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how cold can you use a liquid feed canister stove?


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  • #1285772
    Ted E
    BPL Member

    @mtn_nut

    Locale: Morrison, CO

    im thinking about getting the new MSR wisperlite universal, and i was wondering how cold i could use it with a canister in liquid feed mode. this would be for winter camping and car camping, i have a ligher canister stove for summer backpacking.

    does anyone have any experience using other canister stoves that have a preheating tube in liquid feed mode in the cold? what temps did they get down to and how well did they work?

    Also, does it use fuel faster in liquid feed vs. upright normal feed when the temps are above 35*F (where all different gasses in the isobutane are above their boiling point)

    #1840552
    USA Duane Hall
    BPL Member

    @hikerduane

    Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada

    Any reason to use the stove with canister fuel instead of white gas? WG would be more economical unless you don't want so much and have to store it. Coleman fuel will last a long time. If melting snow, it will take lots of fuel. With little hoop jumping, I've used my Pocket Rocket into the single digits F.
    Duane

    #1840565
    Ted E
    BPL Member

    @mtn_nut

    Locale: Morrison, CO

    i've used my litemax on winter trips when i have the gas canister soaking in a cold water bath (since the water is above freezing, it keeps the gas above their boiling point). it'll be for boiling stream water, cooking some real food if car camping, and melting snow if stream water isn't available during the winter.

    I'm thinking about just getting the whisperlite international, but i thought the universal would be a nice upgrade I've never owned a liquid gas stove before, and maybe i should just stick with a liquid only stove like the international. however i do like the convenience of canister stoves in the morning, they're simple and efficient, just not the cheapest fuel source.

    #1840583
    Hikin’ Jim
    BPL Member

    @hikin_jim

    Locale: Orange County, CA, USA

    Ted,

    It depends a little on the fuel you use (see What's the Best Brand of Gas for Cold Weather?. Assuming you buy something like MSR brand, the textbook answer is 0F/-18C at sea level. Strictly speaking that's fuel temperature not air temperature although with liquid feed canister gas, you don't get quite as much canister chilling while running the stove, so ambient (air) temperature is going to be close.

    Of course, the higher in elevation you climb, the lower the atmospheric pressure. As the air pressure drops, so does the boiling point of your fuel, so you can operate your stove at lower fuel temperatures. Generally you can operate a stove with fuel that is about two degrees Fahrenheit colder for every thousand feet in elevation gained. In metric units, that's about one degree Celcius colder for every 300 meters in elevation gained. I've got a good chart on my blog that shows the relationship between elevation and operating temperature if you're interested. See Gas Stoves: How Cold Can I Go?.

    The above assume that you're not employing any "tricks" to keep the canister warm. If you can warm the canister, you can run your gas stove in as cold a temperature as you like. I've got some simple "best practices" for using a gas stove in cold weather on my blog. See Cold Weather Tips for Gas Stoves.

    If you were to read just one of the three blog posts, that last one is really practical and to the point.

    HJ
    Adventures In Stoving

    #1840634
    Stuart R
    BPL Member

    @scunnered

    Locale: Scotland

    Ted – you are a member so you can also read this BPL article if you have not done so already: The Effect of Cold on Gas Canisters. Although written primarily for canister-top stoves, you can find the lowest temperature for a liquid feed canister stove for various gas mixtures from the point at which the "Threshold Temperature" graphs intersect the y-axis (ie the 100% remaining figure) in the bottom charts (Figure 4 I think). Most gas mixtures will work down to zero*F.

    The Whisperlite should not use fuel any faster at warmer temps or when the canister is upright (for the same rate of heating).

    #1840643
    James Marco
    BPL Member

    @jamesdmarco

    Locale: Finger Lakes

    Yeah, read Rogers artical as Stuart said.

    What the article omits is that all gas stoves, WG stoves, alcohol stoves, and kero stoves will perform a LOT less than optimal at cold temps. Like an old carburated car, you have to give it a bit more gas to start it when it is cold. . .just an example.

    The volitility of the fuel drops for ALL fuels as the temperature drops. Even using hydrogen, there is a bottom line with how cold it can get and have a high enough gas pressure to burn in the device you want it to.

    The SVEA is a good example of falling performance with the heat. It takes a while to warm up, soo, it may not perform as well at very cold temps. I have had mine out at 20F below zero and it was very slow to burn, it took about 5minutes to warm up to the point it was producing good heat. At 90F it fires up and burns really well in less than 30sec. This is one of the designs that can get caught by very low temps. A heat reflector makes a HUGE difference in performance.

    Anyway, Roger's article does not say that the pressure of the cannister is not real great at 0F. Nor does he say anything about other fuels. Though you can sort of glean that info from his graph. All require some heat feedback or a fuel preheat tube for use at cold temps to generate enough pressure to work well at at say 20F. The canisters drop off noticeably after 50F down to complete failures at about 20F.

    Since any WG stove is having fuel fed directly to the vaporization tube by some pressure in the tank, it doesn't really matter which way the canister is positioned. BUT, the MSR canisters all have a fuel feed that is designed to work sideways. Another position, say upright, will only work with a fairly full fuel bottle. Most WG stoves using an external pump/bottle are about the same. For best performance, they need to be laid down, with the fuel feed/uptake tube in the fuel.

    #1840693
    David Thomas
    BPL Member

    @davidinkenai

    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    >"Even using hydrogen, there is a bottom line with how cold it can get and have a high enough gas pressure to burn in the device you want it to."

    Since all 8 planets and all known dwarf planets (including Pluto and much further Eris) are all above hydrogren's boiling point (20°K, -253°C, -423°F), I don't lose sleep over it. Any atmospheric oxygen would freeze into a liquid and then a solid long before hydrogen freezes so that could be concern on the outer planets.

    #1840721
    Ted E
    BPL Member

    @mtn_nut

    Locale: Morrison, CO

    after reading everything, i think if i just keep using the water bath idea, i'll be able to use my litemax at pretty much any temp. i didn't realize that the MSR canisters would be better than snowpeak canisters in cold temps, so i'll probably switch over to MSR canisters once my snow peak canisters are empty.

    so, i guess if i get a white gas stove, i'll get a regular one instead of the whisperlite universal since i don't really need a liquid feed canister stove.

    #1840731
    David Thomas
    BPL Member

    @davidinkenai

    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    Ted: the water bath approach would great work on anything that has some propane in it and if the water is a bit warm, fine on even n-butane cartridges. It's nice because there's a lot of heat capacity in the water and it's safer to contrive a little thermal feedback from the burner because that water won't change temperature quickly like a canister low on fuel could.

    I have to do tricks on the 20-pound "propane" BBQ cylinder below -25F if it gets low. I put "propane" in quotes because the oil refinery doesn't do a perfect separation on fuels and there's some C2 and C4 in addition to mostly C3 propane in there. As it empties, it has less pressure (and I ought to just tag it for summer use and rotate in a fresh one) so getting it warm solves that.

    #1840794
    Tad Englund
    BPL Member

    @bestbuilder

    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    David, thank you for the reality check and bringing us back to earth.

    Now I can go back to my secret testing on hydrogen filled backpacking canisters.

    #1840808
    Rakesh Malik
    Member

    @tamerlin

    Locale: Cascadia

    "Now I can go back to my secret testing on hydrogen filled backpacking canisters."

    And thus was born the Hindenberg backpacking stove.

    #1840873
    Hikin’ Jim
    BPL Member

    @hikin_jim

    Locale: Orange County, CA, USA

    after reading everything, i think if i just keep using the water bath idea, i'll be able to use my litemax at pretty much any temp. i didn't realize that the MSR canisters would be better than snowpeak canisters in cold temps, so i'll probably switch over to MSR canisters once my snow peak canisters are empty.

    so, i guess if i get a white gas stove, i'll get a regular one instead of the whisperlite universal since i don't really need a liquid feed canister stove.

    There won't be much difference between Snow Peak (85/15 mix) and MSR (80/20 mix), but MSR will generally be a little bit better.

    The colder you get, the harder it is to keep water liquid and the harder it is to start the stove. My planning number is 20F for upright canister stoves, although they can be made to work down below 11F (below the boiling point of isobutane) if you can keep the canister warm. It just gets harder and harder to keep the canister warm. Recall that the canister will be colder than the surrounding air because as the liquid fuel in the canister vaporizes, chilling results. Such chilling is greatly reduced in liquid feed mode when you invert the canister.

    If you're going out and it's going to be really cold, you're better off with an inverted canister stove or a white gas stove. Again, my planning number is 20F. Above 20F, upright canister which is really light. Keep the canister in water, and you're good to go. Below 20F, I switch to inverted canister. Below 0F, I think either something specialized like a Coleman Xtreme or liquid fuel (white gas or kero).

    There's my thought process for what it's worth.

    HJ
    Adventures In Stoving

    #1841647
    Paul Mason
    Member

    @dextersp1

    #1841670
    Bob Shaver
    BPL Member

    @rshaver

    Locale: West

    I was on a trip where it was lightly snowing in the morning, and people with half empty canisters had a real hard time boiling water. I shared some water boiled on my Caldera Cone. I'm guessing it was in the high 20s F.

    #2157600
    Hikin’ Jim
    BPL Member

    @hikin_jim

    Locale: Orange County, CA, USA

    I see on my blog's stats that I'm getting some traffic from this thread. I've updated my main article on the subject. I think the updated article is the best one for information on my blog on cold weather and canister stoves. Hopefully it's practical approach.

    HJ

    #2157620
    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member

    @rcaffin

    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    We have been over this Q many times.

    Do you have a water bottle in your pack which does not freeze? Keep your gas canister next to the water bottle in your pack, or in your SB/quilt at night.

    Water bath trick with COOL water – always good. Reliable and safe.

    Letting the canister warm up a LITTLE bit from the stove – sure.

    Mind you, I have seen videos of walkers in Northern Europe cooking quite happily at all sorts of sub-freezing temperatures: they use a remote canister stove with a long hose and put the canister on top of the cooking pot. Sheesh! Ahhhh … I do NOT recommend doing this!

    Cheers

    #2157635
    Justin Baker
    BPL Member

    @justin_baker

    Locale: Santa Rosa, CA

    Cost of white gas vs canisters….
    Anyone know about how much it would cost to produce a liter of water from melted snow with a remote cansiter stove vs. a white gas stove?

    #2157641
    David Thomas
    BPL Member

    @davidinkenai

    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    BTU/pound of fuel is pretty constant for propane, butane, and white gas (with a slight advantage, 5%-ish, to the lighter compounds).

    400-gram butane canister: about $7-8
    220-gram butane canister: about $6

    gallon of white gas: $10-12 (?it's been a while) at 6+ pounds = 2700+ grams.

    So butane canisters, per BTU, are 5 to 8 times more expensive than white gas.

    You have to grant canister stoves less priming time, and typically people turn them on and off more because they are so easy to relight, whereas many of us are sorely tempting to keep a white gas stove running so as to avoid having to reprime it.

    Putting everything together, I'd say butane costs 4-5 times more. But it is cleaner, easier (in warm weather) and takes less practice to use safely.

    Propane in the one-pound cylinders (one pound of steel and 1.025 pounds of propane) is in between. $3.50 for 465 grams of fuel. Over twice the cost of white gas (but more convenient), half the price of butane and good down to almost any temperature (I've used it, with a few tricks, at -41F). But, my, there's a lot of steel to carry in AND OUT – more than with any other fuel. But it's great for car camping.

    If I was running a base camp, or melting snow for many people, I'd go with white gas. If I could have planes or horses bring in supplies, I'd go with bulk propane cylinders (my friend with a charter service moves more 20-pound propane cylinders than anything else). If I was far into the third world, I'd get a multi-fuel stove that can take unleaded gasoline, diesel and yak's milk as fuel types – those are even cheaper per liter boiled.

    If you're worried about fuel cost or usage, get a pot with a heat-exchanger. That saves fuel and the water boils faster.

    Fuel cost is really very small compared to taking time off work, driving to the trailhead, and the occasional hospital bill or gear replacement.

    #2157643
    Justin Baker
    BPL Member

    @justin_baker

    Locale: Santa Rosa, CA

    Any idea on how many grams of fuel it takes to melt a liter?

    #2157648
    JP
    BPL Member

    @jpovs-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2-2

    Locale: Arrowhead

    #2157656
    Earl Gilbert
    Spectator

    @egilbe

    I picked one up to do some possible Winter camping. I've used canisters down to 20F and the only difference I noticed between upright and inverted canisters is that inverted it acts more like white gas stoves I've used in the past. There is some lag while the gas is warmed. The control of the stove isn't as responsive as using it as a straight gas canister. I still haven't converted it to use white gas, yet, but probably should here soon since it is getting colder.

    #2157672
    Hikin’ Jim
    BPL Member

    @hikin_jim

    Locale: Orange County, CA, USA

    Earl,

    It is definitely a bit like white gas to use a stove with the canister inverted. You have to let the stove warm up a bit or else it will flare and there is definitely a time lag between the time you adjust the valve and the time you see a change in the flame.

    There are other more subtle things going on though. The fuel isn't losing its propane the way it does if you run with the canister right side up. You won't notice much difference with a fresh canister, but toward the end of the canister, you should see quite a bit of difference between a canister that has been run upright vs. one that is inverted. That and you won't get the internal cooling with an inverted canister vs. an upright one, which is particularly important on longer burns, say when melting snow.

    HJ
    Adventures in Stoving
    Hikin Jim's Blog

    #2157677
    Hikin’ Jim
    BPL Member

    @hikin_jim

    Locale: Orange County, CA, USA

    I see people on here saying that the canister inverted would be good to 0f, but I thought Roger Caffin has previously stated on other threads that a canister inverted is good to -14f? And that's canister temps, not the ambient air temperature.

    Well, pick your number. I mean as long as you have a way to keep the canister warm, you can use it at any temperature you like. Maybe the question really isn't "how cold can you use a liquid feed canister stove?" Perhaps the real question is "how cold can it be where you can still reasonably keep the canister 'warm?'"

    If you're prepared with means to keep the canister warm, you can go as cold as you like. My suggestion of 0°F/-18°C is a rough number for planning purposes. It's a fairly conservative number based on the boiling point of the recommended fuel, the nature of inverted canister stoves, and the use of good techniques.

    HJ
    Adventures in Stoving
    Hikin Jim's Blog

    #2157681
    Woubeir (from Europe)
    BPL Member

    @woubeir

    Plus there's something like altitude. That 0F is at sea level. At 3000 ft., it's maybe -5F.

    #2157919
    Hikin’ Jim
    BPL Member

    @hikin_jim

    Locale: Orange County, CA, USA

    Maybe. I mean you do gain an advantage from elevation in terms of how cold you can operate your stove, but the colder it gets, the less pressure there is for the same distance above the boiling point — at least that's my understanding. Maybe Roger or Stuart will jump in and edify us.

    Let me give an example. Say you've got 100% butane fuel (you wouldn't want to actually do this, but let's keep the example simple). Your fuel's boiling point is 31F at sea level where you are. The outside temperature is 41F, therefore you are 10 Fahrenheit degrees above the boiling point of your fuel. Let's say that gives you 8 psig of pressure inside your canister.

    Now, let's say you're at 10,000 feet elevation. The boiling point of your fuel will drop by roughly 1.6 Fahrenheit degrees per 1,000 feet, so your boiling point is now 15F. Let's say the outside temperature is 25F, so you're exactly the same distance above the boiling point (10 Fahrenheit degrees). Will you still have 8 psig of pressure in your canister? My understanding is that you will not. The pressure will be less due to the cold even though you've remained a constant 10 Fahrenheit degrees above the boiling point. Your pressure is now something like 5 psig (very very rough guesstimate).

    In order to have the same pressure in colder temperatures, you have to be a greater number of degrees above the boiling point of the fuel. The internal pressure of the canister and the boiling point do not change at the same rate.

    This is why I've made my adjustment more conservative, a 1 Fahrenheit degree adjustment per 1,000 feet of elevation gain. That's about 0.5 Celsius degrees per 300 meters of gain. It's really the pressure we're after, not the boiling point.

    HJ
    Adventures in Stoving
    Hikin Jim's Blog

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