Table of Contents
Thanks to our Sponsors
Featured Inuit Dog Owner: Tim Socha
Nunavut Quest 2001
Inuit Dogs in New Hampshire, Part I
Uummannaq: A Special Dog Sledge Expedition
Remembrances of a Spent Life: "Chimo"
Dog News from Iqaluit
The Homecoming, Part III
Fan Hitch Wins Writing Contest Recognition
Product Review: Seeing the Light
Media Review: The Last Husky
Tip for the Trail: A Do-it Yourself Alcohol Heater
IMHO: Looking Forward
|Tip for the Trail...
A Do-It-Yourself Alcohol Burner
by Mark Hamilton
Snow, something we love, is impossible without cold weather. Learning to deal with the cold is the responsibility of every ISD enthusiast. Running sled dogs can be cold work. Sitting for hours in minus-something degree weather on a qamutik will test both your clothing and your metabolism. Given identical temperatures, being a passenger in a basket sled is even worse as you face directly into the wind and movement is more restricted.
A hot drink from your thermos is quick help, if you're so equipped. If you must start from scratch, there is a fair amount of time involved in setting up your stove, lighting it, melting out snow or ice. During that time you are dealing with the need to accomplish these tasks while cold. Now we have a low-tech (maybe even best described as "no tech") solution to provide instant heat.
All you need is a can with a separate, fairly tight fitting lid (something like a candy can or an empty quart paint can), a roll of toilet paper (the fluffy stuff, not the tissue paper kind) and an 8 oz. bottle of gasline anti-freeze.
Remove and discard the center cardboard tube from the roll of toilet paper. Take the lid off the can, compress the toilet paper roll upon itself and jam it completely down into the can (you want the top of the toilet paper at least 1/2" - 3/4" below the lid of the can). Pour the bottle of gasline anti-freeze slowly over the toilet paper. It will all be absorbed, but due to the compression of the toilet paper it won't happen quickly.
OK, the difficult assembly part of the project is complete. Now all you have to do is put the lid in place and stow the can with your sledding supplies. If you put a piece of plastic wrap over the mouth of the can before putting the lid in place, you will slow evaporation and are more likely to find the heater in usable condition when you need it.
Using the heater is simplicity itself. Take the lid off (including the plastic wrap) and touch the top of the toilet paper with a match or lighter. Warm-up is so short as to be insignificant. With the paper compressed 3/4" or so below the top of the can the flame will burn even in a breezy environment. If it's really windy, move the heater into a more sheltered area.
When I made one of these heaters back at the end of October, I put a piece of plastic wrap under the lid, then stored it away. I forgot to weigh the completed unit so I have no real "hard" data for you, but now, at the end of February, it's still a lot heavier than just a can and a roll of toilet paper, so the plastic wrap option comes highly recommended.
Any cautions? Well, it's not my invention, but some obvious vigilance seem appropriate. (1) I'd store the burner in an upright position. (2) It burns with a hard to see (alcohol) open flame. Extreme care should be exercised around flammable items such as tents, clothing, sleds and dogs. (3) Gasline anti-freeze is principally alcohol (methanol or isopropyl here in the U.S.), but there are other chemicals in it as well. Therefore it's probably not a good idea to use the heater in a confined area where you'll be breathing a concentration of its fumes. You can add whatever other precautions seem appropriate to you.
We saw this handy little device at the Snow Walkers Rendezvous in Fairlee, Vermont this past fall. Rick Chartier, owner of Coureur De Bois Adventures, Cochrane, Ontario, demonstrated it for us.
Ed. I'll bet each of us has a piece of information that can be shared as a "tip". Why not write it up and send it in? Fan Hitch readers come from a wide geographic area with vastly differing snow and running conditions. We all could learn from your "tip".