The Frontier Stove – using it for real!
Ok so I have written a few posts about setting up the Frontier Stove, finally we come to using it on a real camping trip with a real group of people, including young children (toddlers and babies).
In short there is a bit of a knack to using it and it could do with a few more mods, but it really does what it says on the tin!
We went away for a 4 day weekend in late April (Spring bank holiday weekend). We’d just had a very warm week or two but the temperature dropped again to the seasonal norm of about 5°C to 10°C at night. Even with 4 adults, a toddler and a baby the 5m Bell tent we use can’t be warmed at night by body heat alone, and it can get very cold.
On our first night we didn’t use the stove. I’d like to say it was so I could have a control with which to compare the other nights but to be honest we were just too tired to do anything with it once the camp had been set up (10 adults, 3 infants, 3 toddlers, 2 large tents, 2 small tents, 1 large covered cooking area, large camp fire). Still it worked as a good control; Kelly, Bella and I were sleeping on air beds with duvets and not sleeping bags (a long story) and found it too cold without hats, hot water bottles and thermals.
On the 2nd night we set the stove up properly; we fastened a smoke alarm to the top of the central pole, and a CO (carbon monoxide) alarm to the base of the pole.
The smoke alarm we use is a Fire Angel, available almost everywhere and recommended to us during the last Fire Brigade inspection of our house. The Fire Angel fixes to a back plate via 3 tabs; if you are careful one of them will take a length of para-cord and you can use that to tie it to the main tent pole. To stop ours slipping down we put it above the UFO light we have, but you could also use one of the internal liner hanging points or make sure you have a loop tied off of the main pole before pitching the tent.
The CO alarm we have is made by Kiddie, we fastened it to the base of the main pole with a tough elastic band (the band we used came with a post level). When they did their visit I asked the Fire Brigade if it was better to fix the CO alarm high on a wall or low; they said to put it next to the boiler/ potential source of CO. Within the tent the closest ‘fixed’ point to the stove is the base of the main pole (I did very briefly consider fastening it to the stove legs, but that is a silly idea).
We also had a fire extinguisher at hand, plus a knife in case we had to cut our way out of the tent (our stove is by the main
door). We did not have a fire blanket under the stove as I forgot it, and for my mistake I now have a few holes in the ground sheet to repair from dropped cinders.
Finally we used a children’s playpen to keep little fingers away from the stove.
That night (2nd night) we learnt a valuable lesson the hard way. The manufacturers of the stove say you should clean it out after every use and then apply a light oil to it to prevent corrosion. You must be very careful when choosing this oil; the one I chose gave off some very foul fumes for a quarter of an hour (not the best when one of the mums in our tent was very nervous about the ‘fire in a tent’ thing). On the plus side we did confirm that both the smoke and CO alarms work.
Over the next few nights we tried different things with the stove and found the following worked best for keeping the tent warm all night (well until the early morning – the stove was still warm to the touch by 8am but not really heating the tent anymore). We lit a fire and let it burn for at least an hour (damper fully open, door on vent to stop the smoke flowing into the tent). Once there was a good bed of burning charcoal (and just before we went to bed) we added another load of small logs and some larger pieces of wood, waited for it to catch and then as well as having the door on vent set the damper to 45°. This ‘banked’ the fire and kept it burning for most of the night.
We also tried using some instant light charcoal (we had an extra bag to burn), this burned fine as well but we did notice a funny smell coming off the stove, which we assume was whatever they soak the charcoal in to make it light so easily.
A few more mods are needed to finish things off. It was very blowy on our campsite and whilst the chimney didn’t fall over it did start to separate after 2 nights and the flapping of the tent worked the chimney slightly out of the stove (we had to adjust and tighten the whole lot once a day or so, so we need a way to guy it down and as I have mentioned before it really needs a rain cowl.
We also need an extra guy point on the main door; the door opens straight on to the stove, this was not a problem on our trip as the door to the tent was only closed when we all went to bed, but on windy or rainy days when people will be coming and going I’d like a way to stop someone rushing in and colliding with the hot stove.