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Canister stove fuel use on high/low setting
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Peter Burke
(Fishmonger) - F

Locale: Midwest
Canister stove fuel use on high/low setting on 03/21/2009 10:50:06 MDT Print View

I just got a new stove (Vargo Titanium) and got curious about how efficient that little thing really is. On long hikes, the weight of the fuel is much more than that of that stove, possibly negating all the weight savings on the stove.

The comparison stove I have is my "luxury" Snow Peak Gigapower BF stove , which worked very well last summer, however, it weighs 3.5 times as much as the Vargo...

first test was to see how fast each would boil 1 Liter of water. Water temp was out of the faucet, pot was a Montbell Titanium 1.5L, wich is pretty large diameter. Conditions - outside 40F, slight breeze, both stoves shielded from the wind with some carboard. Fuel - started with a fresh 110g Snow Peak canister. To measure fuel use, I put the canister on a small postal scale between runs.

Results 1 Liter, 100% output

Snow Peak: 5 min 30 sec fuel not measured

Vargo: 6 min 10 sec fuel not measured

this is when I got curious about how many meals I can make with either for each canister of fuel carried. My usual meals are about 20oz of fluid (3 eaters, larger than the usual 2 person freeze dried meals taking 16oz). Also, 20oz makes about three cups of warm coffee or hot chocloate.

Test 1 at FULL throttle on each stove

Snow Peak: 3 min 15 sec 8.6g fuel

Vargo: 3 min 50 sec 9.7g fuel

Given both stoves were sputtering pretty wildly, I figured this may not be as efficient as turning down the flame to a medium level. So another run at half throttle:

Gigapower: 5 min 0 sec 8.9g fuel

Vargo: 6 min 5 sec, 8.8g of fuel

Bottom line - the Vargo works about 10% more efficiently at my current settings and water temp if used at a lower setting. The gigapower is efficient either way, but the weight difference between the two units (220g) gets me a full extra fuel canister into the pack, which allows for twelve extra 20oz pots to be heated on the Vargo. The efficiency differences are minor.

The Snow Peak shines in stability (the pot support is 4-pronged and almost twice as wide as the Vargo, plus the center of gravity is very low. Spills are virtually impossible unless you are a total klutz. It also is more resistant to wind if used without a shield, and it's simmer mode can be adjusted better. However, if you don't simmer anything, this is unimportant.

I think the Snow Peak will become my camping stove for now, and only go on a big hike if there's a really large pot involved.

Regarding fuel use of the Vargo, the difference between full blast output and a lower setting is minor, while the cook time increases significantly. I guess I'll just be running it on high, now that I know I won't really be saving any fuel by bringing water to a boil more slowly.

Bailey Gin
(pugslie) - F

Locale: SLO County
Re: Canister stove fuel use on high/low setting on 03/21/2009 16:44:25 MDT Print View

Sound like the Snow Peak BF stove you are using is the GS 300A. Another advantage to the SP stove is cold weather inverted canister use...fiddlely but doable.


Tony Beasley
(tbeasley) - MLife

Locale: Pigeon House Mt from the Castle
Re: Canister stove fuel use on high/low setting on 03/21/2009 17:02:51 MDT Print View

Hi Peter,

Try doing some tests on slow and very slow settings, I have found taking about 6 minutes to boil 0.5 liter and about 12 minutes to boil a liter is the most efficient/time setting any faster was a waste of fuel. Below is a graph of Alcohol, White gas and canister stoves bpoiling 1 liter of water.


Alc vs pet vs gas

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: Canister stove fuel use on high/low setting on 03/21/2009 19:40:35 MDT Print View

One counterpoint is that in cool breezy weather you may find that a lot of heat is lost off the top and sides of the pot- so turning the heat down may be a losing proposition. Also since the stove output drops way off as the canister is cold and depleted of propane, "high" on a cold morning in the field may be a lot lower than "high" on the test bench.

I've had a couple of stoves that were so anemic that I had to boil water in 1/2 quart increments because otherwise temperature would raise to about 180 and never go higher. That was the point at which the pot was losing as much heat as the stove contributed.

Peter Burke
(Fishmonger) - F

Locale: Midwest
cold weather/inverted on 03/22/2009 08:13:48 MDT Print View

the Snow Peak model I have is not the one meant for upside down canister use, but it can be done. Not sure if that helps much. So far I never had a problem to go full empty on the canisters.

Last summer in the Sierras, even at 6am on Muir Pass in sub freezing temps, it worked just fine and I never had problems with low fuel pressure even near the end of a canister. That could be because the Snow Peak actually runs the fuel through a heater loop on top of the burner to "pre-heat" or accelerate the output (not sure what it does, but it is a design feature the Vargo doesn't have by design). In my test above, I made sure I warmed up the fuel canister after each run.

What matters to me is that no matter what, I now nkow that running near max output on whatever stove I'll be taking is ok, without being too worried about excessive fuel use. If I am wasting 10% here and there is not as relevant. What I was afraid of was that at max output I could be wasting 50% or more of the fuel, but that's not the case. Having that peace of mind is the most important factor.

Regarding low fuel canisters and low pressure - in the past I've taken those into my sleeping bag for morning use, which really makes a difference, plus, since I usually have two of these canisters between depots, I can use the fresh canisters whenever the temps are very low and the near-empty ones don't out out enough fuel.

The fact that I can easily carry a spare full fuel caninster with the Vargo without increasing my load over the Snow Peak stove pretty much settles all concerns over possible lower performance of that stove.

I'll repeat some tests in the near future when I get my new 1.3L Evernew titanium pot with cozy - it has a smaller diamter, too, which may affect heat transfer. I don't expect a big difference, but I'd rather find out for sure than just assume things.

Does anyone know the weight/tare difference between an empty 110g and a 250g canister? They also make 500g cans for those stoves, but that's clearly too large even for our 9 day stretch, plus I am worried about failure on a single canister. I assume that a single 250g caninster is lighter than two 110g even if you account for the extra 30g of fuel in the big one.

Peter Burke
(Fishmonger) - F

Locale: Midwest
alcohol stove comparison on 03/22/2009 08:16:41 MDT Print View

I don't think I can reduce the flame enough on these stoves to drop the cooking times as low as your alcohol stoves.

I will try a super low simmer setting on the Snow Peak just to see what happens. The Vargo doesn't burn as smoothly on the lower settings, so I'd be risking having to relight it and waste fuel in between. I assume that the propane stoves put out more BTU even at the lowest setting.