BackpackGearTest
  Home Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Trail Designs Caldera Cone System > Test Report by Jamie Lawrence

Trail Designs Caldera Cone and 12-10 Stove

IR1

Caldera Cone in Caddy

Test Series by Jamie Lawrence

Initial Report – 16th March 2011

Field Report - 13th June 2011

Long-Term Report – 6th August 2011

Tester Information

Name:

Jamie Lawrence

Email:

jlawrence286 (at) gmail.com

Age:

29

Location:

Hobart Tasmania, AUSTRALIA

Gender:

Male

Height:

1.70 m (5' 7")

Weight:

70 kg (154 lbs)

I was introduced to backpacking/tramping/hiking as a young child in Boy Scouts and through my school physical/adventure education. After leaving school, I mainly did short daywalks until recently when I started to re-walk some of Tasmania's key routes and try others I have yet to attempt. I mainly walk in the winter months, in Tasmania's central highlands area. I prefer light gear, extended walks (3-5 days) in a group of 3 people, or shorter walks (1-3 days) walking solo. I generally carry a base weight pack of around 8 kg - 10 kg (17 lbs - 22 lbs).


Initial Report

16th March 2011

Product Information & Specification

Manufacturer:

Trail Designs

Year of Manufacture:

2011

Manufacturer's Website:

http://www.traildesigns.com

MSRP:

US$134.96

Listed Weight:

Caldera Cone: 28 - 78 g (0.9 - 2.5 oz)

12-10 Stove: 16 g (0.5 oz)

Fuel Bottle: 20 g (0.64 oz)

Measured Weight:

Caldera Cone: 40 g (1.2 oz)

12-10 Stove: 16 g (0.5 oz)

Fuel Bottle: 24 g (0.77 oz)

All packed in Caddy: 140 g (4.5 oz)


The Trail Designs Caldera Cone and 12-10 stove system is a denatured alcohol (called methylated spirits in Australia) burning stove that is, to be honest, extremely simple and ultra lightweight. The 12-10 stove (burner) is effectively a well made 'soda can' stove, whilst the Caldera Cone is a specially designed windshield that acts as a pot stand and is formed by a single, specifically cut, piece of aluminum that when set up, forms a cone shape.

On their website Trail Designs outline that each Caldera Cone is specifically optimized for the specific pot. To this extent the distance between the base of the pot and the 12-10 burner is specially matched to ensure the maximum heat capture and efficiency from the burner. In this test series my Caldera Cone is matched with the Open Country 3 cup non-stick pot. The Caldera Cone, 12-10 burner, fuel bottle and measuring cup all tuck away into the Caddy, a large plastic container around the same size as a 1 Liter water bottle. In my case there is also enough space for a set of pot grips. Trail Designs state that as an added bonus (to save weight) the Caddy is made from food grade plastic so could be used as a bowl or cup. However my view is that the plastic is extremely thin and would not only be quite hard to eat out of given the long slender shape, would also be very hot in my hand and not insulate my food, meaning it would get cold very quickly.

Initial Impressions

When I first received the Caldera system all packaged up in the Caddy I was immediately impressed by just how light the unit was. The other thing that surprised me was just how simple, yet well designed, the Caldera Cone and 12-10 burner really is. In essence, a simple flat piece of aluminum with a few air vents punched out and a simple dove-tail shaped join on each end which allow the forming of the cone shape. Whilst simple, it really is a nice looking piece of gear that has clearly been well crafted as all edges seem quite round and not overly sharp. The same is true with the 12-10 burner, which is in essence the base of a soda can with a smaller inner can, with air vents and an integrated primer pan. Whilst being made from recycled materials, the burner feels really well built and I have no idea how it is held together as there is no obvious welding or glue.

My past experience with burning metho in a stove has been slow slow slow! My much loved Trangia (which I've had for many many years) is fantastic but slow and useless in cold weather. One ill fated trip saw me putting a freezing cold burner in my sleeping bag and lighting a candle to desperately try to warm the burner and fuel enough to light in around -8 C (17 F) to have a warm drink. Nearly 40 minutes later I had warmth and water.... Not pleasant! With this in mind my other initial impression of this Caldera system is that of healthy skepticism as I found the claims of boiling times of around 5 minutes with as little as 15 ml (0.5 oz) fuel for 2 cups of water just a bit hard to believe.

Instructions, Set-up & Use

There are 2 tiny paper instructions included, one for the Caldera Cone and one for the 12-10 burner.  The overwhelming theme of both documents is that of extreme caution! There are many warnings in relation to sharp edges, heat of the unit and use in a confined space. So much so that the 12-10 burner comes with a caveat on it forcing the purchaser to accept the Hold Harmless Agreement where-by Trail Designs ask the purchaser to indemnify basically everybody (seller, distributer and manufacturer) from any loss or otherwise resulting from the use of the 12-10 burner. This agreement forms large potion of the instructions for the burner and clearly states that if the purchaser is not happy to accept this agreement, they should immediately return the unopened product for a refund. Whilst my knowledge of American law is not great, my detailed understanding of Australian law had me a little alarmed and wondering just how binding this agreement could be. I'll let the Courts figure that out and I will simply get on with enjoying the wilderness.

The instructions are very easy to follow. In the case of the Caldera Cone, they're dead simple. Join the 2 dove tail ends and presto, ready to use! In relation to the 12-10 burner, the instructions outline that around 10-15 ml of fuel should be enough to boil 2 cups of water. The instructions state that no more than 40 ml (1.35 fl oz) of fuel should be added. Having used alcohol burners in the past, I am all too aware that they can appear to be unlit initially as the flame is very hard to see, especially in bright daylight. This is highlighted in the instructions when saying that using the stove in colder conditions may require some priming by placing around 15-20 drops of fuel in the primmer pan which should then ignite the fuel in the center of the burner. The instructions say if in doubt, hold your hand around 8-12 in (20-30 cm) above the burner and then slowly lower your hand. If it does not get hot, relight. Pretty simple really.

Set up is simple, place the desired amount of fuel in the middle of the 12-10 burner, place the cone over the top so the burner is in the center then light. Wait around 20 seconds for 'full flame' then place the pot in the top of the cone.... too easy!

Initial Use

I was pretty excited to grab some matches and start playing. Unfortunately I was surprised to find I didn't have any methylated spirits at home! Clearly it has been a while since I've camped with a metho stove. A quick trip to the shop and I was armed and ready. Whilst the instructions state that 10-15 ml of fuel is enough to bring 2 cups of water to a boil, there was no indication of time. I decided to simply place 10 ml (0.33 fl oz) of fuel in the 12-10 burner and light it to see how long it would burn. I placed the burner on the back step of my house on a lovely warm sunny day when it was around 24 C (75 F) with no wind. For my first burn I did not use the Caldera Cone.

It was pretty clear when the burner was lit, as there is a satisfying 'whoop' noise when the metho ignites! I was highly surprised to record a burn time of around 7 minutes! For my second test I added 2 cups of water to my pot, added 10 ml more fuel to see if it would boil. My second burn only lasted for 4:32 minutes and was not long enough to boil the water. I waited for the burner to cool a little, added 10 ml more fuel and relight. The pot of water boiled after 1:15 minutes of the second burn. I worked out this is roughly 5-6 minutes to boil 2 cups of water..... not bad! More specifically, the claim of around 15 ml (0.5 fl oz) of fuel seems accurate... I am impressed!

My second burn lasted for 3:35 minutes. I then again waited for the burner to cool, added another 10 ml (0.33 fl oz) of fuel and lit without the pot, simply to see how long the fuel would burn. Again I achieved around 4 minutes. Based on this, I suspect I may have added slightly more fuel on my first burning, closer to 15 ml (0.5 fl oz) given the much longer burn time.

IR2

IR3

The 12-10 Burner lit inside the Caldera Cone

Full Rolling Boil!

Summary

After my quick initial test of the Caldera Cone with the 12-10 stove, I am a little impressed! It certainly seems possible that this simple lightweight system is capable of boiling water with the use of very little fuel, suggesting that I can indeed carry a lot less fuel. A genuine saving in weight all round. My only concerns are the complete lack of heat output control, once lit, it is full heat or nothing. The other is the fact that I must use the Open Country pot as this is integrated for my Caldera Cone. It is quite a small pot which may only be suitable for solo cooking, or boiling water to rehydrate food. I guess now I throw this nifty unit into my pack, head off and start testing!

This concluded my Initial Report of the Trail Designs Caldera Cone with the 12-10 stove. Please check back in June for the result of  my field testing. My thanks to Trail Designs and www.backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test this product.


 

Field Report

13th June 2011

Field Locations and Conditions

I have used the Caldera Cone and 12-10 Stove on 2 separate outings to date. The first of these was a 5 day back country trip based from the Labyrinth, deep in the Tasmanian central highlands. The second trip was an extended day walk to the Tarn Shelf in the Mt Field national park, round 80 km (50 mi) from my home in Hobart.

The Labyrinth - This walk was intended to be a back country outing to a remote alpine lake for us to enjoy some rare photography opportunities. Alas! We experienced all sorts of weather ranging from pouring rain (and snow) and gale force winds to perfect sunshine and breathtaking sunsets. Over the 5 days our elevation ranged from around 700 m (2,296 ft) to around 1,300 m (4,265 ft) and weather ranged from below freezing to sunny clear skys of around 15 C (59 F). As mentioned we had a couple of days of pouring rain, hail and snow but I am not sure how much fell. The closest weather station was at Lake St Clair, around 20 km away and they recorded around 250 mm (9.8 in) in one 24 hour period, which gives an idea of just how wet it was! All our camping was tent based in exposed sites, except for 1 night where we camped near a walkers hut in a pine forest.

Tarn Shelf - This walk was a day walk of about 6 hours in the M Field National Park, my favourite park close to home. The walk starts at a lake at 1,034 m (3,392 ft) and climbs steeply onto an exposed alpine tarn at 1,160 m (3,805 ft) where there are lovely lakes and tarns and is a very popular day walking destination. Unfortunately for me, the weather was absolutely foul and after about 2.5 hours of being blasted by icy winds and more hail and rain, we turned around having seen very little. There is a large cabin on the track which made for a good spot to stop, warm up with a bite to eat and a hot drink.

Performance in the Field

I intended to use the Caldera Cone with the 12-10 Stove as my primary cooking system for the Labyrinth walking trip but I was in a group of 4 and the stove was simply not big enough for this purpose. It therefore became part of our 'camp kitchen' and given the horrid weather conditions, actually came in quite handy as a primary stove for heating water or cooking small portions of food such as oats for breakfast. In this regard the system performed excellently. Instead our primary cooking stoves were 2 MSR Whisperlite stoves. Despite being concerned with my pack weight (this was my first major back country walk since major knee surgery late in 2010) I was not concerned with carrying the Caldera as it is very lightweight and takes up about the same amount of room in my pack as a 1 Liter water bottle (excluding the small pot).

For around 18 hours of the trip we were tent bound as the wet weather and extremely poor viability made it unsafe for us to continue for the rough off track section we had planned to walk. We were able to find a rough, although waterlogged camp site and set about getting dry and warm after many hours of being wet and cold. After setting up my tent and getting some gear sorted, my thoughts turned to a hot drink. Immediately I had a problem, I was not comfortable using the Whisperlite in my tent vestibule as I was concerned mainly about the risk of igniting the tent whilst priming the stove and also concerned about the carbon monoxide gas emitted during the burning of the shelite (white spirit). Lucky for me I had enough foresight to have already stashed the Caldera Cone in the tent vestibule.

Under these conditions, the Caldera Cone was perfect for what I wanted to do, which was boil around 500 ml (17 fl oz) of water for a drink for myself and my tent mate. The ground was not perfectly flat, in fact it was alpine grasses that I had set up the tent on, so I was a little concerned about the stability of the system. I was not too concerned about scorching or burning the ground as it was saturated from the several days of rain.  Despite the system having got full of water in the 15 minutes or so I was fiddling around with my tent and gear, I was easily able to set it up, get it lit and boil more than enough water for the 2 of us to enjoy a hot soup in our sleeping bags.

I had to repeat this process a couple of times during the afternoon, evening and following morning as the weather did not abate to allow comfortable cooking out of the tent. On each occasion I would assemble the cone and place the pot in the top and then set aside. I would then add around 30 ml (1 fl oz) of fuel to the 12-10 stove and get it settled and stable on the ground. Once satisfied it was not going to topple over, I would light the stove. While the stove was heating, I would add a small amount of water (around 200 ml/6.7 fl oz) to the pot, then position the cone over the stove to get it stable. I  would then carefully add the remaining water to make up 1 L and then give a final check that the now fully weighted cone was stable. After this I would place the pot lid on, simply sit back and wait for the sound of the pot when it started to boil. After my initial uses I was a little concerned that the stove would go out as it makes no noise whilst in use but I have never had the stove go out until it has burnt all the fuel.

Each time I used around 30 ml (1 fl oz) of fuel and the system never failed to boil 500 ml (17 oz) of water within around 5-8 minutes.

FR1

FR2

Caldera Cone set up in Tent

High Camp in the Labyrinth


There was only 1 issue I experienced using the system and that was during our Labyrinth trip when the weather changed from rain to freezing nights. I was up at around 6 am to take some photos of the sun rising and awoke to a completely frozen tent and campsite that was heavily frosted with small traces of snow. I was not able to light the 12-10 stove, even with using the priming pan as the fuel was simply too cold and the stove it self was close to frozen. However I was easily able to warm the stove by placing it in the pocket of my down jacket for about 10 minutes which warmed the thin metal. Once I had done this, I was easily able to light the stove, but on this occasion I added an extra 10 ml (0.33 fl oz) of fuel to be sure that I had enough heat to boil the now close to freezing water and pot. Again, the stove worked well and boiled my water. I suspect the temps were at the limit of the Caldera System and I certainly wouldn't be comfortable relying on it in regular freezing conditions or for snow melting.

I used nearly a full bottle of fuel during the 5 day outing, but this would not be an accurate indication of the fuel usage, as previously outlined, I did not use the Caldera as my primary stove. I also did appear to have some issues with fuel leakage, see below. Despite this, I am comfortable in coming to the conclusion that the 12-10 stove is very fuel efficient and represents good value for weight.

I had a similar issue during my walk in Mt Field, in where the stove was extremely cold to touch when I initially went to use it. Again I was easily able to warm the metal with my hands and jacket pocket and got a nice pot of boiling water for some warm pasta for lunch which looked much better than my walking buddies some what damp sandwiches! I would not normally carry a fuel stove with me on day outings as I find them simply too heavy and I like to carry as little gear as possible with me. However as the Caldera is so light, I am not as fussed, especially given I knew the weather would be cold and wet (but not as bad as it actually was!), I knew a warm drink would be nice.

The only other issue I had during both trips was that with the small fuel bottle leaking fuel. After the first day of walking in my Labrynith trip I opened my pack as I had the caddy and pot stored towards the top of my pack, I was alarmed at the smell of fuel I got upon opening my pack to set up camp. I have had fuel leak a few times in the past and absolutely hate it! However, I was surprised by the fact that the caddy appeared to be dry and there was no noticeable 'damp' around where it was stored. I opened the top and found the inside was wet but that the fuel bottle still appeared to be very full, with less than 10 ml (0.33 fl oz) having leaked. This again happened on my outing to Mt Field but not as much fuel leaked. I am unsure if the bottle is faulty or has a tiny pin prick sized hole as I couldn't get the bottle to leak at home by shaking it or squeezing it. Watch this space....

Summary

Overall my field testing so far has been enjoyable and has given me a new faith in metho (alcohol) stoves. I continue to find the cone system easy to use, extremely lightweight and tough. After a quick wash at home after my 2 outings, the system is still all shinny and looks like new. The only exception would be that there is a brown residue inside the 12-10 stove from the fuel. I can not see any reduced performance resulting from this and plan to watch it closely in my upcoming usage.

This concludes my Field Report of the Caldera Cone with 12-10 Stove. Please check back in August for the results of my long-term testing and final summary of this products performance.

Again my thanks to Trail Designs and www.backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test this neat product.


Long-Term Report

6th August 2011

Field Locations & Conditions

My final phase testing of the Caldera Cone and 12-10 stove did not go as planned with 2 trips canceled due to extremely poor weather. I did however manage to squeeze in a quick cross-country ski trip to Mt Field, in which I packed stove to allow me to prepare a hot lunch or drink whist out carving up the slopes. After 2 weeks of beautiful cool weather and blue skies I was blessed with warming weather, melting snow and pouring rain later in the afternoon, cutting the trip short. When we set out the temp was around 3 C (37 F) but by the time I had returned to the car, it was closer to 7 C (44 F) and I had spent around an hour walking off the mountain in strong winds and rain. I am not sure how windy it was or how much rain fell, but it wasn't nice!

Performance in the Field

As outlined in my Field Report, I did not ever expect that the stove was designed for or suitable for use above the snow line. I decided to actually put this to the test on my XC ski outing by seeing if the 12-10 burner would burn long enough to not only melt snow, but bring the water to a boil for use with my lunch. The instructions clearly say not to pour more than 40 ml (1.35 oz) of fuel into the burner at any one time. This to me suggested that this was the maximum burn time I could safely achieve without doing either damage to the burner or creating a risk.

Snow melting is a time consuming and in some instances fuel intensive activity. I am not usually in the habit of melting snow for water as I am usually able to find flowing water that makes the need to melt snow redundant. However, in this instance I was not able to find any running water close to the hut. I decided to cook lunch in as the lake it was next to was frozen over and I wasn't keen to venture out onto the ice to check. I was told years ago that adding a small amount of water to the bottom of the pot then adding snow prevents the coating of the pan overheating whilst the snow starts to melt. My buddy had a small dash of water left in his drink bottle so with the promise of a hot drink I stole it off him added just enough to cover the bottom of the pot. I then added a heap of snow, lit the 12-10 stove and sat back waiting to see if the 40 ml (1.35 oz) fuel would be enough to melt the snow, and boil the water.

LTR1

Snow Melting with the Caldera Cone



I was not only surprised, but impressed that the stove was able to melt the snow and boil around 400 ml (13.5 oz) of water which was enough for some hot soup for both of us for lunch. However, it was slow! This whole process took roughly 15 to 20 minutes and I did have to add an extra 10 ml (0.3 oz) of fuel to completely finish boiling the water. Given it was close to freezing inside the small hut, I felt this was impressive for this particular stove as I have always thought cold temps were well outside the comfort zone of this product.

LTR2

LTR3

Residue Inside Burner

Residue Around Burner



Throughout my testing I experienced no issues with this system failing or looking like it is wearing out. In fact the only signs of use is the accumulation of a brown residue inside the burner. This does not appear to have affected the stove in any way beyond looking a bit used. My priority for gear is dependency not looking shinny and new so no issues here for me.

The Final Summary

My testing of the Caldera Cone & 12-10 stove has been rewarding and somewhat surprising. Ever since my first use of this stove in my backyard when preparing my Initial Report, I was impressed by the simplicity of the set-up and the efficiency of the cone to ensure that what little fuel is burnt, the heat is directed to the pot. Despite this, I am a little confused as to where this system fits into my gear list.


Each Caldera Cone is specifically designed to fit the specific pot it is used with, in effect making it useless with any other piece of cookware. I didn't even bother trying to test other cookware as I decided it was simply too dangerous as the cone supports the pot supplied but any other  pot would have to balance on top, with less support and greater distance from the burner, which I assume would dramatically reduce the efficiency of the burner. The set-up I have been testing has a 500ml pot, great for 1 person, but too small to be fully useful for 2 or more people if wanting to do more than boil water. So if I were using this as a solo cook set, the fact that I must store the cone and burner separately from the pot takes up more room in my pack. I have seen many solo walkers simply use a metal cup and small gas stove which is not only small and light, but relatively smaller than the Caldera Cone when stored in the caddy.


The ultimate improvement to this system would be additional flexibility to use alternative cookware, especially a larger pot suitable for group cooking. This could be possible by changes to the joining mechanism to bring the cone ends together, having multiple points to allow for the different size pots. Even if it was 1 or 2 pots (say 1 litre and 2 litre) just to give a bit more flexibility. If this were the case, I imagine I'd buy one in an instant.


Despite this, I can see I will continue to use the Caldera Cone & 12-10 stove for many years to come. Firstly, I just can't see how it will wear out anytime soon and the metho (alcohol) fuel is quite cheap and the stove is really efficient so I can keep a small bottle in the cupboard and just grab the stove and head off any time without concerns of needing to service the burner or buy a canister of gas. I like this flexibility. But the major reason I will most likely continue to use this stove into the future is the fact that it is almost silent when in use and although not as fast as my other stoves, the extra time actually allows me the opportunity to sit and enjoy the beauty of the environment I am in and at the end of the day, that's why I headed there in the first place!


This concludes my test series of the Caldera Cone & 12-10 stove. My final thanks to Trail Designs and www.backpackgeartest.org for the opportunity to test this product. I have thoroughly enjoyed using it and look forward to doing so well into the future.


Read more gear reviews by Jamie Lawrence

Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Trail Designs Caldera Cone System > Test Report by Jamie Lawrence



Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to BackpackGearTest.org. Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

If you are an avid backpacker, we are always looking for enthusiastic, quality reviewers. Apply here to be a gear tester.


All material on this site is the exclusive property of BackpackGearTest.org.
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson