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Deep Freeze: A Cold, Hard Look at Winter Stoves
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James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Svea 123R on 02/02/2012 07:24:30 MST Print View

Yeah, the 123r is perhaps the most reliable and most fuel efficient WG stove made. However, most deep winter campers don't care for the heat output. At ~4500-5000BTU it does not do well for melting a larger volume of snow (more than half a liter;) it takes a while.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
"Deep Freeze: A Cold, Hard Look at Winter Stoves" on 02/02/2012 07:46:59 MST Print View

Great review! I use the older SVEA stove for most camping, all the time. WG is as safe as canister gas. They both have issues but have you seen a canister explode? I have. Right out the side of a Coleman. A potential fireball from WG or explosive gas from a jammed valve on a canister can both be bad news. Different, but equally problematic. Using alcohol can result in a major spill all over you camp gear, too. It just takes common sense to use any stove. All are potentially dangerous.

The Simmerlite uses a LOT of fuel. Easily 3 or 4 times that of the SVEA. And it does NOT simmer. Desides the full output for melting ice and snow, it is often a part of my camp chores to cook. It fails in this area. As you said, cheap, light...a Toyota.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Questions on 02/02/2012 08:50:15 MST Print View

Hey, y'all-

I only ran a few tests w/the xpert, because, well, a state of the market-type report on a discontinued stove just wouldn't make sense. For what it's worth, though, in one "deep-freeze" trial the Powermax/xpert took about 21 minutes to boil versus about 7 minutes for the Primus, 7:45 Simmerlite, 10:00 WindPro, 11:45 Reactor. In one of the more "general" test runs, the Xpert took about 9 minutes longer than the Lander to boil on slightly less fuel.

Damien, don't know what to tell ya. I ran the Reactor empty, several times. Shake it, nothing in there. Weigh it, nothing in there, open it, nothing in there. I'm not concerned about theory, just what is recognizable and usable in the field, and the only way you could've told whether there was technically any amount of fuel left in the canisters would have been with a gas-sniffer and a microscope.

EDIT: Oh, Doug- the other Primus would be the Express Spider, the remote canister version of the Lander. This article was conceived primarily as a white gas stove article, and for the comparison of canister stove: white gas I chose to go with two well-known, nearly identical models for comparison. But yeah, it would be interesting to also compare the Spider to Lander.

Edited by 4quietwoods on 02/02/2012 08:53:17 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Questions on 02/02/2012 13:28:20 MST Print View

Hi Brad

> in one "deep-freeze" trial the Powermax/xpert took about 21 minutes to boil versus about
> 7 minutes for the Primus,
Blimey! I don't know what went wrong there, but something did. My Xpert is never that slow - in fact it always give very good performance in the cold.
One possibility is a slightly blocked jet. Strip and check.
Another possibility is that the canister was not properly connected to the stove. This is a known (user) problem with the older model, and means the Lindal valve is not opened properly. How many tiny O-rings does your stove have on the connector?


James Schipper
(monospot) - MLife
Reactor on 02/02/2012 13:36:12 MST Print View


I'm sure Roger Caffin or some other members could give a more complete answer (or correct me if I am completely wrong) but I suspect that first thing that gives canister stoves problems as the temperature drops is a lack of jet pressure rather than an absolute paucity of vaporized combustible material. The reactor says it has an internal pressure regulator which provides more consistant pressures at colder tempertures. I'm not quite sure how the "internal pressure regulator" works, perhaps someone else could wiegh in.

Edited by monospot on 02/02/2012 14:15:36 MST.

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
Re: Re: Questions on 02/02/2012 17:04:58 MST Print View

Hi Roger-

Yeah, horribly long time... but remember that I was also testing the stove something like 25*C colder than you tend to use stoves. Also of note, I had two of the xperts, and cursory, comparative results between both seemed correlative. "Fair-weather" use around freezing had the xpert boiling a liter in about 5.5 minutes. In another, colder round, the xpert took about 14 minutes to boil vs. 5 for the Lander. Given that I was essentially playing with the (discontinued!) stove, seeing how it compared to the actual test stoves, that was plenty enough for me. That said, anyone have questions about the stoves we covered in the article?

I hoped that the videos would help people get a better idea of the stoves, how they set up, how they burn at different power levels, etc... and I know I've wondered how different items looked from different angles... any feedback on that, folks? Is/was the video helpful, or did I just succeed in giving poor Addie a case of heartburn? Is the video a "feature" you would like to see on future reviews?

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Deep Freeze: A Cold, Hard Look at Winter Stoves on 02/02/2012 17:15:18 MST Print View

Thanks for the article, Brad. Nice work. I have used white gas stoves for decades (well 2 of them anyhow) and am now a recently converted Jetboil advocate. This is chiefly because of the Sol Ti. There have been impressive reports of it's ability in colder weather, although perhaps not quite as cold as your testing protocol. As for me, 0 F is about as cold as I find myself out in using a stove. For that, I have retired the pumed red cylinders and opted for more Sol.

From their website:
J.J. Justman, Senior Guide, Mountain Link said

"The Jetboils worked perfectly all the way up to [Everest] Camp Four at 26,000 feet! I personally was so impressed that I took a Jetboil to Pakistan on my climb of Broad Peak (K3)."

[Camp 4 estimated avg. temp during climbing season is between -25 and -15 degrees C]

They recently introduced the SUMO Ti, which should compete rather more directly with the Reactor and have far less CO (one of the reasons the Reactor has been unpopular here is it's extreme CO emissions recorded). It comes in around 12 oz. and could probably be made less with some careful mods. I plan on purchasing one of the SUMO Ti pots to go along with my Sol Ti and use it during winter in the PNW, which is not all that cold really. Deep cold? I would venture to guess that it would perform similarly to the Reactor, but weighs 7 oz. less. Any thoughts?

Edited by biointegra on 02/02/2012 17:20:38 MST.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
JetBoil Sumo vs. Reactor pots on 02/02/2012 17:21:05 MST Print View

I went to REI to look at the Sumo pot. It is still pretty narrow- I think the new Reactor 2.5 pot is going to be a lot better for melting snow. The Reactor puts out way more BTU than the Jetboil Sol in warm temps so it is probably going to do the same in cold.

Remember gas (butane/propane) canisters do better the higher you go because air pressure is less. Just because it works on Everest doesn't mean it will work lower. I'm going to do a test tomorrow morning at 8,000'/freezing temps to see how that compares to sea level.

/A .
(biointegra) - MLife

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: JetBoil Sumo vs. Reactor pots on 02/02/2012 17:24:56 MST Print View

Yes, the altitude plays into it, but it is impressive nonetheless. This article makes me interested in doing some side to side tests with my XGK, which has been my go-to winter stove since I was a lad. It did fail me once, however, on a climb at about 12,000.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: JetBoil Sumo vs. Reactor pots on 02/02/2012 17:56:01 MST Print View

>"Remember gas (butane/propane) canisters do better the higher you go because air pressure is less."

To the extent that butane and butane-mix canisters can exceed the lower atmospheric pressure at altitude to a lower temperature, yes, they do better at altitude. In that one respect. They will perform when the canister is 5 to 10F colder than at lower elevations.

But less atmospheric air also means less oxygen per cubic foot of air. How ever many cubic feet per meter of air pass through the burner at sea level, the same will at elevation but that volume of air will contain 75% as much oxygen (and nitrogen) at 7,500 feet. 58% as much as 14,500. 50% at 18,000 feet. 45% as much at 20,320. Just like our lungs or an gasoline engine, with less dense air, a burner can't burn as much gas. So (1) max output is down and (2) with less oxygen flow, there's the chance of more CO and unburned fuel vapors, expecially at full throttle and against an ice-cold pot.

I look forward to the results of your 8,000' test. Look for signs of a rich mixture (yellow flames) and if excess fuel gas is combusting outside of the normal blue pre-mix flame compared to sea level.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Stove@altitude on 02/02/2012 18:20:33 MST Print View

So true. I've used the Jetboil PCS at 14,000'. It smelled like it wasn't burning very cleanly. No problems under 12000.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Coleman Xtreme- down the road on 02/02/2012 18:59:25 MST Print View

Hi Brad,

Thanks! I really appreciate the information (and yours too Roger). I can see my path- use the Xtreme until I run out of canisters and then, rather than picking them up for $12 each on eBay (no joke!), I'll just cruise back into white gas country. It was fun taking a ride in the Prius, but the Ford will work too. It was good while it lasted! Thanks for showing a few different options!

And I liked the videos. I probably could have gotten a lot out of just one video per stove, but I enjoyed all of them and found it useful. I also appreciate how thorough you were in your testing. It's hard to follow Roger in this regard but I think your balance of detail and commentary was clear and also enjoyable. I enjoy both of your styles.

Oh- and if anyone out there has a case of Powermax they want to sell, just let me know!

Thanks again!

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Videos in reviews on 02/02/2012 20:03:31 MST Print View

> Is the video a "feature" you would like to see on future reviews?

YES! As long as you can see relevant details, videos are superior to just pics.

And I'm also curious how the Reactor defied basic thermodynamics to empty an upright canister. What gases did those canisters claim to have?

Edited by topshot on 02/02/2012 20:05:11 MST.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Videos in reviews on 02/02/2012 20:12:19 MST Print View

I like the videos but maybe you could talk during them. On the first one I thought my sound wasn't working until I put on Pandora to see if it was the computer or me.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Videos in reviews on 02/02/2012 20:26:45 MST Print View

Hi Michael

> I'm also curious how the Reactor defied basic thermodynamics to empty an upright canister.
The answer is probably rather simple, especially if the stove had a windscreen around it. I suspect the hot air did a bit of recirculation inside the windscreen and warmed the canister.

There's been a lot of talk about running stoves at -40 C. The reality is that the canister is almost *never* at that temperature. Direct radiation from the flames, warm air recirculating, water in a bowl - many sources of heat. Starting with the canister coming out of your pack (or from under your quilt) is always good as well - a warmer start.


Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Re: Videos in reviews on 02/02/2012 21:10:39 MST Print View

"And I'm also curious how the Reactor defied basic thermodynamics to empty an upright canister. What gases did those canisters claim to have?"

The real question is not how it defied thermodynamics - it didn't. The question is how it used thermodynamics to do what it did.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Reactor performance on 02/03/2012 07:24:26 MST Print View

I know there are ways you can get uprights to work in cold. However, Brad started with cold canisters, no windscreen (for the Reactor) and with the canister sitting on snow (at least in the one pic).

Brad, if your equipment allows, can you measure the temp of the top of the canister over the course of a boil? It must be getting enough heat from the burner/pot combo to keep going to the end. Would that provide too much heat when it's hot out?

Brad Groves
(4quietwoods) - MLife

Locale: Michigan
testing, video on 02/03/2012 09:35:27 MST Print View

Paul, exactly- thank you.

The particular questions on the Reactor are based on performance figures I obtained through testing for this article, and as noted, at no time did a canister (or a white gas fuel tank!) receive any kind of assistance. I wanted to see how they performed, in severe cold, without coddling. There was no water bath or heating pad or windscreen or any such thing involved. As the video shows, my hand can nearly touch the Reactor pot and burner assembly, so no, it doesn't put out much heat. For the grins of it I made a contraption out of copper wire, made a couple loops each around the pot and canister, a few doubled strands connecting them... no difference in performance. Also of note, I shot some more video, (but it didn't come out for beans) showing the Reactor, assembled, in the freezer. Opened the freezer door, opened the valve on the Reactor, lit the Reactor w/a ~20% full canister. Honestly, I don't care WHY it works, so much as the fact that it DOES work. The only possibility of added warmth during testing would have been rim contact with the ground, but as my "light it in the freezer" round went, I'd guess that ground contact didn't make much difference.

Thanks for the feedback on videos, all! I debated about whether talking would be a distractor or not. Next time will use "condensed" videos, probably not give so much exposure for showing ranges of performance, etc.


Ronald Bishop
(Compass) - MLife

Locale: Ontario
Soto Muka on 02/07/2012 15:34:16 MST Print View


I've never used a white gas stove, as my overnight hikes have always taken place in the warmer weather when I use either alcohol stoves for solo trips or canister stoves for family camping. Having said that, over these past couple of winters I've done a lot more day hikes on snowshoes, so buying some extra winter gear for overnight trips would seem like a natural fit.

You definitely peaked my interest with the commentary & photos of the Soto Muka, so I think I'm going to do some more research and buy my first white gas stove. Thanks for an interesting & entertaining article.

Edited by Compass on 02/07/2012 15:41:01 MST.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
MSR Dragonfly on 02/29/2012 12:31:43 MST Print View

I consider the MSR Dragon fly one of the top 5 winter stoves. It can simmer lower than any liquid fuel stove I know of and can be very hot at its maximum. Low simmer is important for baking and warming to save fuel.

The Dragonfly is extremely reliable if the pump is properly maintained yearly. Yes, it is the heaviest MSR stove but it has many redeeming virtues. The one nitpick I have is that I had to file tiny V notches all along the wire potstand top surface to give more friction on the pot bottom. This would be an easy fix for MSR to add.