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Weighs less to carry a canister stove long distances?
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Andy Schill
(Aschill) - F
Weighs less to carry a canister stove long distances? on 05/09/2011 12:54:19 MDT Print View

I thought I read on this forum a while ago that on a long distance hike, it actually weighs less to carry a canister stove as opposed to an alcohol stove. Can someone clarify this for me?

I'm headed for 8 days on the AT (not really long distance) and can't decide between my Caldera cone alcohol setup or Snow Peak canister stove setup.

Thanks for the help!

Jeff Jeff
(TwoFortyJeff) - F
Re: Weighs less to carry a canister stove long distances? on 05/09/2011 13:07:07 MDT Print View

Depends on your resupply strategy and how much you cook. 8 days is pretty short so I wouldn't worry about it.

If I were doing 2 meals a day for 8 days, I would use a canister stove. Alcohol is heavy. Then again we are only talking ounces here. It won't make a difference.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Weighs less to carry a canister stove long distances? on 05/09/2011 13:08:42 MDT Print View

If you go to the Thru-Hiker site, there is an article that compares the different fuels/burners for weight on a per-day basis. Still, you need to think about how that relates to your own amount of cooking or boiling. Also, you may have different assumptions about basic weights, such as the weight of a Snow Peak burner versus another.


Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
A quick calc on 05/09/2011 14:22:51 MDT Print View

An approximate calulation is pretty easy to do your self.

Ethyl alcohol has roughly 11,500 BTU per pound
Butane/Propane/Isobutane have roughly 19,500 BTU per pound.

To use canister fuel you have a heavier stove 3 oz vs 1 oz and a canister 4oz per 8oz fuel. So you need to make up 6 oz of weight from more efficient fuel. For every oz of alcohol you bring you only need .6 oz of butane so you have to bring 15 oz of alcohol to overcome the initial weight penalty. However 15 oz of alcohol equals 9 oz of butane which is more than one Canister which means over 1 can of fuel you can't really catch up.

If you start to look at it closer a Canister will be slightly lighter if the number of days you are out is equal or close to fully using a canister. But you don't use a canister stove because it is light weight you use it because it is convenient.

I don't understand the love of alcohol stoves though, esbit is far lighter and doesn't spill and only requires a wind screen.

Matthew Zion
(mzion) - F

Locale: Boulder, CO
Re: Weighs less to carry a canister stove long distances? on 05/09/2011 14:44:33 MDT Print View

Alcohol weighs less when you allow yourself to resupply fairly often. Filling up your alcohol bottle every 4 days with exactly 4 days worth of alcohol is lighter than buying a full canister and using it until its empty.

Cooking with alcohol also takes significantly longer. Pros and cons to each choice as usual. Go with what your comfortable with.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: A quick calc on 05/09/2011 14:55:16 MDT Print View

Greg, it is a little more complicated than that. You assumed that the butane burner weighs 3 ounces, like the Snow Peak. If you get a lighter burner, the equation changes. A Gnat weighs 1.65 ounces.

In general, I agree with your principle to carry a canister for convenience.


Andrew F
(andrew.f) - F - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Canister vs. Alcohol on 05/09/2011 15:03:48 MDT Print View

BPL has an excellent article addressing this exact question:


Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
RE: a quick calc on 05/09/2011 15:15:24 MDT Print View


I definately agree that the quick assumptions I make will definately effect the result.

The biggest of which is that I assume that an alcohol stove and a canister stove have the same efficincy at turning the stored energy in the fuel into heat in the pot. I haven't used alcohol enough to compare. For me once I saw that Esbit is substantially lighter than alcohol I use it for a lightweight solution and a Canister for a convenient solution.

James Lantz
(jameslantz) - F

Locale: North Georgia
Re "Canister vs. Alcohol" on 05/09/2011 16:28:37 MDT Print View

Weight vs. convenience is one part of the equation. The number of people being cooked for is another part that can factor into the convenience side of the equation. If I'm cooking solo I use Esbit, Caldera Cone,& SnowPeak 600 mug. If I'm cooking for 2, I use a small SnowPeak canister, Soto Microregulator stove, & Evernew 1000 Titanium pot. This of course applies to boiling water for "boil in bag" meals.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re "Canister vs. Alcohol" on 05/09/2011 16:35:32 MDT Print View

I just want to eat. So I take a canister. So I'm lazy. No fuel to measure, spill,wait to prime, etc.. Easy. I found that the weight difference for me becomes a non issue in trips lasting more than 3 days.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re "Canister vs. Alcohol" on 05/09/2011 17:03:45 MDT Print View

A few weeks ago I was clearing out some things in my garage, and I discovered seven canisters (large or small) of butane blend. That is beyond the three canisters that I had in the house. So, that pretty well cinches it for me as to what kind of fuel to use this summer.


Andy Schill
(Aschill) - F
Thanks! on 05/09/2011 20:18:01 MDT Print View

Thanks for the help everyone!

Jeff LaVista
(LaVista) - F
Gas stove all the way! on 05/10/2011 09:41:57 MDT Print View

For most use in the USA where cannisters are convenient to purchase, I don't see how anyone can make any other decision. To me, alcohol stoves are annoying and require constant fiddling. The fuel can spill and start a fire. One that drips and spills flame. If I were travelling internationally it would become a different story and I would want something with multi-fuel capability, though.

I was thinking about going with an alcohol stove for fast & light single or double overnighters, figuring I could save myself about 4oz over my typical setup, but the extra setup time, and extra cooking time was totally not worth it for me.

Now if I am going fast & light it's Esbit all the way. I even keep one in my emergency kit with my stash of puritabs.

It is nice however that alcohol stoves are super easy to make and if you take the time to make a few stoves in your kitchen and fool around with them, it's a skill you can carry with you. Even if your kitchen gets totally stomped by a bear (or careless hiker, for that matter... had some close calls..), You can get all the stuff you need for an alcohol stove at a convenience store or supermarket.


Locale: East Bay
Alcohol convert on 05/10/2011 10:10:59 MDT Print View

I've converted to alcohol. Its easy to carry, easy to find and really easy to cook with. I find I can get something cooking and simply walk away from it for quite awhile since the cooking is going on much slower. I can simmer stuff (simmer ring) way slower than I could on any other stove. It is super quiet (I hated the various hissing noises of all my gas stoves) and there is never ANY excess fuel on any trip because I drink the excess, hah! With the caldera cone, the setup is also super stable so there are zero worries about accidentally knocking dinner over.

Kevin Haskins
(kevperro) - F

Locale: Washington State
Don't see that big of a difference. on 05/10/2011 10:16:09 MDT Print View

I just don't see the big difference between stoves. I've carried a Snow Peak canister stove for seven years, white gas for half the AT, wood burner for a portion of the PCT and now I carry an alcohol stove.

They all have their place. I don't really find dealing with alcohol any more difficult than using a canister (solo use). My issue with canisters is the fact that I waste so much fuel and I end up with dozens of partially used canisters laying around. That and my Snow Peak would have really poor performance in very cold weather. White gas rules for the winter. Alcohol rules for the cheap and lightweight. Canisters have an ease of use attraction and wood stoves are great when you are in dry climates and don't want to worry about resupply for fuel.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Weighs less to carry a canister stove long distances? on 05/10/2011 11:13:50 MDT Print View

You mention using a caldera... I've found my calderas to use about half the alcohol of other alky stoves, ie only ~0.5 fl oz/15ml to boil a pint. For my purposes, I found that alcohol was lighter than canister up to something like 10 or 12 days. For a 14 day trip the canister would have a weight advantage... for two days, then I'd be carrying a heavier system for the remainder of the trip. Also a note on cooking time, my caldera generally boils a pint between 5-6 minutes... not long at all.

Edit: Oh, yeah... I boil ~2.5 pints/day

Edited by 4quietwoods on 05/10/2011 11:15:11 MDT.