Most reliable and field serviceable gasoline stove?
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May 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm #1982311
If I look in my stove warehouse, I see about six or seven MSR XGK stoves of various vintages. It is about the most easily field-maintained stove that I have ever been around. Plus, you can always find some kind of fuel that it will burn no matter what country you are in.
The most maintenance that I have had to do in the field amounted to re-greasing the pump leather using Chapstick.
–B.G.–May 1, 2013 at 1:33 pm #1982313
The XGK has two modes of burning: high and blowtorch. Once you've practiced with it for a while, you learn how to lower the high setting by using low pressure. You won't get a low simmer, but you can cook food without burning. Also, if you need to lower the heat even more, you place an ordinary steel can lid over the center of the burner, on top of the pot supports. That spreads the flame.
–B.G.–May 1, 2013 at 3:03 pm #1982338
I decided to go for the Primus OmniLite Ti. Moontrail had it for $150, I added the $20 maintenance kit, and next day shipping for (gasp) $50 since I have things I need to cook that will go bad, and otherwise I would be spending $15 a day on eating out.
I still think the metal pump is better in the long run.
People have had the OmniFuel for years with no problem.
Includes a fuel bottle.
The pot stands are a bit narrower so better for boiling water in metal cups.
Simmers naturally. No need for workarounds.
Flexible hose – this may actually turn out to be a detriment, I don't know yet.May 1, 2013 at 4:53 pm #1982368James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Yeah, the heat output is not real great. For fuel efficiency, it is ideal. You can turn it down to about 700-1000BTU, depending on fuel and tuning. It gets about 13L per 4oz tankfull on low, maybe a bit more, depending on starting temp. Other stoves burn much hotter. On high, you only get about 8-9L. A 12oz PET bottle will go about two weeks at my usage and weighs about 10oz, including a second cap for filling. DO NOT try to put auto-fuel in a PET bottle though. They get quite brittle. For two people, it takes a 16oz bottle(~12oz in weight.)May 2, 2013 at 10:19 am #1982551robert van puttenMember
@bawanaLocale: Planet Bob
Heh, maybe the Svea and 8R has less heat output on paper –
But if that is so then why is it that in Chip Rawlins exhaustive “Cruel world stove tests” published in Colin Fletchers “The Complete Walker IV” , out of quite a pile of stoves that were tested, the single solitary stove that performed as it is advertised to do was the little ‘ol Svea?
Every single other stove tested – Including the mighty MSR XGK – Failed to live up to its published specifications for boil times.
And as James pointed out, they are frugal little beasties when turned down, which makes cooking real meals with real ingredients while out in the field a real possibility.
I know my old 8R is a heavy dinosaur, but I simply love being able to just plop it on the ground, open it up and light it. After fiddling with MSR stoves for decades, having to assemble them before every use and disassemble them afterwards, and having to worry about pump leathers and cracked fuel lines and plastic pumps and clogged jets, I truly appreciate the simplicity of the old wick fed Optimus stoves. And alcohol stoves for that matter, with no moving parts, especially for short ultralight trips where I’m just heating water.
Am I a fossil clinging to ancient rites and techniques? Yeah, probably. But on my thru hike attempt of the AT next year, it will probably be a Svea in my backpack, so I can go to any supermarket, buy real food and cook up heaping amounts of decent hot food for my wife and I, with no concern at all for fuel availability or the reliability of my little brass stoveMay 2, 2013 at 10:23 am #1982553
If you do not need a real blowtorch, then the XGK may be overkill.
I don't carry one unless I am either doing a lot of cooking for a group, or if it is a winter trip and I need to do a lot of snow melting.
–B.G.–May 2, 2013 at 12:16 pm #1982578
Many stoves are sold with the claimed ability to burn different fuels, but not all fuels are created equal.
White gasoline, kerosene, and canister gas are the best fuels for a petroleum type stove, period. You can get by sometimes with aviation gasoline, jet fuel, and automotive gasoline, but they should always be a second choice and they may shorten the life of the generator of the stove and will require more cleaning/maintenance. Diesel is never a good choice, no matter what the directions on a stove say. Fuel oil and home heating oil are equally bad. "Bunker" fuel (used for ships) should be avoided at all costs; it's even worse than diesel. Eat your supper cold before considering the use of bunker fuel.
Kerosene is typically the internationally available fuel. Bring some coffee filters and filter what fuel you buy through a coffee filter, and you'll avoid a lot of grief that way as you put it into your fuel bottle.
Fuel names vary by region. Kerosene isn't always called kerosene. In some parts of the English speaking world, it's called paraffin. Outside English speaking countries, the sky's the limit. The best, most current international fuel names list that I know if is maintained by Doron Papo and can be found at: International Fuel Names.
Specific Stove Recommmendations
OK, so above, you have my general thoughts about fuel types. Let's talk specific stoves.
As much as I like the Svea 123R, I don't think it's a good choice for international travel. It runs best on white gasoline which is not readily available world wide. Yes, you can run it on automotive gasoline, but the stove will clog more often. The Svea 123R is definitely a better choice than an Optimus 8R, Primus 71, Optimus 80, or Optimus 99. The Svea 123R is still in production; those other stoves in the same class are not. There's a reason for that. A Svea 123R wouldn't be a bad choice, but it cannot run on kerosene.
The MSR Dragonfly has an inline filter at the tip of the fuel line. This filter can clog easily on dirty fuels. Not a problem in 1st world countries, but I wouldn't take it to a 3rd world country. It's a more sensitive stove than some of the others.
The MSR XGK is a very robust stove and will burn just about anything. It doesn't as you point out simmer well. You can bring a simmer plate for it.
The MSR Whisperlite Universal will simmer. It takes some fiddling, but it will simmer, and it will simmer far better than something like a Soto Muka. You have to have low pressure in the fuel bottle (1/5th the normal number of pumps) and the bottle needs to be half empty. The jet is pretty easy to change on a Universal, and the Universal will burn canister gas, which is nice where available. Of course the Universal can only use threaded canisters. In many parts of the world, only puncture type canisters are available. In other parts of the world valved canisters will be available, but they'll be the non-threaded kind (Camping Gaz).
The Primus Omnifuel and Omnilite are very nice stoves. They have an advantage with canister gas in that they do not need a fitting change to burn canister gas vs. liquid fuel where as a Whisperlite Universal does. They are excellent simmering stoves. They're a little more complex than a Universal, and they will perhaps require a bit more maintenance. Either would be a good choice, the Omnilite is lighter and better for 1 to 3 persons. For more than 3, perhaps the Omnifuel is a good choice.
The Optimus Nova has had a lot of quality control problems as of late. Supposedly they are fixed now, but…
There's my take on the various stoves. A lot will depend on which countries you're going to and what cooking capabilities you want to have. An XGK might well be the most robust of the above lot, but it's not really a cook's stove. It's a water boiler and snow melter. It was originally designed by a mountaineer for mountaineering.
I definitely would not take a Dragonfly to a 3rd world country. Just too sensitive.
Maybe the Nova if they're really fixed the quality control problems.
That leaves the Universal or the Omnifuel/Omnilite. The Omnilite is the lightest of the bunch. If the price doesn't scare you, it's a nice stove. The Universal is cheaper and simpler. The Universal also has a cable down the fuel line. If deposits build up from using things like automotive gasoline, you can use the cable and a pair of pliers to scour out the generator and fuel line. The Omnifuel/Omnilite is a much better simmering stove (easy, can be done on a nearly full bottle, total control). The Universal can be made to simmer, but it takes some knowledge and some fiddling around.
There's my take. Hope that helps,May 2, 2013 at 12:28 pm #1982584Zorg ZumoMember
I guess I don't see what the problem with diesel would be. Do you have some bad experience with it you could share?May 2, 2013 at 12:31 pm #1982586
I decided to go for the Primus OmniLite Ti. Moontrail had it for $150, I added the $20 maintenance kit…
Good choice. Do however see my fuel recommendations, above.
Includes a fuel bottle.
The included one is kind of small. You might want to make provisions for carrying more fuel. Plastic PET water bottles can be used to hold fuel. I've stored fuel in them for a month with no problems. You want to avoid ones with a gasket in the lid. The gaskets typically are not fuel resistant. Single piece lids usually work best.
Flexible hose – this may actually turn out to be a detriment, I don't know yet.
No worries. It's a good thing. Packs up well. Of course be smart and keep the fuel away from the flame (except maybe with canister gas in very cold weather), but the flexible fuel line is great. The inflexible fuel line on a W'lite Universal is something that really bugs me and in certain cases can actually be a safety hazard (with a 450g gas canister for example).May 2, 2013 at 12:42 pm #1982591
I guess I don't see what the problem with diesel would be. Do you have some bad experience with it you could share?
It just generally burns very dirty with a lot of soot which leads to clogging problems. Of course, at least in the US, there are different grades of diesel. Diesel #2 is what is usually sold for motor vehicles. Diesel #2 is what I'm thinking of that burns very dirty. In colder climates, Diesel #1 is available. Diesel #1 is cleaner burning and should work about the same as kerosene from what I've read. I haven't tried it.
Caveat: I'm not a petroleum engineer. :)May 2, 2013 at 3:55 pm #1982667
Thank you for all the tips!
One questions about the Omnilite – the reason I said I wasn't sure about the flexible fuel line is because more flexible generally means thinner, and thinner can mean easier to clog and harder to clean.
Take the Soto Muka for instance – SUPER flexible cord. Thin. But when a grain of grit gets inside, you are completely, utterly, irreparably screwed. There is no fixing it in the field.
The MSR hoses are thicker, and after examining them I feel that they are more tolerant of grit and would be easier to clean.
I haven't seen the Omnilite so I'm really crossing my fingers that the hose is both flexible AND easy to clean if it clogs with something.May 3, 2013 at 9:46 am #1982870
The best policy of course is to a) filter all fuel as you put it in your stove's bottle and to b) keep grit out of the stove, but clogs in the fuel line can happen. Flushing with fuel is about the only thing I can think of for most stoves.
MSR liquid fuel stoves (except the Dragonfly) have a cable that can be pushed/pulled so as to scour the fuel line generator. You still have to flush (a lot) because pulling the cable can break loose a lot of scale and such.
Clogs at the jet are the most common, so that's actually what you want to focus on in terms of being able to clear a clog on a stove.May 3, 2013 at 2:33 pm #1982955
I just tried my OmniLite for the first time. I used auto gas for the first try since that's all I had at the time. I cook with a 2.7L GSI Halulite Pressure Cooker. The Soto Muka had no problem bringing it up to pressure in a jiffy and keeping it at pressure.
With the OmniLite, I waited for 20 minutes. Still no steam hissing sound. At first I thought that the cooker was the problem, so I re-adjusted the lid, checked all the valves, etc. Then finally after 40 minutes I heard the hissing sound, but unlike with the Muka where I turn down the flame and the hissing sound would be consistent for the next 20 minutes of cooking, even with the OmniLite on full blast the hissing could barely be maintained.
I'm going to try again with Coleman Fuel. The Muka puts out 15,000 BTU and cooks fine on auto gas. The OmniLite does 8,500 BTU. I'm not sure if this is enough for pressure cooking.May 3, 2013 at 3:22 pm #1982971Roger CaffinBPL Member
@rcaffinLocale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
No denying the XGK is one tough rugged stove.
It is reportedly dual use as well: it can be used to hammer tent stakes in.
CheersMay 3, 2013 at 3:23 pm #1982972
That seems strange that an OmniLite wouldn't be able to power a pressure cooker at home, but I'm not familiar with that pressure cooker (never tried one for backpacking).
Have you tried boiling water in a regular pot and comparing the times? The OmniLite is a less powerful stove, but 20 minutes? And then 40 minutes? That's crazy. Something's off here.
I guess you have to try it on white gas and also with a regular pot and get a feel for what it's doing. The pressure cooker should just be driven by steam. How much water were you using?
Mine puts out a decent amount of heat (note: mine has been modified with an after market silencer from QuietStove.com)
May 3, 2013 at 3:33 pm #1982976
"It is reportedly dual use as well: it can be used to hammer tent stakes in."
It is totally unsatisfactory when used to hammer railroad spikes in. I should take mine back to REI to get a refund.
I saw one guy try to use a full aluminum Sigg fuel bottle to hammer in a tent stake. You can just imagine how that ended up.
–B.G.–May 3, 2013 at 3:57 pm #1982979robert van puttenMember
@bawanaLocale: Planet Bob
I wish you'd mentioned you use a large pressure cooker from the beginning!
It doubles my recommendation of an MSR XGK.May 3, 2013 at 4:10 pm #1982981James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
8500BTU is a LOT of heat. As I said, octane boosters in auto gas slow the burning down. In a car, this prevents "knocking" from predetonation. In a stove, this means it burns slower. It probably was not up to spec with auto-gas. I believe the Muka will have the same problem, but less noticable because of the initial power.May 3, 2013 at 5:36 pm #1983005
It's not a very large pressure cooked – it's tiny in fact when you consider that I can only use about half of the 2.7L volume for cooking.
However, I didn't think that it would be a problem. And pressure cookers still need to simmer. I can't have an XGK on full blast – it's good for getting it up to pressure, but once at pressure the heat must be turned down to a semi simmer. The Soto Muka was barely able to do it.May 3, 2013 at 5:52 pm #1983008
The Muka was completely unfazed with auto gas. I really like the high output of the Muka and the easy lighting. It would be fine in a tent vestibule because the initial flame during priming isn't 1-2 feet high like the OmniLite's. But I hate that it clogged already from grit, there's no way to maintain / repair it in the field, and some critical parts require complete replacement as part of the natural life of the stove.
Another thing that I didn't like about the OmniLite was that I couldn't get it to light with a firestarter and a knife, the kind that makes lots of sparks. No matter when I did the fuel just wouldn't light. I had to get a match and actually hold the fire up to the OmniLite to prime it. It appears if I'm out in the bush I first have to use my firestarted to get an actual flame going before this stove can work. That's a fantastic thing to think about when it's wet out. I had no problem lighting the Muka with my sparker.
The stove legs could be a lot more sturdy too. They flex quite a bit if the cooking vessel is twisted on top of the stove. The Soto Muka legs are superior in every single way – they rotate into a much more compact, symmetrical package. They are very sturdy and have no issues with heavy pots and twisting. They are just as wide as the OmniLite legs, and they are also close enough as to allow boiling water in small metal cups.May 4, 2013 at 7:18 am #1983096Walter CarringtonBPL Member
Victor, from figures I found online:
typical kitchen stove burner: 7000 BTU/hour ('monster burner'=12000 BTU/hour)
So by the specs your OmniLite should put out more power than a typical kitchen stove.
This should be more than enough to bring a pressure cooker to pressure.
PS I'm pretty sure the Hawkins Classic Pressure Cookers, aluminum, in 1.5L and 2L sizes are lighter than the GSI. If you're interested I can weigh my 1.5L and 2L. I love these things.
May 4, 2013 at 7:31 am #1983101Pete StaehlingBPL Member
I'd be interested in those weights.May 4, 2013 at 7:39 am #1983103
I'd love to see those weights as well. I thought GSI was the only one that made small pressure cookers. I think 2.7L is perfect though – anything less and it's strictly a one-person cooking vessel.
The GSI may be defective. I'm not sure. I actually don't have a household stove top to check it with.May 5, 2013 at 6:10 pm #1983552
The Muka was completely unfazed with auto gas.
It's one of the few. Do note however that you'll have to replace the generator sooner if you use automotive gasoline.
…the initial flame during priming isn't 1-2 feet high like the OmniLite's.
Try priming with alcohol. It's much easier to control the amount, you don't get anywhere near the amount of soot, and the flame is much smaller.May 6, 2013 at 8:13 pm #1983940Walter CarringtonBPL Member
1.5 liter Hawkins Classic pressure cooker = 930 grams = 2 lb 0.8 oz.
I'll have to dig out my 2L to weigh it, but it is only a little heavier.
There are non-structural plastic handles that could be removed that would save a few ounces, but you might need to gloves if the handles get hot. I think if you attacked the metal parts carefully with a grinder or file you might save a little more weight before compromising the structural integrity.
I've never had the Hawkins 3L.
You can sometimes find these in Indian grocery stores. Some of the other brands just don't seem to work as well. Hawkins also makes stainless steel cookers (heavier) of the same design and the Futura, hard anodized aluminum with a thick base (heavier). You want the 'Classic' aluminum. For home use, I've had Presto pressure cookers and another design similar to the GSI and I just like these Hawkins pressure cookers better. I use them frequently at home.
If you ever come across a 1 liter aluminum pressure cooker try to weigh it. I've seen, and lost, a reference to a 1 lb cooker which would be wonderful for me.
The standard is to fill the pressure cooker 2/3 full, so the 1.5 liter will actually cook about 1 liter of volume which should work for 2 people. If you're careful you can go a little fuller than 2/3.
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