“I’ve got a few tips for Denali I can share with you,” said my friend Brian. “First, we forgot our cook boards, what a mistake!”
When running a backpacking type stove on snow, it’ll melt down and it’ll spill your gruel quicker than a TGR consultant can empty a PBR can. Thus, expeditions since days of yore have used “stove boards” or “cookboards,” usually chunks of thin plywood or Masonite sized for the stove, pot and windscreen. Sometimes these are fancied up with foam bottoms, friction stuff to keep them from sliding around, carabiner holes, etc. For our Denali trip we need three or four of these, so out to the modshop we go.
The smaller board is 11 x 8 1/4 inches, weighs 6.5 ounces. It could be a bit wider but we were trying for something that was super packable for backcountry skiing overnights. The larger 1/4 inch plywood board weighs 19 ounces. It’s a bit heavy, but the idea is this board does double duty as a tent pole support or even a flat surface for emergency gear repairs. I’ll also make a larger one out of carbon fiber.
I tried gluing the aluminum to the carbon with special plastic adhesive epoxy, but this is a somewhat brittle glue that might delam during expansion and contraction of the alu. Plain old silicone caulk was used for the larger plywood board. To use silicone, it’s necessary to drill small drying holes in the plywood or carbon substratum on a 2 inch grid. These can be filled with sili, or simply covered with the insulating foam. Carabiner holes are necessary for a variety of reasons, as are smaller holes in each corner for using a chunk of wand or a spoon handle to anchor the board on slippery snow. Some folks add the hook side of velcro to the bottom as well. I’ve never found that necessary, but might give it a go. You can glue the foam on with contact adhesive, but I prefer to simply tape the foam on so it can be easily replaced or used for other purposes. Just for grins, we’ll also drill some holes so we can bolt the stove legs to the stove board. Having that option would be nice for long snow melting sessions when the board tends to melt in and tilt a bit, causing the stove to migrate on the slick aluminum.
One might wonder how hot a stove board gets. In normal use, they stay only warm to the touch due to air flow. If you spill fuel when priming the stove and light the puddle on the board, you can damage things. But the aluminum glued with silicone is quite heat resistant.
A bit of backstory: I’ve been messing around with stoveboards for decades. For lightweight travel I prefer simply setting the stove on a shovel blade, perhaps with some foam underneath and sometimes a few holes drilled in the blade to attach the stove legs with small nuts and bolts. But for longer trips a dedicated board is the ticket.
We got the carbon fiber from Drangonplate.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.