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stove to melt snow
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Zeno Martin
(ananda) - F
stove to melt snow on 11/04/2005 22:28:01 MST Print View

I only have two cannister stoves at present, and they only work ok for melting snow. Which stove is the best for this? I'm thinking it's a liquid fuel type. I would use it to melt for two people, say 4-6 liters of water a day. Any recommendations? Thanks!

paul johnson
(pj) - F

Locale: LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
Re: stove to melt snow on 11/05/2005 02:34:05 MST Print View

generally, that's the ans.(viz. liquid fuel - white gas, kerosene) that's given. however, John Austin aka Tinny over at MiniBullDesigns might have an UL Alc. stove that would siffice for this purpose.

Craig Shelley
(craig_shelley) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
MSR Simmerlite on 11/05/2005 10:17:52 MST Print View

I don't really have experience with this in practice but I do have the same need. I backpack in the desert during the winter. Last year I managed to get by going on just overnight trips without melting snow and storing the water in my sleeping bag.

I decided it would probably be best to use a white gas stove to melt snow for longer trips. I chose the MSR Simmerlite mainly because of weight. The stove with bag and windscreen is 345g. Just the stove is 245g. MSR Fuel bottles weigh 96g for 11oz and 211g for 33oz (both empty of course).

Last winter I kept an isobutane cylinder in my sleeping bag at night and didn't have any problem using it in below 20 deg F weather at about 5000 to 7000 feet elevation.


larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
Re: MSR Simmerlite on 11/05/2005 11:08:58 MST Print View

When it comes to snow melting for a few extra ounces the xgk is king,it is so much better to share your bag with your significant other then a couple of cannisters..This would be my choice for above timberline,at altitude snow melting.It is often possible to dip for water from creeks and rivers in the winter,except for Craig's desert locale,which saves fuel.You can also use the xgk to weld,thaw pipes,or an emergency statue of liberty.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: MSR Simmerlite on 11/05/2005 13:15:02 MST Print View

This may make your decision harder, but here goes:

Most folks instinctively rate the Simmerlight (or similar pressurized white gas stoves) as superior for heavy duty uses such as snow melting and, as L. Savage says, welding, thawing pipes, etc.

Caviat: Snow melting requires flame control. You have to be able to keep the flame down (close to simmer) to avoid burning the pot out. A stove that won't simmer is out, regardless of its heat output.

Just because everyone says it don't mean it's true.

A cannister stove is about twice as efficient as the Simmerlight per ounce of fuel, and WAY better for base weight. All things being equal, it is usually better to go with what you know.

However, the care and feeding of cannister stoves is trickier in cold weather. IF you keep the cannister reasonably warm, a cannister stove will work until temps hit the teens. (Adepts may be able to make them work in colder conditions. I wouldn't know.)

That's a big if. You have to use tricks such as sleeping with the can, parking it inside your jacket for the last mile or two before you use it, using an insulated base and using a proper wind screen. See other discussions on the BPL site for information on wind screens for cannister stoves. You have to avoid overheating the cannister - which is easy to do with a poorly designed or improperly deployed windscreen.

Don't be shy about trying alcohol. The Trangia sytem is the original snow-melting machine for alpine mountaineers since the 1920s. I'm talking about the Trangia system: an alcohol burner used with the Trangia pot/lid/lifter/support/windscreen set (about $70). It will simmer, and it will ALWAYS work in awful conditions. That's what it's for - melting snow then the going is rough.

With one pot, the Trangia weighs 23 ounces (with the pot lid). That is an ounce lighter than the Simmerlight (8.5 oz. burner and pump + 2.7 oz. for the eleven-oz. fuel bottle) when you count the things the Trangia comes with and the Simmerlight does not: a not-too-light, snow-melting pot, lid (.5 oz foil although I did not subtract the Trangia lid), pot lifter (1.25 oz MSR), windscreens (1.5 oz), stove base (Trillium 2.25 oz) and repair kit (2oz)for a total of 26+ oz. The weight adds up like the cost - $160-170 for the Simmerlight stove and all its accoutrements, not counting the pot.

NOTE: Snow melting is hard on pots. Super lightweight pots require super care, good technique and some luck.

Of course, you need more weight in alcohol to melt the same amount of snow.

If you are consistently below 25F pure methanol lights better than ethanol in any alcohol burner. The original Trangia directions called for methanol at altitude and in snow. They knew what they were talking about.

In subfreezing weather, I use a little twist of fiberglass as a wick in the well to facilitate lighting the Trangia or any other open-well alcohol burner.

Edited by vickrhines on 11/05/2005 13:17:54 MST.

William Siemens
(alaskaman) - F
stove to melt snow on 11/05/2005 15:08:05 MST Print View

Good points, Vick, about the simmerlite vs canister stoves...I would respectfully suggest, though, that the Coleman Xtreme or Xponents are the only way to go for coldweather canister stoves. Bill

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: stove to melt snow on 11/05/2005 16:32:24 MST Print View

William S,
You may be right; I haven't used the Colemans. If they have the other advantages of cannister stoves with reliable cold weather performance, one suspects they would be heads and shoulders above either pressurized white gas or alcohol.

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
stove to melt snow on 11/05/2005 17:56:05 MST Print View


As I recall the 3 Coleman Exponent Stoves are the only Liquid Feed Gas stoves. The Xtreme (have yet to use mine, but will this winter)which most of us use for cold weather (including melting snow) weighs about 11 oz and has a rating of 14,000 BTU. You can read Roger Caffin's BPL review of this stove and the MSR Simmerlite at:


Edited by naturephoto1 on 11/06/2005 07:37:26 MST.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: stove to melt snow on 11/05/2005 21:09:37 MST Print View

Thanks. An insightful review.

Neil Johnstone
(nsjohnstone) - MLife
Propane/butane stoves in the cold on 11/06/2005 01:20:38 MST Print View

Although the Coleman stoves are the only ones specifically designed as liquid feed, any hose-fed stove can be used in this way (providing that they have a generator "pre heater" tube). Just turn the cannister upside down.
Add a rubber band and three rods (Ti pegs work well) and the cannister is held upside down with the control valve easy to get at. The MSR Windpro and Primus Gravity are two examples of currently available stoves that work perfectly like this. Faster and lighter than liquid fuel stoves and with real simmer control.
I'd also second the Trangia solution for really bad conditions. For very cold conditions you can get a preheater that fits below the burner - with this, the Trangia works faster than anything else. The only downside is the weight of alcohol needed for a longer trip.

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
Coleman Xtreme Stove on 11/06/2005 05:56:41 MST Print View

The Coleman Xtreme Stove is mostly made of a Magnesium alloy (quite light and strong for its size and design and support). Mine weighs 11 oz (stuff sack adds 1 additional oz) but other remote canister systems may weigh less. The stove can frequently be purchased as an example from Campmor for about $50.

The Coleman Xtreme Powermax Cannisters are more difficult to find but are frequently available in large Backpacking stores. However, the fuel Cannisters (available in 2 sizes) are made of aluminum instead of the usual steel and therefore weigh less. They are designed to be ruptured with the included green key and crushed for recycling (will take up less space in the pack when crushed).

The special Powermax fuel mixture is designed for colder temperatures. The fuel mixture is supposed to stay about the same through the burn of all the fuel. Also, the Powermax cannisters generally hold more fuel (big advantage for melting snow) and cost less than the usual cannisters of the other remote stoves. The larger Powermax Fuel Cannisters (300 g [10.6 oz of fuel]) weigh 13.9 oz full including the cylinder weight of approximately 3.03 oz. My cost of the larger cannister at the Campmor store was $4.99.

Shipping of any liquified gas fuel cannister (any maker) can be a problem and/or expensive. Cannisters I believe must be shipped ground.


Edited by naturephoto1 on 11/06/2005 06:17:44 MST.

Stephen Parmenter
(parmens) - F - MLife

Locale: OH
Re: Coleman Xtreme Stove fuel canisters on 11/06/2005 08:00:09 MST Print View

Any suggestions on where you can buy the fuel? I can't find any place online that sells them.

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
Coleman Xtreme Stove fuel canisters on 11/06/2005 08:13:43 MST Print View


I think that REI stores carry the Powermax cannisters. If one is in your area, you may want to give them a call. If in NJ, Campmor carries at least the larger cannisters. Buy a reasonable number at a time. Unfortunately, for this one product/product line Coleman does not seem to have the best distribution. You may also want to call Coleman directly. Also, I am not sure, but I think that some of the larger Walmarts may have at least carried the cannisters at least in the past.

By the way the Powermax cannisters are also used for at least 1 Coleman lantern.

Also, you can call stores and ask if they will ship by ground, but I have no idea of the shipping charges.


Edited by naturephoto1 on 11/06/2005 10:57:45 MST.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: stove to melt snow on 11/06/2005 13:24:20 MST Print View

Lots to think about here. It'd be helpful to know whether you're talking about ovenight trips, weeklong trips, etc.

I can put up with about anything on an overnight but after two or three night would get mighty cranky about keeping a fuel cartridge in my bag and trying to keep it warm while in use. You'd need to do this with any vapor-feed stove and would still likely experience "fractionation" of the propane portion and a steady decline in performance. Also, a screw-to-the-cartridge-top stove tends to be less stable, while you want a large, wide pot for snow melting--a combination that's always a stray elbow from disaster.

The Powermax stoves do work well in the cold and it's nice to be able to crush the cartridges in the field. I've had an Xtreme for several years, but other than ease of lighting would rather carry a Simmerlite. It's lighter, more compact and I can tailor the amount of fuel to the trip, something that's a pain with cartridges.

Interestingly, per MSR the Simmerlite is one of their least efficient stoves, something to consider on long trips because at some point, the additional fuel used will trump the stove's relatively light weight.

The chart is a pretty good argument for the standard Whisperlite, even with its so-so simmer ability.

re. melting snow, the easiest way I know to avoid scorching the pot is to start with some water in the pot and feed the snow gradually. I try to never begin with a wad of snow in an empty pot. Do this you won't have to worry about the stove's simmering ability.

BTW, Colin Fletcher has a painstakingly detailed description of his snow-melting routine in The Complete Walker that's definitely worth a read.

Edited by halfturbo on 11/06/2005 13:27:57 MST.

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
stove to melt snow on 11/06/2005 14:04:04 MST Print View

message deleted

Edited by naturephoto1 on 11/06/2005 14:07:02 MST.

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
stove to melt snow on 11/06/2005 14:05:07 MST Print View


I do not disagree with you about White Gas stoves like the MSR Simmerlite. I have had times with my MSR Whisperlite that the stove has flared up at least a foot to maybe 2 feet high (I must have over pumped and primed the stove). To say the least, it was a bit un-nerving. I would definitely consider this as a concern if using my Whisperlite in a tent. Though people do use White Gas stoves in tents, I don't think that it is generally recommended (due both to fire issues and CO poisoning). I would definitely be concerned about the tent catching fire.

When I asked Evan Jones about the use of a stove in my Inegral Designs eVENT MK1 Lite, he recommended not cooking (using a stove)in the tent. But, if I did either in the tent or preferably under a tarp (as their Siltarp) used as a vestibule to use a canister stove.

Though controllable, the Whisperlite is not as adjustable for flame adjustment in my experience as my canister stoves.

I also have to agree with you however about being more able to fine tune the amount of fuel carried with a White Gas than a Cannister stove.



Locale: South West US
Re: stove to melt snow on 11/06/2005 23:15:26 MST Print View

The Optimus Nova, while not light, is still a great stove. It is easy to light, sturdy and has great flame control. I never did any snow melting with it but I'm sure it would work like a charm.

I bought a Simmerlite once but returned it a couple of days later. It was a fussy to light and flame control was minimal. The fuel pump seemed to leak slightly when pressurized (I tried two of them), which was of some concern to me.

Has anyone tried the new Primus Gravity MF? I can't find any reviews on it. Looks like a neat concept. It seems comparable in weight to the Simmerlite, but more compact. In my experience Primus quality is none too shabby either.


Matthew LaPatka
(gungadin) - M

Locale: Pittsburgh, PA
Re: Re: stove to melt snow on 11/07/2005 07:04:52 MST Print View

I also love my Optiumus Nova. While I nearly always use an alcohol stove, it would be superb for melting snow. Powerful and dependable.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
snow melt pot size? on 11/07/2005 10:19:15 MST Print View

I was in my local outfitters the other day, when the local super-duper mountaineering dude (6-7 Everest trips [1 summit], 100+ Rainier [he was a guide], etc.) arrived. I asked him about which stove to use for melting snow. Of course, he pointed me to the XGK. What I found odd, was he told me not to use a large pot, but instead use a pot not bigger than "this one" (grabbing a nearby Snow Peak Ti700).

I had always assumed you'd want a large pot so adding snow chunks would be eaiser. Besides, isn't the Ti700 a bit too narrow for just about any whitegas stove?

Any thoughts on which pot? Or pot size to use when melting snow for one (2L am, 2-3L pm)?

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
Primus Gravity valve type? on 11/07/2005 10:30:19 MST Print View

No one locally sells Primus stoves. I assume the Primus Gravity has a standard Lindal valve on it, correct? Works with MSR canisters?

Which canister fuel would be "best" for winter conditions? I would guess one with a higher propane content.