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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Trail Designs Caldera Fissure System > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

Trail Designs Caldera Fissure System
By Raymond Estrella
OWNER REVIEW

August 16, 2011

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 50
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 215 lb (97.50 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly UL, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.

The Product

Fissure with stove
Manufacturer: Trail Designs
Web site: www.traildesigns.com
Product: Caldera Fissure System (for Snow Peak Mini Solo cook set)
Year manufactured: 2010
MSRP: Special order, depends on cook set
Weight listed: N/A
Stove weight: 0.5 oz (14 g)
Caldera Cone weight (both sections): 1.4 oz (40 g)
GramCracker solid fuel kit weight: 0.2 oz (7 g)
Grate and stand weight: 0.9 oz (25 g)

Product Description

The Caldera Fissure 3-Fuel System (hereafter referred to as the Fissure) is the special order two-piece version of Trail Designs' full-size Caldera Ti-Tri 3-Fuel System. The "Ti" in the name refers to the titanium from which this model is made instead of the aluminum of the regular 2-fuel original Caldera Cone system. Making the system from a material that is impervious to heat allows the use of a third heat source, hence the "Tri". Whereas the original could use an alcohol or Esbit stove the Ti-Tri can also be set up to use wood fuel.

Exploded view


Shown above are the parts and accessories sent with the system. The main items are the two Fissure titanium cone sections custom sized to fit my Snow Peak Mini Solo cook set. Also shown is the titanium GramCracker solid fuel burner, the 12-10 alcohol stove with integrated primer pan, and a honey-comb grate and grate stand for wood burning mode.

The cone is assembled by sliding together the mating dove-tail joints in the lower and upper cone sections. Placing the wide section down the upper section is placed on top of it with the dove-tails in line. This allows holes in both sections to align that I slide two titanium shepherds-hook stakes through. The stakes (which Trail Designs normally supplies but I told them to withhold as I have many) not only lock the cones together, but also provide a support for my Snow Peak Mini Solo pot. The picture at the top of the review shows this well. Once in place the handle of my pot protrudes through the wide opening in the upper part of the cone. The picture below and to the left is a shot of the Fissure with my Mini Solo pot in place.

It holds a pot, it holds a cup


One very cool thing about making it for the Mini Solo cook set is the fact that should I want to heat a smaller amount of water for coffee or tea I can use the cup instead of the pot. It is supported by the lip of the Cone itself, just as is the case with my original Ti-Tri (see review). This may be seen in the right-side picture above.

One thing I love about the Caldera Cones are that besides holding the pot they also act as a windscreen with just enough engineered slots cut into the cone to allow air for proper fuel burn while still protecting the stove from being blown out, or having its heat wasted. The slots at the top create a draw pulling the heat up.

Another benefit of the cone shape is that it lets the sides of the pot conduct and transfer the heat that is normally wasted as there is some space between the pot walls and the cone.

The stove is a 12-10 Pepsi can-style alcohol stove. (Actually mine is a Diet Dr Pepper stove, my second one from them ;-) The cone has been made with the support stakes at a height to make the stove sit at the optimum distance from the bottom of my pot for its most efficient burn. Each Caldera Cone is fine tuned to the pot it is made for in this manner. It should be noted that the Esbit burning GramCracker is used in this same mode.

Just add wood


To use in wood burning mode the two titanium shepherds-hook stakes are inserted through the round holes seen near the top of the cone. The stakes form a support for the pot to sit on keeping it high. This allows a wood fire to be started inside; the pot set on top once it is going well. Now the opening that the handles protruded through in the previous mode can be used to feed additional pieces of wood as needed to complete the cooking/boil. Here is a shot of the Fissure in wood burning mode. Note the grate and grate stand in the lower cone section. Trail Designs offers an optional Inferno Insert that makes wood burning more efficient, but as I did not plan to use wood I did not buy it.

Where'd it go?


But without a doubt the coolest thing about the Fissure for me is the fact that it will fit inside the Mini Solo pot, as seen above. Not only will the cone sections and stove fit inside there is even room for a (up to) 4 oz (118 ml) fuel bottle.

Field Conditions

At Ilillouette Creek


The Fusion has been used on at least 35 days of backpacking in 2010 alone. I have had it as far south as Lake Morena at the Annual PCTA Kickoff (and on the Pacific Crest Trail heading north right afterwards) in southern California, and as far north as Itasca State Park in Minnesota. In between it has been used in the Sierra Nevada in Yosemite (where the picture above was taken) and Sequoia Kings Canyon National Parks and the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. Other Wilderness areas used at include, San Gorgonio, Sespe and San Jacinto where the picture below was taken at Law's Camp.

Dinner for a Law's man


It has been used in the San Gabriel, Santa Rosa, Sierra Palona, Sierra Madre, Piute, and Tehachapi Mountains at elevations ranging from 1000 ft (305 m) to over 10,000 ft (3050 m). It has been used in temps down to near freezing and in rain twice.

Observations

silly shoes, silly stove, silly tent ...


If you, Dear Reader, read the review of my first Caldera Ti-Tri you will know that although I have been backpacking for over three decades and have used many types of stoves for cooking I never wanted to use an alcohol stove. I have watched people fight with their stoves, trying to keep them lit and scrambling to build makeshift (or better) wind blocks. Watched them run out of fuel after spending 10 minutes to try to get L of water to boil. Listened to them talk of making dozens of stoves but not being happy with the final result. Many of them have used my canister stove instead.

The Caldera Cone Ti-Tri changed my mind in a hurry. After my first few trips I liked the low weight and performance of it so much that I stopped taking any other stove on solo trips. But one thing bothered me about it. Even though the weight was quite low the need to keep the cone protected in a plastic caddy added a lot of volume to my pack. I was used to cooking systems that fit inside my pot of choice.

A series of emails to Trail Designs led me to purchase a Ti-Tri ULC (watch for a review down the trail) which was a step in the right direction but I wanted the efficiency of my original system. The guys told me about the then in development Fissure and asked if I would like to buy one. I asked them if they could make one to fit the Mini Solo, and when they said yes I ordered the system and purchased the cook set. (This can't be made for as many pots as their other products, hence the need to verify first and special order.)

Eureka! This is the system I have been waiting for. I love the way it fits into, and is protected by, the Mini Solo pot. I have everything needed for cooking for as long as a 5-day trip in a package that is smaller than a 1L Nalgene bottle. The total weight of the whole works (less fuel) is 7.7 oz (218 g) and leaving the cup at home when not desired saves another 1.7 oz (48 g).

More efficient mini gear in Itasca SP


The Fissure is just as efficient as my original Ti-Tri averaging 6-7 minutes to boil 2 cups (0.5 l) water. I use it just for heating water for freeze-dried meals and drinks. Even with my largest meals that take 2.5 cups of water the Fissure boils under 7 minutes and has never taken more than 0.8 fl oz (24 ml) of alcohol to do so. I only use Everclear 190 (95% ethanol) with it, but did use Yellow HEET on one Minnesota trip, seen in the picture above.

While not an UltraLight backpacker the extremely compact size of the system helped me to use a Black Diamond Octane day-pack that I tested (see review) as a multi-day pack instead. And in bear-canister required areas as my food level goes down I can easily fit the Fissure system inside my Bearikade. Below is a shot of it at Register Creek in the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne, during a 6-day hike through Yosemite National Park. Note small plastic alcohol bottle in the bear canister that was all I needed for the trip. (The Platy bottle of alcohol was for, um, medicinal purposes;-)

Let's make dinner!


Like my first Ti-Tri rain does not seem to faze it much. The stove is very well protected by the cone and I do not even see any drop in speed or efficiency in the light rain that this one has been in. While this system has only been used to around freezing two of my other Caldera Cone systems have been used a lot in snow and down to 2 F (-17 C).

Because the areas I hike in usually have burning restrictions I have never used, or even planned to, the Fissure in wood mode. I do like the idea that if something were to cause me to spend more time afield than planned I can always fall back on wood as a secondary fuel source.

The durability of the system has been great. There is nothing wrong with it to date. And think as hard as I can, I still do not have anything to complain about the Caldera Fissure. It is hands-down my favorite cooking system.

Ray Estrella
I measure happiness with an altimeter.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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