Submitted by Eric Daniel
Over the years, I've used a number of cooking stoves in the field, ranging from the "ancient" 1880's design SVEA 123, to the sterno fired Swedish army mountain set, to the MSR XGK multi-fuel. The one thing they all have in common is they run off of some form of liquid fuel. Run out of fuel and all you're left with is a high tech paperweight.
I have also used trioxane tabs as well, and while they're the best thing to use for cooking in a truly tactical environment (their blue flame is not a dead giveaway) they are bulky to carry in mass and as such, you need to be very careful not to burn through them if you're going to be in the field for any length of time.
This got me to thinking. "Is there a stove out there (other than those that run off cartridges like the Gaz or the Jetboil) that run off of something other than liquid fuel?"
The zip stove.
This is the first camping stove I ever owned. I picked this stove up as a card-carrying Boy Scout back in the 80's and until I replaced it with my XGK, it was my constant outdoor companion. The Sierra "zip" stove is basically a man-portable blast furnace that uses a forced ventilation system to burn any combustible material. Sticks, twigs, bark, pinecones, they all go into the stove. The complete stove weighs less than a pound and the fan/stove stand fits into the burner chamber for low volume storage. The standard zip stove is powered by a single AA battery, which will provide power for six hours of operation (the 18,000 btu burner will boil a quart of water in under four minutes.)
Since I purchased mine, there have been a number of upgrades and modifications made to the baseline unit. Sierra now has a number of accessories available, to include a spark arrestor, grilling box, D cell converter (35 hours of cook time off the D cell battery) and heat shield.
The zip stove is definitely not tactical. When operational it produces a bright yellow flame, and depending on the quality of your fuel it may smoke a bit (if you're going to use wet or damp fuel try to "pre-heat" it by piling it next to the stove once you get a good fire running. The fuel will dry out quickly and reduce the amount of smoke created.) Its use (in non-combat situations) may be restricted if you are in a no natural fire, or no wood gathering area, but in those situations where fuel is readily available, a pack of 8 AA batteries will last you a lot longer than a gallon of white gas, and they aren't nearly as flammable.