Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or not? Supplement 1: The MSR Reactor


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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or not? Supplement 1: The MSR Reactor on 04/29/2008 21:44:20 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or not? Supplement 1: The MSR Reactor

George Matthews
(gmatthews) - MLife
Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or not? Supplement 1: The MSR Reactor on 04/30/2008 07:42:47 MDT Print View

I appreciate your vigorous examination of the stove.

This article like the others in your stove series is consistent and thoughtful.

World class!

Lennox Nichols
(blue_grendel) - F
Interesting problem on 04/30/2008 12:27:42 MDT Print View

Interesting problem for a product from a company with "Safety" in their name. Or does "MSR" stand for something different than Mountain Safety Research these days?

Rick Hockersmith
(rickcea) - F
Adding post to: "Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or not? Supplement 1: The MSR Reactor" on 04/30/2008 16:12:48 MDT Print View

I have one of these stoves and love it.
Replaces a 30 year old [and still functioning] Coleman Peak 1,
large fuel tank / no legs.

I have used in in the house to make tea.
Used this winter [ temp to 20F ] and worked fine.

My gasoline stove used 30g fuel to boil 1L
the Reactor used 10g for 1L boil.

Old system 2857g, new system 1305g.
Down-side: impossible to fry anything on MRS.

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or not? Supplement 1: The MSR Reactor on 05/02/2008 12:05:56 MDT Print View

Sterling job Roger!
Yesterday I visited Feathered Friends here in Seattle to see if the Snow Peak Lite Max was on the shelves yet; it was not. In fact, the only line they carry is MSR, so naturally the two sales persons who greeted me immediately and proudly produced the Reactor as the best thing to ever hit the trails. I agreed with them that it was a fine piece of work and would probably be great for large groups, but for me I was more interested in weight (the Lite Max is 1.9 oz) than fast boil time. I went on to describe the evaluation you had conducted on the Reactor and the subsequent design changes by the manufaturer. Their contenence fell and looked at the Reactor with less reverence, but were genuinely interested in finding out more about BPL and this article. They also said they would have some questions for the MSR rep next week.

Thanks for your good work alerting folks to the CO danger as it is underrated by most. Winter before last about 30 people died from CO poisoning in Seattle, so it is a very real danger.

Edited by TarasBulba on 05/05/2008 23:16:27 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or not? Supplement 1: The MSR Reactor on 05/02/2008 16:03:55 MDT Print View

hi Monty

> Thanks for your good work alerting folks to the CO danger as it is underrated by most. Winter before last about 30 people died from CO poisoning in Seattle, so it is a very real danger.

Would you have a reference for this I can consult?

Cheers
Roger Caffin
roger@backpackinglight.com

Joshua Gilbert
(joshcgil2) - F

Locale: Seattle
MSR Reactor/ Seattle CO2 poisoning on 05/02/2008 16:11:22 MDT Print View

Roger,
We had a big windstorm two winters back, and power was knocked out for up to 10 days in some places.

The people who died from CO2 poisoning were running generators or burning charcoal in their houses or apartments. Check out the Seattle Post intelligencer archive for more info.
Cheers

Daniel Goldenberg
(dag4643)

Locale: Pacific Northwet
Re: Re: Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or not? Supplement 1: The MSR Reactor on 05/02/2008 16:12:44 MDT Print View

Hi Roger,

I live in Seattle, and every winter it seems you read about these deaths. Last winter (2006-2007) was especially bad from my memory. Here is one example:

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/296438_power19.html

Typically, these deaths are caused in the winter when there are power shortages. Some people will attempt to heat their homes with a charcoal or gas grill. Sometimes, like in the article above, someone will run an internal combustion gas generator and place it in their garage, which is often attached to the house. The family goes to sleep and doesn't wake up.

Great articles by the way.

Dan

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
re CO deaths on 05/02/2008 16:44:06 MDT Print View

Hi Joshua and Daniel

Thanks.
Um, yes, charcoal grills inside the house ...
And cars in the basement.
Sigh. Very sad.
Darwin awards.

Cheers

August Hahn
(august) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
MSR Reactor on 05/03/2008 12:24:06 MDT Print View

A long time ago I had the old MSR tripod stove and had a constant proplem with dirt getting on the pump post it was like a dirt magnet !so I got a refund and swore never to use a pump stove again or any type of fossil fuel stove.!
I have tryed many stoves and thankful when the new ul alchol stoves very Bio! came out and have been in love with them ever since.As to MSR I think all they care about is their stock holders and bottom line and with every new wiz bang contraption they get further away from what really is important with being outdoors,Ease and simplisity are not one of their strong points.I also have used many types of fancy water filters and they are all junk !And one more grip I have is about REI who are closly related to MSR thier catologs used to facinate me but since The CEO of Sears Took over they just one more Gugi store very sad !I am so thankful for BPL and the new ul revolution.

Thomas Richman
(thomasrichman) - F
notes from the field on 05/06/2008 09:43:41 MDT Print View

Thanks for the great reporting on this stove. Just wanted to add my own experience with the stove:

The first time I used it in the field was on a 10-day snowshoe trip in Yellowstone over Christmas last year. Average daily high was 15ºF and the coldest morning was -13ºF. We planned to use the stove only for boiling water and melting snow; we wanted to avoid having to clean food out of the pot in sub-freezing temps. The Reactor performed flawlessly and we often found the water boiling before we were even ready to use it.

A side note on the iso-butane canisters in cold weather: our technique was to place the stove in a small depression in packed snow and add water around the base of the canister. We would occasionally add warm water to the bowl and this kept the canister working perfectly.

I just finished a month of guiding 5 backpacking trips in the Grand Canyon for groups of 7-11 people. We brought the Reactor along just to see how it would work in this situation and with our meal plans. The main meals were prepared in big aluminum pots on MSR WhisperLite stoves. The Reactor was used only for heating/boiling water for coffee/tea/hot chocolate/oatmeal. The other guide and I were skeptical at first that the Reactor would be worth its pack weight, but it soon became a star. It took less than 60 seconds to heat water for our clients and their seemingly constant demand for hot beverages. We'll be using it on all our trips in the Grand Canyon this fall.

Looking forward to the future improvements to the stove!

Tom

Chad Miller
(chadnsc)

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Re: Interesting problem on 05/06/2008 12:02:13 MDT Print View

blue_grendel wrote:
"Interesting problem for a product from a company with "Safety" in their name. Or does "MSR" stand for something different than Mountain Safety Research these days?"

Oh my god, you mean stoves produce Carbon Monoxide?! Oh what ever will we do?

Oh, wait a minute, if I try and apply some common sense . . .Hmmm, you know this whole issue of Carbon Monoxide could be circumvented if I didn't seal myself inside my highly flammable ultralight tent and then fired up my stove.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: notes from the field on 05/06/2008 18:57:45 MDT Print View

Hi Tom

> A side note on the iso-butane canisters in cold weather: our technique was to place the stove in a small depression in packed snow and add water around the base of the canister. We would occasionally add warm water to the bowl and this kept the canister working perfectly.

Yes, this technique works very well, and does not seem to be as widely known as it should. Beware of using HOT water though - nothing you can't put your hand in.

In fact, this technique works quite well with any upright canister stove. If you use a conventional upright the radiation from the flames inside a windshield can, with care, keep the canister warm too. Don't forget the touch test though.

The only problem is first thing in the morning when it is -10 C and you haven't kept any water in your sleeping bag overnight - and what you have is all frozen. Then you have a problem!

René Enguehard
(ahugenerd) - MLife

Locale: Newfoundland
Is it a purchase factor? on 06/26/2008 06:37:51 MDT Print View

My question, after the slew of well written articles describing CO problems, will people really care? I guess what I'm asking is do people see CO production levels as a significant factor in determining which stove they want to buy/use?

For instance, if a stove was incredibly light weight but also produced more CO, would that be an acceptable trade-off? Most, if not all, stoves produce some measurable amount of CO as a product of combustion, so is it really that big of a deal if one stove spews out more than another?

Didier Mottay
(Ith) - F
Re: Re: notes from the field on 04/19/2009 11:24:08 MDT Print View

Hi Roger,

This is my first message here and because I am from Pyrenées : apologize for my english...

About your problem and because I had to deal often in cold weather with "bleuet" in the past (camping gaz stove with butan canister only): you could make a small hole in mud or snow and use a small piece of plastic bag around the bottom of your canister so the water could not escape.

In the morning : if you have no water left....perharps a small pee?

Edited by Ith on 04/19/2009 11:42:00 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: notes from the field on 04/19/2009 15:06:18 MDT Print View

Hi Didier and welcome

My wife and I love the Pyrenées - we have done the full length of both the GR10 and the GR11.

Yes, the plastic bag would work. Your method of warming up the canister in the morning - :-) I guess it would work fine!

Cheers

Kai Larson
(KaiLarson) - F
Melting Snow on 05/10/2010 13:36:19 MDT Print View

Quoting the article:

"I am left uncertain what market really suits this stove. It is a nice technology, but is of what value to walkers?"


The market for this stove is people who have to melt snow for water. For backcountry skiing, and especially climbing, it works very well. There isn't anything else I know of that even comes close to the Reactor's performance for snow melting.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: Melting Snow on 05/10/2010 16:22:27 MDT Print View

EDITED-

Re: Melting Snow-
I think the big issue though is even with a good pressure regulator, isobutane doesn't vaporize below about 12F at sea level. Propane does, but at cold temps it will mostly get used up first leaving you with a 2/3 full canister that won't work in the cold. The canister cools as it goes, so even 30F air temp is likely to result in a sub-15F stove.

The question that I want answered is how the performance changes at 3,000 meters or 10,000 feet elevation. At an atmospheric pressure 70% of sea level it seems the Isobutane boiling point would drop to about 0F.

Edited by jimqpublic on 05/10/2010 16:49:12 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Melting Snow on 05/10/2010 19:45:36 MDT Print View

The Reactor melts snow like a bomb - until the canister freezes. IF you can reliably keep the canister above freezing point then yes, it is fine. But doing that safely requires a bit of skill and knowledge. You may have that, but I cannot assume that.

Now, Jim's question about operation at 3,000 m or when the pressure has dropped to 70% of atmospheric. Good one.
Gas pressure Curves in the cold
This is a plot of the pressure of various gases and canisters down to -35 C. Note especially the horizontal black dashed line. That is 1 atm or 14 psi. Below that is the 10 psi line - this is about 0.7 atm.

The BP for n-butane drops to about -10 C and for iso-butane to about -22 C. Hum - getting interesting.

The static pressure for something as low-performance as a Coleman canister drops to about -33 C (the curve is under the ones for MSR and Snow Peak). To be sure, if you are evaporating gas off the canister it will be cooling, but if you can keep the canister above -10 C the butane will still be boiling away.

So ... yes, at high altitude things actually get easier!
If you want to melt snow with a Reactor at high altitude, sit the canister in a bowl of cold but not frozen water. It will work. (Actually, that works at sea level too.)

Cheers

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Melting Snow on 05/10/2010 19:57:26 MDT Print View

Roger, in your chart legend, you list the various fuels and their percentage makeup. I know that Butane and Propane are used, but what is the third gas?

This shows the reason why butane stoves have been used for decades on Mount Everest. Even though it gets terribly cold up there, the atmospheric pressure gets to about one-third of sea level, so butane stoves still work.

--B.G.--