Stove Boards 101, or 102?

Post by blogger | March 10, 2010      

“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.

Stove board cook

This single stove cookboard is my minimalist version. Made with 1/8 inch carbon fiber plate and alu flashing, it's insulated with lightweight foam that I'll just tape on so it's replaceable.

Carbon fiber stoveboard.

Bottom of carbon fiber stove board, sans the foam layer.

Large stoveboard for backcountry skiing

We made this larger stoveboard with 1/4 inch plywood, it's designed to support two MSR XGK stoves under a single large pot, for radical snow melting.

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.


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28 Responses to “Stove Boards 101, or 102?”

  1. Matt Kinney March 10th, 2010 10:11 am

    back in the day,,,,our dedicated stove board had a beefy black rubber band that was attached to the board and looped over the fuel cannister to hold it in place with prepositioned hooks along with some “wedgies ” to keep the stove from moving around. The board was big enough for a stove and a single fuel cannister. We could actually pick the whole unit up and hold it upside down. We were obsessed with preventing fuel spills and fires.


    Seems that two are on Denali right now for a winter ascent. They are from Talkeetna. They have spent the past week in a snowcave. :sleeping:

  2. Lou March 10th, 2010 10:54 am

    I’m not making them big enough to hold the bottle, never thought that was necessary but it would be nice. If I was guiding that’s probably the rig I’d use. It could be like a kitchen counter!

  3. Andrew March 10th, 2010 11:21 am

    I’m a stove board fanatic and after experimenting with about ten different designs prefer a thin piece of plywood (1/8″ 3/16″ max) with some tin foil attached to one side with spray adhesive. Masonite is the right thickness, but will absorb, swell and crack with water. An advantage of using wood and leaving one side plain is that you can also use it as a cutting board. Something to consider with foam and/or carbonfiber, etc is that these things will eventually get splashed with gas and the entire thing will catch on fire. With wood, you just blow it out, whereas foam would be a nasty mess.

    I size mine so that they can fit into the hydration sleeve or back support slot in a backpack, which is approximately 6″ wide by 14″ or so inches long.

    These things get smashed, burned and sat on, so don’t get too attached to them. I also use mine as a support plank for the tent pole on single pole tents, ala a Megamid.

  4. Jim Sogi March 10th, 2010 11:47 am

    Could’nt you use your snow shovel to cook on?

  5. Lou March 10th, 2010 12:25 pm

    Jim, as mentioned above we do use our shovel sometimes. It conducts a lot of heat so it melts down in the snow quickly unless it’s on foam, and it’s never quite flat enough…

  6. Lou March 10th, 2010 12:27 pm

    Andrew, good point about fitting in the backpack hydration sleeve, I’ll have to check that out. I’m not that big on the foam, but for long cooking sessions it does eliminate much of the melt-down effect. I tested the flammability of the 1/8 economy carbon plate from Dragonplate, and it’s about like plywood or perhaps even less flammable. It’s mostly carbon fiber, with very little resin, and might even have fire retardant mixed in as the flames go out pretty fast. I also got some 14/ inch carbon fiber plate with Nomex honeycomb core. Nomex is fire proof. But the 1/4 inch CF while incredibly strong is no lighter than 1/4 inch plywood.

    Way back when, I used ensolite to insulate stove boards because it was relatively heat resistant compared to most other foams in common use in the backcountry industry. But with reflective surface and a board, the melting effect isn’t that pronounced and the foam only an add-on, not essential. The aluminum flashing though thin weighs a bit more than foil, but it’s super durable.

  7. zeaphod March 10th, 2010 12:46 pm

    I’ve been using the MSR trillium platform for many years after trying various home made versions. I think attaching the stove to platform is not just for grins but a requirement. The stove will slid off the platform if not attached. I also find that using the metal foil heat shield that come with the stove keeps the platform cool enough not to melt into the snow.

  8. John Race March 10th, 2010 2:02 pm

    Hi Lou- When I am guiding on Denali I use a board made by a guy named Kevin Slotterbeck. It is aluminum on one side and wood on the other. It is closer to 12 inches by 12 inches. One really nice feature is that he has a small stand that plugs into it. It is really tempting to “stack” stoves on Denali by having more than one stove under the pot at a time. This often leads to a bigger pot, which leads to too much weight on the stove, and the stand prevents this. Over the years I have seen several groups blow up their stoves. It seems that 3 is the max you ever want to do, and things need to be watched very carefully. Back in the day we used to use a thin section of plywood and then use trauma shears to cut a sheet of metal off a 1 gallon Coleman fuel can and then flatten it, and tape it to the plywood. The reason a slightly bigger platform is best is that the heat from the stove will melt out the snow under in more quickly with a smaller platform resulting in spilled pots, etc. One last thought: Take a cook tent such as a mega-mid. It is always worth the weight and allows you to cook outside your personal tent in any weather.

  9. donald romunsky March 10th, 2010 3:45 pm

    OH SNAP!

    “it’ll melt down and it’ll spill your gruel quicker than a TGR consultant can empty a PBR can”

  10. Graeme March 10th, 2010 3:48 pm

    I am wondering where you get 1/8″ carbon fibre plate

  11. Lou March 10th, 2010 4:43 pm

    Um, see the link at the end of the post? :angel:

  12. Dan March 10th, 2010 5:42 pm

    Quite a few good ideas for stove boards…however, nothing, but nothing works better than a sheet of asbestos (if you can find it) fixed to whatever (carbon, Al, plywood, etc). I still have my asbestos lined stove board from “a long time ago”. As I recall, there are a lot of farmers and ranchers in CO. Those folks never throw anything away, legal or not.

  13. Lou March 10th, 2010 6:24 pm

    Just don’t breath while you’re cooking!

  14. brian March 10th, 2010 9:23 pm

    Oh yeah, asbestos, great idea. As if breathing at 6,000 meters isn’t hard enough without the impending mesothelioma! I’ll be in the other cook tent, thank you.

  15. Andrew March 10th, 2010 10:14 pm

    I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I forgot we were on when I made my previous comment. By corporate charter, I believe if the object in question involves fuel and combustion, it MUST be made out of carbonfiber, graphite or 4130 ChroMo. A bit if TIG welding is also in order, as is a trip to the windtunnel for final verification.

    Wood and aluminum foil. Gads. What was I thinking? 😉

  16. stephen March 10th, 2010 11:20 pm

    Thanks for the dragonplate link – lots of interesting stuff! I’m not sure about the CF mousetraps linked at their site though…

  17. Lou March 11th, 2010 7:13 am

    Andrew, LOL! :w00t:

  18. FRobinson March 11th, 2010 9:32 am

    The stove platform made by Kevin Slotterbeck works great, is light, and easy to pack . The pot support is two rods bent to shape that are a snap to pop into holes in the platform. The support is easily disassembled and lay flat against the platform for packing. The pot support may or may not be necessary with the newer XGK’s with their broader pot support but for the older XGK it offers much better stability. The gear store in Talkeetna generally has some of Kevin’s platforms for sale.

  19. Lou March 11th, 2010 10:02 am

    We’re taking all of the XGK EX with the better support, they work really well but still need to be attached to the stove board, which is easy to do by a variety of methods. If we need an extra board we’ll get some from Slotterbeck, but as Andrew probably knows, making them is heavenly, as is anything that keeps you out of the office and in the workshop.

  20. John Race March 11th, 2010 10:50 am

    One other minor thought. A few years back I switched to using MSR Whisperlite International stoves. They are slightly less powerful than the XGK, but much quieter and you can actually cook with them. I am a lightweight freak, but I have also noticed a correlation between enthusiasm for sitting out the big storms and quality of food. With the Whisperlite International I can cook and talk with folks in the cook tent and also turn the stove down low enough to make great food without burning it. Perhaps straying a bit from the stoveboard discussion, but the beauty of as ski trip to Denali is that it yields 1 hour of skiing for every 3 hours of sitting and fiddling with the kitchen.

  21. Lou March 11th, 2010 11:27 am

    John, we”re already committed to the XGKs, the EX is slightly quieter for some reason, and with a max sized windscreen it’s not too bad. I actually like the sound. Our agenda with cooking is to have quite a bit of yummy variety, but not much that requires real cooking. We’ve got plenty of stuff for sitting out storms, Nanos with books on tape, sat phone blog system, lots of hot drinks for endless brew ups, 1-liter thermoses to fill with various concoctions…. etc.

    If the boys get bored, we’ll just dig a pallatial snowcave and move in.

  22. bjørnar March 11th, 2010 11:30 am

    I know you all hve thought bout this before, but please enlighten me:
    Why not use hanging stoves, you are then melt-down free, spill free and going almost as light as with a board.
    Ok, so your tent system need to be optimized for the hanging stove, but you will probably be doing the cooking in the same place 99% of the time anyway.

  23. Lou March 11th, 2010 12:08 pm

    Bjornar, mainly, we have some huge cooking and snow melting pots and would rather work those on a platform. No real reason to switch from that to hang stoves, which have their own issues when they get heavy with 5 liters of water in the melting pot! Again, mainly we just don’t have a compelling reason to rig a bunch of hang stoves. We’re all done a bunch of winter camping with ground based stoves, and we’ve pretty much got the system down.

    It might be 6 of one and a half dozen of the other, and we’re just going with the 6.

    That said, if I was doing any sort of technical route with a smaller group, I’d by all means be using hang stoves.

  24. FRobinson March 11th, 2010 12:28 pm

    There is a picture and description of Slotterbeck’s stove platform at for ideas or in case you are too busy tinkering on other stuff. And in case you don’t want to wait until you are in Talkeetna to gear up.

  25. bill March 12th, 2010 5:46 pm

    I have always had good luck using the MSR Trillium stove base. But then again I am not cooking for a whole platon.

  26. Lou March 12th, 2010 7:47 pm

    Bill, it requires more than luck to deal with the consequences when that aluminum stove base melts its way down into the snow and spills your soup, (grin) :angel:

  27. Craig Dixon March 14th, 2010 8:14 pm

    Hi Lou,
    Enjoy your site! I have been messing around with stove boards and insulation for quite sometime and have come up with a three sided windscreen that wraps around the board just high enough to protect the pot. It adds an amazing amount of effeciency and is easy to look or reach in to see what’s up with the stove or light it, etc. My proto uses foam and 3mm plywood, foam an aluminum, but I would probably go with a lighter material combination if I went larger. Every ounce I save helps me get a little farther. When you use this system with a canister type stove, it keeps the cannister from icing and should only be used in cold weather – something that you won’t be worried about with the gas – but the reflected heat increase is important when figuring fuel consumption. Enough fuel and grits I’m told is usually the crux on Denali. There are two articles on my site. Check it out at:

  28. Mark April 12th, 2010 11:51 pm

    I use a 6 X 4 inch slab of thin plywood (doorskin or veneer) and 3 small screws with notched heads to pin the stove legs- lightweight, small, insulates.

    Thanks for a great site!

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