I would like to use the posts in this forum to highlight some of my thoughts on canister stoves, as well as use the anonymous post above to help make these forums as valuable as possible without spreading unnecessarily flagrant (or refutations to) claims.
"Dirty Little Secret" writes:
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!
When referencing an article, please include the title or URL, so we know exactly which article you are referring to, that helps us as editors understand the context better. The canister stove reviews were not published until today, so I'm not sure which canister stove "reviews" you are referring to. As for regurgitating mfr claims, we're not so concerned with challenging their kitchen tests (although we do hold them honest to the data they publish) as we are with extending stove performance to real world conditions. Specifically, which claims were you frustrated with - the ones below, I assume?
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.
So, 8 to 12 minute boil times in the field is the norm for you, I assume. I can't argue with that. I've certainly found some conditions (high winds combined with nearly freezing water) where boil times exceeded 8 minutes. However, those are not the norm for me. If I throttle back the stove flame to conserve fuel, use a windscreen responsibly, and choose a sheltered cooking spot, I'm pretty happy to use 1/4 oz of fuel and get sub-5 boil times on a pint of water during the spring, summer, and fall, even with nearly freezing water. This is the norm for me. It took a bit of practice and understanding how canister stoves work to get there, but it's not an unreasonable goal.
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.
Are you sure you are talking about canister stoves? Granted, different canister stoves have different simmering capabilities, but most of the new ones simmer exceptionally well - to the point where you can fry hotcakes without burning them, or monitoring the stove throttle.
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.
Roger addresses this issue in the companion article that appeared in the print magazine, Got Gas? Stove Theory and How They Work. It's important to understand how these gases evaporate in response to consumption, how they work in a liquid feed stove, and how much heat each type of gas produces.
This scheme has worked great for the industry. People claim that canister stoves work fine at 10F or even colder.
I've yet to read any claims from reputable manufacturers that suggest anyone use canister stoves for temperatures less than 10F. Personally, I don't normally use canister stoves at temperatures less than 25F unless I'm in a tent (ahem, don't flame me, please), an environment that stays warm enough to counteract excessive canister cooling.
Pundits like yourselves obediently repeat this lie...
If we've repeated a lie, please point it out the excerpt specifically in an article. We'd appreciate that, and correct it. And certainly, we'd open a controversial opinion up to the court of public opinion here on the forums, we're not perfect - but we don't intend to expound outright lies either.
...and the average person has no idea when his stove will work and when it won't.
I would argue then, that this is not the average person :) at least, it shouldn't be.
The deception is so successful, people blame themselves when the stove doesn't work!
I know, that's a novel concept, but...it's 80% true. If someone hasn't researched the topic and taken the time to learn about it, aren't they responsible? A stove can spell the difference between life and death to some (e.g., climbers stuck in a long storm on a mountain) - you gotta figure it out and accept the consequences of your choices. The internet is littered with a lot of opinions, a great deal of which are nonfactual and misleading. We don't support that kind of discussion here, so again, if we've erred, point us to the specifics so we can correct them.
It is also totally irresponsible to recommend using a windscreen or any other "trick" to heat up a canister.
Fair enough. I recommend, then, that you do not use a windscreen or copper wire heat exchanger to heat up a canister. However, I'd counter with this: it's not the recommendation that is irresponsible, it's the improper application of the recommendation in action. Consider the risk, accept or reject, and be smart about it.
These things are dangerous and will explode!!
You bet they do. I tossed one in a fire once. You really have no idea.
From the MSR PocketRocket user manual:
"DO NOT light or use indoors..."
Guess what? The manufacturers use them indoors for their boil tests. We do the same in our kitchens the first time we get the stoves.
"...in a tent, vehicle, or other enclosed areas."
Guilty, guilty, and guilty.
"NEVER put your head or body above the stove when lighting or burning..."
That's fine for normal use, but let me tell you, more than one climber has done exactly that to warm up - in a tent - after a loooong day in wet and stormy conditions.
"DO NOT use any windscreen with the stove...may cause the canister to explode."
There ya go. Direct from the manufacturer. Hard to argue with that...
"DO NOT place heavy...cookware on the stove."
I had to laugh at this one. The best advice so far in the manual!
It's fairly obvious to most of us why these warnings are in there. They are indeed reasonable, I'm not arguing that. But they are there primarily for liability protection in the event of an accident.
There are safe ways to use windscreens with canister stoves. Ultimately, it's you that needs to evaluate the risk and minimize it. You are the user, you and only you can best evaluate risk for you, and only you can make decisions for yourself at any given time in the backcountry.
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!
If it was too long ago, give the new crop of little canister stoves a whirl. It's a pretty neat product category that has evolved a long way since Camping Gaz and the old Primus' stoves.
For 3-season use, I would guess that an overwhelming majority of canister stove owners would agree that, with few exceptions, they are pretty much foolproof, reliable, simmer well, and are unbelievably fuel efficient, especially when throttled down even a small bit. "Are they better than liquid fuel stoves?" "Are they better than alcohol stoves?" No, not necessarily, everyone will have their own definition of better.
But are they "crappy little things" that don't deserve a close look? Heck no, not at all.
And so, let me give some parting thoughts on the forums here.
We will moderate the forums when necessary (no personal flames, outright slander towards manufacturers, foul language, photos of heavy gear, etc.), but for the most part, when posts are made that invite controversy, especially when they are directly related to posters challenging content that appeared in BPL articles, we'll let them ride and hope that the court of public opinion here will respectfully discuss the issues at hand. Ultimately, this court of public opinion will keep our editorial staff on their toes (we certainly are not perfect or all-knowing) and keep BPL's content authoritative.
If anyone would ever like to challenge content published here, please feel free to do so - your post will NOT be moderated. However, please do so and support your opinions and challenges with facts, direct quotes from our articles, and respectful discussion.
If y'all can do that for us, we are more than happy to engage in dynamic discussions of controversial issues with you.
Also, one final note on the purpose of anonymous posting:
Please do not abuse this feature. This was put in here so that manufacturers and other industry professionals can post honest, and sometimes frank, comments, without fear of receiving blowback from their employer.
It is not the intention for anonymous postings to be a means of hiding behind flames, trolls, or otherwise irresponsible use of the forums.