- Dec 22, 2017 at 6:03 pm #3508822
OK, so the XL-3 plot thickens. They say that if life hands you some lemons, you should make lemonade. Similarly, when it hands you some tomatoes, then you make a bloody mary. In my case, life just handed me 2″ of cold, dry snow and a 32* F day. So this would be the time to test the XL-3’s ability to melt snow to fill up a 2-quart juice bottle. I knew that it would take quite a bit of alcohol to melt that much snow, so the XL-3’s 3 fl oz capacity would be the best one to use. I used my MYOG caldera ‘clone’ and a MSR Titan kettle. There was little to no breeze, and the snow and the air were both 32* F.
A little background info here. A year ago I did the same test with a Jetboil pot and a BRS-3000T stove. The ambient air was about the same – right at, or slightly above, freezing. No breeze. It took 22 grams of canister fuel to melt the snow to get 2 quarts of water, and the time to do so was right at 20 minutes. The fuel consumption was just a slight increase over the 5 grams/2 cups to raise the water temperature from `45* F to boiling (which is 202* F here at my elevation of 5440′). A general rule is that it takes about the same amount of fuel to melt snow as it does to bring the water to a boil. There of course are a few variables that can alter the performance, such as ambient temperature, wind, and starting water temperature, as well as all the other factors we have discussed in the past. The 5.5 gm/2 cups to melt the snow is close enough.
Now, the XL-3. I placed 2 fl oz into the stove, hoping that it would give me maybe 30 minutes of burn time. This stove is a slow burner, and it seems to put out less heat than the Starlyte or various other alcohol stoves I’ve had experience with. I figured that a slower burn could prolong the burn time, giving me enough time to melt 2 quarts worth of snow. It turned out that it did, as flame-out was about 45 minutes – wowzers! The trouble was that it took that long to melt the proper amount of snow. Just barely.
What I learned from this little test was that, no, an alcohol stove probably isn’t appropriate for melting snow. At least not one that burns as slowly as the XL-3. The key to the XL-3 is the volume of alcohol that it holds – one would certainly need a stove that will hold 2 to 3 fl oz of alcohol. I suppose that I could make one from a bigger can, with a larger opening for the flame. But really, why would I bother? I can already see that alcohol, and Esbit by extension, is not up to the task of melting snow. The only technique besides a canister stove would be a campfire, where one could melt snow in a real hurry if the pot was big enough (that sounds like truck camping to me, or maybe a dog sled or a pulk).
The other consideration is that the Jetboil consumed 22 gm of canister fuel (.776 oz), whereas the XL-3 consumed 1.6 oz of carried fuel weight (at a density of .798), about twice the carried fuel weight. Another factor to consider is the alcohol stove is more sensitive to cold temperatures, which can’t be mitigated. With a canister stove one can simply employ one of the fuel warming techniques.
This exercise was all in the interest of (pseudo) science, you understand. And also to help pass the time on a cold wintry afternoon.Dec 22, 2017 at 6:25 pm #3508825
Ethan A.BPL Member
@mountainwalkerLocale: SF Bay Area & New England
Gary thank you for taking the time and sharing. Alcohol certainly is very slow melting snow. Despite this Justin Lichter used alcohol with a Ti Tri Sidewinder and 1.3L Evernew Ti Pot for his winter PCT trip, simply noting in his gear list that it’s slow to melt snow.Dec 22, 2017 at 9:10 pm #3508844
Thanks, Ethan. Justin’s experience seems to validate my findings.
So my current advice for melting snow (and Bob Moulder already knows this) is to use the 1.8 L. Jetboil Sumo pot. My JB MiniMo pot is too small a volume to comfortably melt snow. In last winter’s test I was having to constantly be adding snow to the pot. The problem with the Sumo is that it is tall in addition to being wide. This potential instability requires one to use the stock burner, and maybe an 8 oz canister with the stabilizer legs. So it adds weight to the setup. Rather than getting by with the 1 oz BRS-3000T stove, you’d need to use the stock JB burner (4.6 oz), or the original Sol burner (3.7 oz) if you can still find one somewhere.Dec 23, 2017 at 2:28 am #3508899
Don’t believe everything Gary Dunckle tells you. The XL 3 has a fuel capacity of 3 fluid ounces of fuel.
The Mega Starlyte aka Companion Burner was designed to hold 4 fluid ounces of fuel for melting snow.
Again I say, don’t believe what Gary Dunckle says.Dec 23, 2017 at 3:02 pm #3508947
Dan, I corrected my brain lock typo – the XL-3 will indeed hold 3.0 fl oz of fuel, but I only needed to put 2.0 oz in it. I don’t know who that guy Dunckle is, but I agree that he can’t be trusted. Gary Dunckel, on the other hand, tries to be accurate and honest.Dec 23, 2017 at 8:07 pm #3509017
Gary Dunckel, on the other hand, tries to be accurate and honest.
I knew that it would take quite a bit of alcohol to melt that much snow, so the XL-3’s 3 fl oz capacity would be the best one to use. Now, the XL-3. I placed 2 fl oz into the stove, hoping that it would give me maybe 30 minutes of burn time.
Ok, we’ll give you another chance…
Why did Gary Dunckel not give the XL-3 a fair chance by only putting in 2 ounces when he knew it held 3 ounces?Dec 23, 2017 at 11:12 pm #3509046
To save fuel, perhaps? When I was doing other tests of the XL-3 to see what else it could do, I found that 1.0 oz would burn for about 15 minutes. When I placed a simmer ring to slow the boil down for simmering, it lasted maybe 18 minutes. So I decided that I would use 2.0 fl oz for the snow melting, thinking that I would probably have ~ 35 minutes of burn time. It turned out that the simmer ring really hampered the ability to melt snow, so after just a few minutes I removed it. I still got 45 minutes of burn time somehow, which surprised me. I am assuming that the 32* F temperature somehow slowed down the burn. 3.0 oz would have given me an hour’s worth of burn probably, but that’s purely academic. There’s no way that I’d want to spend an hour to melt snow for the evening. You joked that I’m in the fast lane regarding stove boils, but in the winter I think that is a good thing – faster water is mo’ better.
The other observation that is steering me away from considering alcohol as a snow melting fuel was that it took twice the carried weight of fuel compared to canister fuel to obtain the 2 quarts of water. When factoring in the canister weight (and that of the alcohol bottle), after melting 1.5 gallons of snow water it would break even. And…using canister fuel is much faster.
But it was fun to find this out by actually testing it.Dec 25, 2017 at 6:22 pm #3509392
As the plot thickens we find that the best way to melt snow with alcohol is with the Mega StarlyteDec 25, 2017 at 8:03 pm #3509403
Plot thickening is a good thing, Dan. For my part though, I’m a bit bored with this alcohol-to-melt-snow thing, now that I’ve learned how much fuel weight it takes and the pokey way that it does the job.
I did a calculation, since I had all the numbers handy and the bowl game was too stupid to watch. It appears that a full 110 gm fuel canister (4 oz net weight) would melt 2.5 gallons of water worth of snow, and it would take 1 hour 40 minutes. The total weight of the canister, BRS-3000T stove, and a Moulder Strip and canister cozy would be 10.5 oz. The XL-3 with 9 oz of alcohol (10 fl oz) + a fuel bottle (1.5 oz) would melt that same amount of snow, at the same carried weight, but it would take 3 hours 45 minutes to do so. Ouch – that’s not how I want to spend my time in camp during the winter.
Alcohol stoves do have their place, for sure. But for me, it wont be for melting snow while winter camping in the cold.
edit: Oh, and Merry Christmas, Dan!Dec 25, 2017 at 11:00 pm #3509426
I’m glad snow melting was introduced in this thread by Gary. He is definitely a canister person and wants his water “fast”
Wood is my “goto” fuel. When it’s not available I will use alcohol, I like quiet :-) Just think of the weight savings if you use wood.
Someone on Whiteblaze.net asked me to design a Starlyte type burner that would hold enough fuel to melt snow when dry wood was not available during the winter season and so the Companion Burner AKA Mega Starlyte came into being. It works well, has the “no spill” feature that’s well accepted out west where there a fire bans in place. Lights easily in frigid temperature.Mar 4, 2018 at 12:53 am #3522166
Here’s someone that likes the XL3Apr 29, 2018 at 2:39 pm #3532801
Dry baking with the XL3
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