These venerable old beasts are SVEA model 123 backpacking stoves. They are the first that my father or I owned. One is from about 1972, the other from about 1978. They are durable, hard to damage, and have almost no moving parts. Lighting them can be a bit of a challenge, especially in very cold weather. And at full throttle, they sound a bit like a jet engine. Your campsite always sounds blissfully quiet once they are turned off. The tank pressurizes due to heat transmitted from the burner through the body of the stove, very much like old style gasoline-fired blowtorches. The flame is about 2 inches across, and very hot. This makes it prone to scorching with thin-bottomed pans.
Before water filters became standard, a trip to Isle Royale meant boiling every cup of water you drank for at least five minutes. I made several trips that way, the longest for a week. A gallon of fuel lasted the entire trip, cooking and boiling water for two people Now, of course, I travel with a filter, and can go for a week on less than half the fuel using a more modern and much quieter stove. But every now and again I feel the urge to take one of these out on to the patio and fire it up, just to hear that characteristic roar that reminds me of traveling with my father.
Dale Austin, 2006
All images and text Copyright Dale Austin, 1962-2008