Friday, May 18, 2012

A Field Test: The Littlbug Junior.

We are going to touch base again on commercially available wood camp stoves. Last time we took a look at the Emberlit, and this week we are going to look at a stove made by Littlbug Enterprises; The Littlbug Junior. Made in the Bemidji, MN, and invented and designed by Kent Hering. Kent is an avid outdoors-men himself with a great sense of sustainability. The Littlbug is made out of stainless steel, is designed to burn wood as well as be part of a alcohol burner set up. The Littlbug clocks in at around 5 oz as the basic stove. When disassembled it retains a slightly concave form, At first I was perplexed how how to store it in your pack flat with out damage, but it fits around a sleeping pad perfectly making it a very compact stove. The basic stove consists of 4 parts. Two halves of the outer wind shield and two parts of the inner "grate/stand". There are no moving parts, and no latches or snaps. It comes together in about 20 seconds to a very stable surface.

Aside from the basic stove there are some accessories one can get to help in their outdoor cooking experience, although you will find it just as good without them. The two accessories I received are the nylon Cordura bag and the stainless steel pot sling. The bag fits the stove perfectly, and prevents the user from any unwanted cuts or damage to equipment from the semi-sharp edges of the stove, and also keeps all the pieces on one spot nicely. It aldo does a great job of keeping soot off of anything while the stove is not in use. I will touch base on the pot sling later on in this write up.

 Like I mentioned setting up the stove was simple and couple quick movements and bends and the stove is ready to go. The inner grate can be positioned in two fashions depending on what fuel source you plan on using to cook. The grate sits higher out of the windshield if you are going to be using wood, and sits more recessed if your going to burn spirits.  I collected some pencil size twigs to get the littlbug started to make some tea. With a quick strike of the fire steel on some birchbark I had it lit. The wood was fantastically dry and became ablaze in seconds. When I first got the stove, I was actually concerned that there was no access to feed the stove while the pot was resting on top. After I had it lit I realized why the wood burning position sits so high! It allows about a 1" area all around the stove to throw sticks in to the fire pot.

 After coming to this realization feeding the stove was really easy, being able to access the whole way round to drop sticks where needed. I was even able to slip in some small pine cones for some wicked heat.  The holes around the base on one side of the Littlbug adequately fed air into the fire, keeping it burning pretty much smoke free. I did notice that it was handy to have a small "poking" stick handy to guide some of the burning sticks and ash around.  One thing that was different compared to the Emberlit is the lack of bottom grate, The Littlbug  has none, it just sits on the ground. So I suggest that while using the littlbug, find a nice solid surface of dirt or even use it in the fire-pit at your campsite.

The water quickly came to a boil for my tea. I think I used a bit more fuel than last time, as the Littlbug is slightly larger and longer than the Emberlit. It still was not a heck of a lot of twigs used, a good mitt-full brought it to a boil with a couple twigs left to spare. Pine cones are great fuel, they burn hot and quick. The only down side is that the resinous smoke cakes onto your pots, but a black pot IS in fact more thermo-efficient than a shiny one!? Again as I mentioned with the previous test, please let the stove die out before storing it, as dumping water on it to cool could be disastrous to the hot metal, warping and contorting the stainless. In my case the Littlbug was cool to the touch in under 5 minutes, ready to be disassembled and stored.  UPDATE: I have been informed By Kent (Owner and Inventor) that the curved geometry of the Littlbug prevents warping of the metal in case water was dumped on it....I still wouldn't, unless it was an emergency.

The Littlbug markets itself as a alcohol stove, so I thought I would give that a try as well. When I was sent the Littlbug I was also given the "Pot Sling" to that out. I first set it up with my Trangia Burner directly on the ground, remembering to flip the top grate to the "alcohol" position with make the gap between the pot and windscreen quite small, about 3/8" or so. This enables the heat to be slightly more retained in order to allow the burner to heat up and burn the alcohol properly. However with the large size pot that I was using with the stove the distance between the burner and pot was quite a bit, allowing time for the heat to disperse around the pot and out the sides. There is an ideal distance one want between the burner and pot to minimize fuel consumption.

This is where the Littlbug Pot sling comes in. The idea behind it is that if you remove the upper grate, and attach this "web" of stainless ball and chain to the windscreen, you then place a smaller pot within the windscreen and adjust the distance from burner to pot. Again, the pot must fit with the diameter of the stove. Since I had the smaller Littlbug Jr. my pots did not fit in, but I was able to place the actual burner within the center of the pot sling and suspend the it right under the upper grate. By doing this I was able to close the distance to allow for maximum cooking power from the trangia burner. I think if I had tried the Littlbug Sr. my pot would have fit fine and could have used the pot sling as intended. I will definitely need to look at options for a smaller pot to fit within this set up. After boiling the second pot of water with the alcohol I found the flaw in my set up. How do you put out the Trangia with the upper grate attached?!? So with a glove I was able to remove the grate and put the "snuffer" on the Trangia.

I really enjoyed this stove, and seeing it perform, It definitely will be going out on more trips with me. I like the option of being able to use wood and if its rainy or there's no wood around being able to use alcohol. Also with the alcohol, being able to tune it for optimal output. I am really digging how simple these wood stoves or and how fun they make backcountry cooking. I would like to thanks Kent from Littlbug for the opportunity to give their fine stove a whirl. If interested you can purchase them directly from Littlbug, or form good pals Canadian Outdoor Equipment Co. Stay tuned for the third wood burning stove field test in the coming weeks when we give the Vargo Hexagon Wood stove a run in the bush.


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