DIY: Hot Tent Project with First Burn of Kifaru Box Stove

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I just completed the first burn on my new Kifaru box stove and had a chance to try out the stove jack I installed in my old Megamid. The stove is impressive, and combined with the Megamid I think I’ve found my new winter solo trip tent.

Last February I took a solo trip up in the Boundary Waters. I’d spent the previous 9 years living in western North Carolina and one of the things that I looked forward to the most when I moved back to Wisconsin was the chance to do a snowshoe trip. It had been over a decade since my last real winter trip. Way too long.

On last year’s trip I took my 4-man Kifaru Tipi with collapsible wood stove. Kifaru is a specialty backcountry hunting brand started by Patrick Smith, founder of Mountainsmith. I met Patrick years ago on a backcountry trip in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and was an instant convert to his lightweight, heated Mountainshelters. The Kifaru Tipi was Patrick’s latest version of his backcountry hot tent and my friend Scott and I went in on one together as soon as it was available.

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My original Kifaru stove.

I liked the original Kifaru stove, it put out plenty of heat and packed down smaller than a welded box stove, but the stove was a bit fussy to get together and was bulky to carry. The stove pipes nested inside one another so you ended up carrying a couple of large bags to hold the stove. Fine for snowshoe camping with a toboggan but less than ideal for backpacking or sea kayaking.

A few years back Kifaru introduced a new, ultralight box stove with a stovepipe that rolled up out of a single sheet of stainless steel. This stove is a fraction of the size and weight of my old stove and packs down small enough to fit into a backpack or kayak hatch. For years I’d coveted one of these stoves, and when my 20 year old stove finally broke, Kifaru graciously offered to sell me one at a discount to replace it. I jumped at the chance.

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New size medium Kifaru box stove partially assembled.

With the new, ultralight stove in hand I started to think about a way to lighten my winter load even further. I had an old Black Diamond Megamid that was big enough for solo tripping and lighter than the larger Kifaru Tipi. All I had to do was figure out a way to get a stove jack into it.

My first hit on DIY stove jacks was Seek Outside, an outdoor brand that manufactures lightweight floorless shelters and folding stoves. Scanning their website I found a ready-made jack that looked like it would be easy to install. Unfortunately, when I checked back a couple months later Seek Outside had discontinued the part.

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Lite Outdoors stove jack with cover in place.

A little more searching brought me to a Canadian company called Lite Outdoors. For about forty bucks they shipped me a fire resistant piece of fabric with a sil-nylon cover that Velcros in place to keep out rain if you aren’t packing the stove.

I broke out my sewing machine and stitched the jack onto the peak of the Megamid with about a half hour of work. After the new part was in place I carefully cut away the tent material from inside the jack and sealed the works thoroughly with Aquaseal.

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Completed stove jack after cutting. Flap at top protects peak of tent from hot stove pipe.

You need to cut the fire resistant fabric in the jack to make a hole for the stovepipe. To do this I marked out a 3.5 inch cross in the center of the jack and carefully cut an X in the fabric with scissors. Later I added four more small cuts so the hole in the jack would more easily conform to the round shape of the stovepipe.

 

 

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Back side of stove jack showing material removed from tent and seam sealing

Today I assembled the stove for the first time and fired up the new hot tent. The new Kifaru stovepipe needs to be carefully rolled into a cylinder before use. Kifaru suggests burning the stove the first time you roll the stovepipe to insure that the metal takes a set for its round shape. Apparently if you roll and unroll it too many times without burning the tube will get badly dented.

 

 

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Special nuts secure the top of the stove legs.

Assembling the stove was a snap compared to my old version. The sides fit together with pressure until the top and bottom of the stove are secured. These are held in place by the four legs, which tighten with a combination of wing nuts at the bottom and special nuts at the top. You do need to be sure you install the sides and ends of the stove in the correct orientation, or the stove latch will be on the wrong side, but this is pretty obvious as you go through the process.

Rolling the stovepipe is a bit more tricky. I did dent the pipe in a few places as I tried to carefully roll it into a cylinder. Once I had it rolled I was able to slip the retaining loops around the pipe and secure the top end with an included wing nut and bolt.  Next step was to slide the pipe through the stove jack, secure it to the spark arrester collar on the stove, and fire things up.

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Assembled stove pipe ready for initial burn.
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Wire retaining rings hold stove pipe in shape. Orange cords help you find them if you drop them.
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Cut resistant gloves are included. The stovepipe is sharp! End of pipe is secured with a bolt and wingnut.

I started the stove with my new favorite fire starter–a cotton ball soaked in petroleum jelly. Within moments the scrap lumber that I loaded into the fire box was ablaze. The tent became toasty warm immediately as the stove began to change color from its shiny stainless steel finish to one tempered by fire.

After a cool-down period I reversed the assembly procedure on the stove and packed everything back into the carrying case. As promised, the stovepipe did take a natural curl that will make it easier to roll in the future.

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The Kifaru stove packs down small. Water bottle for scale.
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Stove bag has pockets to hold each component. Stove pipe rolled at lower right of case.

The verdict? The Kifaru box stove is excellent. It packs smaller and lighter than my previous stove and blasts out the heat. The only downside I can see is that there are a number of small parts that could be lost in the field. I will have to be disciplined when assembling and disassembling the stove to prevent this from happening, but the reduction in weight and size compared to my old stove makes it well worth the effort.

The stove jack itself worked great. The very edges of the fabric burned through in a couple spots where they were in direct contact with the hot pipe, but I expected this from my previous experience with the stove jacks in Kifaru tipis. I’m satisfied that the jack will work in the field and look forward to some backcountry travel with my new, lighter hot tent rig.

Here are a few more shots from the shakedown:

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Cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly are an outstanding fire starter.
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The size medium stove has a large fire box that will hold plenty of twigs and splits.
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Dampers let you adjust air flow. The stove isn’t air tight but you do get a bit of heat control. The thin wire loop on the door latch stays cool so you can swing the door open and closed with a bare hand.
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Spark arresters reduce the number of pinholes you’ll get in your shelter.
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The Megamid is a roomy, lightweight option for solo hot tenting.
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The stove baseplate is an added accessory for use in sand and snow.
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My stovepipe is intended for the taller 4-man Kifaru Tipi, so it sits high above the shorter Megamid. This should help to reduce spark holes in the shelter.
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Rollin’ coal…

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