Every so often a group of hikers get together, and through the course of experimentation and sharing of information, find a way to make something that is already really great at what it does, and they turn it into something even better!
For a fairly long time the Gram Cracker by Trail Designs has been the de facto go-to try for ultralight esbit users. It has held a special place in the lives of a whole lot of hikers for a rather long time now. I have used one since I became an esbit user a number of years ago. I still use the original one I bought and it has thousands of miles of use and has had probably 2000+ esbit cubes burned on it and made countless meals and cups of tea and coffee for me.
Back in mid to late 2011 a few esbit users started playing around with some MYOG ideas regarding an esbit try. Honestly I have no idea if they had never used the Gram Cracker and had no idea if it even existed, or if they set out to make a better one, or if they were just playing around and come up with an idea that worked for them. What is worthy of taking note of is that over the course of the end of 2011, it went from one or two people playing around with an idea to a few more people playing around with the idea. In the end, I think it was Brian Green who brought it all together.
I had been following the progression of what these hikers were doing and none of it really made me want to move away from the Gram Cracker. I am a rather loyal kind of guy I guess you could say. One thing lead to another and eventually I dropped a message to Brian asking him if he happened to have one sitting around and what I could do to acquire one. A week or so later it was in my mailbox and I have been one very happy esbit user ever since.
Now my long time readers are already aware that I very much do not like doing “comparisons” or putting one product up against another. That is just not my style. I think we each need to find gear that makes up happy and go with it, and stop this whole internet craze of pitting one product up against another. So all I am going to do here is list the specs of the Trail Designs Gram Cracker, and than I will move on and talk about the brian green esbit tray. The Trail Designs Gram Cracker on my calibrated scale is 3.4 grams.
The Brian Green Titanium Esbit Tray:
For all of the history of its development and to see thoughts directly from Brian please check out this page of his website. He has done a great job of explaining how he makes them, with lots of photos to help other MYOG hikers, and he even provides a .pdf file with the template. Pretty awesome!
The specs on the titanium esbit tray that he sent me is 1.66 grams.
This is an amazing accomplishment.
There are some differences between this tray and other ones out there, such as the Trail Designs Gram Cracker (TDGC). This includes the lack of ability to change the direction of the upright pieces of titanium – you TDGC users will know what it is I am talking about and hopefully understand what that is such a valuable feature at times. The Brian Green Esbit Tray (BGET) is also not as tall as any other esbit tray I have ever used. I have found this to be beneficial because most other esbit trays end up being so tall that the flame from the esbit cube are not able to reach optimal temperatures before it reached the bottom of your pot/can. I suppose one could say that the BGET is slightly harder to clean (after a whole lot of use, as in, dozens and dozens of esbit cubes) but anybody who is an esbit user is not going to mind this anyway, just part of being out on the trail.
From a design perspective I find that the BRET is able to resist wind as good as any other stand-alone esbit tray I have used. This has been a help to me as I prefer using 4 gram esbit cubes rather than the larger 14 gram cubes – that probably the vast majority of hikers are use to using. By using the 4 gram cubes I am able to have a lot more control over the temperature that my stove puts out, reduce overall waste, and I almost never have to carry used esbit cubes – something that turns off a lot of hikers.
As a hiker who highly values the gear that is within my backpack, and as a hiker who has been (is?) known to be OCD about counting grams, the BGET has absolutely become my go-to esbit tray. I still have all of my other ones, I still pull them out at times, but when my cook kit goes into my backpack, the BRET is the one that makes it in.
I want to say a huge thank you to Brian Green for sending this out to me. It has already gotten a lot of usage and hopefully in the next few years it can get the kind of mileage and use that my TDGC has gotten over the years!
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