For this test I wanted to revisit the use of duct tape as tinder and try out my FireBox Nano. Both things were done with one fire but the two tests did not work very well together so the test of the Nano was not very fair. As the fire starting was pretty straight forward I am going to keep both things in one narrative.
Conditions: It was 29 Fahrenheit just like last time. This time there was a dusting of snow but had been raining hard earlier in the week so everything was wet just as it has been since I started doing these. And in another shocker, there was also solid cloud cover. The weather has been depressingly consistent this month.
Test: Start a fire with duct tape and lighter in a FireBox Nano.
Equipment Used: Bic lighter, duct tape, FireBox Nano, and a one liter metal water container.
The FireBox Nano was something I got with the idea that it would make it easy to eat Mountain House or other freeze dried food on the trail. It can be used with a number of different fuel sources but I primarily envisioned using it with either twigs or with an alcohol stove in areas where wood fires are not allowed (although being a completionist I did get the optional part that would allow the use of solid fuel tabs). Even if you go for alcohol version, the entire set up is lighter and takes up less space in a pack then taking along a gas stove with a small camping gas canister.
Below is a good overview of what I was using.
There is nothing particular special about the water container I was using except for the fact that some of the water in it had frozen (It had been kept in my car during some cold nights). This would make it hard to bring the water up to a boil although this was partially balanced by the fact that it was only just over half full of water.
Narrative for the Test:
I started the timer from the time I walked into the woods so there is some time on the clock walking to where I wanted to start the fire (same place as the first test). I am not sure why I did that as I was not aiming at practicing my ability to gather wood in a hurry so adding the walking time adds no useful information.
For what it is worth, the entire process of walking to site, gathering hardly any fire wood at all (I broke of one branch and grabbed a few bunches of twigs), getting the stove set up, making a bundle of twigs wrapped in tape, and getting the tape caught on fire took about 15 minutes. The most aggravating part of the whole process was getting the duct tape unwrapped from itself and then making a little tinder bundle out of the tape. Since I was now educated enough (unlike the last time I tired tape) to tear the tape into smaller strips at the end of the tape, I was able to get the tape lit and burning.
The problem was that it was clear as soon as I set up the stove that this method of starting a fire was not going to work very well with the Nano stove. But I was fixated on making the tape method of starting a fire work so I went ahead and used it anyway. You can see in the picture below why that was a bad idea.
Even though it was obvious that this was less than ideal, I thought I would just turn this fire into something more appropriate after I proved the tape as tinder concept. And this worked after a fashion, but because the twigs had no mass and it was such a small fire box, it was hard to add things in fast enough after the fact. This was made worse by the fact that I was in to much of a hurry to get the water on the stove.
The end result was a fire that was constantly going really well or trying to die on me. In part, this was because my kindling was less than ideal due to the conditions. But I am pretty sure the main reason is because I did not follow the instructions to start with the Nano full of a good amount of fuel before lighting it. Because the fire box is so small you need to start with carefully arraigned firewood to maximize your ability to sustain the fire going forward. Trying to arrange things properly after you have already started a fire in such a small area does not work real well.
When things were going well (which was at least 50% of the time) the fire looked like below…
If I had not started with ice in container, I think everything would have worked out in spite of all of that. But since I had ice in there and because I wanted to hit boiling, there was enough time for problems to creep in.
First issue was that fire eventually died down to the point I had to use a small piece of tape to get it going again. This was largely the result of not having enough biomass in there to begin with coupled with my kindling not being the best. After that, I made great efforts to get more biomass into the stove. That lead to me knocking over the water container and spilling the water out just as it was beginning to make boiling sounds.
The spill was mostly because I did not make much effort in getting everything perfectly level. If my water container had not been long, narrow, and much heavier then the stove, this might not have been such a big deal. But it was clear from the start that the container was in a little bit of precarious situation right from the start. I probably should have taken the time to fix that, but I neglected to bring any leather gloves so messing with hot metal things was bit of trick (I bet I could have made the canvases sack that the Nano was stored in work as a hot mitt though if I had really wanted).
By the time I spilled the water; I had already used up my allotted time so I ended the practice session and packed everything up.
Total Time Elapsed: 53 minutes.
1. Tape can work if you understand what you are doing. I still don’t know if getting the tape wet impacts how hard it is to use or not. I meant to try that as well but had less tape with me then I thought and also ran out of time. Some other time I will have to soak the tape and see if that makes it hard to use even when I am smart enough to tear it up into small strips.
2. The Nano is easy to start a fire in but hard to keep it running because there is not a lot of room for a sustaining fire. I think that by following instructions it could easily heat the water up for a Mountain House meal or make a hot drink.
3. The most impressive thing about the Nano is how little wood it used. I ran the thing for almost 40 minutes and only used the amount of wood that I could hold in one hand. Granted, if I had started it right I might have used a little more, but having stove certainly makes it more efficient to use wood to heat up water.
4. The metal carrying case makes it easy to pack up the Nano even while it is still warm and also provides a decent base for it. I thought at first that it was just a gimmick that added weight and while you could do without if you were really trying to save weight, I think it would make it less convenient to make a quick stop.
5. For any serious cooking beyond heating some water, I think you would want one of the bigger wood stoves that Firebox makes. As the below video shows, the man who invented the stoves is serious about cooking outdoors but I think even he uses his bigger stoves for the most part (as an aside, he is also the most famous user of Pack Goats on YouTube not that he has a lot of competition for that title).