I would really like some help and suggestions:
I am planning to take myself on a bike camping trip along the C and O canal- to get away from the anxiety in the city. While I have done the cooking, in a stereotypical gender turn I have never been responsible for the starting of the campfire or turning on the stove. I'm also not sure of some safety things I should read- what advice is over the top and what advice is salient. I am grateful for any opinions shared!
1. I want a small stove (it certainly does not have to be ultralight) that is, most importantly, EASY TO USE and heats up/is strong.
The first thing that I pull up on searches is the "MSR pocket rocket" are there any others? I saw it comes with some helpful pots and bowls but how useful is it? Is it a strong burner, an easy to use and cook with the burner? (this type of stove is new to me)
2. In terms of fires, would it help if I brought lighter fluid for the kindling or is that overkill?
3. Should I be hanging all food from a tree (bears)? I have done it in the past. I think there are some bears, but not many up there.
4. I have read up on safety tips for women camping alone. Most say- bring mace. Would just a blow horn be enough or is mace really a good defense?
Thank you for your expertise- Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
The Pocket Rocket is-very easy. You simply screw the burner unit into the fuel canister (Be sure it is turned off.) Then open the valve and ignite. It will ignite easily with any sort of spark or flame. I generally use mine with smallish bowls appropriate for solo trips since they must balance on the burner head. Big bowls are troublesome in that regard.
The flame is easily adjustable down to a simmer, if that is what you prefer.
@SarahKate Thanks for reaching out!
In terms of size, weight, and simplicity of use, it is going to be very hard to beat the MSR PocketRocket. As @hikermor said, you just screw it onto a fuel canister (making sure it is off), then turn it one a little bit and light with a match or a lighter. It produces a very hot flame (you can adjust it a little bit) that is great for boiling water quickly or even dialing it down to a simmer. It is important to note that it is much more powerful than the burners you have at home on your stove, so you want to keep an eye on what you are doing so you don't burn or overcook what you are trying to prepare.
One advantage to a stove like the PocketRocket is that you can use almost any pot or pan with it. You may even already have one that is light enough to use on your trip. All in all the PocketRocket is definitely easy to use and will get the job done for you!
In terms of fire, lighter fluid is probably overkill if the kindling you are using is dry. You could use something like a cotton ball with petroleum jelly on it as a fire starter if you are concerned about getting the fire started. Check out this Expert Advice article about How to Build a Campfire for some other good tips!
Here is another Expert Advice article about Food Storage for Camping & Backpacking that covers keeping your food away from bears. Another consideration that is important is keeping your food away from other animals like squirrels and raccoons that can do serious damage to a backpack or tent (or whatever might be between them and your food).
Lastly, whatever you choose to take with you for protection (mace, air horn, emergency whistle), make sure you know how to use it!
Hope this helps, feel free to reach out with any other questions!
The JetBoil Flash is a very convenient and efficient setup if you are just boiling water and you don't need the flexibility of separate pots. It is a little heavier then the equivalent set up (ie pot) with the upright stoves but it makes up for that somewhat by using significantly less fuel per boil
There are other more budget options that are decent if that is an issue.
For kindling real cotton puffs and Vaseline work well. Both have other uses so are good to bring along. You work the Vaseline in to the cotton puff. Has to be real cotton though. Also alcohol hand sanitizer can be used apparently although I have not tried. I would not bring lighter fluid except for a cook out at the local park..
You should always hang your food or keep it in a bear resistant container if you are in bear country. In other places hanging is also wise to protect it from rodents. You may need a cup to prevent the rodent from climbing down the rope.
Whether to take mace or a siren is a personal decision. If it doesn't weigh too much and you know how to use it, it's not a bad idea if it make you feel more secure. A siren might be useful for discouraging a bear. I'm not sure how well personal pepper spray works for that.
I should also say that there is not much in at far as ease of use. you just screw them on the can turn the knob/handle to let some gas out, light the stove and adjust the flame. With the exception of the Jet Boil most stove burn most efficiently with the control between about 50% to 70%
The Jet Boil is the most convenient because it locks together. Not 100% sure about the latest one but the original had essentially a binary valve set to burn at the most efficient rate.
Having a built in igniter also like the JetBoil and the Amicus means you don't have to go searching for the lighter you forgot to bring (bring one anyway).
I have a Snowpeak Gigapower stove, which is tiny and effective. You use fuel canisters not solid fuel, so just bring a couple things of gas. BUT it's important to have matches or a lighter in case the igniter isn't working.
Let me know how it goes, I'd love to bike camp the C&O canal too once it warms up.