On a recent trip to Sweden the Titanium Caldera Stove in wood burning mode was my primary source for cooking, along with a few 4 gram Esbit tablets. The Caldera Cone is a frustum of a circular based cone which is specifically designed to fit a certain size pot and the folks at Trail Designs provide them for most common pots in either Aluminium or Titanium (only the Titanium cones can be used for wood burning) along with the cones, Trail Designs also provides an alcohol burner as well as the Gram Cracker a Titanium stand for Esbit Tablets. The weight using the gram cracker and accompanying caddy varies, but for an Evernew 900 ml pot, the total weight of the cone, floor for wood burning mode, caddy (Ziploc) and gram cracker Esbit holder is 116 gms.
I have spoken about the gram cracker before, and in a recent post on Backpackinglight (USA) Rand Linsey of Trail Designs indicated that ” we found that Esbit on the Gram Cracker is actually more efficient in the Caldera than alcohol….and lighter. You do need to use the Gram Cracker or some other similar method to slow the burn rate down.”
However, back to wood burning. My main cooking method is cook in the bag type meals, I normally boil about 800 mls of water for a meal and a cup of tea. The evening temperatures were around 10 C, with water temperatures similar. To set up the Caldera it is a matter of sliding the dovetail joint together and for wood burning there is a Base Plate as well as 2 Titanium Needle Stakes used as pot supports. Lighting the fire was done with a FireLite Mini and cotton pads (which ignited a little too easily). The wood available was birch and pine and was air dried as it had not rained for several days. Once the fire was started I would put the cone on and then stoke the fire until it was time to put the pot on. At the point of placing the pot on the up draft is reduced and this can cause some reduction in the fire and possibly a lot of smoke (ideal to keep away the mosquitos but not ideal for stealth camping) Stoking the fire through the gap on the side of the cone enabled me to boil the water quickly and then make dinner. The benefits of such a system is that the fire can be kept going and provide warmth, or light or just a sense of well being. I allowed the fire to burn itself out which left a small amount of cold ashes to distribute.
I enjoyed using the Caldera in wood mode and with the added benefits of a few Esbits for warming a cup of water in the morning for my much needed coffee it will form part of my gear on many trips. However, I recognised that if the focus of the trip is wood burning then I think I would still prefer to use the Bushbuddy as I feel that it provides a better burn and less ash. However, other walkers may have a different view.
In summary, if Esbit or Alcohol is the main fuel for the trip, supplemented with wood burning then the Caldera is the way forward, but if wood burning is the focus then I will take the Bushbuddy. However, both are great items to have available.