Forum Index » GEAR » Starting to doubt using my alcohol stove for cannister


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Rod Lawlor
(Rod_Lawlor) - MLife

Locale: Australia
Garbage / recyclability on 03/25/2013 05:10:55 MDT Print View

I agree, the one use canister is the main reason that I resisted gas for a long time.

And then I realized that I was happy to open a can of tomatoes to make a bolognaise sauce to take put through the dehydrator to take with me. There's about the same amount or steel involved.

Cost was the other issue, and they are much more expensive per unit of heat. But then I thought about it, and figured its about $1.00 per person per day. I'll deal with it.

The final thing that converted me, was how much more it gets my family involved. If I'm running a liquid stove, I'm the one doing the cooking. And making the tea. And making the coffee. And making the dessert. With a gas stove, I'm happy to let my wife or kids jump in and do it.

And if there are four of us out for 4-8 days, no one is holding alcohol burners up as a lightweight option!

Kronos Master of Fate
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
Re: canisters on 03/25/2013 06:16:51 MDT Print View

I bring my empty canisters home and they go in the recycling. I'm not out every single weekend. Just a few canisters a year. Driving to the trailhead probably does more harm than a single canister.

Fuel choice #2 is alcohol. Blissfully quiet.

I agree with Rod above also.

Edited by kthompson on 03/25/2013 06:21:07 MDT.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: cannisters on 03/25/2013 07:09:48 MDT Print View

The steel canisters are nearly 100% recyclable and would biodegrade to iron otherwise. Alcohol and Esbit have their respective packaging and manufacturing issues. Wood has LNT and summer fire restrictions to consider.

The only free lunch is a cold one: all cooking options have impacts.

Edited by dwambaugh on 03/25/2013 07:20:10 MDT.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: Re: cannisters on 03/25/2013 07:51:13 MDT Print View

@Max Try to use one of those wood stoves in the rain at an AT/LT shelter with 4 others inside ;) not going to happen..

I tried the Alcohol thing and didn't like the pouring, liquid fuel leaking risk, slow boil times. Optimus Crux.. tiny, fast, simple. you can recycle the canisters once you punch a hole in them. 100g I can do at least 18 2c boils

d k
(dkramalc) - MLife
Re: Re: Vargo Titanium on 03/25/2013 08:54:43 MDT Print View

Salient argument 4: ever hear of hiking above treeline?

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Pro canisters on 03/25/2013 09:25:44 MDT Print View

>"The only free lunch is a cold one" Nice turn of phrase, Dale.

I have refilled canisters, but usually to have a different blend of gases in it. I like the can of tomatoes analog - we don't hesitate to use the tomatoes and pat ourselves on the back when we recycle the steel can, but somehow a steel fuel can is different?!?

HYOH, Bring your own stove.

I play with alkie, esbit and have, for large groups, even resurrected various white-gas MSR stoves. Operative word being "play" - on a one or two-night solo trip. All this after starting on SVEA-123s, Optimus 8Rs and wood fires decades ago.

Don't know how much is left in a canister? Got a laundry marker? Weigh each on your gram scale and mark, "Full = 357 grams" or whatever. The label tells you the fuel weight, although when I exhaust one, I weigh and mark all the others of that type, "Empty = 132 grams". Now you can assess its contents instantly (while you're packing). *clever idea ahead (separate post to follow).

Consider that having a less capable stove costs you something, too. If I'm gathering twigs and pine cones, or waiting 12 minutes for a cup of tea, that is time and often heat loss that could have been spent hiking or looking at the stars from inside my warm sleeping bag.

Most commonly for solo trips, I go with cold food (and always for the 30/40-mile day hikes). That has some weight penalty, too, as foods that are reconstituted with water and heat are typically lighter per calorie than the wraps, sandwiches and brownies I bring as cold food. I still come out ahead, but my point is that a more capable canister stove can save you minutes of cold exposure, some ounces of food weight and also be a safety benefit - a couple of branches or drift wood catch fire a lot faster atop a canister stove than a alkie or esbit stove - something I made use of when my wife swamped her kayak once in the surf at 59 North.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: cannisters on 03/25/2013 09:40:47 MDT Print View

Maybe I produce 8 empty canisters a year. I put them in recycling. Aren't they aluminum? So they are re-used pretty efficiently. There are so many other things I do that are much worse.

It's too bad they can't be refilled.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Clever Canister Concept on 03/25/2013 09:44:46 MDT Print View

In my last post, I mentioned how I weigh all canister types on a gram scale before and after use so I can assess their contents by weight. I've been kicking around two other techniques:

There are little "postal" scales, most often used to sell marijuana before digital scales got so cheap. There was a alligator / roach clip on one end and you held it up from a pivot point. The angle it hangs from shows the weight. They were in the 0.1 to 4 ounce range and we'd need something in the 3 to 12 ounce range for butane mix canisters.

http://www.rollies.com/Scales/HandScales.htm look at the bottom of the page for a very clear diagram.

Another style would be a classic balance beam, but with a short arm for the canister and a long arm for a counterweight. I'm trying to think of a standard weight you'd have with you all the time (the mini bic lighter gets lighter with use), I might settle on a SAK Classic. An indent at 0% and 100% (for each canister type) would let you see exactly how much is left at any time. The canister could be held up by a lindel thread or a strong, small magnet. Ohh, ohh!, one's titanium spork could be notched and pivoted to do this, adding no weight.

But better than the above would be to float the canisters and have 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% float lines printed on the side. Toss it in the sink or lake and see how buoyant it is. I'll be playing with that later today.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: cannisters on 03/25/2013 09:53:17 MDT Print View

Jerry: They are steel, not aluminum. I just checked 20-year-old MSR, 10-year-old MSR, last year's MSR and some Coleman canisters with a magnet and they were all steel. I wish they were aluminum, but I only see the 10-, 20-, and 40-pound (propane weight) propane bottles in aluminum, mostly for maritime use for the corrosion resistance, but up here, I also see them flown to remote locations and swapped out due to the lower air freight costs.

The butane mix canisters be refilled. Just not safely by most or legally by any. Or maybe?. . . . Clearly the classic one-pound propane canisters can't be transported across state lines if refilled due to Federal DOT regulations. It is the transport, not the refilling that is illegal. Anyone know about BP canisters?

Edited by DavidinKenai on 03/25/2013 09:55:18 MDT.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
alcohol vs canister on 03/25/2013 10:02:35 MDT Print View

First... I have never had a moments trouble with my alcohol stoves. I don't understand all of the setting things on fire and spilling that the OP mentions. I have seen a canister stove turn into a fireball and I have had a companion have one leak all the gas out after removing it from the stove so they are not entirely trouble free, but problems with either type of stove should be very rare if they are handled properly.

My deciding factor for which to use is how much fuel I expect to use between resupply and which fuel is more likely to be available where I will be restocking. I figure, that for most of my trips canisters start to be a lighter option if I will be about a week or more between restocking points. That would be shorter if using it for a group, melting snow for water, or boiling all water.

When backpacking I really prefer to try to restock at least once every 6 days rather than carry a heavy load of food so I most often use my alcohol stove. If sharing the stove I smitch to canister for shorter trips than that.

On long bicycle tours I have sometimes had trouble finding canisters for sale and alcohol seems to be pretty much always available. So for that usage I generally stay with alcohol as well even if sharing the stove.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
canisters on 03/25/2013 10:06:14 MDT Print View

On the objections to canisters based on the supposed problem of recycling the container... Are they really that much worse than alcohol or other liquids that come in a plastic bottle or metal can?

Edited by staehpj1 on 03/25/2013 11:17:27 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: canisters on 03/25/2013 10:21:19 MDT Print View

>"On the objections to canisters based on the supposed problem of recycling the container... Are they really that much better than alcohol or other liquids that come in a plastic bottle or metal can?"

Coming from the days of a gallon of white gas in a steel can (fuel weight : container weight about 15:1), I was struck by how wasteful these new-fangled canisters seemed with a ratio of about 2:1). Do the other detractors date from a similar era? Except for maybe buying a gallon of alcohol and keeping it at home, everyone buys their fuel in smallish containers nowadays. So I agree, this trait is shared by all non-wood stoves.

The more I use them, the more I appreciate the instant heat and therefore the fuel saved in not priming. But importantly, at least for me, canister stoves are so easy to relight, I turn them off immediately, whereas I'd often leave a white gas stove on low to avoid restarting it.

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Containers on 03/25/2013 10:52:52 MDT Print View

I guess that you could buy gasoline, diesel, or kerosene at the pump and use a reusable container.

Ian Destroyer of Forums
(IDBLOOM) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: canisters on 03/25/2013 11:14:31 MDT Print View

"Coming from the days of a gallon of white gas in a steel can (fuel weight : container weight about 15:1), I was struck by how wasteful these new-fangled canisters seemed with a ratio of about 2:1)"
I use the 100g Jetboil canister so it's a dead even 1:1 ratio (3.5oz each). My assumption is that the local recycling plant will accept the expired canister but I need to double check. The municipality I live in isn't all that progressive so there's a good chance they won't. They won't accept glass as it's a negative benefit for them to recycle it and apparently they don't care about landfill (shakes fist at the man.)

I’m interested enough to ask the landfill the next time I’m out there to see if aerosol canisters are recycled or just disposed of and if so, would they accept isobutene canisters.

I've had some emotionally significant experiences with white gas so I doubt I'll ever go back unless I plan on melting snow. Even then, I'll probably give an inverted canister a try.

Back to the OP, the 3.5 oz empty canister is one of the hurdles I have a hard time justifying when solo. As an Esbit user, this is at least 7 - 16oz boils for me

Edited by IDBLOOM on 03/25/2013 11:26:45 MDT.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: Starting to doubt using my alcohol stove for canister on 03/25/2013 11:37:17 MDT Print View

"set a table at a shelter on fire"

That was you? Man, I think you've been at every AT shelter before me, multiple times in some cases.... :)

I used an alky stove for a while, and a tablet stove, and I keep coming back to my canister -- and it's not even the lightest one. The only downside is the need to carry a second canister when the first is getting low -- or the willingness to toss the not-empty canister in a hiker box when resupplying with a new one.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Starting to doubt using my alcohol stove for canister on 03/25/2013 11:39:54 MDT Print View

"The only downside is the need to carry a second canister when the first is getting low"

I car camp frequently, like near the trailhead, and can eventually use up all the canisters with small amount of fuel.

Bill Reynolds
(billreyn1) - M

Locale: North East Georgia Mountains
Starting to doubt using my alcohol stove for cannister" on 03/25/2013 11:56:55 MDT Print View

Hey Ken, yeah I have been secretly scouting out your shelter locations and setting all the tables on fire! LOL! But seriously, if you fool with alcohol stoves long enough you are probably going to have fire get outside the stove some or at least some spillage. All my mishaps over the years have been small and were quickly extinguished. But I do agree about not wanting to carrying the second canister. How many boils do you get out of the small canister?

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: Re: Starting to doubt using my alcohol stove for canister on 03/25/2013 11:58:22 MDT Print View

my gf has one of those Snow Peak canister lanterns that we use sometimes car camping that is another good use for almost empty canisters.

i don't get the resupply thing.. 8oz gets you 8-10 boils of alcohol where 8oz gets you 15-20 boils out of a canister. depending on the length of a long trip you might not need to resupply fuel at all (JMT, Long Trail). what if you do a short section.. 2-3 days then you have to do another short section and not resupply or carry extra fuel. Town stops aren't always a nice 5-6 days apart like clockwork.

in the end people are going to like what they like. i'll "spend" a few ounces for convenience and speed.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
The Great Stove Wars on 03/25/2013 12:01:35 MDT Print View

These threads amuse me. :)

Much like religious faith, seems as if many people have The One True Stove (TM).

It is possible to have different stove for different purposes...or just because. :) Sometimes I'll take an alchy stove when solo and want a hot meal. Other times I'll take a canister stove if the aim is more social. Sometimes I'll even go stoveless because I am lazy at heart and don't want to futz with anything. :)

Remember the mantra, there is no such thing as the "best' gear. Just what is best for you, your desired goals and own personal preferences.

Bill Reynolds
(billreyn1) - M

Locale: North East Georgia Mountains
"Starting to doubt using my alcohol stove for cannister" on 03/25/2013 12:08:43 MDT Print View

My intent was never to convince anybody to change I just wanted to see if others had experienced some of the same frustrations that I had and apparently there are quite a few that for whatever reason have changed to canisters. I am sure that after my thru there will be times when I use my alchy setup but the more I think about cooking for 5 months on the AT canisters are looking pretty good.