When you are next on your family camping holiday consider your humble camping stove as you brew up that wonderful first cuppa of the day. Forms of stoves as cooking aids were and still are widely used in Japan and date back to the Japanese Edo period around 1600. The stoves are known as Shichirin and were made from ceramic that burned charcoal; they come in many guises and are sometimes known as Hibachi. Moving on a few hundred years to the intrepid polar explorers who used stoves that were fuelled by animal fat or blubber as late as the 1920’s.
In 1849 a French chef de cuisine at London’s Reform Club named Alexis Soyer invented a kerosene-fuelled portable stove so that people could cook where thy wanted, it was called the “Magic Stove”. Such was the Frenchman’s enthusiasm for portable stoves that Soyer, at his own expense, introduced the “Soyer Stove” to the British Army during the Crimean War and trained regimental cooks in their use. Eventually the army saw the obvious benefits of a well-fed fighting force and paid Soyer for his expertise, and he received a salary equivalent to that of a Brigadier General. Army food gained a stronger identity with the formation of the Catering Corps in 1945 and variations of the Frenchman’s stoves were still in use up until the end of the twentieth century. The Catering Corps is now part of the Royal Logistics Corps its headquarters are at Soyer’s House.
The market became flooded with differing varieties of stoves from the 1850s onwards with people such as Francis Fox Tuckett, a mountaineer, who invented a stove known as the “Russian Furnace” for fellow mountaineers and campers alike. Most of the early stoves relied on alcohol or kerosene for fuel but mainly for safety reasons and transportation Butane, Propane and L.P.G have been introduced.
Before the widespread use of camping stoves campfires were made with natural fuels that were at hand however the fires charred the landscape, which took several years to recover. The increasing use of camping stoves had no such side effects and therefore a smaller carbon footprint was the upshot.
Nowadays backpacking and camping is so popular taking people to some of the remotest regions on earth and the camping stove has evolved so that they are multi fuel burners that can be used anywhere. Modern stoves of various makes, shapes and sizes have one common factor in that they are lightweight for obvious reasons. They get bigger and therefore heavier depending on requirements, for instance on a family camping holiday you would need something sizeable that would be transported by car.
So when you next brew up or cook a meal on your stove spare a thought for Alexis Soyer who, up to his neck in muck and bullets, persuaded us that portable camping stoves were the way forward.