Inventor of backpacking stove speaks out.
In this exclusive M.A.Magazine interview we hear from Robert Lautner, inventor of the "Trail-Stove". His stove utilizes the ancient concept of simply burning wood to cook food. With some clever re-thinking of this concept he has developed a small wood powered stove weighing below one pound. To get his stove out on the market he founded the company Stratus that sells his stove on www.trailstove.com. Robert's stove has quickly become a favorite among hardcore backpackers and wilderness survival freaks.
M.A.M. -Robert, Why would anybody want to buy your low tech "Trailstove" when there are plenty of superlight campstoves in the stores based on the latest technology?
R.L. - In many cases a high-tech solution is better but in other cases a low-tech solution is superior. This is such a case. A campstove needs to be as light as possible, other brands have been striving for light weight by using the latest light-weight space-age materials while keeping the basic concept the same, to burn fuel in the form of liquid or gas. This concept has a very serious flaw; you need to bring fuel with you. For thousands of years people have been using wood straight from nature to cook food in the wilderness. I went back to this basic concept and developed a stove that burns wood and weighs slightly less than 1 pound which is far less than the lightest high-tech stove in the world including fuel for a backpacking trip.
M.A.M. -But if you're burning wood, why do you need a stove, can't you just cook over a fire?
R.L. -There are a number of reasons why it is better to use my stove than a fire. First of all you only need a small handful of sticks to cook a meal on my stove as opposed to the relatively large amount of firewood you need to collect to make a fire. You also have a lot more control of the cooking with my stove, all the heat from the fire is concenrated right on the bottom surface of your cooking pot while if you cook over an open fire you get flames, smoke, and soot all over your pot making the food taste bad and probably not very healthy either. Not to mention the hassle of having to make a fire every time you want to heat some water. With my stove you just put in a few twigs light the stove and you have your hot water a few minutes later, just like you do with a propane stove.
M.A.M. -But what if it's raining and there's no dry wood to burn?
R.L. -The stove works well with wet wood as well. The preliminary ignition dries the skinny twigs enough to ignite them, it takes a bit longer with wet wood but it's not a problem. Besides, you can always find small amounts of dry twigs especially under trees if you want to speed things up.
M.A.M. -You're stove is so simple, how come nobody has done this before?
R.L. -I don't know why nobody has thought of this before. I guess that's how you know you have a great invention, when people look at it and say: "I can't believe I didn't think of this". I think the camp-stove industry has been totally preoccupied with perfecting the concept of the gas powered stove instead of looking around for better concepts that would allow for much better solutions, the same way as the auto industry has been perfecting the internal combustion engine for the last hundred years instead of developing completely new concepts.
M.A.M. -So Robert, a final question for you, what's next, any new inventions?
R.L. -I have a few projects going on right now, one of them is another outdoors product. I won't tell you what though, that would ruin the surprise. Just keep your eyes and ears open.
M.A.M. -Thank you for this interview, we wish you good luck with your stove and your other inventions.
R.L. -Thank you, and good luck to you too with your magazine.
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