30 November 2008
Note: Many of these articles are very old, and although the technical information is still relevant the equipment mentioned may not be (for example a Stormy cooker was state of that art in 1995, but not in 2021).
First off why would anyone want a hanging stove? Well on alpine climbs it isn’t always possible to place your stove on the floor of your bivi site safely, perhaps because of a lack of space, or in the case of a snow bivy, you’re scared it will melt out and be lost. Also getting your stove off the ground means it’s safe from clumsy feet which can knock over pans of precious water, or kick the whole stove into touch! In confided bivvy tents or tarps a hanging stove is a must as it allows cooking to be carried out no matter how cramped things get, something only appreciated after you try brewing up with an MSR XGK balanced on your knee! The stove can even be used while your partner is leading or seconding; clipped to the belay, allowing you to melt more snow for tea, or even rustle up a little cake to celebrate the summit (well Angel Delight maybe). A secondary benefit of a hanging stove is that its windshield is built-in, and so it’s far more fuel-efficient and stable.
In the past, the only two hanging stoves that were commercially available were the Markill Stormy; which at the time was state of the art, and the Bibler hanging stove; a more Heath Robinson affair. Since then both stoves have disappeared leaving a gap in the market that only the modified Jet Biol fills at the moment, meaning climbers have been left to make their own.
Now, this is the tricky bit and may require quite a bit of searching, fiddling and modification. Here are the basics:-
1x burner. 1x pan with lid (this should be around 1 litre for bivy use). 1x larger pan (windshield) that takes the above leaving 1 cm of space on all sides. It also has to be deep enough so that when the interior pan is elevated it doesn’t extend more than a few centimetres over the rim (if sticks out too far it’ll both lose heat and become unstable). A metre of thin chain (DIY store), or thin cable with swages. 3 small diameter long bolts with nuts and washers (around 4mmx30mm) 2 Keyrings (You will also need a drill and pliers).
The problem when trying to match up a cooking and windshield pan is most pan sets nestle together too tightly, meaning there isn’t enough space for heat to move around the interior pan. So often you’ll need to buy different brand pans, or try and match existing pans with what a shop has in stock. The best place to start is by finding the pan you want to use for cooking (this will probably be a 1-litre pan), and bring it into the climbing store. Now some shops won’t be helpful when you ask them if you can open their pans sets to see what fits, but they should! There are tons of pans on the market, but MSR and Trangia tend to have the best selection of sizes but don’t ignore unknown brands, or even high street shops (Paul Ramsden bought his windshield from an army surplus store in Australia!), as they too might have something that works.
Now depending on the type of burner you’re using you will either be able to make a stove that can be both used on the flat as well as hung or only hung. The difference is whether or not you can fit the burner without removing its build-in pot supports. Unfortunately with most stoves, this can’t be done, and so you either need to always hang it (on the flat you can usually use a ski pole), or carry the burners supports separately so you can refit them (they are usually very light). The only burner I know that will allow you to use it with its own support legs is the excellent Optimus Crux, but I’m sure there are others.
First, make sure you can take your burner apart. You should be able to unscrew the burner head from the control/connecter body, allowing you to remove the pan supports. If you can’t do this then don’t go any further! Before you do this make a note of the distance between the burner head and the height of the pan supports, so you know where the pan would sit in relation to the flame. Next, you need to measure the diameter of the connection between the two parts and drill a hole the same diameter in the centre of your large pan. If the whole is very large then you may need to drill a few holes (use a round file to finish them off). The burner part of the stove will now slot through the hole, and the two half’s can be screwed back together.
Now measure out the optimum distance from the burner to the pan on the outside of the windshield, and drill three holes. Insert you bolts through these to form the pan supports.
In line with the pan supports drill three more holes just below the rim. Insert your suspension chain or wire through these, making sure that they don’t interfere with getting the pan in and out of the windshield. The suspension should be made up of one single piece that forms a loop from two holes, and a third single strand (see diagram). Both suspension points should be finished off with a key ring, so as to make it easier to clip it via karabiners. The reason for the double and single suspension arms is so that you can extend the single-arm when using it on less than vertical terrain so that the pan stays horizontal…ish. Lastly, drill a series of holes around the bottom of the pan to allow airflow. Start by making only a few (a circle of 6 close to the centre), and then increase the number if the flame seems starved of oxygen.
You should now have a bonafide hanging stove, ready to tackle any big wall or super alpine climb. A word of warning though, the windshield can get very hot with this type of stove, so be careful when first using it, plus remember to keep an eye on both the suspension and the burner itself to make sure everything is secure, after all, you don’t want the whole thing to drop off your belay!