Backpacking Canister Stoves

In my books, my lead character carried a canister stove in his pack.  It’s a stove he’s familiar with through backpacking.  The reason I selected that particular stove is that I am familiar with it through backpacking, too, and it has served me well over the years.  That stove is the MSR Pocket Rocket.  It’s a hugely popular backpacking stove that uses readily-available canisters of a propane/butane mix.  The stove runs $39.95 on Amazon, which is exactly what it cost when I bought mine around 8 years ago.    The stove weighs around 3 ounces and comes in a plastic case.  It doesn’t have an igniter so you have to use a lighter or some spark source to light it.  It boils a liter of water in around 3 1/2 minutes.

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Three arms fold in to make the stove compact for storage, then fold out to rest a pot on.  I’ve never dumped my dinner yet, but I’ve seen it done so you want to make sure that you have a stable cooking base before you start.  If the wind gives you trouble, making the stove lose heat, you can make a screen out of aluminum foil to shield the flame.

One complaint about the stoves is that they do not function as well in extended sub-freezing conditions.  Notice I say “extended” — I have used mine many times on camping trips with overnight temps in the teens or for making coffee on a snowy hike.  It does work in cold temps, but extended trips in below freezing temps may cause you some issues so be aware of that.  Use of the MSR brand of fuel rather than other brands such as Coleman or Primus is supposed to alleviate this problem somewhat, as MSR has developed a mix that reportedly performs better in those temps.  If you’re likely to be facing those extreme, arctic-type conditions, though, you may want to look at a liquid fuel stove instead of a canister stove.

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What if you don’t want to tie up $40 on a stove that’s going to sit in your BOB and not be used all that often?

One option is a Chinese knock-off canister stove, also available on Amazon.  I’ll include links to both stoves at the end of this article.  My son got me this stove a couple of years ago as a backup.  It cost less than $10.  There are several on Amazon and they’re all in that $15 and under range.  It’s made a little differently, but it includes a piezo igniter which works really well and it’s in the same weight range of around 3 oz.  For the price, it works like a charm.  I’ve included some pics to show the size relative to the MSR, which comes in a red case.

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You can pick up cans of fuel everywhere from camping stores to Walmart to Dicks Sporting Goods.  Price vary but generally around $5-6 or less.  MRS also has smaller cans available.  The thing I like about those is that I can fit a can of fuel AND a stove inside my cooking pot.  The cooking pot came with a selection of smaller pots, cups, and bowls but in a BOB I leave those out for weight savings and just use the big pot.  The particular pot that’s shows is from a GSI Halulite Dualist cook set.  I’ll also include a link to that if you’re interested in checking it out, although an aluminum Coleman backpacking set will serve the purpose for cheaper.

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If you have any questions, drop me an email.  I don’t claim to be an expert but I do have some experience that I’m willing to share.  Bug Out and Get Home Bags have to be individualized to your own needs, based on where you’re likely to be going, how many days you’ll be on the road, and the conditions you expect to encounter.  The important thing is that if you don’t have one, you start building one.

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Anker 14 Watt Portable Solar Charger

In my book, the main character uses this same device to repeatedly charge his cellphone while traveling on foot.  How do I know it works?  Because I own one and I’ve tried it out myself.  More variations on this device are becoming available each day and they will only get lighter and more powerful as the technology is improved.

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If I’m in the backcountry, or even if I’m just camping away from a vehicle, this device will charge my cellphone.  It’s not as fast as a wall or car charger, but it works everywhere.  Opened it’s nearly three feet long and around eleven inches wide.  It weighs 27.9 oz so it’s not exactly ultralight, but the ability to communicate is one of your primary safety tools.  The grommet holes allow it to be attached to your backpack with carabiners so you can stow your phone in your pack, run a cord to one the two USB ports on the charger, and you can charge while you’re on the trail.

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You can read about the  device on Anker’s website.  You can also buy it for around $50 right now on Amazon.  While this device may seem like a luxury, what’s it worth to communicate with your family during a disaster?

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After a summer of writing, editing, and the other mechanics of publication, ASHES OF THE UNSPEAKABLE is finally available.  The paperback and ebook came out yesterday on Amazon.  The review process takes a little longer now than it did last time so even though Kevin Pierce and I finalized the audiobook on October 1, it still hasn’t been approve for release.  Hopefully by next week those of you who enjoy audiobooks will be able to start reading it.

I’ve enjoyed hearing from those of you who had to read it the first day it was available, including the friend who stayed up all night after it materialized from pre-order onto her kindle and the other friend who took the day off work yesterday to read it.  So far reaction has been good.  I felt like this was a stronger book than the first and I hope you enjoy it, too.

Will there be a third book in this series?


Updating THE BORROWED WORLD Paperback

On October 9th, I’ll be releasing the sequel to THE BORROWED WORLD.  In preparation for that, we’ve redone the cover of the original book.  The ebook cover has been changed on Amazon already, but the paperback cover is a slightly more complicated process.  The cover has to be reviewed, during which time the book is not available for purchase.  So as of now the paperback version of THE BORROWED WORLD is unavailable while being reviewed.  It bothered me to have two different covers floating around out there so I wanted to get this done before the release date for ASHES OF THE UNSPEAKABLE.

And just an FYI — everything on the ebook is finalized.  The paperback should be finalized this week, so I can request a proof and review that.  Kevin Pierce is plugging away on the audiobook version.  Hopefully, everything will be done around the same time.  I appreciate the comments.  Thanks for reading.



Labor Day Update



It’s Labor Day and I spent some of it revising the manuscript for the second book in THE BORROWED WORLD series.  It was in the editor’s lap for a week before she tossed it back to me.  Now it’s my turn to review her suggestions and toss the draft back at her.  There were no major problems so I think this will be an easy turnaround.  Everything is happening a little ahead of schedule, which is a great thing.  We should be perfectly on track for an October release.

Deranged Doctor Design has worked diligently on the cover and I think we may be ready to reveal the cover and title this week if all goes well.  I’m also working to prepare the book for pre-order.  There’s still a few things that have to be done to get the book out, but all those things are happening and I think you’ll be pleased with the result.

It’s difficult for me to predict the reaction of readers, but my opinion is that this book will be better than the first.  I hope this month moves quickly and that the book is in your hands by this time next month.

Book Two!

I’m getting a lot of questions about the timing of the second book.  I’ve mentioned this on Facebook and Twitter, but can’t remember if it’s easily available in the blog or not.  So here’s the scoop.

The first draft of Book Two is complete and I’m halfway through the second revision of the draft.  The way my process works, I’ll give it a third revision before I pass it to other hands.  All of those revisions will take place this month.  I’m getting tired of referring to is as Book Two.  You may even be tired of hearing it referred to that way.  By the end of this month I will reveal the title.

Editing and cover design will take place in September, as will formatting and proofreading.

Then in October, the ebook will emerge.  Paperback should follow within a week or so.  The audiobook will be just a little behind that, but I plan on using the prolific and hard-working Kevin Pierce for that and I know he’ll have things completed in no time.

If I can get everything completed on schedule I anticipate making the ebook available for pre-order.  By pre-ordering, you can purchase it during the pre-order period and have it delivered to your device immediately as it becomes available.

Thanks for your interest.

Books, Brews, and Boos


The folks at Red Vein Army have invited me to participate in their Books, Brews and Boos event in Richmond, VA, on August 14th at 8 pm.  The event will take place at Strangeways Brewing.  It will be my privilege to add a touch of Post-Apocalyptic flair to their horror event.  There will be seven horror authors, including myself. 

At first, I wasn’t sure if my book fit or not but I have to admit that I have a lot of people telling me that my book either gave them nightmares or at least kept them up at night.  That’s horror of the frightfully realistic kind.  And we all know that sometimes its the human monsters that can be the scariest.

But Richmond…

The city is special to me because that’s where the journey of my characters in THE BORROWED WORLD starts.  Their business trip to Richmond quickly becomes the trip from hell.

Richmond is also special to me because I’m a VCU grad and had some great times there in that city.  I have great memories of living in the Fan district and Oregon Hill.  Hanging at the James River before they cleaned it all up.  Wandering Hollywood Cemetery.  Eating my first Fried Provolone Sandwich at The VIllage Café.  Going to Main Street Thrift.  Seeing GWAR and the Butthole Surfers perform together.  Seeing shows at Rockitz.  Wandering Grace Street when you could see anything in the world there, even things you couldn’t un-see no matter how much you tried.

Anyway, I appreciate their invitation and am looking forward to the event.  If you’re in the neighborhood and it sounds like your cup of tea, stop by to say hello, have a beer, and enjoy what promises to be some entertaining conversation.

If you’re interested, check out their interview with me for the Pretty & Putrid Blog at


The Audiobook Lives


I love audiobooks because they allow me to experience more books than I can read in the conventional manner.  I can only sit and read so long each day, but if I expand my “reading” time to include driving, mowing, bicycling, walking, and any other task I can do while wearing an iPod, then I can cover way more books.

For this very reason I am very excited that the audiobook of THE BORROWED WORLD is now available.  Kevin Pierce did an absolutely incredible job of capturing the tone of the book and the nuance of the dialogue.  He completely “got it” – he knew where I was going and he took the audio there.  If any of you have listened to Glen Tate’s 299 DAYS series, you’ll immediately recognize Kevin Pierce’s narration.

It’s available on Amazon, you can get it through if that’s your venue of choice, and if you can download it through iTunes.

Thanks for reading and continue to stay tuned for the next installment.  Cover design will be starting soon and I’ll unveil that here as we get closer.

Franklin Horton

A Cool Email


I’ve been getting a lot of cool email and I really appreciate that.  It helps me know that I’m on the right track with this series of books. I’ve been out of town for a few days.  That’s my “smiling” face up there at the top taken while I was kayak fishing at Douthat State Park in Virginia.  While I was gone, I got a nice email that I have shared below.  It came from CW, but the name won’t be shared so don’t feel like you can’t contact me without risk of being outed as a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction.

Thanks for emailing and thanks for reading.  If you liked the book, tell your friends.

Franklin Horton

Mr. Horton:

I just finished “A Borrowed World” and had to write. I’ve read a LOT of apocalyptic fiction over the years because I enjoy it. My life’s work has been in the medical profession in emergency and disaster care so the genre feels natural.

Your book was excellent; far and away better than most I’ve read, especially for someone who is just starting with their publishing. (And yes, indie publishing is fantastic!) Your plot was crisp and clear, your main characters engaging, yet strong, and the sad description of what will happen to those who fail to fully grasp the signs of the times was, well, sad.

The assumption of what will happen is probably more accurate than most have depicted. The 72 hour window that many see as when society will start to devolve is going to catch too many people unaware. It was refreshing to read someone who thought through this a little more accurately.

I can’t wait to read your next installment, and look forward to finding out what happens from the threads you left at the end – excellent idea, by the way…drives the adrenalin right back up!

Best of luck to you, and keep thinking and writing!

Another Update

I just wanted to post a quick update and let you know of some of the latest developments around The Borrowed World.  I continue to receive a lot of feedback and I appreciate your comments.  I’m glad to know that so many of you have enjoyed the book and are looking forward to the next installment.

The Borrowed World on Audio

The last few days I’ve been listening to Kevin Pierce’s excellent narration of the book.  It’s been great hearing my book read in a voice other than my own.  I think his narration is gripping and brings a whole new element to the book.  If you’re an audiobook fan, it should be available in July.  I’ll be posting updates as the release date is finalized.

The Next Book

The most common question I’m getting is about the release of the second book in the series.  I have to admit that promotion and getting the audiobook off the ground has taken some time away from writing but the draft of Book 2 is about halfway complete.  I’ve got a title in mind and I’ll release that a little later.  The projected release of Book 2 is early October.


A lot of hands go into the production of a book.  At some point I will post more information about my journey as a writer, but suffice is to say that the journey of all writers involves a lot of frustration.  Ten years ago I completely washed my hands of the system and vowed never to write anything else ever again.  Yeah, I was pouting.

But as some point I gave up pouting and started writing again.  Part of that was due to the encouraging information shared on the websites of authors Steve Konkoly and J.A. Konrath.  They made me realize that there were now huge opportunities available to independent authors willing to publish outside of the big publishing house system.  It was impressive to me that both of these authors were willing to take their time and share information that would help other writers.  I have thanked Steve for this before and will continue to thank him.  J. A. Konrath — if you read this — thank you, too.