Most quality bug out kits give a hefty nod to a petroleum powered stove. Whether white gas, compressed gas or fuel tablets, the common thread is the need for man-made fuel. Even the multi-fuel stoves are at risk when there is nothing to eat. Enter the mini-wood stove. Vargo makes an impressive line of titanium products including the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove. Folding flat and weighing just 4.3 ounces, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove does the same things a conventional stove does without the need for extra help. Add another half ounce for the hexagon-shaped velcro-closure pouch and two dozen wooden matches, and the kit still doesn’t break five ounces.
Fuel Load Out
Using sticks, bark, and the essentially unlimited supply of fuel found in any forest, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove will boil water and cook food better and faster than a small campfire. The shape and design of the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove makes for concentrated heat and focused energy all in a tiny package. The stove has a five-inch diameter base that focuses the energy out of a three-inch chimney. The area of a circle is pi times the radius squared. So a five-inch base has about 19.6 inches of surface area, and the chimney has about seven inches of area. This means that almost three times the amount of burnable real estate heat is concentrated into the business end of this little wood furnace. Since pure titanium has a melting temperature of over 3000 degrees F, there is little chance that this alloy of Ti will ever soften during use.
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The Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is a set of seven hinged panels all folding flat into a quarter inch high plane. One panel is the hexagonal base, and the others are the six triangular walls. Piano hinges connect all the panels, and one simple notch on the base provides support and alignment with a wall panel, and another spring clip on the base holds the whole thing together. A single panel remains movable as the door.
Black Pots Matter
Unlike other folding stoves, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is ultralight and folds together in mere seconds. The folding mechanism creates a solid furnace that supports pots and has a door to open when feeding is necessary, which, by the way, is very often. I’ve used other flat-folding wood stoves and was impressed with their efficiency, but not their assembly. This becomes especially important when it’s cold, dark, wet, and there is no flat surface in sight. Further, the stove will be caked with black carbon so the less it must be handled, the cleaner your fingers will remain.
Gas stoves are great when they have gas. Otherwise they are dead weight. Campfires are a wonderful morale building tool, but heavy on the smoke, smell, and evidence. Plus, most folks new to campfire cooking build way too big a fire and make a mess of things. Part of the dramatic efficiency of the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is that it has a raised base with 19 hexagonal-shaped ventilation holes in it. The flow of oxygen into the base of this stove makes for a much hotter burn than wood sitting on the ground. This also means you must keep the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove sitting on its base feet in order for air to freely circulate under the stove. As the holes fill with ash or the stove sinks into the ground or snow, the efficiency will suffer tremendously. As such, keeping the base above ground is critical to a healthy fire.
Wood Fired Afterburner
Up at the hot end of the stove, five of the six panels have a V-shaped notch about a half-inch wide and ¾-inch deep that allows flame to escape the stove and wrap up and around the pot. A sixth but smaller V-shaped notch is on the door. Since the top of the door is half an inch below the plane, the smaller door V actually corresponds to the bottom portion of all the other panel Vs. This makes for a level mount for wire or stakes but would prevent the door from opening. The top of the door is the largest vent. All these vents provide plenty access for pot-blackening carbon to coat the sides of your cookware.
The V-shaped notches also have another purpose. By placing small metal rods, tent stakes, or four-inch steel grabber screws across the top of the stove, you create a grill-like cap on the top allowing small containers to sit above the flames. Stainless steel water bottles may require this mod. If you prefer, you could just add a four or five-inch square of screen to use a grill surface. I don’t recommend a circle of screen due to all the exposed wires ends from cutting that shape. The more you add to this kit, the more you deviate from the lightweight simplicity you paid for.
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If you’re adventurous, you could put the stove upside down inside a pot to make a small grill. You can cook meat and veggies right on the stove-top. With the proper mods, this stove has the potential to be a very versatile addition to your survival kit.
Feed Me Seymour
The success of the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is dependent on a steady and endless supply of small lumber. The Vargo eats pencil-sized sticks like there’s no tomorrow so have a pile on hand before lighting up this hungry monster.
In reality, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove does not burn wood much faster than a campfire, instead it feeds on a diet purely of high-surface area kindling. The interior of the stove is rather small so the fire burns hot and fast. The first time I took my Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove for a spin, it kept coming close to going out. I thought I could take a break from stoking it, but I was wrong. You only get a few minutes of downtime between feedings. And you cannot put a nice juicy log into the fire to make a big glowing ember. To put it simply, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is more like a blender where you keep adding sticks and they keep disappearing in flames.
I was equally surprised at how fast a half-quart of water came to a boil on the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove. The concentrated heat literally firing out of the titanium tipi went directly into the pot. Time-to-boil depends on your wood, starting water temperature, outside temperature, and the shape of your cooking pot or cup. Something in the 10-15 minute range is a normal boiling time. Other variables include altitude, quality of fire, lid use, and wind. If you double the amount of water, it seems to triple the amount of cook time.
This titanium stove gets sooty quickly. That’s one big difference between a clean-burning gas stove and a primitive tree-burning one. In fact, the stove becomes a pretty dirty thing to handle. Thankfully the black nylon pouch included with the stove keeps soot contained.
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Of course, this stove should burn about any fuel you can fit inside it. So fuel tablets, alcohol, and other dedicated burnables will work. However the opposite cannot be said for tiny tablet and alcohol stoves which have trouble digesting wood. If alcohol is a preferred cooking medium, Vargo does make a titanium alcohol stove that fits inside their wood stove creating an efficient windscreen and additional stove.
The downside of a small stove is that it is small. A small stove supports small pots with small water capacities. Under ideal conditions, you could balance a quart of water on Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove, but that’s pretty gutsy. Instead, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove works great with small pots and large metal cups. I use both stainless steel and titanium cookware, but always single-wall. The double-walled cups can explode if heated, so keep that factoid in mind.
The price of the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is around sixty bucks or roughly three times the price of its stainless steel counterpart. So if weight is not an issue, you could buy three iron versions for the same price of one titanium one. The stainless version of the Vargo Hexagon wood stove weighs almost twice as much as the Ti version but both are considered light weight by reasonable standards. Well, actually the steel one is just lightweight. The titanium one is ridiculously lightweight.
Stained for Life
One use and the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove will have permanent blackened walls and lightly rainbow patina. Live with it. You can get some of the carbon off by scrubbing the stove with sand or dirt after it cools. I’ve wire-brushed mine but it’s usually not worth the effort. The next time you fire up your stove, you will re-blackening it.
The simplicity of a campfire has always been its main attraction. So, adding a little titanium tech to the campfire concept is hardly a big step. The Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove should be a welcome addition to any bug out bag or survival kit. The stove probably won’t make the difference between life and death, but it will do important cooking and boiling tasks much better than when in the open air. If time is critical and you need to keep a low profile, the Vargo Hexagon Titanium wood stove is worth it’s minuscule weight in gold.