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Stove ignition at altitude
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Mathieu Fagnan
(MFagnan) - M
Stove ignition at altitude on 02/17/2005 11:01:35 MST Print View

Hi everyone

I had a very bad time fireing up my stoves at very high altitude(and cold). My experiences are:
1)Matches to start a MSR XGK at 5500m and more. Fuel refuse to ignate, matches burn but produce no flame!
2)Totaly unreliable piezo on my MSR Superfly at 4000m and more and freezing temperature.
Does anyone have tips or first hand experience:
1)for using lighter
2)about the best matches
3)about using piezo
for VERY high altitude (6000+m)

Thanks
(sorry for broken/bad english)

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Good lighter on 09/22/2007 21:45:47 MDT Print View

Try a GOOD butane lighter (that you must always carry in your inner layers to keep the butane warm). There are special outdoors butane lighters that have adjustable flames. If you don't trust butane lighters use an old fashioned ZIPPO lighter. Thay always work.

Also, be sure you are using "stove grade" white gasolinen not kerosene.
I've had no trouble lighting my MSR Dragonfly at -22 F.

Eric

Edited by Danepacker on 09/22/2007 21:48:44 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Stove ignition at altitude on 09/22/2007 22:59:50 MDT Print View

Hi Mathieu

> I had a very bad time fireing up my stoves at very high altitude(and cold). My experiences are:
> 1)Matches to start a MSR XGK at 5500m and more. Fuel refuse to ignate, matches burn but produce no flame!
> 2)Totaly unreliable piezo on my MSR Superfly at 4000m and more and freezing temperature.

All are symptoms of the cold. It is a bit of a Catch-22: you need to get a flame to warm the fuel up to light it. I don't think the altitude per se is a major factor - it just means it is going to be cold!

> Does anyone have tips or first hand experience:
> 1)for using lighter
Yes, the very reliable method of always carrying your lighter inside your clothing. Getting a stove going can be the single most important factor in your survival, so the minor inconvenience of having to remember to carry your lighter is not a big thing. Just remember: Butane (as in a lighter) has to be above 0 C to burn. But once you have that flame ... you're in.

> 2)about the best matches
Here in Australia we can get 'Greenlights': wax covered matches that are very reliable. I carry some, sealed up to keep them dry, but I prefer the Bic and rely on it. I also carry a sealed spare Bic in my emergency kit.

> 3)about using piezo
There is not a lot of energy in a piezo spark. At cold temperatures it may not be enough to warm up the liquid or gas enough. I would treat piezo systems as unreliable in the cold.

Cheers
Roger Caffin

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Windmill lighters on 09/23/2007 04:26:46 MDT Print View

I have never used one, but they look like a massive overkill, and certainly hugely expensive!
I use a cheap butane lighter, often called a 'Bic' lighter. Cost - probably under a dollar. Actually, most of mine have been found, not bought!

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Windmill lighters on 09/23/2007 12:00:42 MDT Print View

I have one (Windmill lighter). Works wonderfully at sea level, and perhaps up to about 5k feet. At high altitudes it doesn't work at all. Worse than worthless, because one's lulled into thinking they have a working lighter, only to discover they instead have a useless lump of plastic. Disposable Bic flint lighters are much better.

Many piezo-ignited stoves will still work at altitude with *careful* monitoring of the gas flow: the higher the altitude, the less the fuel flow. The goal is to keep the fuel:air ratio between LEL and UEL (lower explosive limit/upper explosive limit). It's common to have too rich a mixture to light.

That said, some designs seem to work better than others, e.g., Primus are far more dependable sparkers than Markill.

Graham Williams
(crackers) - F
Re: Stove ignition at altitude on 09/24/2007 09:56:35 MDT Print View

In my experience, piezo's are unreliable over 3.5k meters.

Have you ever used a cotton ball to ignite the flame? Get a cotton ball, drip it in the fuel, and light that.

For matches, I've learned to forgo fancy camping matches and instead I use fancy pipe smoking matches. They've got a longer stick and they're usually fatwood and burn really hot.

I agree with roger about Bics. They're universally available after travel anywhere in the world with mountains, and you can carry multiples in case four break on you. I keep them in internal pockets.

Have fun.

Scott Toraason
(kimot2)
"Stove ignition at altitude" on 09/24/2007 13:08:52 MDT Print View

My Windmill works fine at 8,000 feet, have not had the opportunity to light my Giga Power stove to higher elevations. I just dialed down the fuel to allow for more oxygen.

Holubar D
(mdenton@gci.net) - F

Locale: Alaska
Windmill lighter on 10/04/2007 21:02:55 MDT Print View

I have one that has never worked very well.
Every year it is less and less efficient.
It just quit on me and I will never buy this brand again.
Very poor product.

Christopher Chupka
(FatTexan) - M

Locale: NTX
Bics on 10/05/2007 15:06:57 MDT Print View

I always carry 2 of the Bic mini lighters. One close to my body and one in my pack somewhere. My emergency source are those crazy REI super matches. They do not go out even when you want them to.

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Re: REI Super Matches on 10/08/2007 08:25:01 MDT Print View

REI Storm Proof Matches

Yeah, I remember lighting some of those... they always scare me when they light up.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Stove ignition at altitude on 10/08/2007 17:00:59 MDT Print View

Mathieu,
I have never been able to get a Piezo lighter to work above ~1800 metres and would never rely on one as my main ignition technique at any elevation. Bics are pretty much the gold standard wherever I've packed. In additon to the techniques mentioned by other posters, I would suggest birthday candles(if you can get them in Europe, which is where you appear to be). They are designed to be VERY difficult to blow out and are thus very useful in the backcountry. I always carry a couple in my emergency supplies, but they are very light and quite small and would add almost no weight/bulk to your kit. Might be worth a try. One other thing: If you are using an XGK, try bleeding a little fuel into the primer pan and then holding a lit match, Bic, or other fire source under the primer pan to warm the fuel before attempting to light it.