August 18, 2011

Foldable backpacking stove designed in Central PA gets international honor

By Rebecca VanderMeulen

 Backpackers need supplies that are light and compact. The same goes for their food for hiking trips, which often includes dehydrated meals.

Of course, those meals have to be cooked. Some backpackers prefer to cook over a wood stove, but Brian Vargo noticed that most wood-burning stoves for backpacking were heavy and unwieldy to carry. Vargo, who runs the Vargo Outdoors backpacking supply design and retail business in Lewisburg, thought there had to be a better way. 

So he headed to the hardware store and bought supplies for a prototype of a foldable aluminum stove that would be easy to carry. Bucknell University's Small Business Development Center translated the design into a technical drawing.

The result was a hexagon-shaped device measuring five inches in diameter at the base, where a backpacker can build a fire. The stove's diameter is three inches at the top, which Vargo says focuses the fire's heat on the dish being cooked. "Really, all you're doing is boiling water, so you don't need something very big," he says. The whole thing folds flat.

The stove went on the market about a year ago. But more recently it netted Vargo an international OutDoor Industry Award. These honors are given to the developers of innovative camping, hiking and mountain climbing gear. "It is the biggest award we've ever received, so it's a pretty big deal for us," Vargo says.