There are National Parks, State Parks, BLM, National Forests, Conservancies, and who-knows-what. On a "long trail," you're going to pass through areas governed by a multitude of land management agencies – each with their own rules governing stoves. How on earth can anyone comply with all the different rules!? You need:
One Stove to Hike Them All.
|Sauron knows canister stoves meet the regulations of all land management agencies|
For example, all of the four southern most National Forests in California require (if you read their obscure websites carefully enough) a "shut off valve" (example: San Bernardino National Forest) – all year, every year, irrespective of fire danger levels. That pretty much lets out alcohol.
Other National Forests specifically prohibit tablet stoves. For example from Pisgah National Forest:
The use of commercially available portable lanterns, stoves, or heating equipment that utilize gas or pressurized liquid fuel is allowed. The stove must have an ON/OFF switch. No alcohol stoves. No hexamine or solid fuel cubes. [emphasis added]Yes, of course, fire restrictions vary with conditions, but really, if you want to comply with the all the regs, all the time – regulations that may change as you proceed on your hike – there's really only one good lightweight solution: A canister gas stove.
This is not meant to discourage those who prefer another fuel. By all means, check with the various land management agencies along your route. In many places, if it's been a wet year, there will be no fire restrictions.
1. The longer the trail, the more jurisdictions. On something like the PCT, CDT, etc. there are just too many agencies to check with them all. I personally would just get a canister stove because it's the one lightweight option that complies with all regulations. I'm not going to even think about identifying and calling/writing all of the various agencies along, say, the PCT.
2. The regulations can change mid-hike. Many agencies don't issue summer fire restrictions until June or July. In really dry years, fire restrictions can be increased every month throughout the summer. A stove that starts out in compliance may not be in compliance by the end of a hike.
3. A canister stove will be OK every year, everywhere. Sure, some other type of stove may be OK this year, but what about next year? A canister stove is going to comply with the regs this year, next year, and every year. And a canister stove will comply with regulations all over the US. Other types of stoves may not permitted in some areas.
Is this how it should be? I would argue no. ESBIT for example is the very safest possible fuel in terms of fire safety. Banning ESBIT is sort of like banning seat belts to promote automotive safety! Why do agencies ban ESBIT? Ignorance and bureaucracy. There's just no logical, science based reason to ban ESBIT.
However, until agencies like the US Forest Service get out of the Dark Ages, these are the regs. For now, it is only a canister stove that is a) lightweight and b) meets all regulations.
NOTE: It's relatively rare, but occasionally there are 100% fire bans, a ban where no flames of any kind are permitted. I've even seen entire National Forests closed during times of extreme fire danger. A canister stove will comply with all regulations except of course a total, 100% fire ban. Often major trail corridors are exempt from such total bans or at least canister stoves are exempted. It's impossible to predict when such a total ban will occur, but generally land management agencies go out of their way to publicize such bans for indeed they are exceptional.
|Canister gas stoves. |
A Soto Amicus, left, and an MSR Pocket Rocket 2, right.
What Are the Choices?
OK, so it's a canister stove. Now, which one? Well, that's up to you, but you may want to check out my thoughts on: What Makes a Good Backpacking Stove?
Once you've got an idea as to criteria by which to choose, what are the choices? Well, there are three different general classes of canister stoves (upright, integrated, and remote), and within each general type, there are dozens to choose from. I will here refer you to my article: Canister Stoves, Compared, which discusses the three classes in relation to one another and has links to various reviews as well as to summary tables that allow you to compare the attributes of various stoves, side by side.
Given, the regulations (at least in the US) as they are currently constituted as of this writing, really, the only lightweight option that complies with all regulations all the time is a canister stove. Please use the resources provided in this post to figure out what your needs are and to review the many canister stoves that are available.
Whatever stove you pick, I hope it serves you well in the wild.