QuietStove.com

Monday, February 4, 2013

The BobCat Stove System – Part I

For several months now, I've had the pleasure of testing the Bobcat stove system from Flat Cat Gear.

The Bobcat stove system from Flat Cat Gear.
Note:  The carbon felt "hat" atop the pot and the simmer ring to the right are optional extras.
The Bobcat stove system is just that, an integrated stove system designed to work with a 1300 ml titanium pot from Evernew and other compatible pots (see Appendix "B" for list).

The Bobcat system consists of three major components:
  • Base plate
  • "It's a Snap" windscreen/pot support with support pin.
  • Stove  (currently there are five stove options)
And two "optional extra" components:
  • Simmer ring 
  • Flat Cat "hat" (an insulating layer of carbon felt that fits over the pot lid).
Primary Components
Let's walk through the system.  First, all of the components fit inside the pot.
A Bobcat System, with all the components inside the pot.
Looking inside, we can see there's plenty of room for the primary components, the windscreen/pot support, the base plate, and a stove.  There's also room for things like a simmer ring, firesteel, spoon, fuel (shown here with an ESBIT tab), etc.
Bobcat system components inside an Evernew 1300 ml pot along with an ESBIT tab for scale.
Let's spread the major components out:
The major components of the Bobcat stove system along with an ESBIT tab for scale.
Top:  stove.  Bottom left:  It's a Snap windscreen.  Bottom right:  folded base plate. 
To the right of the base plate can be seen a pot support pin which is basically part of the windscreen.




First, there's the base plate, which is simply a circular sheet of aluminum that when unfolded sits underneath the stove and windscreen.  The base plate helps reflect heat towards the pot and also helps prevent any ground scorching.  Wisely, Jon Fong, the designer behind Flat Cat Gear, has included a small circular cut out at the point in the center where the base plate folds.  This makes the base plate far easier to fold and prevents a point of failure I've seen in other, less well designed base plates.
The base plate of a Bobcat stove system.
Next, there's the appropriately named "It's a Snap" windscreen which rolls up into a fairly compact package that fits inside the pot when laid horizontal.
The "It's a Snap" windscreen/pot support
 As it's name might suggest, the windscreen snaps to itself to stay closed,
The closure snap on an "It's a Snap" windscreen
The "It's a Snap" windscreen snaps to itself to stay closed
And to maintain it's fully open position.
The two snaps shown hold the windscreen in position for normal operation.
Once the windscreen is snapped together, it is placed on the base plate, and the stove is placed inside.
An assembled base plate and windscreen with a stove inside.
The small pin that you see at the right in the above photo comes with the system and is inserted through holes in the back of the windscreen.
The pot support pin inserted through the holes in the windscreen.
The pot is then placed within the windscreen. The rear of the pot is supported by the pin, and the front of the pot is supported by the pot's handles.
An Evernew 1300ml pot inside an "It's a Snap" windscreen (with a pot support pin).
The pin is supposed to keep the pot at the optimum height above the stove.  In actual practice, I found that simply resting the lip of the pot on the rim of the windscreen was a very stable set up, and I could not detect any change in stove performance.  YMMV.
An Evernew 1300ml pot resting on the windscreen (no pot support pin in use)
As I mentioned, there are five stoves produced by Flat Cat Gear that work well with the Bobcat stove system.
  • The standard Flat Cat stove -- alcohol
  • The titanium Flat Cat stove -- alcohol
  • The Cat Ion stove -- alcohol, highly efficient
  • The Epicurean Ti stove -- hexamine (ESBIT).  Can be used for ultralight baking!
  • The Iso Clean stove -- which cleanly burns all types of alcohol including isopropyl ("rubbing") alcohol.
There is also a version of the Epicurean Ti stove, the Epicurean Ti UL 15 which weighs a mere 7g. 

This review will cover the standard Flat Cat stove and the overall Bobcat system.  Subsequent reviews will cover other stoves and the use of the Bobcat system to do dry baking out on the trail.

UPDATE 14 April 2013:
A delicious triple berry muffin, baked out on the trail using the Bobcat system from Flat Cat Gear.
See my article at Seattle Backpackers Magazine for more on ultralight baking!

Optional Components
In addition to the major components, there are couple of optional extras.  First, there's the simmer ring.  The simmer ring is just that, a ring, that when used with the Flat Cat stove steps down the output of the stove such that simmering is possible.  Note that the simmer ring is only for use with the Flat Cat stove.
A simmer ring (left) and a Flat Cat stove (center, on the base plate)

The simmer ring works very well, but I did encounter some problems in very cold, very windy weather where the stove went out when using the simmer ring.  I consider those conditions exceptional conditions, conditions in which any low flame stove might struggle.  Even in those tough conditions, the Flat Cat stove itself did just fine (without the simmer ring), and I had a nice hot meal.
Stove testing in windy, freezing weather at 10,000+ feet (3048+ meters).

For further information on the simmer ring, see the lighting and simmering demonstration video later in this review.

The second optional extra is the Flat Cat "hat" which is a circular piece of carbon felt that fits over the pot's lid.
A Flat Cat "hat"
The Flat Cat hat, when placed over the pot lid acts as an insulator.  In studies I've read, the greatest heat loss is through the top of any pot.  The logical place to put insulation is on top.  If you insulate just the top of the pot alone, you have a disproportionately large gain in heat retention.  However, recall that with the Bobcat set up the windscreen protects the sides of the pot, so you've really got a good set up for "cozy cooking" -- where the hot contents of a pot are left to further cook inside the pot after the stove burns out.  Cozy cooking is particularly helpful when re-hydrating foods. 

The Flat Cat hat:
  • Helps elevate the internal temperature during dry baking
  • Facilitates "cozy cooking".
  • Keeps food warmer if dishing out food to multiple people or dishing out seconds.
  • Can be used as a pot holder 
  • Can be used as a ground insulator in cold weather.
I find myself really liking the Flat Cat hat.  I love how my food stays warmer longer inside my pot and continues to absorb more water when doing things like cooking rice or pasta.

General Remarks
I spoke with Jon Fong, the man behind Flat Cat Gear.  His philosophy is light weight gear with a particularly strong emphasis on ease of use.  With the Bobcat system, I think he's struck a good balance between light weight and ease of use.  Is it possible to find a lighter weight set up?  Of course, but gear from Flat Cat really is easy to use (refer to the video below).  Some ultralight set ups are just a plain hassle to use.  With the Bobcat system, I can get right to cooking.

The Bobcat system is is also quite efficient.  The design of the windscreen a) protects the flame, b) traps heat near the pot for good heat transfer, and c) controls air flow for an efficient burn and convective heat transfer.  The windscreen also provides a stable platform for the pot while saving weight since no separate pot support is required.  And, as mentioned above, the windscreen helps retain heat after the stove burns out which helps in re-hydration or just plain keeping supper warm between servings.

The low profile design of the Flat Cat stove makes the stove easy to store.  The wide open top of the stove makes the stove easy to light with a firesteel (see video, below).  The short stove also means that the pot doesn't have to sit particularly high, so a shorter windscreen can be used.  That shorter windscreen then conveniently fits inside the pot.

The Flat Cat stove itself is really solid, perhaps the most durable alcohol stove I've seen, even stronger than a Trangia stove.

Video Demonstration -- Lighting and Simmering
I mentioned in my general remarks that one of the things that I really like about the Flat Cat stove is how easy it is to light with a firesteel.  I thought I'd demo just how and why it's so easy.  I'll also do some simmering in this demo.
Clarification:  The simmer ring does not come standard with the Bobcat system.  The simmer ring is an optional extra.

Summary
The Bobcat stove system from Flat Cat Gear.
What's good about it:
  • Easy to use
  • Everything stores inside the pot
  • Stable
  • Efficient
  • Good wind resistance
  • Highly flexible (bake, boil, or simmer)
  • The Flat Cat stove is extremely durable.
What's bad about it:
  • The windscreen is a little stiff (minor complaint).  A lighter windscreen would roll more tightly, but of course a lighter windscreen might not be as durable.  
  • The Flat Cat stove is maybe a little bit heavy at 32g.  The titanium version is of course lighter at 21g (Note:  I have not tested the titanium version).  Both versions are of course lighter than even the lightest gas stoves, but if you're a die-hard gram weenie, then perhaps this isn't the stove for you.
The Bobcat stove system from Flat Cat Gear:  Highly recommended.

HJ

Appendix "A" -- Component Weights
Update 24 Feb 2013:  I've added "stated" vs. "measured" weight columns.  The "stated" weights are the weights listed on FlatCatGear.com.  The "measured" weights are per my gram scale.  The weights differ by less than one percent.

Note:  The first total all the standard items and the pot.  The final line includes all the optional extras.  All weights were measured in grams and then converted to ounces.  Some rounding error may result.

All told, the standard system weighs about 1/2 pound, including the pot.
Item Stated Grams Grams Measured Stated Ounces Ounces Measured
Flat Cat Stove (Standard) 32 32 1.1 1.1
"It's a Snap" Windscreen 51 52 1.8 1.8
Base Plate 9 9 0.3 0.3
Support Pin 3 3 0.1 0.1
Sub Total 95 96 3.4 3.4
Evernew 1300ml UL pot 130 130 4.6 4.6
Total (Without Extras) 225 226 7.9 8.0
Simmer Ring (optional) 16 15 0.6 0.5
Flat Cat Hat* (optional) 9 11 0.3 0.4
Total (With Extras) 250 252 8.8 8.9

*Possible spilled food on mine


Appendix "B" -- Pots Compatible with the Bobcat Stove System
  • Evernew Ultralight 1.3 liter titanium pot (ECA-253)
  • Evernew  Non-Stick 1.3 liter titanium pot  (ECA-423)
  • Evernew pot/fry pan combination (ECA-418)
  • REI Ti-Ware series of 1.3 liter pots (actually an Evernew pot but with the REI label). 
  • Open Country 2 quart pot.
  • Additional pots can be made compatible with the use of "extension stakes".  I have not tested the use of "extension stakes," so I can't comment about their use.  Extension stakes weigh 4g each.
Appendix "C" -- Testing Locations
  • San Gabriel Mountains, various locations. Primary testing area.  Elevations as low as 2,000'/600m
  • Verdugo Mountains and surrounding area.  Elevations as low as 600'/180m
  • Sierra Nevada Mountains, vicinity of Devil's Postpile N.M. and Mammoth Lakes.  Also Lake Isabella.  Elevations up to and exceeding 10,000'/3048m.
  • San Jacinto Mountains.    Elevations up to and exceeding 10,000'/3048m.  Temperatures down to 32F/0C.  High winds.
  • San Bernardino Mountains.  Elevations up to and exceeding 10,000'/3048m. 
  • Big Basin State Park. 
  • Henry Coe State Park.
  • Joshua Tree National Park.

2 comments:

  1. Nice review. Keep them coming. I will definitely consider this stove for my next backpacking trip.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Ken, thanks. I've got at least two more posts on the Bobcat system coming up, and then I want to talk about the new Kovea Spider remote canister stove.

      HJ

      Delete