Solar Fueled Stoves
Solar powered stoves harness UV radiation from the sun and convert it to heat. The possible applications and limitation seem obvious, but many are surprised that even simple systems may boil and/or pasteurize water. In sunny areas, you have the ability for long term cooking or snow melting without the need for fuel resupply. This is an incredible feature for those in remote areas where local fuel is limited or cost prohibitive. Of course solar cooker performance is limited by weather, latitude, and seasonal variations but may be enhanced by altitude where there is greater UV radiation.
There is a lot of published designs incorporating various box, panel and dish plans. But with the bulk, weight and inherent limitations of most designs, few are practical for most hiker's general use One useful application for solar cookers might be for base camp snow melting where you can let the sun do its job while you're out and about.
potential for unlimited pollution free cooking
no fuel needed so no extra weight of bulk for longer trips
cheap to make and free to operate
pasteurize water (65° C or 150° F x 20 minutes) without fuel
won't burn food
backpack versions tend to be very slow to cook (hour plus)
can't cook at night
must cook in the open away from shade (near mountains, under trees, in depressions, by large hikers, etc.)
improper use or accidents can result in serious eye damage or fire - always use eye UV protection
Most solar cookers incorporate a few common concepts
reflect/concentrate sunlight from a wide area and focus it on your pot/oven
inside surface of potato chip bags
metallic auto sunshade
aluminumized or Mylar bubble wrap
convert solar energy to heat by using black pots/ovens to absorb light
black aluminum pots
black painted canning jars (these allow pressurized air to escape)
thinner rather than thicker walled pots
tight fitting lids are ideal
transparent insulators trap heat while allowing light to pass through causing a greenhouse-like effect
plastic bake bags
glass jars, inverted bowls, etc
disposable high-density polyethylene plastic bags
There are three common cooker types:
Panel Cookers - aka Combination Cookers
Use foldable reflective panels that generally concentrate heat. These do not focus light as precisely as parabolic cookers, so do not reach as high a temperatures, but also do not need to be adjusted as much to work.
These are light and simple to construct.
Parabolic Cookers - aka Curved Concentrator Cookers
11.5oz SOLTAC CookSack.
SOLTAC's CookSack is one of the very few commercial solar cookers marketed for backpacking. It consists of a plastic bag with a transparent top and a Mylar bottom to reflect sunlight, a black pot, pot stand, and accessories to tie down your cook system. To operate, open the bag up, trap some air, set up pot on pot stand in bag, tie everything down and wait.
Some weight can be trimmed off the CookSack system by replacing the 6.2oz pot with something lighter, possibly making a lighter than 2oz 6 9/16" pot stand, and by using Spectra cord for tie downs. A homemade version may be constructed out of large bake bags and foil or potato chip bags.
14oz Backpack Cooker
The Backpack Cooker is another commercial solar cooker that's a little more solid than the CookSack with a pretty simple design that can be easily replicated with the right materials.
9oz Foil on Folded Cardboard
Pot is 12oz drink can with lid in a bake bag set on the bottom of a plastic 2liter bottle
Various packable solar cookers for hiking can be made from a mix of cardboard, metallic auto sunshades, Mylar or aluminum bubble wrap, Mylar sheets, foil, chip bags, aluminum flashing, space blankets, plastic bottles, plastic bake bags and other materials.
Ziploc Bag Snow Melter
Placing snow in a plastic bag or bottle allows you to catch and trap heat from the sun to melt snow.
Winter Solar Water Collector
You can use a space blanket, tarp, trash bag or foam pad to melt and collect water from snow. Insulating the collector with a foam pad will increase this solar collector's effectiveness. Don't be surprised if your water tastes a little plastic if you use a garbage bag or other plastic sheeting to melt snow.
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