The winters here in Alaska are brutally cold, and have no mercy for the unprepared homeowner. As I recent first-time homeowner, I found myself scrambling to prepare for my first winter that would undoubtedly be eye-opening - Although I did hope, perhaps in vain, that my eyes would not freeze open. The new abode (well, new to me) was sporting a vintage, but certainly not without character, Vermont Castings Vigilant wood stove. Fall progressed like any other - golds and reds that faded into browns signaled the bitter temperature drops on the horizon. As I became familiar with the Vigilant, I started feeling confident that I could heat my entire house with the old dragon's faithful breath. However, Jack Frost and his cohorts had other plans, and to prove me wrong they soon educated me with their malicious intents. With numerous cold air leaks and improperly insulated domestic water, septic, and vent pipes, nearly every system in the house had frozen and failed over the course of the winter. The Vigilant also having leaks between the plates, and an inherently inadequate design for this particular application - I was forced to rely on frequent reloading, little sleep, and the oil toyostoves to try and makeup for the sub-par conditions. All the while, there I wast n, trying to find the stove that would allow me to once and for all achieve an eight-hour burn. I had been researching stoves for over a year with the intention to leave no stone un-turned, or stove as it were. I had many initial opinions and preferences that changed drastically over the journey. As I had grown up with classic cast-iron Jotul stoves, I was of course particularly swayed in their nostalgic iron beauty. As with many stoves to follow, I researched the Jotul models and contrasted against competitors and found them to be unequivocally superior. While my research continued, the little voice that gnaws incessantly to second guess my decisions spurred me to further, more critical analysis. It was only a matter of time before all previous knowledge had been thrown out in the search for the perfect stove. Obviously most modern stoves could do achieve the wondrous act of extended burning, but none would satisfy me unless I truly felt confident that I had criticized every available option. At this point the reader most likely is thinking, "Why didn't he just buy a catalytic stove and be done with it?" Well, there is only one reason that I can give in response, "It just didn't seem as cool." I was strictly against the catalytic stove. I likened the difference between non-catalytic secondary burn stoves and catalytic stoves to the differences in high-performance automotive engines. I have many times gone through a theoretical build for a new engine in my 1977 Ford Bronco - which has taken me to both ends of every spectrum and option and seemed feasible. This of course brought up the difference between naturally aspirated motors (motors without turbos or superchargers) and motors with a turbo or supercharger. Using a blower or turbo seemed like cheating. It wasn't like you were achieving performance through genius of design, but merely jamming air down the motors throat - it seemed like a violation of the motor's rights - the rape of internal combustion. And in the same way, a catalytic combustor in a wood stove seemed like cheating. The reliance on specific materials rather than specific design was unappealing at the least. However, once winter had broken and summer ensued, house projects filled my schedule and buying a new stove fell to the wayside. And as summer always manages to be all to short, fall gave way to the first snow, and my stove decision became critical. On a limited budget of $3000-tops, I had to find the best burn for the buck. I won't mention the stoves that I decided not to buy, as I have a large respect for the various designers and engineers that put together all of the fantastic stove choices available to the market. I was about to drop a substantial amount of money on my future well-being and comfort, and I'd be damned if I was going to make the wrong decision. Most of my research had been done on the internet, contrasting manufacturer spec sheets against one another. But the most valuable information that I found was the firsthand accounts of actual stove owners on Heart.com. Their findings and discussions proved invaluable to my decision, and I must thank everyone who participates on the board for steering me, although perhaps unknowingly, to my final decision. It became apparent that there was one stove that stood out from the rest in functional design, sacrificing perhaps, the overall beauty of a modern parlor stove. The Blaze King boasted "burn times" that no other stove could match, at a price more competitive than most other similar models. In the end I threw away my pride, I threw away my stubbornness, and joined the dark side. I purchased a Blaze King - King Classic. Of course it is even less pretty with no fancy trim, no gold accents - but damn, it is by far, the most exquisite thing in my home. After coming home to a 21-hour burn with more than enough coals to quickly start another full load - without any coddling - I knew, I had without a doubt joined the dark side and will never be going back.