Vargo Hexagon Wood Stove
All year around, for any backpacking trip up to the snowline, this Vargo Hexagon Wood Stove is now my “go-to” cooking aid when I’m packing light. Here’s why:
Ease of Use
It couldn’t be easier. It all relies on you practicing the simple skills to use it as efficiently as possible. I already have a video on how to light a foraged-fuel stove for those who’ve never used one before. Try it and save yourself from reliance on gas, petrol and the like. Most days, you’ll have a hot drink in your hands 15 minutes after taking the stove from your sac. Just get yourself organised.
When boiling more than a litre of water or heating more than a can of beans you may need to add more fuel. The stove has a door in the side. And the stable design means you can use (say) your stirrer, to open the door to add more fuel and prolong your cooking. Keeping the door open, and frequently adding small bits of fuel, will let you simmer a pot, rather than boil it.
Windshield: This is minimalist packing. There is no windshield, but you could fabricate one easily enough with some heavy duty metal foil and a couple of twigs or bivi pegs.
Suitable pans: The widest part of the top of the stove is 8 cms, so 750-900 ml pots (bases around 12-14 cms) seem to be the most stable sizes, though I have used a wider, 16.7 cm pot when cooking for two, and without difficulty. A litre of water usually boils in 10+ minutes, once the stove is burning. And with a pan on top, the “V” notches around the upper lip of the stove help both to draw the fire, and to let the flames lick the around the base of the pan. This aids fuel burning and heating, especially if you are frying…
… I use a couple of pots with lids that become frying pans, you just need to move the frying pan around to distribute the heat and prevent hot spots or burning. Use a pan grabber or Vargo’s Titanium Pot Lifter for maximum safety when stirring. Vargo also make the 2-pot Titanium Ti-Boiler (187 grams) which looks like it might make a suitable light-weight companion, I’ve yet to try it.
All the usual tinder and fuels work. Sticks, twigs, driftwood, pine cones, dried dung, all need to be broken into lengths shorter than 10cms (4 inches) to fit into the stove. Caution: Some sap residue, if left on the stove, can cause the sides to stick together when packed away.
I seriously abused this stove with a wild range of foraged fuels and the titanium progressively discoloured with use. But the metal has maintained a smooth silky feel that seems to aid the cleaning; which I usually perform on the trail with left-over warm water and moss to wipe away the soot. And titanium remains unaffected by brackish or salty water. I had to use a knife to remove some hardened sap, but most peels away readily.
Pro’s compared to other stoves
- At under 120 grams plus the 20 gram cover, it is so much lighter that other stove options, with no need to carry fuels.
- Ridiculously easy to pack – folds flat. Avoid bending it in your sack.
- The cover prevents soot or sap from marking or sticking in your sack..
Pro’s – compared to an open fire
- More eco-friendly and efficient.
- Minimises the need for fuel gathering/fire base making.
- Boils water more quickly and more safely.
- Used efficiently, there is less cleaning of pots and pans.
- You need to be able to forage useable fuel.
- Requires different expertise in use than a gas stove.
- Inevitable soot, sap, smoke and a woody smell.
- Solo and duo lightweight backpacking
- Where there is a suitable supply of natural (dry) fuel
- As a second stove where liquid fuel preservation is desirable.
Web site: Vargo Outdoors
Product page: The stove at Vargo Outdoors
The Stove (titanium) at WildStoves.co.uk
The Stove (titanium) at UltraLightOutdoorGear.co.uk
The Stove (titanium) at TheBushcraftStore.co.uk
The Stove (titanium) at AlpineTrek.co.uk
The Stove (titanium) at Amazon.co.uk
The Stove (titanium) at Amazon.com`
Stainless Steel: S/S versions of the stove are also available from the above retailers.
Read about my own conversion to foraged fuel
Playing With Fire
A short video on getting your stove lit.
How to use a fire starter
Disclosure: Supplied by Vargo without charge. Locations: Europe, Indian Ocean; mountains, hills, moorlands and coasts. Period: Winter 2014 to summer 2016. This is an honest review.
You keep me honest: My product review policy and practices
Updated: 15 November 2016
A couple of images from the field…