Review: Olicamp Stainless Kettle and Emerblit Stove

Since May this year I made the switch to a gluten-free diet, and I’m glad to say that the change has helped me a lot. But I’ve gotten tired of the constant “boil-‘n-bag” meals, so over the past few months, I’ve had to re-think my cook system and the foods I prepare. For the past year, I had been using a DIY ultralight coffee-can pot (see Sintax77’s how-to video) for all of my cooking. While extremely light at 3.7 ounces/105 grams, it is fairly limited at being best suited for quickly boiling water. For day trips, however, this is all I really need, but for extended outings, I want to have more options.

As of late, titanium and ultralight cook-sets are becoming more and more prominent, but I have a preference for stainless steel kit because it generally costs less and tends to cook food more evenly. I don’t bother with aluminum due to the possible health risks.

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I decided to purchase an Olicamp kettle (on the left in the photo, next to my DIY coffee-can pot), which consists of a pot and frying pan that doubles as a lid. This particular model holds about one quart in volume, weighs a fairly hefty 13.22 ounces/375 grams, and is constructed out of 18-8 grade stainless steel. I bought it for about $20 from Amazon. Larger sizes (three and four quart volumes) are available, but the one quart capacity is about ideal for my purposes.

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Lentil stew on the go :).

The wide shape of the pot allows for excellent heat distribution and minimises scorching, perfect for slow cooking soups, stews, and even baking. This something most cook-sets on the market lack. And because the lid can be used as a frying pan, it is possible to cook two meals or two parts of a meal at once. Also worth noting is that the pot handle locks in place at the 12 o’clock position for convenience. Overall, it’s a very similar design to the Tatonka kettle available in the UK.

Here’s how the Olicamp compares to some of the more popular stainless steel cook-sets.

Olicamp Kettle (w/ frying pan lid) – cost: approx. $20 weight: 13.22 oz/375 grams volume: 32 fl. oz/.95 litres

SnowPeak Kettle Number 1 – cost: $30 weight: 9 oz/255 grams volume: 30.4 fl. oz/.90 litres

Zebra 12 cm billy-can – cost: $25 weight: 19 oz/539 grams volume: 47 fl. oz/1.4 litres

MSR 1.1 Litre Stowaway Pot – cost: $25 weight: 15.5 oz/440 grams volume: 37 fl. oz/1.1 litres

I am very impressed with the Olicamp’s performance throughout the months of testing. It may be a bit on the heavy side, but this is virtually unavoidable with stainless steel. On the whole, the Olicamp kettle is a superb choice for extended trips, offering both flexible cooking options and affordability.

Now, when it comes to the main heat source to cook meals over, I chose a portable wood burning stove. I wanted something more capable than my feeble attempt at a “hobo stove”. There are quite a lot of options out there, but I ended up picking an Emberlit. Lots of people have already thoroughly reviewed this stove, but I would like to briefly share with you my thoughts and opinions about it.

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The model I chose is the original one, made out of stainless steel. It weighs about 11 ounces/312 grams and folds neatly flat so that it takes up minimal space in the rucksack. It has a reasonable price-tag of $40.

I am pleased to say that the Emberlit works very efficiently and pairs nicely with my Olicamp kettle. It comes with two cross-pieces so that smaller diameter cups, pots, and pans can be placed on top. Unlike an open fire, this stove doesn’t require constant tending and feeding. It also consumes much less wood, leaving you with minimal mess to clean up. Yes, the Emberlit is rather heavy, and the company does make a titanium version, but I personally couldn’t justify spending more than twice the cost of the standard stainless model. And while it isn’t compatible with DIY alcohol stoves when assembled, you can use the two cross-pieces as a pot stand, the interlocking side walls as a windscreen, and the bottom plate as a priming platform or for a more stable surface.

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Primitive Bushcraft: Vine Basketry and Weaving

Containers are undoubtedly an essential part of our kit, and in this luxurious modern world, we have access to all different sorts of materials with which containers can be made from. We can buy robust stainless steel kettles and ultralight titanium pots for cooking, slim rubber and PU coated nylon washing basins which fold flat and can be easily packed away, plastic canteens for water storage, etc. Virtually gone are the days when baskets were so important in daily life…nowadays, they are pushed aside into the decorative category and rarely given any practical use in the field. And while there are some basket-makers left, more people would rather buy pre-made baskets instead of learning the craft on their own. It is startling how much knowledge has been lost over the generations.

Seeing as how the invasive Asian Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) is such a problem in the eastern US, I resolved that I would make use out of some vines.

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This bittersweet grows very aggressively and strangles trees, sometimes topping them over by weighing down one side. About the only good thing is that it creates thickets and homes for wildlife…but when not properly controlled, it will quickly take over a forest. The berries are mildly toxic and should not be consumed. However, the tangled vines can be woven into decorative holiday wreaths, drying racks, and open-weave baskets. They do not need any preparation and can be collected year-round. Harvest the green, flexible vines that are approximately 1/5 – 1/2 inches (.5 – 1.27 cm) diameter…otherwise you will have to carefully split overly-thick vines to keep everything even. Whether or not you choose to leave the bark on or scrape it off is your choice…just remember that it will adhere tightly to the wood during the cooler months, but during summer and spring, it can be removed easily.

Now, this post is not meant to be a tutorial – there are many excellent sources out there that explain the basket weaving process far better than I can. It should also be noted that there are numerous other natural materials one can use to make a basket with: willow shoots, cattail leaves, rose vines, pine needles and raffia, juniper bark, and birch bark, just to name a few. I am by no means an artist when it comes to basketry – my goal is functionality, not making a pretty design. The prettiness comes in when I weave Asian Bittersweet into wreaths ;). With so many vines available, the design possibilities are infinite.

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Two foraging baskets and an autumnal wreath to hang over the front door :). For more colour, I added the leafy twigs of Japanese Barberry and Dog Rose hips to the wreath. The baskets are quite sturdy and resilient, and should last for many a year.

 

Apple Harvest and Cider-making 2014

Besides collecting pumpkins, this is the season of apple-picking. Probably no other time of year unites us New Englanders as much as the harvest days. These gatherings are not only to reap the bounties of the year, but to also enjoy ourselves with friends, family, co-workers, newcomers, and strangers. This sense of community is deeply rooted in northeastern tradition, going as far back as the colonists at Plymouth, Massachusetts and their first harvest celebration with the Wampanoag in 1621.

So when I heard about the cider-making event at work, I just couldn’t refuse ;).

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This was most definitely a good year for apples, despite the unusually dry summer. The apple trees on site are a mix of Rhode Island Greening, Newtown Pippin, Baldwin, and Cortlands.

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Say, who’s that cheery guy in the green?? 😛

This is the cider press, an old-fashioned design relying on muscle to process the apples and squeeze out the delicious liquid. There was no shortage of muscle with the number of rangers and fellow NPS volunteers who arrived to take part in the fun ;).

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Here’s an up-close look at the press in action. Apples are chucked into the grinder, powered by human strength, which breaks down the fruits into smaller pieces. These bits are collected in a bucket lines with muslin, cheesecloth, or other fine mesh fabric. When the bucket is full, the top is placed on the bucket, which is then pressed down by turning a metal rod. The cider collects at the bottom of the bucket and is funneled down a little hole into a container.

This cider is unfiltered and unpasteurised, and probably contains more nutrients that would otherwise be left out or destroyed in commercial cider. When filled, each half-gallon jug had a lovely foam layer at the top, much like the frothy head of quality beer :). We toasted each other and savoured the first taste of cider after the initial container was filled. At the end of the event, we had made a whopping 17.5 gallons of cider, and everyone went home happy with a jug. A basket of whole apples was left for those who wanted to take some home for cooking…I snagged a few to dehydrate later. :).

Many thanks to Kristin for organising this wonderful celebration. Lots of laughter and merriment to go around for all :). Sláinte mhaith!