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WILDS of Manitoba

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2024 March 22


WILDERNESS ~ CANOEING ~ NATURE ~ ART

WILDS Of Manitoba

Trip Tips


What is the difference between a Canadian and a canoe?


 

STOVE TIPS

 

OH! OH! O-RING!

You get to camp, drop your pack at your tentsite and open it up to find one of your fuel bottles has emptied itself. Explains the vapor following you on the trail your friends thought was from the curried lentil stew last night. Your sleeping bag, clothes, tent and food are damp from naptha fuel (aka white gas aka white spirits aka Coleman campfuel) so you hang them up to dry (in the rain).

Shame on you, first, for not protecting your other gear and food from the fuel (next time, put everything else in a plastic bag separate from the camp fuel bottle which should be in another separate plastic (ziplock) bag and, if possible, a separate pack). Shame on you, second, for not checking the O-ring on the fuel bottle. Shame on you, third, for cozying up to the camp fire or lighting a stove later on while wearing clothes that naptha had dried on (the residue is flammable after it has dried and you could go up in flames in all that synthetic - hey, primed wool ignites nicely, too).

Every metal fuel bottle/container/reservoir has a rubber O-ring under the cap which compresses between the plastic cap/lid and the metal lip of the fuel bottle to keep fuel from leaking out of the bottle. You will find the same type of O-ring on the fitting between your campstove pump and the fuel bottle.

Rubber O-rings have a short lifetime, especially when exposed to various fuels like naptha and compression-stressed by them gorilla hands. If you examine the O-ring under compression you will notice hair-line or larger splits in the rubber, which will permit fuel to leak out of the bottle if it is not standing upright; or fuel can leak out of a bottle when it is connected to your stove; your stove operating instructions warn you to check for leaks before lighting the stove or your cigar. Interestingly, flat O-rings, such as used on SIGG fuel bottles, do not wear out as fast as O-rings used on MSR fuel bottles.

So you open your stove spare parts kit and, voila, you find a spare O-ring. If you don't find one (more likely) then you better use some electrical rubber tape or duct tape or some other method to keep the fuel in the stove OR transfer the fuel into another vessel that will not leak, such as a 1/2 litre or larger pop bottle that is first rinsed out with the fuel. Remove the old O-ring by rolling it off the bottle cap or stove pump and roll the new one on making sure it does not have any cracks. PACK OUT THE OLD O-RING so it doesn't find itself around some toad's neck.

Before your trip, buy the right O-ring for your fuel bottles at your local/favorite outdoor store. They are different (I think) for MSR and Coleman fuel bottles and stoves. Dealers who sell the stoves SHOULD also stock replacement parts including individual fuel bottle O-rings. I prefer MSR stoves (e.g. Whisperlite International with Shakerjet) and have found that the automotive parts section at Canadian Tire (they don't sell MSR stoves) stocks an array of rubber O-rings including exactly the correct size O-ring for MSR fuel bottles (part number 61-9821-6, 7/8 inch I.D. x 1 1/8 inch OD x 1/8 inch thick, 59 cents each; or try part number 93-7100-8). They used to be available from Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) individually but they are no longer avaiable. You need to buy a complete MSR maintenance kit to get one now.

I carry a couple O-rings in my repair kit and stock up because the O-rings don't seem to degrade before you install them on a bottle. I use a few each year (usually on other people's fuel bottles who like to trip with me because I carry everything to prevent such problems) and make a point of checking the O-rings each time I refuel a bottle before each trip.

Haven't had a fuel bottle leak (friends have) nor have any of my stoves blown up yet! Problem is, I have to stop carrying 20 pounds of O-rings with me!

 

BENT SHAKERJET NEEDLE?

If you own a MSR Whisperlite International 600 Shakerjet stove and can't get the same old heat out of it, check to make sure the shakerjet needle isn't bent over (look in the orifice opening, if you see the pin bent then disassemble and straighten/replace the shakerjet needle).

When you put your stove away don't clip the hose hook into the orifice, clip it onto the stove's legs instead.

Flame on!

 

SIMMERING AN MSR STOVE

So you want to simmer your wild (edible) mushrooms (or omelette or tender whatever) on a Whisperlite or XGK, eh?

Here are several methods for simmering which can be used individually or in combination:

  • maintain the heat and use a flame spreader to spread the heat on the bottom of the pan/pot (the flame spreader comes with the Outback Oven, a wonderful frying pan with lid, heat reflector and thermometer/lid knob, or is available separately at some outfitter stores);

  • remove the wind shield from around the stove to allow some of the heat to escape;

  • do not pump the stove fuel bottle, allowing the fuel pressure to drop over time through use, and turn the fuel control all the way off, note the orientation of the OFF mark, then quickly reopen the fuel control about 1 full turn (relative to the OFF orientation) then adjust it back to 3/4 to 1 full turn until the stove runs quietly without sputtering.
The last method requires babysitting the stove to make sure the stove does not extinguish itself if the pressure drops too much (you will hear it sputtering before this happens); if the stove extinguishes but is still HOT I will relight the stove as long as the fuel is hot enough to hiss (the operating instructions recommend you let the stove cool down to relight it normally, but my wild mushrooms don't usually have the patience).

HINT: Practice at home!

By the way, my 45 year old MSR XGK stove still works great and is as loud and hot as a jet engine (burning petrol gasoline or Grand Marnier, pun) but I hardly use it because my Whisperlite (Shakerjet or International) stoves are quieter and more stable. I like the controls on the new MSR Dragon Fly and the way it simmers, BUT it is as loud as my XGK (it has the same type of burner assembly) and I can make my Whisperlites simmer, so why buy such an expensive and noisy stove? Why doesn't MSR create a new Whisperlite stove with the simmering features of the Dragon Fly? I sent them a request to build a Whisperlite with a fine burner control, if more of their customers would do that it might be created.

I also have an MSR Whisperlite Universal I've used the past couple years which lets me burn liquid fuel or canister fuel. This stove burns very similar to my 30 year old Whisperlite International.

 

STOVE FUELS

If you have ever turned off your liquid fuel stove burning naptha/Coleman/MSR fuel you have likely noticed a disgusting smell of the remaining vaporized fuel escaping into the air around you. This is a toxic fume, equivalent to gasoline fumes. The burning naptha fuel is also toxic the same as gasoline fumes and if it is burned inside an enclosed space (like inside your tent) it is basically Carbon Monoxide which can kill you.

So always cook in a well ventilated area and move your stove so it is downwind of yourself and others so you don't inhale the fumes when you turn it off. Keeping it away from a lit flame (fire pit) is also a good idea as the fumes could ignite especially if the ambient temperature is hot.

Some folks use gasoline instead of naptha/Coleman/MSR fuel because it is cheaper. It's known as petrol in United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and other places. The cost in Canada for four litres of Coleman naptha fuel is about 36.00 CDN plus taxes, and the cost of four litres of gasoline is about 5.50 CDN (2024). One litre of Coleman naptha fuel costs about 15.00 CDN plus taxes and one litre of MSR naptha fuel costs about 20.00 CDN plus taxes (2024). So yeah, using gasoline can be cheaper and I have tried it in Australia when I couldn't source naptha fuel, but I prefer to not use it. However, you must ensure the gasoline is unleaded or your stove will be damaged and run the risk of inhaling lead in the burned or vaporized fumes. The advantage with gasoline is that you can get higher octane ratings than is possible with Naptha which is essentially the same octane as regular gasoline, about 89 octane. A higher octane fuel will make the stove burn hotter, and you will boil water faster. However, gasoline is much stinkier than naptha and is potentially more volatile or explosive, so is more dangerous to handle. If your fuel bottle of gasoline leaked into your clothes, gear or food pack, the resulting odours and contamination would likely be more disagreaable and worse than naptha fuel. After you turn your stove off the vaporized gasoline will likely be more disagreeable and toxic than the naptha fumes are.

Another fuel option I have tried with my MSR liquid fuel stoves, for a couple seasons now (2022 to 2023), is called Aspen 4 which is an alkyd derived petroleum based fuel. It costs about 40.00 CDN plus taxes for 5 litres, so is similar in price to 4 litres of Coleman naptha fuel. It can be found in businesses that sell chainsaws and yard or lawn maintenance products. Aspen 4 has a higher octane rating of 94 or 96 compared to naptha which is about 89; Aspen 4 maintains it octane rating even 5 years after purchase if the fuel bottle is not opened, 2 years if it's opened. So it burns hotter in MSR stoves, I have tried it and it works fine, although it causes a little more soot after you turn the stove off. The exceptional value of this fuel is that it's toxicity from burned or vaporized fumes is much less than for naptha, or gasoline. So it is much more friendly for the environment and for you compared to naptha or gasoline fuels. It's vaporized fumes do not cause surround air to stink after you turn your stove off. It is sold for home and yard care products because of its reduced environmental impact compared to gasoline. I am not sure if the manufacture of this fuel has less of an environmental impact as compared to naptha or gasoline, but I expect it has a similar carbon footprint.

If you are burning naptha fuel more than a year old you may notice your stove sputtering. This is likely because the naptha fuel container had some air in it and through winter the water vapor in the air condensed and it sank to the bottom of the fuel container. Your stove's fuel line gets fuel fed from the lowest point of the fuel container, so the condensed water ends up affecting how the fuel is vaporizing and burning in the stove causing the stove to sputter or create an orange rather than blue flame. The solution to this is to always filter your fuel using a special filter funnel. Coleman used to sell fuel filter funnels which were just a funnel with a felt screen. The felt screen would become saturated with the coleman fuel, and any water droplets in the fuel being filtered through the funnel would float on top of the felt and not flow into the clean fuel bottle. I have used Coleman naptha fuel that is ten years old and it still burns fine as long as I filter it with this felt funnel, I highly recommend making one for your fuel bottle filling kit. It allows you to continue to use old fuel without throwing it out unnecessarily.

 

SPUTTERING STOVE SOLUTIONS

If you are burning naptha fuel more than a year old you may notice your stove sputtering, maybe emitting a yellow tinge to the flame. This is likely because the naptha fuel container had some air in it and through winter the water vapor in the air condensed and it sank to the bottom of the fuel container. Your stove's fuel line gets fuel fed from the lowest point of the fuel container, so the condensed water ends up affecting how the fuel is vaporizing and burning in the stove causing the stove to sputter or create an orange rather than blue flame. The solution to this is to always filter your fuel using a special filter funnel. Coleman used to sell fuel filter funnels which were just a funnel with a felt screen. The felt screen would become saturated with the coleman fuel, and any water droplets in the fuel being filtered through the funnel would float on top of the felt and not flow into the clean fuel bottle. I have used Coleman naptha fuel that is ten years old and it still burns fine as long as I filter it with this felt funnel, I highly recommend making one for your fuel bottle filling kit. It allows you to continue to use old fuel without throwing it out unnecessarily.

If your fuel is clean and you are using a Whisperlite stove, it could be that the burner cup is loose at the underside where it is attached to the hollow brass tube. Older Whisperlite stoves may have this problem due to heavy use and heat causing the burner cup to warp so that the assembly loosens up resulting in a gap under the burner cup allowing air to interrupt the burning of the vaporized fuel.This can be tightened by taking apart the burner assembly, checking to see if the bottom of the burner cup is not bent. Flip the layered flame spreaders over and around so they are aligned and separated with spacers the same as when you dismantled them. Make sure when you reassemble the stove the brass tube is mated firmly to the burner cup (tighten the screw on top well). When you dismantle the stove be aware of the orientation of the stove legs so you reassemble it properly.

 

STOVE WIND SCREENS el cheapo

If you own a stove and want some extra wind protection, save the large heavy duty aluminum tray/pan from a Chinese take-out meal or buy the same type of tray used for baking turkeys or roasts in, and flatten it out, then cut it to the dimensions you want. Trays can be pieced together by bending and folding. This is a much cheaper alternative to buying the MSR heat shields, and more readily available. Besides, you get to eat all that food to get the aluminium!

 

FUEL BOTTLE SOCKS

Keep your shiny new MSR fuel bottles from getting nicks in them by carrying them in an old sock (okay you might get a nick or two where the sock has holes). Nicks in the fuel bottle will reduce the pressurization capability of the fuel bottle and make then wear out faster.

You can also use that sock to clean the soot off the underside of your MSR stove that accumulates sometimes even if you shut it off properly.

Keep your fuel bottle's tootsies cozy!

 

SOOTY STOVE

I hate getting that black soot from the bottom side of a Whisperlite on my hands; it seems to get into my clothes, nose and cheeks and other places I won't mention here.

Avoid the soot and having to clean the orifice (of your MSR stove) by blowing the flame out (on the stove) before the fuel pressure drops to a level that lets the flame burn orange instead of blue.

If you happen to get an orange flame when shutting off non-shaker jet stoves you can clean the orifice using the cleaning tool which has a short, straight, stiff wire on it. OR you can clean the orifice by opening the fuel control immediately after the flame has extinguished while the fuel line is still hot then closing the fuel control as soon as you hear vaporized fuel hissing at ya. Make sure no other flame is present and do this away from, and downwind of, other people so they don't smell/inhale the vaporized fuel. This will purge sooty residue from the orifice so you won't have to use the cleaning tool (as often). It might also purge other people from your general vicinity so if you want to be alone, let that naptha rip!

 

OATMEAL a la NAPTHA

A few years ago on a cool spring morning I ate a bowl of oatmeal (someone else cooked) and suffered from naptha burps while paddling all morning.

If I had only used some water to rinse out that bit of clear liquid I saw in the bottom of the pot after the Coleman Peak stove was taken out of the pot I would have had oatmeal without the naptha flavoring instead.

Did you hear the recent court case where a military officer was supposedly poisoned by his unit buddies who were regularly spiking his beverages with naptha?

Hmmmmmmm...

Wonder what happens if you light a cig during a naptha burp? I don't know 'cause I quit smoking 21 years ago; can anyone tell me?

Suggestion - make sure the stoves you carry inside your pots don't have naptha in the fuel reservoir and make sure the fuel line of the MSR stove is emptied of fuel before storing it in a pot.

 


 

GEAR TIPS

 

WATERPROOF PACKS AND BARRELS

I always line my waterproof packs (Sealline, Slogg) and canoe barrels with a large heavy duty plastic garbage or airline backpack plastic bag. Yes, the waterproof packs and barrels can leak, allowing water to get inside, I've seen it a number of times and the owner is taking out a soaked sleeping bag, tent and clothes. After filling the bag, I twist the top up and put a rubber band around it to keep it closed. It is not fully waterproof but it is not likely water will get inside of it over a short period of time while the pack or barrel is submersed.

There are several advantages that outweigh the few disadvantages of lining your pack or barrel with a plastic liner bag. The disadvantages are that the plastic bag adds a bit more weight to the pack or barrel and more plastic is being consumed, we know the world has more plastic than it needs. I can't think of other disadvantages; can anyone else?

Advantages? The plastic liner bags are much lighter than waterproof fabric pack liners you can buy or make. If your pack or barrel ends up floating in a lake or river or getting tossled about in a rapids, the contents stay much drier than if there was no liner bag.

The advantages go beyond improving the waterproofing of your pack or barrel contents. The retention of more air inside the liner bag means your pack or barrel will have more buoyancy so will float better.

You can use the large plastic liner bag as a Vapor Barrier Liner at least for the lower half and core of your body inside of your sleeping bag in case you become hypothermic or are need more warmth at night, just put on a pair of thermal underwear, get into the plastic bag and snug it up around you, then get into your sleeping bag.

I don't carry liquid stove fuel bottles (eg. Coleman or naptha) in a food pack or food barrel because if the fuel bottle leaks it can contaminate the food making it unusable. If I am not carrying fuel bottles in a separate small waterproof bag, I will put them into my gear/clothes pack on the outside of the plastic liner bag. If a fuel bottle leaks (o-rings fail and fuel will leak out), it will contaminate my gear and clothes much less; I also put the fuel bottle inside of a ziplock bag which further reduces risk of contamination from a fuel leak.

The plastic bag helps gear slide in and out of the pack much easier as compared to the inside lining of the waterproof pack and the inside lining of the pack or barrel is protected from abrasion, scratches and some sharp edges such as tent poles, pegs, saws. If your pack has a hole or leak in it, the contents have some waterproofing from the liner bag. While the external fabric on my waterproof packs gets quite abused over a decade or two, the inside lining of these packs is like new, shiny and no deterioration. When looking for something after unpacking your pack or barrel, or to clean out the pack, you can just pull the liner bag out and shake it out or if the liner bag is transparent you can see your missing stuff. On a solo canoe trip once I heard rustling noises outside my tent the whole night, the bear thoughts sometimes creep in. In the morning I got up and opened my pack which I had put close to my tent to get my daytime clothes on (I don't wear day clothes in the tent as they could have food smells on them) and pulled out my pants. They had a freshly chewed hole in them that I had not seen the day before. I pulled out the transparent and saw a vole in the bottom of the bag; THAT's who chewed my pants and was rustling like a bear all night! Lesson learned, since then I don't leave my tent or pack sitting open unattended for critters to climb in, especially when camping in Australia where the critters may be poisonous.

When used in a canoe barrel containing food, a plastic liner bag adds a layer of odor-proofing. Is odor-proofing needed with a food barrel? I've seen a bear go right past canoe barrels filled with food that were lined with plastic bags and I've seen unlined barrels that have been ripped open by a bear that could smell the contents. Not a guarantee of odor-proofing, but every bit helps when it comes to bears who have more than 200 times the olfactory sense compared to we homo sapiens, and other animals that like our tasty offerings.

If food or liquid spills or leaks inside a food barrel, the barrel itself does not have to be cleaned, just clean or replace the plastic liner bag, this saves considerable time on trips and reduces cross-contamination of food and food waste.

Some folks call me a bag lady. I accept the label.

 


 

ANSWER: A CANOE TIPS



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