There are just as many shapes and sizes of wood stoves as there are hot tents. What you want to look for is one that has a main box, legs that fold out and sections of pipe that fit inside for storage and travel. If you have a rectangle walled tent or a modified wedge/A-frame, then you’ll need a pipe elbow to lead the other sections outside the tent. The first section of pipe also needs a damper.
The main body of the stove is made of stainless steel, averaging 24 gauge. Some are made of titanium, making an extremely lightweight but insanely expensive stove. The pipe sections are galvanized steel, 26 gauge.
The fold-out legs raise the stove from the snow base. To limit the heated stove melting into the snow and becoming dangerously unstable, I place a heat reflector under the stove. A fireproof mat or layer of firewood can also be used as a base. I also place two chunks of wood (called skid logs) parallel under the legs to create a more solid base. The stove is placed a good 18-20 inches away from the tent wall. I place my firewood around the sides to prevent wind blowing the canvas towards the stove, not close enough for the wood pile to catch fire.
The pipe hole in the canvas tent is lined with a sheet of fiberglass material to stop the canvas igniting. When using the rectangular or modified wedge/A frame tent you’ll have to hold the stove pipe up with a tripod made of two two-metre (six to eight foot) lengths of wood, held together with twine to keep it upright.
The stove is used for a heat source and as a cooking surface. I prefer a side plate that attaches to the stove. It provides a place for cooking pots, pans and kettles.
The size of the stove varies based on the size of the tent. The larger the tent, the more volume to heat, the larger the stove. My smallest stove is a Kni-Co Trekker and fits my solo and 2-person hot tent. It weighs only 10 lbs. Of course, the small size can be a disadvantage. You end up having to cut the wood into smaller pieces. Also, if temperatures are going to be -30 to -40 degrees Celsius, you’d have to burn a lot of wood. But for normal (cold) temperatures of -10 to -20 degrees Celsius, the stove works out fine. I prefer my bigger stove: Kni-Co Alaskan Junior It can easily heat up a two to six person hot tent. It’s a sturdy stove—made from 22 gauge cold rolled steel—but relatively lightweight (21 lbs).
First things first: you must burn off the poisonous gases in the zinc formed when lighting up a new stove. Don’t breathe this stuff in. It’s nasty. Once the fumes are gone, she’s good to go. Not much can go wrong with the stove while you’re using it. It’s when you store it the problems begin. Rust will set in. I really tried to keep my first stove from rusting. Problem was, I stored it in the backyard shed. Moisture grabbed hold and I had one rusty stove in less than a year.
You can scrub it with steel wool and apply blackening compound or paint it with black heat-tempered wood stove paint to reduce the rusting. You can also wipe it down and smear vegetable oil on it after each use. Eventually it will still rust. The main thing is to control it. Don’t leave soot and ash in the stove. It may contain moisture and start a chemistry experiment while the stove is in storage.
When you buy a stove, you might see a note from the manufacture stating you must layer the base of the stove with sand to eliminate/reduce the bottom rusting out. I did that on my first trip. I packed a bag of heat sand with me. It was a naive and silly move. A false bottom made of metal (a lot lighter than a bag of sand) can be purchased to help strengthen and protect the metal on the stove’s base. The open space below the flames also aids in creating a better fire and a lot more heat.
What about spark arrestors? Some hot tent winter campers swear by them and some swear at them. A spark arrestor is designed to reduce the amount of hot sparks flying out of the stove pipe and landing on the tent’s canvas. However, they tend to clog up quickly, collecting creosote, especially if you’re burning lots of resin heavy wood like pine and spruce. Either clean them on a regular basis or just make sure your stove pipe is long enough and/or angled away from your tent.
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