Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » What kind of stove do YOU use for lightweight backpacking?


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Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
What kind of stove do YOU use for lightweight backpacking? on 02/08/2005 20:54:13 MST Print View

This forum thread is a companion to the article Considerations for Selecting a Lightweight Backpacking Stove by Will Rietveld.

The roundtable question is this:

What kind of stove do YOU use for lightweight backpacking?

More important, please answer "why?"

In other words, what governs your decision about what type of stove to take on a trip? Which stoves go with you on most of your trips? To what extent are the following attributes most important to you: ease of use, speed of boiling, fuel economy, field maintainability, others?

Joseph O'Leary
(jmoleary) - F
Resupply advantages/disadvantages on 02/09/2005 08:01:02 MST Print View

One category of advantages/disadvantages you might add is the ease of resupply of the various fuels. Denatured alcohol is very easy to find -- you can get it just about anywhere. But canisters for canister stoves and ESBIT tablets are much harder to locate -- you'll probably need a hiker's supply store. This can make a difference if you are on a thru-hike in an unfamiliar town.

Hermann Gucinski
(hermann222) - F
lightweight stoves on 02/09/2005 08:19:43 MST Print View

When first changing to lightweight travel, we used the "sno-peak" stove and loved it. We still use it in winter and short trips. However, for longer travel resupply is an issue--you can't take cannisters on an airplane (I may be wrong and never knew it!), can't find them in many little towns, and so on.
We switched to the Robinson Cat stove for long PCT and AT hikes--I made a bunch of different stoves and in my set, the cat stove worked best, the prototype lasted for well over 1000 miles! Finding fuel can be a challenge in some towns, but cruising the shelves and looking for stuff with ethyl or methy alcohol in, such as "dry gas" for gas-line freeze up helps a lot. REI now carries denatured alcohol (ethyl-OH with enough methyl-OH to make it toxic), and hardware stores will have shellac thinners etc. We hope we started a trend by leaving the extra in "hiker-boxes" at hiker-friendly stores and motels! Go out and experiment, then stick to what works for you!


(Anonymous)
An oversight on 02/09/2005 09:50:42 MST Print View

You didn't mention remote canister butane stoves. These solve butane stoves' low temp problem, because you can turn the canister upside down and liquid butane will flow to, and vaporize in, the stove. Also, they can use exactly the same windscreen and heat reflectors as white gas stoves, making them much more efficient--which overcomes their weight disadvantage compared to canister-top LP stoves on longer and winter outings. Most manufacturers offer models that produce double the output of white gas stoves like the XGK. This info from the new The Mountaineering Handbook (see Amazon).

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Low, open stoves on 02/10/2005 12:40:10 MST Print View

Some stove designs need care. I once set fire to grass with a Whisperlite before realising that it needs to be on a rock or bare earth in summer. Then, many years later, I repeated the stupidity with a fuel tab stove.

In each case I had the fire out before it had done more than singe a bit of grass, but it could have been worse. Low stoves may be stable but need great care.

John

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Cartridge stove on 02/10/2005 14:20:00 MST Print View

I generally carry a compact cartridge stove (Primus titanium) because it meets my need for simplicity, ease of use, flexibility, size and weight. I seldom simply boil-and-pour, so only occasionally would prefer an alcohol stove.

Now, if somebody would please figure out a way for me to aggregate the remaining fuel from that sack of partially used cartridges I've got at home, I'd be completely dialed!

Patrick Baker
(WildMan) - F
Stove on 02/10/2005 14:23:38 MST Print View

I use the MarkHill HotRod Titanium stove. I bought it because it was titanium (strong yet light), yet affordable (<$50). It also has well designed (IMHO) pot supports that have serrated edges and that fold in and out. Next time I will get a stove without the now non-working piezo lighter. I used a 4oz fuel canister for 4 days of boiling water in the Sierra's which worked out nicely. I ran out of fuel the last night after my hot chocolate. I will likely switch to the Coleman F1 Ultralight based on your review. The stronger performance in the wind and better fuel efficiency
of this stove make it a worthwhile upgrade for me.

Ease of use is extremely important at the end of a hard day of hiking.
I probably could care less about the speed of boiling. Fuel economy is quite important as well as it can mean the difference between carrying a 4oz versus 8oz fuel canister (or running out of fuel). An additional concern is cold weather performance. Is the concensus now of a low of 15F for canisters ? Other concerns are weight and reliability.

Edited by WildMan on 02/10/2005 14:57:36 MST.

Jim Wood
(jwood)
Stove combos on 02/10/2005 17:46:45 MST Print View

Having, over the years, used just about every stove technology available, I find that piezo-equipped canister stoves offer the best combination of fuel economy, convenience, weight, dependability, "simmerability", low noise, low odor, low mess and general performance for most three season backpacking outings (I use an early Primus titanium model). My only real complaint is that because current-design fuel canisters are not refillable, there's always a problem with taking just the right amount of fuel for a given outing.

One solution I've found is to recognize that the stove technology one carries on the trail need not be an either/or proposition.

As I discuss in a recently published article (http://timberwolf.us/supercat - "Super Cat Stove Build Instructions"), alcohol stoves can make great companions to canister stoves. For example, the stove mentioned in the article weighs so little (0.2 oz) that it, along with a little alcohol fuel, can easily be packed to avoid having to lug a second (or larger capacity) canister on trips where expected fuel needs narrowly exceed the capacity of a single canister. A "sidekick" alcohol stove can also serve as a backup or an extra burner for two-pot meals.

So I guess the answer to the round table question is canister + alcohol on most trips. Please see article for more details.

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
left over nearly spent canisters on 02/10/2005 20:53:05 MST Print View

I bought a lantern and use the old canisters up with it on family overnight camping trips. The kids think its great.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Alcohol on 02/11/2005 06:47:31 MST Print View

I haven't yet disposed of the Pocket Rocket or Whisperlite but I most regularly use a TinMan AntiGravity Gear alcohol stove. So far, in the right weather, it's been foolproof and ultralight. For just boiling it works very well.


(Anonymous)
Canister Stoves' Dirty little Secret on 02/11/2005 13:44:12 MST Print View

Your "review" of canister stove is little more than a reprint of manufacturers' advertising claims. Come on, guys! We expect better than that from you!

Boil time under 4 minutes? Sure - if you go camping in your kitchen! Even in the mildest weather boil times (and fuel consumption) are 2 to 3 times worse.

Simmering? Sure - if you stand next to it to keep adjusting the flame, relight it when it blows out, and constantly stir your food to keep it from scorching.

But the worse one is that you blindly repeat the industry claim that the blended fuels burn hotter and provide cold temperature performance. That's a total lie. Blended fuels actually have less heat than pure butane. Their sole purpose is to hide the problems of poor performance. When you first use a new canister, you are burning pure propane. Since propane boils at about -40F, it works great no matter how cold it is. But by the time you're on your third meal (and two days out from the trailhead), all the propane is gone. Depending on the brand of canister, you're left with either normal butane - which is useless below 50F, or isobutane - which is useless at mid 30'sF.

This scheme has worked great for the industry. People claim that canister stoves work fine at 10F or even colder. Pundits like yourselves obediently repeat this lie, and the average person has no idea when his stove will work and when it won't. The deception is so successful, people blame themselves when the stove doesn't work! "Gee, I must be doing something wrong. It was just as cold yesterday and the stove worked fine."

It is also totally irresponsible to recommend using a windscreen or any other "trick" to heat up a canister. These things are dangerous and will explode!! There is a reason you can't carry them on airplanes, and I recently read that in Europe they are now restricted on trains.

Canister stoves may be fine for the LL Bean crowd that wants a cup of tea on their little walk in the woods. Those of us that actually depend on our gear tossed out these crappy little things long ago!


(Anonymous)
Poster explodes! on 02/11/2005 15:43:40 MST Print View

It was another anonymous that posted the hearty put down of butane stoves. There are easy ways to overcome their problems, with the result that I use a remote canister model (with windscreen) every time I need a beefy, reliable stove, especially for winter mountaineering. On short, more casual outings I use a canister-top model or more likely a home-made Esbit stove/windscreen. But let me see if I can help.
SIMMER? A waste of fuel. The solution is to plan meals that don't require simmering (or actual boiling). Rehydrating home-dried meals is fuel and weight efficient (and $ efficient)and makes for better taste than freeze dry. But butane stoves will win any simmer contest against white gas stoves.
BOIL TIMES? Who cares? Running a stove full tilt is less efficient, so allow yourself longer to get hot water. Actual boiling is also fuel wasteful. Shame on BPL for emphasizing this spec--it's like auto reviewers talking about 0-60 times in the same sentence as fuel economy. Heat faster = use more fuel. Use a windscreen and common sense.
FUEL BLENDS DON'T WORK IN THE COLD? True enough, but the solution to low temp performance is to use a remote canister stove and invert the canister. Simple, safe, no canister warming tricks required AND you can use a wind screen and heat reflector. This has worked for me in the minus teens and should work even colder.
UNSAFE? I'll bet that liquid fuel stoves have caused many more injuries. We'll fire up that white gas stove in YOUR tent. Remember, lots of drunk hunters cook on propane, and the house where I grew up had a big ol propane tank out back, without any problems.
UNDEPENDABLE IN THE CRUNCH? Hardly. We've all had far more problems with liquid fuel stoves. If you're saying that real men burn kerosene, I'd suggest you look at a modern, remote canister butane stove and see what efficiency, heat output, ease of use in all weather, and reliability are all about.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
remote canister butane stoves on 02/11/2005 20:05:43 MST Print View

Are there any "remote canister butane stoves" besides the Coleman Exponent series?

Jason Shaffer
(pilgrim) - F
Other than the coleman exponents on 02/12/2005 09:01:46 MST Print View

MSR Windpro (6.8oz) seems to be the lightest alternative.
MSR Rapidfire (12.5oz) which can be found on discount. No longer in production.
Markill also makes an adapter for converting a top canister stove to remote, but that alone weighs about the same as the windpro.
Snow Peak makes a remote Gigapower GS300A (10.8oz).
Not sure if the SP Omni-fuel stoves deserve comparison here or not.

I have no experience w/ anything but a Gigapower Ti (top-canister version) and a Whisperlite International, just been looking around. Eager to hear more from you remote afficionados out there. Comparisons?

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
remote canister butane stoves on 02/12/2005 09:11:54 MST Print View

Primus also has the new 9.3 oz, 10500 BTU/h Gravity Expedition stove with Piezo ignition.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Vapor vs. liquid feed on 02/12/2005 10:34:16 MST Print View

Senior or seniorita mous may not know or care that the Max cartridges as used in the Simmerlight-Xtreme comparison, feed liquid fuel to a generator tube, and can equal any WG or kerosene stove in performance in all conditions.

Period.

Yes, vapor feed stoves have limitations, but many of them can be overcome using tricks and tips available on This Very Site. As always, match the tool to the task.

Edited by halfturbo on 02/12/2005 10:34:50 MST.

Roy Stanley
(climber1959) - F
Cool Canisters on 02/12/2005 13:22:51 MST Print View

I'm amused and amazed at some of the responses to "Dirty Little Secret". Anyone that's used a canister stove in cooler weather has certainly experienced these problems themselves. He is not the first person to recognize the "propane first" problem of fuel canisters. I had read an experiment about a year ago that proved that's exactly what happens. The manufactures are obviously aware of this and it doesn't speak well for their ethics that they so greatly exaggerate the performance of the stoves in cooler temperatures.
I bought a Primus stove nearly 10 years ago and quickly learned that it is a fair weather friend. My rule of thumb is if I'm packing a sleeping bag rated for lower than 45 degrees, I leave the Primus at home and take my Coleman Exponent. It's about the size and weight of two canisters, but I know it will always work.
Ya'll are right about Coleman Powermax working in colder temperatures and being able to use a windscreen. But that's really putting all your eggs in one basket. Regular canisters are hard enough to find, and there has to be at least a half dozen different brands. I, for one, wouldn't want a stove that can only use a proprietary fuel made by one company. There is also apparently a problem with these catching on fire. Coleman posts a warning about this, so it can't be too uncommon.


(Anonymous)
Standard remote canisters on 02/12/2005 14:57:14 MST Print View

The remote canister stoves mentioned above all use standard Lindal canisters. You're not locked into Coleman's proprietary canisters. Now as for Camping Gaz . . .

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
remote canister liquid-fed butane stoves on 02/12/2005 22:28:45 MST Print View

>Are there any "remote canister butane stoves" besides the Coleman Exponent series?

Dang! I meant to add "liquid-fed" to that question. I checked the other remote stoves mentioned in subsequent replies, but they all seem to be gas-fed. The Primus Expedition always shows the canister in the upright position, but since it has a vaporizer tube, so maybe it would work with the canister upside-down (or maybe it would flare up?). On Backpacker.com a reviewer of the Primus MultiFuel stove mentioned "...with canisters the long tube and its swiveling head provide the great convenience of letting you prop the canister upside down while extracting the last drop of fuel," however I'm not sure this implies they've actually run it that way. (Anybody willing to try it?)

So, any other liquid-fed butane stoves out there besides the Coleman?

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Canister Stove Issues on 02/13/2005 07:48:58 MST Print View

Hi all. Great discussion! I would like to add my belated two cents to a few topics.

Cold Temperatures: I consider 15F to be the lower practical limit. Using propane/iso-butane fuel, the iso-butane is still volatile to some extent at that temperature. The vaporization process does cool the canister though, so the canister temperature is lower than the air temperature. Sometimes you have to stop and warm up the canister, or switch to a different canister, to get the last 1/3 of the fuel to burn at a decent level.

Windscreens: Everyone uses some kind of wind protection for their stove (or they should), so we decided to tackle the issue. We feel that its safe enough to use the "windbreak" arrangement in my article, which incorporates a heat shield, or use Ryan's windscreen design that encloses the burner above the canister. The latter method needs to be adapted for different stoves. Some people use a tight windscreen with a canister stove, and it can improve performance in cold weather, but you are on your own if you do it. One should pay close attention and feel the canister frequently to make sure its not getting too hot.

Remote Canister Stoves: I forgot to mention that alternative in the article. They are heavier, so were not included in the lightweight canister stove reviews. I thought they could be covered as a group later. MSR and Snow Peak make them, maybe some others.

Other LW canister stoves: The Markill Hot Shot (Peak Ignition) and Kovea Camp 3 (same stove) were not included because I couldn't obtain them last year. I have them now and we will publish reviews on them this summer. We will also review the new Brunton Raptor stove and Jetboil's new Companion Cup and French Press. Stay tuned.

Happy Hiking!
Will