Backcountry Stoves & Wood Burning 101, By Kevin Timm

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How long will a small wood tent stove burn? How long will the stove keep a tent warm? Because there are so many variables to these questions, it is nearly impossible to provide a concrete answer. How long a tent stove burns depends on the size and type of wood used, as well as air control of the stove. It also depends on the size of the tent, the temperature outside, and the size and type of wood being burned, amongst a few other variables.

This article is intended as an informational guide to how long a stove can be expected to burn using commonly available wood species in a mountain west environment. Given similar wood, the length of the burn is much more dependent on the size of the prepared wood and airflow than anything else.

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Different wood species will provide different burn characteristics and potential heat output (BTU’s), however for the purpose of this discussion, we will assume you’re using wood species that are commonly found in mountain west environments (aspens and various species of evergreens). Denser wood species such as oak, when available, will provide more heat and a considerably longer burn time.

Outside of wood species, the diameter of the prepared wood has the biggest impact on the burn time. I will break the size down into four categories and list some of the advantages of each.

Twigs: (Thumb diameter and smaller)

  • Burn Fast and Hot
  • Great for cooking
  • No Tools needed to prepare, break by hand and foot
  • Burn time: ~ 20 minutes
  • Coals will last maybe a couple hours
  • Notes: Great for fast heat, easy to find, no tools needed

Small Logs / Branches (1-2 inch diameter)

  • Moderate Burn
  • Burn Time ~45 – 60 minutes
  • Coals can last two to four hours
  • Notes: Usually requires a small saw

Larger Logs / Split Wood (3 inch diameter/split wood)

  • More Moderate Burn
  • Burn Time ~60 – 90 minutes
  • Coals can last all night
  • Tools – Substantial saw, perhaps hatchet
  • Notes: It is possible to keep a tent moderately warm all night with a few reloads during the night with wood this size

Compressed wood/logs (Hardware Store)

  • Burn – Most of the night
  • Possible to get through a cold night with one reload in sub 0F temperatures
  • Not available in the backcountry, unless you carry, ski pulk or boat them in
  • Impractical to carry and confined to certain use cases

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Small or ultralight wood stoves are a terrific tool that provide many benefits when you are spending several days in the backcountry. These stoves can help warm you up, dry gear, provide water heating and cooking capability, as well as provide you the peace of mind and comfort when you are socked in. In most cases, they will not provide all night warmth, but for the prepared backcountry enthusiast willing to do some wood preparation, just a couple of reloads during the night will make for an extremely comfortable, lightweight and livable backcountry shelter.

 


 

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Posted by JOMH Editor