Gear Review – Zpacks Titanium Wing Stove for Esbit

One of the things I enjoy about backpacking is the never-ending quest to eliminate a few ounces from my kit! I remember Colin Fletcher writing about a moment of madness where he found himself tearing labels off his tea bags.

In 2018 I made my first stoveless hike. I loved not carrying the extra weight of a stove and fuel canister. My carefully researched food selections were spot on with one exception… COFFEE!

I still smile thinking about my friend and I standing in our camp site drinking cold instant coffee from a Smartwater Bottle saying over and over, “It’s not too bad!” Translation, “I can barely choke this down.”

Since that time, I have been on a quest to find a lightweight, efficient way to heat two cups of water in the morning. Enter the Zpacks Titanium Wing Stove for Esbit.

Titanium Wing Stove displayed on counter.

I bought this stove from Zpacks for $14.95 and received it in a couple days. The stove weighs in at less than one ounce (0.7), 0.8 with the  stuff sack.

How It Works

This stove burns Esbit Cubes which sell for about $8.00 for 12 cubes. Each cube weighs about 0.5 ounces. According to the product specifications, they burn at about 1,300 degrees.

The stove, four cubes and my titanium bowl give me a minimalist cook kit that weighs in at less than 5 ounces!

The stuff sack easily holds the stove and 4-6 cubes. Enough fuel for several days on the trail depending on how many meals you boil for.

Field Test

For my field test I took the stove on an overnight in a nearby wilderness area. I set the stove up on a small flat rock for some stability and to keep the heat away from dry leaves.

The Esbit cube ignited quickly and easily. One word of warning, the flame from the cube is difficult to see.

I placed my small cook pot on it with about 1 ½ cups of water. In a little over four minutes I had a rolling boil.

Titanium Wing Stove & pot on a rock.

A quick birthday candle blow and the Esbit was extinguished. Once cooled I stored the leftover portion of the cube in a baggie. I think it will be good for at least one more boil.

My field test took place under ideal conditions. I suspect if there were a strong breeze you would want to use a windscreen to protect the flame.

I don’t think I would depend on this setup in extreme conditions.

Two Negatives

I only found two negatives in using the stove. Neither had to do with the function or quality of the stove.

First, the Esbit cubes give off a strong chemical odor (probably because they are burning chemicals).

Second, the cubes leave a sticky residue on the bottom of the pot. The residue cleaned off easily, but has the potential to make a sticky mess in your bag.

Both of these issues are minor, and for my version of Starbucks in the woods – the Zpacks Titanium Wing Stove is a winner!

Do You Have The Frustrated Heart Of A Thru Hiker?

How many of us have the heart of a thru hiker, but reality (finances and responsibilities) force us to hike vicariously through others? And… the nearest National Scenic Trail is 600 miles away.

Truth is, we don’t have to hike 2,000 miles with $4,000 of ultralight gear to enjoy backpacking. Backpacking twenty miles on a weekend is a great opportunity! We just have five zero days to plan our next hike!

This is the story of my last hike.

The Big Piney Trail is a nineteen-mile loop thru the Paddy Creek Wilderness in central Missouri.

The North Section

Crossing a sunny meadow from Roby Lake Campground the trail immediately dives into hardwood forests and tall stands of pines giving the trail its name. At the one mile mark I chose to follow the north section clockwise.

Thru Hiker - Direction Sign
North it is!

I found the trail to be poorly blazed and confusing in spots. An app like the REI Trail Project is helpful.

Thru Hiker - The only blaze on the trail.
The only actual blaze on the Big Piney Trail!

About two miles in, I stopped at a small waterfall to fill my Cnoc. I’m not sure how dependable this source would be in summer, but it was a peaceful place for a quick rest and a snack.

Water fall
A great place to take a break.

The north section works its way through rolling hills, hardwoods and pines. I had a couple of small stream crossings that amounted to rock hopping, but the high-water mark on the trees indicated much deeper water at some point.

After the last stream crossing I worked my way up the bluff over Big Paddy Creek. My goal was to reach the campground by dark. As I sat enjoying the scenic overlook from the bluff, I had the thought, “This would be a fantastic place to cowboy camp!”

Thru Hiker - Cowboy Camping!
Cowboy Camping!

Enjoying the last glimmers of sunset, I quickly set up camp. I ate dinner as the stars emerged above me and the evening fog filled  the valley below.

Next morning after a warm cup of coffee and a snack, I was packed up and, on my way, carrying an extra two pounds of dew!

The ridge descended quickly to Big Paddy Creek. This is where the trail has a reputation for being a little sketchy. The trail was very overgrown near the river and recent flooding had left a lot of debris.

The South Section

After a couple detours I was across Big Paddy Creek and on my way into the campground to eat breakfast.

Thur Hiker - Hiker Trash Breakfast
A classic hiker trash breakfast!

From the campground the south section passes through some beautiful stands of pine and rock formations.

At the last crossing of Big Paddy Creek, I cameled up for the remaining five miles of the hike.

Another hiker warned me that the south section was plagued with ticks. I brushed off five or six when I stopped for lunch.

After crossing Little Paddy Creek, the trail ascends to a ridge-line with great views of the valley below. At the top of the ridge I passed through a beautiful camping spot. Unfortunately, it is less than two miles from the parking lot. I want to return some day and enjoy this spot.

Soon I was loading my pack into my truck.

The Big Piney Trail is a great place to spend a couple nights dialing in gear or getting your hiking legs in shape. In the summer months finding water will be more of a challenge and the campground on the east end of the trail has no water available so plan!

Happy trails!

Kindness – Do Something Great That Costs You Nothing

Jelly Beans

Our church recently held a major Easter outreach. My self-appointed job was taking a large bag of candy and greeting people as they made their way across the parking lot.

As a family with two young girls decked out in their finest Easter dresses approached me, I knelt down to talk with the girls about the event. I told them my job was pre-candy. I was giving everyone a piece of candy to hold them over until they entered the event. A fun job to have!

They thanked me and as they walked away I heard one of the girls say, “Daddy, why was he so nice?” (Nailed it!)

Her words made me smile, but also convicted me. Why don’t we take more opportunities to be nice?

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