Loosing the blogging Mojo: Time to Head Onto the Ice to Disappear?

Advancing years take their toll on all of us If you’re thinking what on earth is he on about now? Well, you are probably just to young!

There is something about the death of the brain cells that makes you face up to the big and inevitable questions of life an that lead one to thing about the blogging equivalent of euthaisia!

There are many different qualities that make for a good blog. Some write simply great and expressive pieces about the outdoors, some major on superb photography and some both. There are who are very precise about everything and create (slightly worrying) spreadsheet and charts to illustrate their points. There are those who just babble on affectionally about dogs. Some people like to mike they own stuff. Some like talking about beer (or cheese and wine).  Some have a terrible obsession for things like alcohol stoves or helicopter drones. But there is one thing that all walking blogs have in common: gear. In every successful blog there is the occasional feature on gear, big gear, little gear, cheap gear, expensive gear, second hand gear and boutique and expensive gear. And it is in the gear department that I have found myself coming up really short recently.

Let me share my experience.

A few weeks ago, while on the TGO Challenge, I strolled into Glenmore Campsite. I’ve been here so many times over the last couple of years that they now know me. The women in the office comes from my part o the world. This year I strolled in to collect my food parcel to be greeted with “I thought it was you”. Cue animated natter. During the chat I dropped my camera on the floor. I’ve done this many times before but on this occasion the camera bag landed with a worryingly hard thump, hitting the ground lens first.

I opened the camera case with trepidation. There was shattered stuff all around. Instant depression. However, I quickly realised that the splinters were of plastic and not glass. My UV filter on the lens had taken the impact and shattered. These filters are really used to protect the lens. Retrieving the camera I quickly realised the lens was unhurt and still focused as normal. In cleaned away the remnants of splinter from the filter frame and carried on snapping away for the rest of the trip.

When home I set about buying a replacement. I always buy camera spares from Morco. They are nice people and although they have a website they really prefer to chat on the phone and that’s how I usually order stuff. A replacement could be sourced but was not in stock. It would take a week to come through but I was in no hurry.

A week later a cardboard box came through the post. It was a bit odd as it was a perfect, cardboard, cube. But it was weightless as I would expect a filter to be. I left it on the coffee table for the weekend — removing the old filter frame is always a hassle and often involves a vice!

The weekend came but there was no need to fix the camera. So the box stayed on the table. Then came the next weekend and — again — there were no plans to use the camera and so the box stayed put.

Occasionally I looked at the box and pondered it. But not for long. It just sat there. And then a few days ago the postman came and delivered me a little jiffy bag. I opened this to find Morco’s filter; it had clearly taken longer to arrive than planned.

I sat down to inspect the filter and through the corner of my eye realised that the small cardboard cube was still sitting there. So, if this was the filter what on earth was in the box?

Just as I contemplated exploring the phone rang. As the conversation rolled on I managed to catch the word stove on the side. Stove? What on earth was going on? Occasionally I get books for review simply arrive our of the blue but nobody had ever sent me a stove on spec. I reckoned — rather sensibly — that this must be something to do with Bob Cartwright.

Phone call ended I decided to open the box. (It can get very exciting around here.) The box seemed empty expect for some newspaper. But wait what was that at the bottom? There seemed to be two small fuel measures that you get with a Caldera Cone. But I hadn’t ordered anything from Caldera. I looked in again. Nothing. I shook the cube. No sound. Puzzled I pulled out the newspaper and out fell a tiny shiny little thing.

I stared at the shiny thing for a while a bit bemused. The object was aluminium with a green top. I looked at the parcel again and then I had the eureka moment.

I didn’t take much notice of gear on the Challenge this year. However, one item that did catch my eye was a new alcohol stove that was being used by Colin Ibbotson and Rob Slade.  This was the tiny Zelph Starlyte Stove.

The Zelph is tiny and weighs all of 16 grams. The stove is filled with an absorbent, synthetic, material. The absorbent filling will soak up about one fluid once of alcohol. Once filled the absorbent material means that you can’t spill the contents. When you water has boiled you can simply blow out the flame and the remained of the fuel still sits in the stove. The green thing is a slip on lid which stops the fuel evaporating. Colin Ibbotson seemed to be carrying his around in his pockets — he suddenly presented it to me while we were in the Fife Arms. The whole thing is so light that Zelph suggest you carry two pre loaded Starlytes on a weekender and you will never have to worry about fuel bottles.

I’d looked up the Zelph when I returned home. Not only was it light it was very cheap. And Paypall is so easy to use.I pressed the big button and then forget all about it.

In my prime I would have waited excitedly for days on end, grabbing the package from the postman and instantly firing up the stove. Now, I’d simply forgotten. It was a miracle the stove hadn’t been thrown in the trash.

This might seem a pathetic tale but I fear it may be a sign of irreversible decline.

I will try and redeem myself with a review over the weekend. But don’t wait around too long …

Comments

  1. Stan Appleton says:

    I used a Zelph on this year’s Challenge after a test trip in the Carneddau and it really has become my ‘go to’ burner. To me its greatest advantage is the ability for it to be blown out, while still retaining meths in its absorbent filling. It doesn’t spill if tipped and it boils as quickly (or as slowly!) as the standard Caldera burner.
    I’d put my Caldera cone to the back of the shelf beforehand as I seemed to waste so much meths by having to let it burn out, but now its back in action with the Zelph replacement and my Klikstand has been relegated instead. My meths consumption has halved – 500ml got me through the Challenge albeit with a couple of nights B&B. Customer service and delivery from the States was great so I’ve found no downside at all.

  2. Robin says:

    Looks very interesting. Might be tempted to get one and try it with bio ethanol from Fuel4 ( same calorific value as meths, but no smell).

    • Stan Appleton says:

      I didn’t have a problem with the smell although I know some folks are more sensitive. However I started this year’s Challenge with a chesty cough so bought some meths-coloured cough mixture in Grantown – and by then I had emptied the first of my two 250ml nail varnish remover bottles in which I carry my meths. Naturally I decanted the jollop into the empty but washed meths container without thinking of possible confusion. Thankfully the cough syrup had a distinctively thicker viscosity so I avoided a gummed-up stove or a damaged liver !
      I shall be interested to see if in the longer term the Zelph clogs up or spits with the accumulation of crud that meths sometimes contains.

      • I suspect the life of this product will not be anywhere near
        As good as say an Evernew, but at those prices who will care?

  3. Interesting stove, but I wouldn’t say it was cheap. Aside from the wire supports it’s simply a version of a fairly common stove in bushcraft circles, sometimes called the Monkey Stove after the handle of the designer. The original intention was to make a cheap burner to drop into the BCB Crusader cooker instead of using gel fuel. You can put one together from a small tin (Vaseline lip balm is a common one, or a snuff tin), some fiberglass loft insulation and the mesh from a metal tea strainer. Alternatively there are people selling then on eBay for two or three quid. Mine fits neatly under my Caldera Cone and burns very well. Not trying to be negative about a product, but this version seems pricey for what was originally a DIY project intended to be made from scrap materials.

  4. Interesting stove, but I wouldn’t say it was cheap. Aside from the wire supports it’s simply a version of a fairly common stove in bushcraft circles, sometimes called the Monkey Stove after the handle of the designer. The original intention was to make a cheap burner to drop into the BCB Crusader cooker instead of using gel fuel. You can put one together from a small tin (Vaseline lip balm is a common one, or a snuff tin), some fiberglass loft insulation and the mesh from a metal tea strainer. Alternatively there are people selling then on eBay for two or three quid. Mine fits neatly under my Caldera Cone and burns very well. Not trying to be negative about a product, but this version seems pricey for what was originally a DIY project intended to be made from scrap materials.

    • Stuart says:

      I’m interested in making one of these Monkey Stoves. The comments online I can find seem to suggest that the burn is relatively gentle but long lasting which seems to suggest they might be good for “proper” cooking not just boiling water. Any thoughts Big Jack?

  5. Crikey, I think I must be the only one who has an issue with this stove.
    It does have a heck of a lot going for it, true. It’s silly light, efficient, compact, usesed fuel can be saved etc. But, I have had problems getting it to light. I always used the Trail Designs 12-10 stove which is fantastic. Early this year I got a Sidewinder set up from TD because it didn’t utilise their plastic caddy to protect the cone itself, the Sidewinder system means a shorter cone packs inside the pot and it came with the Starlyte because the 12-10 was too big to fit in the pot with the other bits.
    I have used it many times, often frustratingly because I couldn’t get it to light. It wasn’t cold, but I found myself either holding the lighter to it to warm it up, or dropping a little meths on the lip to prime it. Even after that it was a pain in the arse so I’m on the verge now of ditching it and going back to the 12-10.
    Doing something wrong?
    ~ Fozzie

  6. I’ve been using the Zelph Starlyte stove with various homemade cones since 2010. It’s the most efficient and simple burner to use. I have tested it against many others for fuel consumption per 500ml boilk (yes – I am that nerdy – someone has to be!). My first stove died of metal fatigue this year, so on my second.

    If cold, it can be tricky to light. I found the easiest way to light it is holding it in your hand sideways and applying the flame from a lighter to the mesh. Then drop it into the cone/windshield. Due to the wadding holding the fuel, it is so safe, I often do this inside my jacket or tent if breezy! Believe me it’s fine. :) .

    I don’t see the lid as particularly useful, as I always measure my fuel as needed.
    Used with the attached stand, like any narrow stove with buit-in stand, it is wobbly. I don’t like it – I’ve always used cones for 5 years – the most stable and efficient alcohol method.

    This year I converted one to a dual fuel esbit burner – using a beer can base glued on the bottom – when upside down it burns esbit very efficiently. Used it on the TGO this year – it was very successful.

    BTW, there is a modified version. with a smaller aperture I didn’t find it any more fuel efficient – just slower.

    hope this is useful

  7. Also, Zelph first described the Starlyte in 2006, and was selling them not long after, 5 years before the Monkey Boy stove seems to have appeared on BCUK? Just saying as a balance…

  8. Fozzie – As well as the method I described above, if you put a tiny piece of dried grass or the like on the stove before pouring fuel in, you will find it lights easier. It holds just enough meths to burn on top so as to get the vapours going from the wick inside. On Zelphs ‘big’ stove of a similar design, he incorporated a piece of copper braid which lay on the mesh surface – a permanent version of a bit of grass/matter. Hope this helps

  9. Mole –
    The grass idea makes sense. I have spoken Dan at Zeplh and he is sending me another one with the copper braid you mentioned, and I’m returning mine so he can take a look at it. I think part of the problem, from my discussions with him, was that it needs to be lit straight after filling and doing this I haven’t had a problem, inside at least.
    Oh, and don’t worry about the boil and burn tests. I have immersed myself in the same, different stoves, varying water levels etc. I think it’s normal for blokes like us, I mean we don’t need to go to Stoves Anonymous or anything :-)
    ~ Fozzie

  10. Cheers Fozzie – Dan is a helpful chap.
    Stoves Anonymous! :) After several years of tinkering, the simplicity/efficiency of the Starlyte/cone stopped the need for my alcohol stove tests (until the nest big thing!). Though, esbit n hexi was distracting me for a while this Spring,
    I wonder if Andy has tried his yet? !

  11. Occasionally, just occasionally, he does pop by and throw in a comment. It is his bloody blog after all.
    Andy . . . ?

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