Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stove of the Week: The Caldera Cone

This week's stove is the Caldera Cone with 12-10 stove from Trail Designs. My review of the stove is available at Seattle Backpackers Magazine.  This blog post that you are now reading is a supplement to the review on Seattle Backpackers Magazine and features additional photos and content that would not fit in the magazine article.  I've also added a technical appendix with weights in grams and ounces at the end of this blog post.  As for why the Caldera Cone is such an efficient alcohol stove system, please see The "Magic" of the Caldera Cone.
The Caldera Cone with an MSR Titan Kettle in place.
UPDATE, 25 Nov 2011:  Several of you have written to me saying that the one can actually cook with a Caldera Cone and have described various modifications such as simmer rings that allow such a thing.  Although the Caldera Cone wasn't really put together with the idea of cooking in mind, the ingenuity of the individual backpacker should never be underestimated!  Thanks for the feedback, everyone.

The Caldera Cone (left) and an MSR Titan Kettle
First, be aware that Trail Designs offers many different types of cones.  Some, like the one shown above are of one piece.  Others are of multiple pieces.  Some, like the one shown above, are of aluminum.  Others are made of titanium.  Generally each cone will only work with a specific pot.  The cone in my review and featured in this blog post basically fits only the pot shown above, the MSR Titan Kettle.  I did find one other pot that will fit this cone, but that was just a coincidence.  Generally you must buy the cone that matches your pot or you must buy the pot that matches your cone.  With a pot like the MSR Titan Kettle that can be used as a kettle, a pot, or a mug, I don't find this only-one-pot-for-a-given-cone situation particularly restrictive, but you should consider your needs, your style, etc before you invest in such a system.

At a minimum, Trail Designs sells a cone and a 12-10 stove together.  One frequently purchases the pot separately (as I did).  You can buy packages that may save you money.  Packages are at least worth looking into.

Generally, it's not a good idea to buy just a cone and then just use whatever alcohol stove you happen to have handy.  Inside the cone, you have a high heat, low oxygen environment.  The 12-10 stove has been specifically tuned for this environment.  Not all alcohol stoves will function well in this environment.  If you do choose to use another stove, test it thoroughly before you head out on the trail.

Anti-Gravity Gear makes several packages to go with Trail Designs Caldera Cone systems.  The Reflectix cozy that you see in the below photo came from Anti-Gravity Gear although there's no reason why you couldn't just make your own.  Anti-Gravity gear also sells more sophisticated packages to go with Caldera Cone systems.

Aluminum Caldera Cones can also be used with hexamine tablets (e.g. ESBIT).  Titanium Caldera Cones can be used with alcohol, wood, or hexamine.

Here's the set packed:
The Caldera Cone, all packed up.  A reasonably compact package considering what it contains.
And here's the set unpacked:
My Caldera Cone set up, unpacked.
Everything in the "unpacked" photo fits into the package shown in the "packed" photo.  People have asked, so let me list a source where one can obtain each of the components shown above.

  • The Caldera Cone and 12-10 stove are available from TrailDesigns.com
  • The MSR Titan Kettle is available from just about any outdoors type store.  There's an REI near me, and they carry it.
  • The Ziploc container is available from just about any grocery store.
  • The Reflectix cozy can be homemade from Reflectix material from a hardware store.  I believe AntiGravityGear.com also has pre-made cozies.
  • The stuff sack is from an old First Need water filter.  Not sure where you can get that exact stuff sack, but I'm sure someone makes a stuff sack that will work.
  • The fuel bottle is just an eight ounce bottled water bottle from the grocery store.  I peeled off the lable and wrote all over the bottle so it won't be taken for something to drink.
  • The spoon is just a Lexan spoon I got at Sport Chalet years ago.
  • The little fuel measuring cup is one I got from the hospital when my wife was pregnant.  I'm sure one from cough syrup, etc. would work just fine.
  • The lighter shown is an ordinary Bic lighter from any gas station, liquor store, or grocery store.

Here's a closer look at some of the components.
L to R:  Reflectix Cozy, Ziploc "bowl", and 12-10 Stove
I am happy to report that the 12-10 stove has plenty of "juice" with which to give you a good strong boil.
Boiling water on a Caldera Cone with a 12-10 Stove
The cone dovetails together well and is very stable when assembled.
The dovetail joint of a Caldera Cone, assembled.
 Here are some of the typical components I carry in my set up.  The eye dropper that you see in the photo below is to retrieve unburned alcohol.  I normally measure out just enough alcohol using the little medicine measuring cup shown in the photo, but if I put too much alcohol in, I can snuff the flame with a cup or pot, and then, after things cool down a bit, I can extract the unburned alcohol with the eyedropper.  Frankly, it's better to to measure out just enough alcohol.  Extracting 100% of the unburnt alcohol is usually pretty difficult to accomplish.
Typical Components in my Caldera Cone set up
Note that in the photo above, the cone, when rolled and inserted into the Ziploc container, sticks out a little bit.  In other words, you cannot screw on the lid of the Ziploc container when the cone is rolled up inside.  For me, this is not a big deal.  I simply fit the lid of the Ziploc over the rolled up cone.  The edges of the rolled up cone fit into the indentation of the lid, and the lid stays in place.  Note in the photo below that the blue lid is not attached to the threads of the Ziploc container,  Rather the lid is held in place by the rolled up cone.
The blue lid is held in place by the edges of the rolled up cone.
Once the Ziploc's lid is in place on the rolled up windscreen, I place everything in the stuff sack.  Once everything is in the stuff sack, I place the lid from the Titan kettle on top of the blue lid as shown below.
The Titan Kettle's lid is added last as shown.
 All of the components fit pretty neatly and securely into my stuff sack.  I haven't had any problems with the cone getting beat up when carried as shown.
The Caldera Cone all packed up.  An approx. 500ml sized Sierra Cup is included in the photo for scale.
People have asked, so let me mention that the long, tall stuff sack that I'm using is a perfect size.  The stuff sack is from an old First Need water filter.
The stuff sack from an old First Need water filter works well to hold all the components.

Now, for all you DIY'ers out there, here's a video I saw on YouTube of how to make a Caldera clone. Personally, I like the Trail Designs product, but many people love DIY, so here you go:

Finally, let me leave you with a "demonstration" of the proper use of the Ziploc container as a bowl.
Chowing down!
I hope these additional remarks and photos are a good supplement to the magazine article.


P.S. This blog post is part of my series on the Caldera Cone. In case you missed any of the series:

Weight stats for my Caldera Cone set up 
The following weight stats for the Caldera Cone may be of interest:
    Caldera Cone: 34g/1.2oz
    12-10 stove: 16g/0.6oz
Total Caldera Cone with 12-10 stove:  50g/1.75 oz
Small fuel measuring cup:  1g/0.04oz
Eyedropper:  1g/0.04oz (for reclaiming unburned fuel)
Four fluid ounce flip top bottle with approximately 3.75 fluid ounces of fuel:  132g/4.7oz
   MSR Titan kettle:  98g/3.5oz
   Titan kettle lid:  37g/1.3oz
Total Titan kettle: 135g/4.8oz
Ziploc container (used as storage and as bowl):  55g/1.9oz
Reflectix cozy:  22g/0.8oz
Stuff sack:  17g/0.6oz
Entire kit:  413g/14.6oz

Note:  Your actual weight will vary with the amount of alcohol that you take.  The amount of alcohol shown above is more than enough for me for a solo weekend trip with two nights out on the trail.

Related posts and articles:

Notice:  The author has no affiliation with Trail Designs or Anti-Gravity Gear.  Any links provided are provided as a courtesy only and do not constitute an endorsement of any person or corporation. No equipment was furnished by Trail Designs or Anti-Gravity Gear for this review.  All opinions are strictly the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Trail Designs or Anti-Gravity Gear.


  1. While I love the Caldera Cone for its efficiency, I have a few problems with it. The bulk of the whole package for one and how easily the slots are damaged when rolling it and putting it in the tube. A season of using it banged it up to such a degree that it was damaged beyond repair. My emails to Trail Designs to see if I could buy a new cone kept bouncing back. Not good to have a company with no way to contact them.

  2. I haven't had problems with my "dovetail" (I assume that's what you mean by "slots") getting banged up. Are you rolling yours fairly tightly? The Ziploc container I'm using does not require that I roll particularly tightly which may be an advantage.

    What email did you try for Trail Designs? I show info at traildesigns dot com

    If that doesn't work, you can send the owner, Rand Lindsly, a PM through the BackPackingLight forum: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/profile.html?u=randlindsly He's usually pretty responsive.


  3. I just added a photo to this blog post of the set up all packed. To me, it's really a pretty small package considering everything that it contains.


  4. Another great post Jim. Thanks for the eye dropper tip! I'm an alcohol stove user and always hated the "burn off" of the left over fuel.

  5. Sorry you couldn't get ahold of us.....email on the website works pretty reliably and is exactly as Jim spelled it out. Please get in touch....


  6. Hi, Andy,

    Yeah, trying to pour it out just doesn't cut it. Most of the alcohol winds up on the ground. A little eyedropper works a lot better and weighs almost nothing. The eyedropper can also be used for priming an alcohol stove in cold weather.


  7. Hi, Rand,

    Thanks for dropping by. I knew you guys had great customer service, but I didn't know you'd do "house calls" to my blog. ;)


  8. Have I ever let you down buddy? :-)

  9. That's the one I tried. Three times over several weeks. Bounced back each time.

    Yes, the dovetail is what I meant. I have the caddy for the two different CCs I have, and it tends to unfurl as you remove it and the ends got battered so much that one of them is pretty much kaput.

    FWIW, my review of it.

    Rand, I'll get in touch at some point to see about buying a replacement, but I'm in school right now and money is tighter than a snare drum.

  10. Ahhhh....yes....I see your post is from 2009. We've enhanced the dovetail a good bit since then. Using some stronger aluminum in addition to re-enforcing it with a titanium "doubler". The original still works fine as you can see from Jim's pictures above, but we went ahead and strengthened it up a bit anyway. The email address is used every day by lots of folks. You can try my direct email randATtraildesignsDOTcom as well.

    Rand :-)

  11. Hi, Rand,

    Thanks for popping in with technical expertise.


  12. Any alcohol stove will simmer after a bit of water is dribbled into the burning fuel reservoir.

    1. Hmm. Interesting. That hasn't been my experience, but if it's working for you, great.



My apologies to real people, but due to Spammers I have to moderate comments. I'll get to this as rapidly as possible but do understand that I like to hike and there's no internet in the wilderness. Take care and stove on!