I’m almost embarrassed to think of how long it took me to realize the significance of using a huge stove board for heavy winter camping, but now that I’ve been enlightened, camping will never be the same.
There are many different styles of winter camping and ski mountaineering expeditions, but for those which involve flying in and setting up a basecamp right near the landing strip, a cook tent is essential. Since one of the main cook tent activities is melting snow to make water, having a solid stove platform is one of those small details which makes a huge daily difference as it gets used so much.
In the past, I’ve brought 2-3 smaller plywood stove boards, but on our recent trip to the Ruth Amphitheater, Noah Howell packed along a 14″ x 48″ sheet of 3/8″ plywood which he got out of the scrap bin at a Home Depot for $.99. Not only does a mega stove board like this give you lots of room for stoves, but you also get tons of chopping real estate. As an added benefit, it also supports the center pole incredibly well and in the case of our trip, we never had to adjust the tension or redress the central snow pillar.
A the end of the trip, the board can either be recycled, passed on to another group or burned as a ceremonial offering to the Cheese Gods. The downside of having a huge stove board is that they don’t travel well if you decide to move camp, but that is more of a planning issue.