What kind of stove do YOU use for lightweight backpacking?
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Feb 8, 2005 at 7:54 pm #1215877
This forum thread is a companion to the article Considerations for Selecting a Lightweight Backpacking Stove by Will Rietveld.
The roundtable question is this:
What kind of stove do YOU use for lightweight backpacking?
More important, please answer “why?”
In other words, what governs your decision about what type of stove to take on a trip? Which stoves go with you on most of your trips? To what extent are the following attributes most important to you: ease of use, speed of boiling, fuel economy, field maintainability, others?Feb 14, 2005 at 9:03 pm #1335723Ed JonesBPL Member
I have successfully used a product called reflectix that is used to insulate ductwork and is essentially a double foil skinned piece of bubblewrap 3/16″ thick formed into a 10″ circle x 12″ tall with an access notch of 12″ wide x 8″ tall palced around the stove/cannister. This successfully shields a 10″ fry pan during cooking, while reflecting the heat from the stove back into the cannister to help raise the pressure and improve efficiency–hundreds of meals cooked to the last drop of fuel with no “blow ups”- it weighs about 1.5 oz. By the way, the MSR superfly does diasssemble (stove head unscrews from riser)Feb 15, 2005 at 11:04 pm #1335744
I would like to use the posts in this forum to highlight some of my thoughts on canister stoves, as well as use the anonymous post above to help make these forums as valuable as possible without spreading unnecessarily flagrant (or refutations to) claims.
“Dirty Little Secret” writes:
Your “review” of canister stove is little more than a reprint of manufacturers’ advertising claims. Come on, guys! We expect better than that from you!
When referencing an article, please include the title or URL, so we know exactly which article you are referring to, that helps us as editors understand the context better. The canister stove reviews were not published until today, so I’m not sure which canister stove “reviews” you are referring to. As for regurgitating mfr claims, we’re not so concerned with challenging their kitchen tests (although we do hold them honest to the data they publish) as we are with extending stove performance to real world conditions. Specifically, which claims were you frustrated with – the ones below, I assume?
Boil time under 4 minutes? Sure – if you go camping in your kitchen! Even in the mildest weather boil times (and fuel consumption) are 2 to 3 times worse.
So, 8 to 12 minute boil times in the field is the norm for you, I assume. I can’t argue with that. I’ve certainly found some conditions (high winds combined with nearly freezing water) where boil times exceeded 8 minutes. However, those are not the norm for me. If I throttle back the stove flame to conserve fuel, use a windscreen responsibly, and choose a sheltered cooking spot, I’m pretty happy to use 1/4 oz of fuel and get sub-5 boil times on a pint of water during the spring, summer, and fall, even with nearly freezing water. This is the norm for me. It took a bit of practice and understanding how canister stoves work to get there, but it’s not an unreasonable goal.
Simmering? Sure – if you stand next to it to keep adjusting the flame, relight it when it blows out, and constantly stir your food to keep it from scorching.
Are you sure you are talking about canister stoves? Granted, different canister stoves have different simmering capabilities, but most of the new ones simmer exceptionally well – to the point where you can fry hotcakes without burning them, or monitoring the stove throttle.
But the worse one is that you blindly repeat the industry claim that the blended fuels burn hotter and provide cold temperature performance. That’s a total lie. Blended fuels actually have less heat than pure butane. Their sole purpose is to hide the problems of poor performance. When you first use a new canister, you are burning pure propane. Since propane boils at about -40F, it works great no matter how cold it is. But by the time you’re on your third meal (and two days out from the trailhead), all the propane is gone. Depending on the brand of canister, you’re left with either normal butane – which is useless below 50F, or isobutane – which is useless at mid 30’sF.
Roger addresses this issue in the companion article that appeared in the print magazine, Got Gas? Stove Theory and How They Work. It’s important to understand how these gases evaporate in response to consumption, how they work in a liquid feed stove, and how much heat each type of gas produces.
This scheme has worked great for the industry. People claim that canister stoves work fine at 10F or even colder.
I’ve yet to read any claims from reputable manufacturers that suggest anyone use canister stoves for temperatures less than 10F. Personally, I don’t normally use canister stoves at temperatures less than 25F unless I’m in a tent (ahem, don’t flame me, please), an environment that stays warm enough to counteract excessive canister cooling.
Pundits like yourselves obediently repeat this lie…
If we’ve repeated a lie, please point it out the excerpt specifically in an article. We’d appreciate that, and correct it. And certainly, we’d open a controversial opinion up to the court of public opinion here on the forums, we’re not perfect – but we don’t intend to expound outright lies either.
…and the average person has no idea when his stove will work and when it won’t.
I would argue then, that this is not the average person :) at least, it shouldn’t be.
The deception is so successful, people blame themselves when the stove doesn’t work!
I know, that’s a novel concept, but…it’s 80% true. If someone hasn’t researched the topic and taken the time to learn about it, aren’t they responsible? A stove can spell the difference between life and death to some (e.g., climbers stuck in a long storm on a mountain) – you gotta figure it out and accept the consequences of your choices. The internet is littered with a lot of opinions, a great deal of which are nonfactual and misleading. We don’t support that kind of discussion here, so again, if we’ve erred, point us to the specifics so we can correct them.
It is also totally irresponsible to recommend using a windscreen or any other “trick” to heat up a canister.
Fair enough. I recommend, then, that you do not use a windscreen or copper wire heat exchanger to heat up a canister. However, I’d counter with this: it’s not the recommendation that is irresponsible, it’s the improper application of the recommendation in action. Consider the risk, accept or reject, and be smart about it.
These things are dangerous and will explode!!
You bet they do. I tossed one in a fire once. You really have no idea.
From the MSR PocketRocket user manual:
“DO NOT light or use indoors…”
Guess what? The manufacturers use them indoors for their boil tests. We do the same in our kitchens the first time we get the stoves.
“…in a tent, vehicle, or other enclosed areas.”
Guilty, guilty, and guilty.
“NEVER put your head or body above the stove when lighting or burning…”
That’s fine for normal use, but let me tell you, more than one climber has done exactly that to warm up – in a tent – after a loooong day in wet and stormy conditions.
“DO NOT use any windscreen with the stove…may cause the canister to explode.”
There ya go. Direct from the manufacturer. Hard to argue with that…
“DO NOT place heavy…cookware on the stove.”
I had to laugh at this one. The best advice so far in the manual!
It’s fairly obvious to most of us why these warnings are in there. They are indeed reasonable, I’m not arguing that. But they are there primarily for liability protection in the event of an accident.
There are safe ways to use windscreens with canister stoves. Ultimately, it’s you that needs to evaluate the risk and minimize it. You are the user, you and only you can best evaluate risk for you, and only you can make decisions for yourself at any given time in the backcountry.
Canister stoves may be fine for the LL Bean crowd that wants a cup of tea on their little walk in the woods. Those of us that actually depend on our gear tossed out these crappy little things long ago!
If it was too long ago, give the new crop of little canister stoves a whirl. It’s a pretty neat product category that has evolved a long way since Camping Gaz and the old Primus’ stoves.
For 3-season use, I would guess that an overwhelming majority of canister stove owners would agree that, with few exceptions, they are pretty much foolproof, reliable, simmer well, and are unbelievably fuel efficient, especially when throttled down even a small bit. “Are they better than liquid fuel stoves?” “Are they better than alcohol stoves?” No, not necessarily, everyone will have their own definition of better.
But are they “crappy little things” that don’t deserve a close look? Heck no, not at all.
And so, let me give some parting thoughts on the forums here.
We will moderate the forums when necessary (no personal flames, outright slander towards manufacturers, foul language, photos of heavy gear, etc.), but for the most part, when posts are made that invite controversy, especially when they are directly related to posters challenging content that appeared in BPL articles, we’ll let them ride and hope that the court of public opinion here will respectfully discuss the issues at hand. Ultimately, this court of public opinion will keep our editorial staff on their toes (we certainly are not perfect or all-knowing) and keep BPL’s content authoritative.
If anyone would ever like to challenge content published here, please feel free to do so – your post will NOT be moderated. However, please do so and support your opinions and challenges with facts, direct quotes from our articles, and respectful discussion.
If y’all can do that for us, we are more than happy to engage in dynamic discussions of controversial issues with you.
Also, one final note on the purpose of anonymous posting:
Please do not abuse this feature. This was put in here so that manufacturers and other industry professionals can post honest, and sometimes frank, comments, without fear of receiving blowback from their employer.
It is not the intention for anonymous postings to be a means of hiding behind flames, trolls, or otherwise irresponsible use of the forums.Feb 16, 2005 at 7:43 am #1335748Patrick BakerMember
Noticed the following product last night at my local REI ….
4 season mix is claimed right on the canister. Is this to be believed ?
I believe the mix is …
Ryan (and BPL team) help !
Also looked over the Coleman F1 as well. Could not get myself to buy it as I saw too much plastic on the stove.
Especially right under the burner. Common sense says that it is not there for performance but for cost cutting/profit. Any comments by the staff or members ?Feb 16, 2005 at 8:15 am #1335749Karen AllansonMember
I would have been interested to read about the hanging stove assembly that goes with the Superfly. That’s the main reason I chose that stove over lighter ones (and also the wider burner). I use that combo specifically for winter use in a tent, and I know a number of other winter users who do the same. You have to coddle the canisters, but so far this works pretty well (at least in the milder Sierra range).
Also, hoping to see a review of alcohol stoves. So far my homemade one beats the Pepsi Can version in terms of speed and fuel usage.Feb 16, 2005 at 10:52 am #1335754AnonymousGuest
Since my Dirty Little Secret posting has become the subject of a lesson on forum behavior, allow me to clarify a couple points.
“It is not the intention for anonymous postings to be a means of hiding behind flames, trolls, or otherwise irresponsible use of the forums.” –> Experience has shown that people react angrily when the facts run afoul of their personal prejudices and misconceptions. My posting was anonymous to keep the discussion in the public forum, where it belonged, rather than filling my inbox with nasty emails.
“I’m pretty happy to use 1/4 oz of fuel and get sub-5 boil times on a pint of water” –> Published specifications and the article in question give times for boiling a quart of water, not a pint. I don’t use a quart of water in my cooking, and apparently neither do you. But if you are going to comment on specifications, make sure you are talking apples to apples. (BTW – the article being referred to is directly above this forum)
“A stove can spell the difference between life and death to some” –> You finally get at the crux of my posting. The outdoors are dangerous enough when a person is informed and has the right gear. Publishing inflated claims about a gear’s capability is a disservice to your readers. You say 25F is your lower limit for a canister stove, your colleague says 15F. I agree 100% that a canister stove will work at these temperatures and even colder- for about the first two meals. It is not my opinion that the propane burns off first, it is a fact – look in any chemistry textbook under “Fractional Distillation”. As I, and at least a dozen friends, have learned first hand, half full canisters are useless somewhere between the high 40sF to the mid to lower 30sF – depending on the brand and whether they contain normal butane or isobutane. Are there dangerous tricks that can extend this range? There sure are! Which one are you going bet your life on when you carry a canister stove in inappropriate conditions? And yes – these are the “new crop of little canister stoves”. If anything, these are worse than the old ones. In order to claim increasingly lighter stoves, the new ones use smaller burner heads and flimsy pot supports.
“The internet is littered with a lot of opinions, a great deal of which are nonfactual and misleading. We don’t support that kind of discussion here” –> Really?? You tell people canister stoves will work in conditions when they won’t and publish instructions encouraging people to make modifications the manufacturers say can make the stove explode. If this isn’t supporting nonfactual and misleading opinions, what is? Oh, but I forget –> “it’s not the recommendation that is irresponsible”. So it must be the fault of the person that trusts your recommendation!
Finally, allow me to point out the irony of explaining your “open minded” forum policy by attacking the only posting that disagrees with the claims of the article (which, again, is on the same page as the forum – so it’s kind of hard to be confused as to which article the posting refers). The posting states a solid fact – Fractional Distillation causes the propane to burn first. The manufactures know this and count on the confusion this creates to publish untrue performance claims. You can’t refute the fact, so you dismiss the messenger as a “flame”, “troll” and “irresponsible”. That’s very open minded! I’m anxious to see if this posting meets your standards of what’s “acceptable” or if it ends up getting “moderated”.Feb 16, 2005 at 10:57 am #1335755John S.BPL Member
I do know of at least one person who melted their plastic while using the bakepacker (a no-no) with the coleman ultralight. Now their stove will not compact down like it is supposed to.Feb 17, 2005 at 9:18 am #1335760Charles StruszMember
We will moderate the forums when necessary (no … photos of heavy gear, etc.)…
Hehehe… maybe its the cold medicine, but that made me laugh so hard I think I broke a rib!Feb 17, 2005 at 10:17 am #1335762Bill HoltMember
I agree that cannisters can explode and that the explosion would be catastrophic.
I was looking for some actual incident where a cannister exploded during use because of overheating.
Based upon lack of reports so far and my own experience I’m thinking the conditions necessary for explosion are pretty extreme.
I’m not suggesting that the risk isn’t there just trying to determine it’s likelihood and perhaps the necessary conditions.Feb 17, 2005 at 11:58 am #1335767Tony FlemingBPL Member
I have used my Snow peak Gigawatt stove for years as a 3 season stove in the fall and spring on several trips in the low 20’s with great success using a homemade wind screen, cooking full up meals – not just boiling water. It is a gem of a stove and I love it.
Now to the point, on one occasion I was using my Outback oven with my canister stove and had forgotten to attach the aluminum shield that protects the canister from the reflected heat of the difuser plate that sits immediately over the flame. (don’t know where my brain was that day) So I had the stove blasting against a steel plate reflecting the heat back on the canister with the Outback oven over the top also reflecting heat in. To this disaster waiting to happen I wrapped around a home made aluminium wind screen to protect it further from the wind. After 15 minutes my pot jumped 10 feet in the air. The canister did not explode. The bottom, which normaly curves in, now curved out like a ball. In other words, treating the cansiter to the worst possible conditions I could come up with for a windscreen overload did not result in an exploding cansister. Thankfully, I think manufacturers design their canisters to with stand idiots like me. I have never heard of an exploding canister either.Feb 17, 2005 at 1:26 pm #1335768Richard SullivanBPL Member
@richard-sLocale: Supernatural BC
I’ve use the Gigapower windscreen quite a bit and I think it’s pretty good, despite being a bit heavy at 2 oz. Paired with my GS-100A stove, the total weight is only 5.7 oz. The stove efficiency goes way up due to the way the hot gasses are trapped under the pot. One interesting effect that has proved quite useful is the ability or tendency of the windscreen to act as a re-radiator which very effectively warms the canister. Contrary to what a person might expect, the canister runs much warmer with the windscreen in place than without. In windy conditions I also use an aluminum foil windbreak which is tall enough to block the entire cooking system, but with only 180 degree coverage to avert the possibility of excessive canister temps. There is no way I would consider giving up this system, and would feel 100% secure in using it down to 20F with GigaPower or IsoPro fuel.
Feb 17, 2005 at 1:37 pm #1335769Randy BrisseyBPL Member
@rbrisseyLocale: Redondo Beach, CA
I have not had the luck of it happening but I was able to witness a stove explode while backpacking in the Sierras. Some backpackers were cooking a meal just below our campsite when an eruption of yelling and screaming came from their camp. We watched their group back away from a stove just before a ten foot ball of flame erupted from the cooksite.
Just after the flames and explosion was but a memory the campers came up to borrow a stove to cook their dinner. They were using a liquid fuel MSR stove that had “developed” a leak at the pump/ fuel bottle interface. The flame jumped to the leak and at that point someone started to dump sand on the stove to try and extinquish it. No luck! They all backed away just before “the BOOM”. Lesson to be learned from this episode……Check the gasket before seating and after initial pumpup!Feb 17, 2005 at 4:38 pm #1335776Rick DreherBPL Member
@halfturboLocale: Northernish California
Okay somebody, grind the fins off the bottom of your Jetboil pot and give us heat and fuel use numbers in comparison with it intact :-)Feb 17, 2005 at 4:45 pm #1335778Rick DreherBPL Member
@halfturboLocale: Northernish California
Primus says 60% butane, 25% propane and 15% isobutane. This is the highest propane fraction I can recall seeing among the many brands. Whether it performs better than a brand that dispenses with butane entirely, I can’t guess.Feb 17, 2005 at 5:02 pm #1335779
In response to the last anon post re: Dirty Little Secret.
Experience has shown that people react angrily when the facts run afoul of their personal prejudices and misconceptions. My posting was anonymous to keep the discussion in the public forum, where it belonged, rather than filling my inbox with nasty emails.
That’s fine, I totally respect that.
Published specifications and the article in question give times for boiling a quart of water, not a pint…
Agreed. I’ve added an editors note to the article directly below the 4-minute claim as a disclaimer for using these numbers with caution. Your discussion on this issue is reasonable and I hope our response addresses it in a meaningful way.
You say 25F is your lower limit for a canister stove, your colleague says 15F.
We are allowed to respectfully disagree, even among our staff, recognizing that each of us might select a different criteria (e.g., temperature) as a decision point to switch to another piece of gear.
I agree 100% that a canister stove will work at these temperatures and even colder- for about the first two meals.
I simply have to respond here as a forum participant, not an authority, and say that my experiences have been different. That is meant neither to negate your experience or validate mine.
It is not my opinion that the propane burns off first, it is a fact – look in any chemistry textbook under “Fractional Distillation”.
I agree, but the differences in differential evaporation rates between the gasses will be temperature dependent, i.e., they will depend on the temperature of the canister. So, the performance of these stoves will indeed markedly decline if you use them according to manufacturer recommendations without canister warming techniques: using in a tent (or even a vestibule), directly on snow, with a copper wire heat exchanger, or with a wind shield.
Are there dangerous tricks that can extend this range? There sure are! Which one are you going bet your life on when you carry a canister stove in inappropriate conditions?
I use mine in a ventilated tent as a hanging stove when I can. I don’t rely so much on windshields or heat exchangers to use them in cold conditions when I need to melt snow; if I have to do that, that’s when I usually switch to a liquid fuel stove.
And yes – these are the “new crop of little canister stoves”. If anything, these are worse than the old ones. In order to claim increasingly lighter stoves, the new ones use smaller burner heads and flimsy pot supports.
And those tiny stoves are inappropriate for group cooking with large pots. They’re awesome for the soloist with a small pot, especially in 3-season conditions when snow need not be melted for water.
You tell people canister stoves will work in conditions when they won’t…
Qualified, we hope, with the limitations discussed in context.
…and publish instructions encouraging people to make modifications the manufacturers say can make the stove explode.
See the article Homemade Canister Stove Windscreen which discusses a very safe technique for using a windscreen to increase fuel efficiency of a canister stove without heating up the canister. The windscreen isolates the burner head from the stove and the risk of canister explosion is minimal.
Windscreens that partially or fully enclose a canister – yes, you increase the risk. You can mediate this to some extent quite easily by carrying the 1.5 oz infrared thermometer from Radio Shack to monitor the surface temperature of the canister in a wide variety of conditions. Eventually, you’ll become experienced enough to know when the windscreen you’ve fashioned crosses the line of discomfort for you. At what temperature should you be concerned with canister explosion? Find out from the manufacturer.
Finally, allow me to point out the irony of explaining your “open minded” forum policy by attacking the only posting that disagrees with the claims of the article…
I was invited to participate in this discussion by another reader that saw your post. I’m here to moderate the forum, because there are more than a few people excited about this discussion. My goal is to make sure the discussion stays on track and balanced, and we can all benefit from it.
So you dismiss the messenger as a “flame”, “troll” and “irresponsible”. That’s very open minded!
Those comments were not directed at you. They were placed in the context of discussing general forum policy.
I’m anxious to see if this posting meets your standards of what’s “acceptable” or if it ends up getting “moderated”.
It’s entirely acceptable. You got a little excited about the possibility of your post being labeled a flame or troll, but it was not my intention to direct that to your post. Excitability doesn’t constitute grounds for dismissal.
I think your arguments are rational and it would be worth everyone’s time here to think about the limitations of canister stoves, take them out into the cold, and see how they work for you.
Welcome to the forums, thank you for participating. It’s very much appreciated.Feb 17, 2005 at 6:49 pm #1335781kevin davidsonMember
@kdesignLocale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Ryan,you are too kind and have the patience of Job.
Glad you’re moderating.
I ,too,seem to have somewhat better luck with my giga power in the wind (than experienced in the test) using a homemade version of Snow Peak’s windscreen(< 1 oz.) and have had more or less the similar experiences of an earlier poster(see Richard Sullivan). No explosions,no worries.
That being said,I thought the testing and commentary superb.
In response to monsieur anonymous–many an alpinist ( including myself ) regularly uses canister stoves down to absurdly low tempuratures ,uses them in tents ,use at altitude and bet our lives and comfort on them, successfully.Feb 17, 2005 at 7:14 pm #1335782Tim CheekBPL Member
Ryan, the jetboil article (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/jetboil_stove_review.html) was probably the most helpful article written by Bplight to me because it provided me with a practical break even point: how much water will I have to boil before I benefit from the additional weight over a conventional set-up, assuming conditions most favorable to the jetboil.
Despite my attraction to the jetboil concept, I decided to continue the “balancing act” of my comparably less efficient stove-pot system because I knew I wouldn’t be boiling that much water. Instead of buying a jetboil, I’ll renew my subscription to Bplight!
In light of anonymous’ comments here, I’d like to know how much water I will have to boil before I benefit from the additional weight of the remote canister stove design (e.g. MSR windpro), assuming conditions most favorable to it. I’d like to know how much better off I am if I am able to turn the canister upside down and surround the burner with a more substantial heat/wind screen, etc. If the difference is negligible for the weather and altitude where I hike, then the decision is easy.
As suggested by anonymous, I hope Will compares the remote canister stoves next time around with the thorough review of the conventional stoves he has done this time around, applying the jetboil efficiency break even point analysis.
Thanks for your continued good work, and recent diplomacy.Feb 17, 2005 at 9:57 pm #1335783Douglas FrickBPL Member
>So, any other liquid-fed butane stoves out there besides the Coleman?
Thanks to Jason Shaffer for his list of remote canister liquid-fed butane/propane stoves with vaporizer tubes. In answer to my question about whether these other stoves can run liquid-fed, I found the following on the Zen Stove site about turning remote canisters upside-down to make them liquid-fed:
“With some setups, canisters may be used upside down. This would force out liquid instead of gas into your fuel line, similar to running PowerMax canisters. The Primus Himalaya manual states that one safe cold environment trick is to:
“Turn down the control valve as low as possible. Now hold the gas cartridge and turn it upside down slowly and very carefully. While doing so, you must never lift the cartridge higher than the stove itself to avoid a sudden burst of flames.”
When asked via email if the MSR Windpro could operate with the canister upside down, a tech at MSR replied:
“Yes, you can turn the canister upside down when using the WindPro but you would want to use the same precautions stated in the Primus manual.”
Since the Primus Himalaya EasyFuel, MSR WindPro, MSR Rapidfire, and Snowpeak GigaPower BF Stove [GS-300A] have similar designs with a hose connection and heated vaporizer tube, they should be able to run PowerMax canisters (you may need an adapter) or regular fuel canisters upside down – do so at your own risk.
There are several remote fueled canister stoves, such as the Markill Spider, that don’t have vaporizer tubes (generators). This feature is desirable to vaporize the fuel prior to it exiting the jet. Running a canister upside down without a vaporizer tube isn’t recommended and can be dangerous.”Feb 18, 2005 at 3:30 pm #1335797Inaki Diaz de EturaBPL Member
@inaki-1Locale: Iberia highlands
Great link, Douglas. It sums up many bits of info I’ve been recollecting over time in one place and then more.
I’ve using a very simple windscreen similar to that shown on that article, just built for my stove and pot but the same idea. Honestly, I don’t see a problem for this kind of windscreens and they’re so simple I can’t understand why there’s still discussion over canister stove windscreens, if I’m missing something I welcome any enlightment.
MSR calls windpro to their remote canister model somehow meaning the screw on top type are not so good in wind, not so easy/safe for windscreen use… and maybe spreading that word.
At least this prompted me to add some english content to my little website so I can show my dubious engineering abilities at building windscreens :)Feb 19, 2005 at 1:21 pm #1335804AnonymousGuest
Every remote canister stove I’ve tried works with the canister inverted. And why not? You wouldn’t market a stove that would be dangerous if the canister was tipped or sloshed, so they should all be OK if liquid butane flows into the stove’s preheat coil (though the output shoots up if the stove is already running). The MSR rep actually recommends inverting the canister in cold weather with their WindPro. Works fine.
BPL needs to consider the entire weight issue, including windscreen or windbreak equivalent, although it’s tricky because real world conditions (wind) so strongly affect fuel consumption. A remote canister stove can safely use an effective wind screen and heat reflector, making them much more fuel-efficient than a canister-top model, even though they weigh several ounces more. I wonder what the actual break even point is?
For outings where only a few meals based on hot water are needed, I’ll bet a home-made Esbit stove/windscreen is the most weight efficient; mine weighs .8 oz total, less fuel. For longer outings, especially in the cold, the remote-canister model likely wins out; certainly over white gas stoves until the outing consumes at least a quart of fuel per stove. What is the canister-top butane stove’s actual sweet spot?
And I just have to say that I wonder why BPL bothers with the JetBoil stove contraption? Their own tests debunk the speed claims, and the thing is pretty specialized. Sure, JetBoil has great marketing compared to stodgy old MSR, but it doesn’t seem appropriate for savvy BPL readers any more than the Sierra wood chip stove. Why did BPL publish charts showing comparable JetBoil times, with a footnote saying the amount of water was only half? Is that fair? Is there an undisclosed relationship between BPL and JetBoil, or am I missing something?Feb 19, 2005 at 2:00 pm #1335807AnonymousGuest
You might be right, Bill. My only near death experience along these lines was when climbing buddies used a bakepacker with a canister-top stove. The results were typically unsatisfactory (half-baked). Don’t know for sure if it ran out of fuel or if the fuel leaked out after the stove was shut off. When the stove was fired up the next morning it failed to function with a new canister. The seals and knob were fully baked. But it didn’t explode.Feb 19, 2005 at 2:45 pm #1335809Will RietveldBPL Member
@williwabbitLocale: Southwest Colorado
I would like to respond to the “Dirty Little Secret” post. Yes, canister stove performance declines as the temperature drops below freezing, but its not all that bad down to about 15 F.
The point that pure propane burns off below 30F is not quite true. Most propane from refineries is “HD5 Propane”. This specification allows up to 5% propylene and up to 5% other things, mainly iso-butane. Iso-butane from the refinery contains some n-butane. These are not purified to pure propane or iso-butane, but are a mixture. Re-refining to get pure propane or iso-butane is costly and redundant, since they will be burned for fuel.
Some n-butane is mixed in to formulate winter gasoline to make cars start better, but it is kept out in the summer because it causes vapor lock. Believe me, fuels are not limited to a single hydrocarbon. They’re all a mix that meet certain specifications.
In a blended canister fuel, propane drives the system. It has the hightest vapor pressure of the mixed liquified gases. Since the propane is about 30% of the contents, and it has the highest VP, a high percentage of what comes out is propane. But iso-butane and butane readily mix with propane gas, and (if the temp is above the boiling point of n-butane and iso-butane) the canister delivers a gas mixture. Butane and iso-butane have higher BTU’s than propane, so no problem.
Propane boils at -43F, iso-butane at -11F, and n-butane at 31F (not the temperatures reported by Anomymous). So, as the temperture drops, less butane comes off, and less and less iso-butane There is always some n-butane in the canister, even if you purchase “IsoPro” fuel. The canister cools itself, so at some point you will have a low flame at full throttle, and the remaining gas (n-butane and iso-butane) doesn’t want to vaporize.
Ways to get the last gas to vaporize are to swap the cold canister for a warmer one in your pocket, and warm up the cold one the same way. A second way is to partially immerse the canister in liquid water. 30-40 degree water holds a lot of heat compared to 30-40 degree air, and will warm up the canister a lot. Another approach is to use full canisters in the AM and partially full canisters in the PM.
I hope this helps to explain the realiy of the blended fuel/cold temperature issue.
WillFeb 19, 2005 at 4:31 pm #1335813David BonnMember
@david_bonnLocale: North Cascades
I’ve used canister stoves for solo and two-person trips almost exclusively these last three years. For me they have worked fine, and like any backpacking gadget there are tradeoffs. A little experience and experimentation goes a long way. Literally.
The biggest downside for me is the expense and sometimes unavailability of canisters. I’m also a little displeased that there isn’t a good infrastructure for recycling the canisters in the U.S.
I’ve noticed that high-altitude mountaineers use oxygen bottles that are aluminum reinforced with kevlar. I know that the major reason you can’t use straight propane for a backpacking stove is that the high vapor pressure (about 50psi I think) precludes an aluminum canister and means that you need a (heavy) steel canister. Would a kevlar-reinforced aluminum canister be strong enough for propane? How much heavier would it be? This would be ridiculously expensive for a disposable canister, but if you could make the canisters refillable with straight propane (probably with a separate regulator) you’d really have something. I can easily go through four or five large canisters and six or seven small ones in a year of backpacking. That cost really adds up, and even an expensive (e.g. $100+) canister refillable with propane would save me money (propane is a couple of bucks a gallon here).
Just wondering.Feb 19, 2005 at 6:14 pm #1335814Will RietveldBPL Member
@williwabbitLocale: Southwest Colorado
Thanks for all the great comments and questions. I wanted to respond to a few questions from various posts:
Reviewing the Vargo Jet Ti Stove: Since BPL sells it, we won’t review that one, but we will review the Vaude/Markill Peak Ignition (also called the Hot Rod) soon. That stove, and the Kovea Camp 3 are very similar. We will also review the new Brunton Raptor.
REI 4-Season Fuel Mix: Canister fuel containing n-butane is great for warm weather, but I would avoid it for cold weather. Propane and iso-propane are better for cold.
Alcohol Stove Reviews: Coming in April. We tested and reviewed 17 alcohol stoves available for purchase.
Carry Weight of Cooking System and Fuel: That’s my next project. I will compare 5 types of cooking systems: white gas, remote burner canister, top mount canister, integrated canister, alcohol, and fuel tab. I will use the lightest, most efficient cooking system I know of in each case. The weight will include the windscreen and fuel container, and data will be based on real world conditions.
WillFeb 19, 2005 at 7:43 pm #1335815
And I just have to say that I wonder why BPL bothers with the JetBoil stove contraption?
Not sure what you mean by “bothers” with it, but for the purpose of this response I’ll assume you mean “review” it.
First, it’s a popular product. There is a high demand for information about this stove.
Second, the manufacturer has made some pretty bold claims, and we wanted to evaluate them as a third party.
Third, because there is a lot of talk out there (by the manufacturer, by other outdoor magazines that have reviewed it, in forums on the Internet by Jetboil owners) that this is “the most efficient” or “fastest boiling” canister stove around. Not only do we want to keep those claims in check, but we want to make sure that consumers understand the relationship between Jetboil performance and the performance of other canister stoves.
Fourth, we don’t “weed out” gear for review based on its perception of poor performance. If it’s a product that performs below manufacturer claims, you bet we want to review it, so consumers have data they can use to evaluate their purchasing decision.
Fifth, the concept behind the Jetboil – integrating a canister stove with heat exchanger and windscreen – is very innovative. It could have been done lighter, for sure, but for a first product on the market that conforms to a level of integration not yet seen, so be it – the industry now has a benchmark against which to design a better product.
Please read the Jetboil Review, it will enlighten you about how this stove tested relative to what the manufacturer claims, and you’ll see BPL’s criticisms of the stove firsthand, which should go a long way to address the perceptions you communicated in your post.
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