Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Quick Pick: Portable Stove

     A portable propane camping stove can make a great addition to your New York City dwelling for use during or after an emergency.  It can be very helpful if we lose electric and or gas for anywhere from a day to a month, and can take up virtually no room at all.  It allows you to be self-reliant if necessary and do many useful things if stuck with no utilities, especially during the colder months.  Some helpful applications for your stove would be: 
  • Heat up your supply of canned foods (though you should stock many canned goods that can be safely eaten cold).
  • Make water potable. 
  • Sanitizes dirty rags and or clothes by boiling them. 
  • Allows you to make hot 'moral boosting' drinks like coffee and tea. 
  • Spot bathe with a warm pot of potable water.  You do that by dipping a clean rag in the water and wiping down your body with water and soap.  The key is to not soak yourself, but just use enough water to help the soap lather, and then enough water to help wash off the soap. 
  • Heat up your apartment if the temperature is extremely cold outside, though this should be a last resort use.  There are better products for this, and definitely better/safer methods to conserve heat in apartments to keep you warm.
     You will find your stove most useful in short- to mid- length disasters as you can only store so much propane.  Laws in New York only allow you to store two 16 oz. canisters (I’m not 100% on this one, but I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere.)  The small portable camp canister can last you for a few months at a time if you properly ration the fuel.  If you decide to store more than 2 canisters, keep in mind fire safety issues.  If there is a fire in your apartment building, propane canisters could go off like a bomb adding a much bigger risk to you and your family’s safety.  You should also keep in mind where you store the tanks.  Away form where you sleep is suggested.

     If you wanted to break the law (tsk. tsk.) and have a long-term supply of propane, you can store a 20 lbs. propane cylinder, though I really don’t suggest that at all as it could be dangerous and unnecessary.  If you have a porch or balcony you could store the large tank out there, but if you do have that luxury I would suggest keeping a cheap charcoal grill out there instead.  Make sure to have a bag or two of charcoal as well.  The pros to charcoal grills are that you can burn more than just charcoal (i.e. furniture, books, etc.)

     Safety will obviously be a major concern while using and storing an outdoor stove while indoors.  Like most things dangerous you will have to be extra careful, and make sure to always follow a set of protocol.  Most propane stoves will not have instructions for indoor use so there will be a few key things to remember; 
  1. Make sure to properly ventilate the room. - You can do so by using the stove near an open window, or even possibly on your fire escape.  The one concern with being near open windows will be security.  If the disaster lasts more than a few days, crime will run rampant in Manhattan.  You will have to be much more covert while cooking, and showing others you have food.  One option, if available to you, could be cooking near a window with no entry from the outside (i.e. seventh floor window opening out into an ally.)
  2. Keep all flammable objects away from stove. – Make sure you cook somewhere where the stove will not catch things on fire.  One of the best places should be near or on your existing stove in the apartment. 
  3. Make sure the stove is stable and secure. – Pretty obvious, just try and make sure you keep the stove on a stable platform and make sure no one can bump into it.  Once again, the best place will probably be on your stove as the family will already have the body awareness of that area being for cooking. 
  4. Only cook items in a pot. – Don’t heat your marshmallows over the fire please, you’re not camping… 
  5. Use a lid on the pots you cook with. – This will heat things up much faster, and help you conserve precious fuel.
     One last thing I wanted to mention was what I mentioned above about using the stove to heat your apartment.  Though you could do this, and should if you’re about to freeze to death, I don’t suggest it.  There are many alternatives to keeping you and your family warm without having to resort to using an unsafe product intended for outdoor use.  I will do a post on a few methods to keeping you warm in your apartment without the use of unsafe fuels or traditional utilities either tomorrow or the next day.  

     Below is a great two burner stove sold by Coleman that would be perfect for most small families.  You can also look into some of the very compact, efficient 'pocket stoves' that are meant for camping if space is an issue.  The "MSR pocket stove" I link below is a great one person portable camping stove, and can save you a bunch of room if you just use it store it and a case of small fuel canisters.  If you have been prepping for a while, then your B.O.B. should have a small stove in it that you could use.  I suggest the propane stoves, for ease of use and convenience for two or more people.  If stuck bugging-in for a long period of time, having one of these will make a bad situation, much easier to handle. 


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