and makes it pretty easy to start a campfire.
 

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If you live in the northern areas, chaga is an excellent natural fire starter. After we deplete it of its medicinal properties, we use it as a fire starter. We keep several chunks in bags in all our vehicles, ATVs, etc. Whenever you need a fire, poof, rain or shine!
 

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I still have some fire starter I made in the 80's for backpacking. They are balls of sawdust and beeswax. The fact that I have had them so long proves that propane grill lighters have pulled me out of many steak and burger emergencies.
 
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