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What kind of stove do YOU use for lightweight backpacking?
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Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
what it "boils down to" for me... on 02/17/2005 20:14:35 MST Print View

Ryan, the jetboil article ( was probably the most helpful article written by Bplight to me because it provided me with a practical break even point: how much water will I have to boil before I benefit from the additional weight over a conventional set-up, assuming conditions most favorable to the jetboil.

Despite my attraction to the jetboil concept, I decided to continue the “balancing act” of my comparably less efficient stove-pot system because I knew I wouldn’t be boiling that much water. Instead of buying a jetboil, I’ll renew my subscription to Bplight!

In light of anonymous’ comments here, I'd like to know how much water I will have to boil before I benefit from the additional weight of the remote canister stove design (e.g. MSR windpro), assuming conditions most favorable to it. I’d like to know how much better off I am if I am able to turn the canister upside down and surround the burner with a more substantial heat/wind screen, etc. If the difference is negligible for the weather and altitude where I hike, then the decision is easy.

As suggested by anonymous, I hope Will compares the remote canister stoves next time around with the thorough review of the conventional stoves he has done this time around, applying the jetboil efficiency break even point analysis.

Thanks for your continued good work, and recent diplomacy.

Edited by hikerfan4sure on 02/17/2005 20:18:28 MST.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
remote canister liquid-fed butane stoves on 02/17/2005 22:57:26 MST Print View

I wrote:
>So, any other liquid-fed butane stoves out there besides the Coleman?

Thanks to Jason Shaffer for his list of remote canister liquid-fed butane/propane stoves with vaporizer tubes. In answer to my question about whether these other stoves can run liquid-fed, I found the following on the Zen Stove site about turning remote canisters upside-down to make them liquid-fed:

"With some setups, canisters may be used upside down.  This would force out liquid instead of gas into your fuel line, similar to running PowerMax canisters. The Primus Himalaya manual states that one safe cold environment trick is to:

"Turn down the control valve as low as possible. Now hold the gas cartridge and turn it upside down slowly and very carefully. While doing so, you must never lift the cartridge higher than the stove itself to avoid a sudden burst of flames."

When asked via email if the MSR Windpro could operate with the canister upside down, a tech at MSR replied:

"Yes, you can turn the canister upside down when using the WindPro but you would want to use the same precautions stated in the Primus manual."

Since the Primus Himalaya EasyFuel, MSR WindPro, MSR Rapidfire, and Snowpeak GigaPower BF Stove [GS-300A] have similar designs with a hose connection and heated vaporizer tube, they should be able to run PowerMax canisters (you may need an adapter) or regular fuel canisters upside down  - do so at your own risk.

There are several remote fueled canister stoves, such as the Markill Spider, that don't have vaporizer tubes (generators).  This feature is desirable to vaporize the fuel prior to it exiting the jet.  Running a canister upside down without a vaporizer tube isn't recommended and can be dangerous."

Inaki Diaz de Etura
(inaki) - MLife

Locale: Iberia highlands
windscreens on 02/18/2005 16:30:51 MST Print View

Great link, Douglas. It sums up many bits of info I've been recollecting over time in one place and then more.

I've using a very simple windscreen similar to that shown on that article, just built for my stove and pot but the same idea. Honestly, I don't see a problem for this kind of windscreens and they're so simple I can't understand why there's still discussion over canister stove windscreens, if I'm missing something I welcome any enlightment.
MSR calls windpro to their remote canister model somehow meaning the screw on top type are not so good in wind, not so easy/safe for windscreen use... and maybe spreading that word.

At least this prompted me to add some english content to my little website so I can show my dubious engineering abilities at building windscreens :)

Plenty of safe remote-canister models on 02/19/2005 14:21:38 MST Print View

Every remote canister stove I've tried works with the canister inverted. And why not? You wouldn't market a stove that would be dangerous if the canister was tipped or sloshed, so they should all be OK if liquid butane flows into the stove's preheat coil (though the output shoots up if the stove is already running). The MSR rep actually recommends inverting the canister in cold weather with their WindPro. Works fine.

BPL needs to consider the entire weight issue, including windscreen or windbreak equivalent, although it's tricky because real world conditions (wind) so strongly affect fuel consumption. A remote canister stove can safely use an effective wind screen and heat reflector, making them much more fuel-efficient than a canister-top model, even though they weigh several ounces more. I wonder what the actual break even point is?

For outings where only a few meals based on hot water are needed, I'll bet a home-made Esbit stove/windscreen is the most weight efficient; mine weighs .8 oz total, less fuel. For longer outings, especially in the cold, the remote-canister model likely wins out; certainly over white gas stoves until the outing consumes at least a quart of fuel per stove. What is the canister-top butane stove's actual sweet spot?

And I just have to say that I wonder why BPL bothers with the JetBoil stove contraption? Their own tests debunk the speed claims, and the thing is pretty specialized. Sure, JetBoil has great marketing compared to stodgy old MSR, but it doesn't seem appropriate for savvy BPL readers any more than the Sierra wood chip stove. Why did BPL publish charts showing comparable JetBoil times, with a footnote saying the amount of water was only half? Is that fair? Is there an undisclosed relationship between BPL and JetBoil, or am I missing something?

Non-exploding stove on 02/19/2005 15:00:11 MST Print View

You might be right, Bill. My only near death experience along these lines was when climbing buddies used a bakepacker with a canister-top stove. The results were typically unsatisfactory (half-baked). Don't know for sure if it ran out of fuel or if the fuel leaked out after the stove was shut off. When the stove was fired up the next morning it failed to function with a new canister. The seals and knob were fully baked. But it didn't explode.

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
More Responses on 02/19/2005 15:45:43 MST Print View

I would like to respond to the "Dirty Little Secret" post. Yes, canister stove performance declines as the temperature drops below freezing, but its not all that bad down to about 15 F.

The point that pure propane burns off below 30F is not quite true. Most propane from refineries is "HD5 Propane". This specification allows up to 5% propylene and up to 5% other things, mainly iso-butane. Iso-butane from the refinery contains some n-butane. These are not purified to pure propane or iso-butane, but are a mixture. Re-refining to get pure propane or iso-butane is costly and redundant, since they will be burned for fuel.

Some n-butane is mixed in to formulate winter gasoline to make cars start better, but it is kept out in the summer because it causes vapor lock. Believe me, fuels are not limited to a single hydrocarbon. They're all a mix that meet certain specifications.

In a blended canister fuel, propane drives the system. It has the hightest vapor pressure of the mixed liquified gases. Since the propane is about 30% of the contents, and it has the highest VP, a high percentage of what comes out is propane. But iso-butane and butane readily mix with propane gas, and (if the temp is above the boiling point of n-butane and iso-butane) the canister delivers a gas mixture. Butane and iso-butane have higher BTU's than propane, so no problem.

Propane boils at -43F, iso-butane at -11F, and n-butane at 31F (not the temperatures reported by Anomymous). So, as the temperture drops, less butane comes off, and less and less iso-butane There is always some n-butane in the canister, even if you purchase "IsoPro" fuel. The canister cools itself, so at some point you will have a low flame at full throttle, and the remaining gas (n-butane and iso-butane) doesn't want to vaporize.

Ways to get the last gas to vaporize are to swap the cold canister for a warmer one in your pocket, and warm up the cold one the same way. A second way is to partially immerse the canister in liquid water. 30-40 degree water holds a lot of heat compared to 30-40 degree air, and will warm up the canister a lot. Another approach is to use full canisters in the AM and partially full canisters in the PM.

I hope this helps to explain the realiy of the blended fuel/cold temperature issue.


David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
canisters and propane (a product I'd like to see) on 02/19/2005 17:31:42 MST Print View

I've used canister stoves for solo and two-person trips almost exclusively these last three years. For me they have worked fine, and like any backpacking gadget there are tradeoffs. A little experience and experimentation goes a long way. Literally.

The biggest downside for me is the expense and sometimes unavailability of canisters. I'm also a little displeased that there isn't a good infrastructure for recycling the canisters in the U.S.

I've noticed that high-altitude mountaineers use oxygen bottles that are aluminum reinforced with kevlar. I know that the major reason you can't use straight propane for a backpacking stove is that the high vapor pressure (about 50psi I think) precludes an aluminum canister and means that you need a (heavy) steel canister. Would a kevlar-reinforced aluminum canister be strong enough for propane? How much heavier would it be? This would be ridiculously expensive for a disposable canister, but if you could make the canisters refillable with straight propane (probably with a separate regulator) you'd really have something. I can easily go through four or five large canisters and six or seven small ones in a year of backpacking. That cost really adds up, and even an expensive (e.g. $100+) canister refillable with propane would save me money (propane is a couple of bucks a gallon here).

Just wondering.

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
More Responses to Posts on 02/19/2005 19:14:43 MST Print View

Thanks for all the great comments and questions. I wanted to respond to a few questions from various posts:

Reviewing the Vargo Jet Ti Stove: Since BPL sells it, we won't review that one, but we will review the Vaude/Markill Peak Ignition (also called the Hot Rod) soon. That stove, and the Kovea Camp 3 are very similar. We will also review the new Brunton Raptor.

REI 4-Season Fuel Mix: Canister fuel containing n-butane is great for warm weather, but I would avoid it for cold weather. Propane and iso-propane are better for cold.

Alcohol Stove Reviews: Coming in April. We tested and reviewed 17 alcohol stoves available for purchase.

Carry Weight of Cooking System and Fuel: That's my next project. I will compare 5 types of cooking systems: white gas, remote burner canister, top mount canister, integrated canister, alcohol, and fuel tab. I will use the lightest, most efficient cooking system I know of in each case. The weight will include the windscreen and fuel container, and data will be based on real world conditions.


Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Jetboil Stove - Why BPL "Bothers" With It? on 02/19/2005 20:43:03 MST Print View


And I just have to say that I wonder why BPL bothers with the JetBoil stove contraption?

Not sure what you mean by "bothers" with it, but for the purpose of this response I'll assume you mean "review" it.

First, it's a popular product. There is a high demand for information about this stove.

Second, the manufacturer has made some pretty bold claims, and we wanted to evaluate them as a third party.

Third, because there is a lot of talk out there (by the manufacturer, by other outdoor magazines that have reviewed it, in forums on the Internet by Jetboil owners) that this is "the most efficient" or "fastest boiling" canister stove around. Not only do we want to keep those claims in check, but we want to make sure that consumers understand the relationship between Jetboil performance and the performance of other canister stoves.

Fourth, we don't "weed out" gear for review based on its perception of poor performance. If it's a product that performs below manufacturer claims, you bet we want to review it, so consumers have data they can use to evaluate their purchasing decision.

Fifth, the concept behind the Jetboil - integrating a canister stove with heat exchanger and windscreen - is very innovative. It could have been done lighter, for sure, but for a first product on the market that conforms to a level of integration not yet seen, so be it - the industry now has a benchmark against which to design a better product.

Please read the Jetboil Review, it will enlighten you about how this stove tested relative to what the manufacturer claims, and you'll see BPL's criticisms of the stove firsthand, which should go a long way to address the perceptions you communicated in your post.

Roy Stanley
(climber1959) - F
Theory and Reality on 02/24/2005 09:24:38 MST Print View

All this discussion about propane and butane and vapor pressure is interesting but its making my head swim! So I decided to just try it and see what happens. We've been having a "cold snap" down here with the temperature in the 40s.
I took my Primus stove and one of my partly filled canisters (about 1/2 full) on my enclosed patio (no wind). All of my canisters were used when its in the 50s or higher, so this was a good test to see if the propane comes out first only below freezing or if it happens when its warmer, too. The thermometer said 47 when I lit the stove. The flame was weak and would have blown out with even a little breeze. I put a pint of water in my quart pot and set it on the stove. After 11 minutes, it was about as warm as a hot bath and the water never came to a boil. This matches what I've seen with this stove in the field.
I think this is actually better than what you'd get in the field for a couple reasons. The stove was in an eclosed area that completely blocked the wind. The Primus has a built in windscreen/heat reflector like the gigapower one someone mentioned. The canister never got colder than mid 40s - not like you were camping and it sat out overnight when it got down into the 20s and then you wanted to fix breakfast once it had warmed up a little. Finally, the canisters had always been used in warm weather. So if I understand Will's point about propane and butane coming out together above freezing that should have happened with this canister - but it obviously didn't.
People are throwing out all kinds of numbers when they've used their stoves - 15, 20, 25 whatever. These seem to miss the point cause I don't think anyone says they never work when its that cold. When I'm camping its not a matter of what my gear can do once or twice best case, it's what I can rely on it to do.
Don't flame me for being honest, guys. I just call them like I see them.
BTW, you added wrong on the cost of the canisters. $5 for an 8 ounce canister comes to $80 for a gallon of fuel, not $40.

Jason Smith
(JasonS) - MLife

Locale: Northeast
Canister Stove Issues on 02/24/2005 15:36:02 MST Print View

I just wanted to add in my results when using canister stoves this past weekend at the presidentials. The temperature was about 15 degrees and I had kept the canister warm with body heat throughout the night. The canister, using a brunton crux, was able to quickly boil about .75 liters of water for food, after this point I was able to melt snow and boil about another .5 liters to add back to my nalgene before performance dramatically dropped and all I had were the little blue flames.

Later on that day, about 20 degrees, for a late lunch I did the same placing the canister in my jacket to heat up then boiled another liter of water.

If anyone is interested I should be using it again in temps around 15 degrees this weekend. I will be cooking for two so I will probably try switching canisters between meals for the first time.

I have one question for those with more experience than myself. I have been thinking of building a copper wire heat exchanger for when it gets cold. With the addition of a temperature gauge, has any one ever had a problem?

Lori Houston
(LHouston) - F
Lighter the Better on 03/07/2005 16:35:51 MST Print View

The lighter the better. I go with an alcohol stove, and a small bottle of alcohol. You can't beat that!

There are many versions listed on and it can be as simple a opening and washing out a tuna can.

Cheap is good too.

David Neumann
(idahomtman) - M

Locale: Northern Idaho
Alcohol stoves on 03/08/2005 09:45:12 MST Print View

Alcohol stoves are not always lighter. It depends on the length of the trip and/or number of days between resupply points. Utilizing readily available data on fuel consumption, often the alcohol and stove weigh more than a canister stove and canister. See for a great discussion on this specific topic.

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Alcohol weight efficiency on 03/08/2005 12:41:26 MST Print View

As an engineering geek, I spend a lot of time considering just this sort of tradeoff. (Too much time if you ask my wife...) It's true that for longer trips, canister stoves become more weight efficient than most alcohol stoves. But, it is the stove's fault, not the fuel. Most alcohol stoves waste a lot of heat due to poor flame control. An efficient alcohol stove can be more weight efficient than a canister setup for any length trip. Of course, convenience, reliability, pot type, windscreens, phase-of-the-moon, etc. come into play in the real world. But from a strictly theoretical/thermodynamic point of view:

Unless I botched the math, a 110g Butane Canister provides approx. 4900 btu and weighs about 7.0 oz full/3.2oz empty; it takes approx. 6.8oz of Ethanol to provide the same heat energy. (Methanol is less efficient.)

So, assuming a 1oz alcohol bottle, a .5oz alcohol stove, and a 3oz canister stove:

Alcohol: 9.3oz full/2.5oz empty/5.9oz average
Canister: 10.0oz full/6.2oz empty/8.1oz average

Note that this comparision is worst case for the Alcohol setup and best case for the canister. For shorter trips, you still lug around the empty canister weight (and unused butane, unless you start with a partially empty canister), but you can take only as much Alcohol as you need.



PS -- responding to questions below, "ounces" in this post are avoirdupois ounces (weight), not fluid ounces (volume).

Edited by MikeMartin on 03/09/2005 09:21:37 MST.

David Neumann
(idahomtman) - M

Locale: Northern Idaho
Maybe, but... on 03/08/2005 14:54:16 MST Print View

I can boil 26+ cups of water using one small canister (, but I doubt I could boil that much water with seven ounces of alcohol and my Pepsi can stove -- adding a windscreen and probably a measuring device for the alcohol. I use denatured alcohol which is probably less efficient than ethanol. Wind affects both stoves, but I like being able to bring a small quantity of water to boil quickly.

The Esbit stove ranks as the most weight efficient in the article I previously mentioned, but I can't seem to come anywhere near what some claim the Esbit stove does for them.

The bottom line for me is that I carry the alcohol stove for shorter trips, but the canister stove for longer ones. Ultimately it boils down (no pun intended) to the specifics of the trip and how much a person wants to mess with the intricacies of the stove.

John austin
(tinny) - F
ALCOHOL WEIGHT-EFFICIENCY on 03/09/2005 07:15:49 MST Print View

I am wondering if everybody is counting alcohol by weight or fluid oz? My stove will boil 16oz of water on 3/4 oz denatured alcohol.It would take 9-3/4 fluid oz to boil 26 cups that would be 13 boils of 16oz of water using 3/4oz per boil. 9-3/4 fluid oz of denatured alcohol weighs only 7.6 oz so the end result is almost the same as a canister except you save the weight of the empty canister. I have always been concerned about the complications of a canister stove. O rings cross threading a canister plugged up jets. Is the canister reall as full as i think? will the canister leak?---Tinny-

John austin
(tinny) - F
Canisters and cold on 03/09/2005 07:28:16 MST Print View

I know that you are not supposed to use a windscreen with a canister stove because it can overheat the canister. But with the problems of cold weather i would think one could experiment with a passive windscreen to at least keep the canister warm on a cold day? This seems much less complicated than heat exchangers and other high tech ideas and can be made from heavy weight aluminum foil 4 layers thick and vented with a paper punch. --Tinny--

very small alcohol stove on 03/09/2005 07:35:15 MST Print View

I have found a very small alcohol stove called the stealth that is a real power house and will fit anywhere in your pack. This would make an excellent backup stove that could be used everyday if needed and uses very little fuel. go to WWW.MINIBULLDESIGN.COM and click on the store icon. And while you are there watch the stove videos!

Dan Hunter
(DanHunter) - F
Average weights on 03/10/2005 23:30:03 MST Print View

Some Alcohol setups are pretty light, even though they use more fuel than butane stoves.

Look at the following site:

It talks about average weights. So, even if you start out with more weight because of extra fuel, it averages out since the last day of your trip, you just have a soda can stove which weighs nothing.

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
alcohol stove at altitude on 03/11/2005 07:46:57 MST Print View

Does 12,000-13,500' in altitude impair an alcohol stove, or is it just wind and cold?