Trail Designs Caldera Keg – H Cook System

Antigravity Gear
Trail Designs
Caldera Keg-H Cook System

  • Stable, efficient, wind resistant Caldera Cone
  • Recycled Caldera Keg – Heineken can and lid
  • 12-10 Stove with integrated primer pan
  • Beer Band set
  • Fuel Bottle with restrictor
  • Insulating cozy and insulating lid
  • Food grade plastic container for eating out of and protecting your system in your pack!
  • Sil-nylon stuff sack

Price: $59.95

KegHsystem

October 27, 2009
By Anderson Bowman

I have gone down the route of trying just about every cook system in the world, or so I thought.  Alcohol stoves are nothing new to me and I usually build a couple every year just to make sure that I have one handy for my shorter trips. In almost every instant I have adapted the alcohol stoves that I build to my cooking set up, but the Trail Designs Caldera Keg – H Cook System is going to be my first try at using a fully integrated cook system that is constructed to be used with an alcohol stove.

Once I got the stuff sack off the Caldera Keg – H, I started unpacking all the parts. I was pretty impressed by the way that everything fit together in a nice neat package. The stuff sack held the Caldera Cone, which appears to be an integrated windscreen/pot stand, the Caldera Keg pot, the 12-10 alcohol stove, fuel bottle, insulated cozy and cozy lid, and a food grade plastic container.

Now that I got that mouthful out of the way, I realized that everything I would need to cook with except my titanium spoon came out of that little green sil-nylon stuff sack.  The whole set up is just a little bit larger than an oversized beer can and it is designed to heat water for drinks or dehydrated meals.  I am not sure how long the stove burns or how fancy I can get with my cooking, but it is going to be interesting to see just how useful this cook system is.

The website claims that the whole thing weighs in at 6.2oz / 176 gm, but I was super curios about this item, so I pulled out the postage scale and found that the entire system, including stuff sack weighs in at 6.05 oz/ 172 gm. There is no way I am going to complain about it being just a bit lighter than the specifications because lighter is always better and the weight is not too shabby for something that should make my cooking easier and my pack lighter.

I am even more pleased by the fact that the instructions that came with the Caldera Keg – H provide step by step directions for putting the items back into the stuff sack. For people like me who like to shove things around and break things by forcing them into spaces that they do not fit, this was a blessing.  I was able to follow the instructions and get the whole system back together in the stuff sack without breaking anything.

stuffedKegH

The next step is to get some fuel and see just how well this system is going to work. I plan on seeing how easy it is to use, how fast and how much water it can heat, how hot I can heat it (boil?), and how well it holds up on the trail.

Till then, it is trail cooking time.

A Keg In My Pack Update BlenderBottle GoStak

steamingkeg

December 11, 2009
By Anderson Bowman

My first cooking encounter with Keg H cooking system was on a slightly windy night with the temperatures around 55 F.  I filled the stove with 40 ml of denatured alcohol (the maximum amount suggested by the instructions) and got ready to cook what I had originally hoped would be an “add boiling water to the bag” meal.  After reading the instructions I realized that I was out of luck and was actually going to have cook in the pot and hope it went well. As an alcohol stove vet I know that cooking for any length of time with one can be a gamble.

A few drops of fuel in the base plate were all I needed to get the stove lit. I had already placed it under the caldera and put the pot in place. The flame got started and I waited to see how long the ¾ cup of water (6 ounces) took to boil. Much to my surprise it only took about 2 ½ minutes to bring the water to a rolling boil at which time I added my noodles. They had to cook for nine minutes and this was not a problem. The stove burned for about 15 ½ minutes on the fuel I loaded it with (40 ml) and I was done cooking my noodles after a total of 11 ½ minutes.

Trail Designs Caldera Keg

One thing that became apparent very quickly was that the pot is DEEP. It requires a rather long handled utensil to stir with and trying to stir with a short handled spoon while the stove is lit can be tricky. Please trust me on this.

Another surprise that I receive was when I went to clean the pot after my meal. The keg is deep, but it is wider than I thought. I have decent sized man hands, but I was able to get my hand and a cleaning pad into the pot and clean it easily.  While it was not a situation that left me with a ton of extra room, it was more than enough to clean the inside of the pot without a huge amount of effort.

My next use of the stove was to heat water for a meal and drinks.  I put 24 ounces of water in the cup, filled the stove with 20 ml of fuel and put a match to it.  The results were equally as impressive as the first time. The water was boiling within 9 ½ minutes and as I stared in pure awe at it, I witnessed the pot boil over at about 10 minutes into the cooking process. Over all it took about 14 minutes for the stove to run out of fuel on this second use.

These results have turned out to be standard for the Keg H cooking system. I have used it many more times since those first two uses and the system has turned out to be very reliable and easy to use. Due to my recent use of a lumbar pack, the Keg H system has been a great addition to my gear. I could easily put it in an external mesh pocket on the pack if I needed more room inside or I could drop in the pack and hit the trail. In a situation where size mattered, the Keg H was the best choice for a cooking/eating system for the job.

While I do have some concerns about the durability of the Caldera Cone itself, I have not had any problems with it. It still slides apart and assembles easily and despite some boil overs, it is nearly blemish free.

The Keg H pot has also held up exceptionally well over the last month or two of use. I know I can cook in the pot, but due to its shape (narrow and deep) it requires a rather long and slender cooking utensil. While I am not opposed to using sticks, most people are probably not going to pick up a nice stick off the ground to stir their food with. My one nit pick about the system has to do with how well the pot fits into the Caldera Cone.  I have yet to figure out how to get the Keg H pot out of the Caldera Cone safely with the stove burning. I should probably try and gauge how much fuel I actually need so that I could simply boil water and have the stove go out as soon as the water boils. As it stands now I put a decent amount of fuel in the stove and when the water boils I attempt to pull the pot out of the cone and pour the water.

This plan has not worked well for me so I have resorted to picking up the pot (using a bandana) and the Cone together as one big unit and pouring the water out that way. If the stove is still burning I do not have to worry about pulling the pot out of the cone without burning myself in the process. Not a very elegant solution, but one that works for me.

Another aspect of this system that has really grown on my during the first part of my experiment with the Keg H system is the plastic eating cup and the cozy.  I have read about using a cozy on the trail, but until actually using one, I did not realize how useful they can be. For less weight than my normal cooking/eating pot combination I get an aluminum pot/can to cook in, a plastic pot to eat out of, and a cozy to keep my food warm and my hands burn free.

At this point in this test I am impressed. The durability of the whole system has proven to be much greater than I expected. It has been used at least ten times so far and I have not yet made much of an impact on its cosmetic appearance with normal “trail use.” Its ability to heat water quickly is another aspect of this system that is very appealing. If I need hot water fast, the Keg H system is definitely the way to go, especially on day hikes and shorter trips into the woods. Most importantly, it is compact. Everything goes neatly into the stuff sack and stores away nicely.  For shorter trip, day trips, or even an afternoon of fishing, the Caldera Keg H system is perfect.

It is most of these reasons that cause me to question why I would want to use a heavier stove/cooking set up at all.  I still want to get out on a prolonged (2 – 4 day) trip and see how I like using this stove set up every day.

Still Cooking – Update BlenderBottle GoStak

by Anderson Bowman

Here it is one month since my last update and three months since I started carrying the Trail Designs Caldera Keg – H Cooking System in my pack. My first gut feeling about this whole cooking set up was that “I am going to bust this up, on accident.”  Three months later the whole setup is still whole and functional and I have been growing more and more delighted with it.

I have long been the type of person who likes to cook over fire. It does not matter if it is a campfire, grill, or blazing white gas stove. There is something relaxing about sitting around a warm blaze, stirring my food, and contemplating the day. The only time this does not appeal to me too much is when it is cold and I am alone in the woods, which describes most of hiking, walking, and camping time here in Texas. Fishing I tend to do with friends, hiking is a solo sport.

Enter the coldest winter we have probably had in seven years and combine that with the solitude of solo hiking and I suddenly had no desire to sit in the elements and suffer for my food. This is where I was able to shed some of my cooking baggage and really learned that it is more enjoyable to stay warm while enjoying a meal rather than suffering the elements.

The Caldera Keg – H Cook System let me step away from “cooking” with a stove and make the move towards heating water to make a meal.  I bought some dehydrated meals at the local outdoor store, made some homemade meals, and used the Caldera Keg – H to boil water for them on all of my December trips.  I went with the boil water, add water to meal in plastic cup, cover with cozy, and hide in my shelter till it is ready plan on most days.  This is a far cry from what I was used to, but I can honestly say that the Caldera Keg – H Cook System made it easy.

The first thing I did was make sure the meal fit in the plastic cup. Then I added fuel to the stove and water to the pot and fired everything up.  The first batch of water usually went into my drinking cup for something hot to drink, then I would refuel the stove and get more water boiling. This water went into the cozy covered plastic cup, the lid went on and into my shelter I scampered.

It was damn nice to avoid the wind and sometimes rain while sitting in my sleeping bag and sipping hot tea or eating a steaming bowl of noodles.  In about twelve minutes I had enough water boiled for all my needs and I was able to escape to the comfort of where I was going to sleep. There a many places outside of Texas where eating in your tent is probably not the best option due to the wildlife, but right here in the Lonestar State with a 20 mph wind blowing, a slight drizzle coming down, and the temperature hovering around 38 F, eating a warm meal in the comfort of my tent was wonderful.  In fact, it stunned me that without the Caldera Keg -H Cook System I would have sat out in the weather while I cooked my meal on a white gas stove and probably eaten it right there as well.

Despite the conditions, the Caldera Keg – H system performed very well. It heated water despite wind, rain, and my lack of skills at times. The system held up to being carried in my pack, in a water bottle pocket on the exterior of my pack, and in a lumbar pack and it is very good condition.  Where I initially felt the durability of this system was suspect, now I know it can be banged around a bit and still hold up to the rigors of serious use on the trail. It is easy to clean as well. It is nice to be able to slide my hands into the pot for cleaning if it got too dirty and plastic bowl was just as easy to clean as well.

The Trail Designs Caldera Keg – H Cook System is going to be my “go to” system for all my spur of the moment and short trips (mainly what I do in Texas) for quite a awhile. It is compact, complete, light, and durable.  It is almost hard to believe that such a simple set up is as complete and reliable as it is.  While this completes my reviews of this item, it is not the end of my use. I cannot see any good reason to leave this system at home when it takes up less space and weight in my pack than my preferred white gas stove. It may not come with me in the spring when I have to cook for two or three adults, but when it is just me alone in the woods, I cannot fathom leaving the Trail Designs Caldera Keg – H Cook System at home.

If you have any questions about the Trail Designs Caldera Keg – H Cook system, head on over the forums and hit me up.