The Heatstick from Danish company Heatgear attempts to give backpackers and military personnel a better alternative to the camping stove. Not only is it lightweight, but this flameless heat source can also cook while you hike.
If you follow some of those survivalist shows on television, you've probably seen the concept behind the Heatstick in action. If you don't have a pot or cooking vessel that you can apply directly to flame, you can boil water by heating up a rock, placing it inside the container you have and letting it heat the water inside out.
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That's essentially what the Heatstick does, only in a more technological way that doesn't involve fire. The lightweight stick draws on a propane and butane mix to heat itself up and boil liquid directly. It has a wide-mouth head that screws into an accompanying water bottle to heat the water in a sealed package.
The Heatstick is powered by what Heatgear markets as a Fuelstick, an aluminum cylinder that holds enough fuel to boil up to 6 to 9 liters (1.6 to 2.4 gallons) of water. Heatgear offers different Fuelsticks for different temperature ranges so you have the right fuel for your conditions. You could also mix and match when altitude and fast-paced mountain weather dictate uncertainty on temperature.
The Heatstick aims to provide several clear advantages over a stove. Because it doesn't rely on flame and works inside a container, there's no interference from the wind or weather. It's designed to work across all temperatures (specifically -22 F to 122 + F, -30 C to 50 + C) and weather conditions, unlike stoves, which can be fickle in certain conditions. Also, unlike a stove, you don't need to stop, set things up and wait for your water to boil. As the video below shows, the self-contained nature of the system allows you to cook while moving - you keep hiking to your next destination while the water for your lunch boils in your pack. Tactical customers should like the fact that there's no visible flame, as there is with a stove.
The system itself is comparable in weight to an ultralight backpacking stove with fuel - the smaller, .5-liter Heatstick with Fuelstick weighs about a pound (470 g). Unlike a stove that requires a cooking pot, the Heatstick system allows you to cook directly in your water bottle, so you cut out a few more ounces by eliminating the pot from your pack.
Everything points to an innovative, useful gadget for backcountry use ... except the price. Heatgear lists the retail price at 2,379 Danish kroners, which translates to about US$460 today. That might not look so bad when you're thinking public funding and military volume, but it's several times more expensive than what you'd pay for any number of backpacking stoves.
If Heatgear can bring that price down to a more consumer-friendly level, though, we could see this being quite popular.