After my trip to Kungsleden (The King’s Trail) in August 2018 I thought that on my next trip up to Arctic Sweden that I would prefer to use gas for fuel instead of alcohol. I still want to use my own homemade dehydrated meals and thus, I still need to soak which results in saving fuel. In September 2018 I purchased a Titanium Vargo Bot 700 ml weighing 132 grams. I use it together with a Soto Windmaster micro regulator stove with the TriFlex pot support weighing 67 grams.
*** This review is based on using a gas stove together with the Vargo BOT – 700 ***
Features of the BOT – 700:
- watertight screw-top lid
- lid doubles as cooking lid
- Temperature resistant O-ring
- Graduated measurements in metric
- Fold-away handles
- multi-use product
- hydrate while you hike pre-soaking your dehydrated and freeze-dried meals decreasing cooking and waiting times
- decrease fuel usage
My idea is that if I use gas for fuel up there (Arctic Sweden) instead of alcohol then it will be more convenient for me. I won’t have the hassle of disposing any unused fuel. Sure, I might have some gas left over in a canister but that is a lot easier to get rid of than some liquid alcohol fuel in a soda bottle. I would have the option to fly both ways if I wanted to do that. Last time I took the night train up to Northern Sweden and flew home from Kiruna. I had to dispose of the remaining alcohol fuel that I had left over and my BIC mini lighter (I did this at the hotel after talking to the staff) as you are not permitted to fly with these items. Next time I’ll have to remember some matches and leave the lighter at home as well.
One can save fuel by reducing cooking times using the BOT – 700 just like I can with my alcohol stoves and pots. The bonus with the Vargo – BOT 700 is that you can save waiting times as well just like I could with the Stormin alcohol based Cold Soak System that I had with me last time in Swedish Lapland. The BOT – 700 uses a lightweight, watertight container to pre-hydrate meals while hiking and thus saving time. I simply add my food and some water to the BOT – 700 an hour or so before I finish hiking for the day, then throw it on the stove to warm it up.
The titanium gets a lot hotter with the gas than when using an alcohol stove. I’ve used my titanium Evernew 900 ml pot for a couple of years now, heating with an alcohol stove, and I’ve never burnt anything using it. When I first started using the BOT I was burning my food all the time. The food was sticking to the bottom and then burning. I found however that if I turn the regulator down low when cooking food on the Vargo BOT – 700 then it wasn’t prone to burn the contents so easily. I know this sounds simple and you are probably saying “well of course stupid”, but I’ve only ever used gas to boil water before, not to cook food with. When I normally boil water then I screw the gas up high. I found that by just using a low flame instead of turning it up high, like I did on the previous uses, that the food did not burn on the bottom so much. I had previously made the bottom way too hot by screwing the gas up too high. Up until this experience I was disappointed with the Vargo BOT – 700 including the ridiculous high price tag that I paid for it!
On a recent three-day hike on the Skåneleden Trail in Sweden I decided to pack the Vargo BOT – 700. The first day and night went well. I boiled some water for tea and coffee and warmed my dinner after soaking. One disadvantage when using the gas is that you have to give all your attention to the exercise at hand. You can’t just turn on the gas and relax, you have to stir the food all the time and control the amount of flame. With my alcohol stove setups you can basically give the food a stir once in a while and chill. On the second night things went well too although I had to keep an eye on the flame all the time and stir. However, on the final day at breakfast time I decided to just heat my oatmeal slightly to take the chill off; it was quite a cold morning. The first hour while hiking it was freezing and even with gloves on my finger tips were numb. I had my eyes off the heating process for just a short while and this was enough to burn my food. I looked in the bottom of the BOT and the whole base was covered in a black, burnt food mass. I was not a happy boy. Luckily it was the last day and I was heading home. But now I’m not sure that I want to take this pot on my Lapland adventure later on this year. I just think that it is too much fuss. I can easily take the train up to Lapland and not flying is much better for the environment.
If I want a system that is compact and easy, but using alcohol fuel, then the Stormin Cold Soak Optional System is a better option in my opinion. Norman improved and updated the proto-type version that I tested on my Lapland in 2018. July 19, 2019 – the Stormin Cold Soak Optional System is no longer available.
To be fair I should mention that the food items that have burnt have contained sugar. The sugar content is the main reason that the food sticks to the base of the pot. But the point is that I have successfully heated the exact same foods on my alcohol stoves and I have not experienced these issues that I am experiencing using a gas stove with the Vargo BOT – 700. The whole idea or the designed function of the Vargo BOT – 700 is to soak first and then heat afterwards. If I’m having issues every single time to do what it is designed to do then something is wrong with the system. I’ll probably get a lot of flak about this statement but to be honest it should be easy and it’s not.
I believe that that Vargo BOT – 700 would be easier to use with an alcohol stove. I have acquired a used Caldera Cone for the Vargo BOT – 700. I have not tested it yet but there are issues with it too. Firstly it is too heavy and secondly it is not compact. You can’t store it inside the pot. A Stormin Stove System Pothugger Windshield would be a perfect solution here. I’ll contact Norman and find out if this can be manufactured.
This system is also perfect for someone who wants the ability to shift between going stove-less and carrying a stove. This idea excites me and at some stage I’ll most probably experiment with some stove-less meal preparation with an option to heat but for me, now I’ll stick to warm meals at the end of the day.
When I’m not soaking I can pack the Soto Windmaster stove and a small gas canister in the BOT. I store the stove sideways on the bottom first. The system is just as compact as the Stormin Cold Soak Optional System that I used last summer, but as a bonus includes one gas fuel canister when packed down.
Cons with the Vargo BOT – 700:
- very expensive
- easy to burn food when heating with gas stoves
- issues removing the lid after soaking whilst elevations have been climbed and descended
Pros with the Vargo BOT – 700:
- fairly lightweight
- stove-less possibilities
- measurements in metric (great for me in Europe – not so great for my US friends)
The Vargo BOT – 700 is a great piece of gear if you want to boil water and go stove-less. It is however too easy to burn food whilst heating with a gas stove. I make my own dehydrated food and needing to soak and heat afterwards, using this pot with a gas stove is just too much of a hassle for me. I do not think that the Vargo BOT – 700 is worth the high price tag and all the hype.
Update March 20, 2019
I have purchased a Stormin Stove Systems Pothugger Windshield for this pot. Including the 2 support pins the weight comes up to 26g. I haven’t tested this windshield yet but I will try it out on an upcoming trip soon and publish a report on my tests.
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