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Exchanging fuel on the trail
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Adam Klagsbrun
(klags) - MLife

Locale: Northeast US
Exchanging fuel on the trail on 06/17/2013 10:20:30 MDT Print View

Out here on the east coast its extremely common to camp with other people and run into other backpacker camps while on a vast majority of popular trails and peaks. I was wondering if any UL longer distance hikers who use canister stoves have ever asked to exchange fuel on the trail with fellow hikers? I just hate using alcohol fuel and was considering a longer hike, and how to be most effective about refueling without wasting time going into civilization or carrying more than one fuel canister. Anyone ever traded an almost empty canister for an almost full one while on the trail? And to go a little bit crazier here, has anyone figured out a way, if there is one, to exchange fuel between canisters? Would there be a way to create a pressurized tube with valve that could screw into both canisters and "equalize" pressure between them? (Essentially being able to pull, say, about half the gas out from one canister and into the other canister so that one was then almost half full?)

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Exchanging fuel on the trail on 06/17/2013 13:57:22 MDT Print View

why would someone want your empty canister? take care of yourself. I got around 18-20 boils out of an 100g canister on the Long Trail and it still wasn't empty.

If you're carrying more food than that then you're pack is far too heavy and you'll hit a town beforehand anyway. and at that point an extra fuel canister is a drop in the bucket. You hit roads every few days in NH/VT at least

Adam Klagsbrun
(klags) - MLife

Locale: Northeast US
because trail magic... on 06/17/2013 14:43:48 MDT Print View

if I were hiking for 2 days and a long distance hiker asked me for fuel I'd be more than happy to provide... I am trying to gauge how other people feel. Ultimately one extra fuel container isn't a huge deal, you're right. I just think it would be cool to be able to top off from someone else's fuel canister if they didn't need it.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: because trail magic... on 06/17/2013 14:53:36 MDT Print View

There's a thread about refilling canisters. They sell something on ebay. You have to make sure you don't overfill or pressures can cause it to burst.

here's link:

Edited by retiredjerry on 06/17/2013 14:57:48 MDT.

Adam Klagsbrun
(klags) - MLife

Locale: Northeast US
Re: Re: because trail magic... on 06/17/2013 15:00:49 MDT Print View

That's pretty cool. I'd like to see one that had the threads for the standard backpacking cannister and a valve built in to relieve excess pressure for safety... might try to create something like this if I can't find it. Thanks for the lead there.

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Exchanging fuel on the trail on 06/17/2013 15:54:29 MDT Print View

I've had hikers ask me to haul out bulky PB jars.

I haven't had any hikers ask if I wanted to trade my full jar for their empty one.

If someone needed a boil or two of alcohol, or an esbit, or a few jelly beans or whatever I'd trade.

I would not trade a full canister for an empty, bear or fuel.

Hope that helps

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: because on 06/17/2013 17:12:46 MDT Print View

I HATE the term Trail Magic for 99.9% of the times it is used.

I would not plan to give or receive a canister or part of one.(i'd pack out an empty one to recycle if someone asked) Personally, i wouldn't feel safe trying to transfer fuel from one to another. Alcohol or white gas sure (but i don't use those) but i'm not messing with valves and pressurized containers. you should be able to figure out that every 2 weeks you need to pick up a new canister.

Again, in this part of the world, town is not very far away and hitchhiking is pretty damn easy if you don't go right through a town. AT hikers by the time they get here are already quite experienced either NOBO or SOBO and are pretty good at calculating town stops every 4-6 days.

edit: if you read Jim's article it's not really trail friendly either. the "donor" canister is not a normal stove canister, the connection is not very light looking (brass) and it could take hours to fill and you need a scale to do it safely.

Edited by JakeDatc on 06/17/2013 17:20:34 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Exchanging fuel on the trail on 06/17/2013 19:06:42 MDT Print View

This thread is confusing to me. Most hikers plan their hike with just enough fuel or a little more just in case. The few hikers that I know personally, pride themselves on being self-sufficient.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: Exchanging fuel on the trail on 06/17/2013 21:13:25 MDT Print View

Agree Nick, I don't go out expecting help or expecting to help anyone else (unless emergency or injury situation).

once you start expecting stuff you're not prepared for when it doesn't show up. I am wondering where the line on the AT was this year where the almost daily hiker feeds stopped and folks had to start fending for themselves more.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Bartering for fuel on the trail on 06/17/2013 23:59:32 MDT Print View

I'd be likely help you out, but I'm kind of an uber trail angel. Just last month, I housed and fed a BPL moderator and her family for two nights and then arranged to have two 30-pound food drops done, by air, for free, 200 miles past the last road-accessible point on their journey this summer. Which included some 99% IPA transferred to a recycled, 8-ounce HDPE container.

I'd be most likely to help you out if I was packing out that day and still had some butane/propane mix in a canister. Then, if you had an canister-to-canister adaptor (which I haven't seen mentioned on Jim's website and I haven't found, so I'd have to make one), and some chemistry / chemical engineering knowledge about vapor pressures, etc, you'd be all set.

Without spelling out all the gory details, the rub is that the donor canister has to be warmer than the receiving canister. You can make the receiving canister colder by burning off some fuel or leaving it out overnight or getting it into cold water. It is easier to make the donor canister warm - stick it in your underwear, leave it in the sun or (quickest) use your Bic lighter, although many people shy away from the flame-around-fuel-tanks thing cause of all those scary signs the fire marshall puts up. Weenies!

But if you had that procedure down, then you could benefit from someone who doesn't care about the last 1/4 to 1/3 of a canister. And you could combine two partial canisters into one fuller one.

Here's an easier strategy that would be more successful: Carry some $1 bills (1 gram each). When someone else is outbound, offer to buy their partial canister(s) on a pro-rated basis. Don't we all have a ton of partial canisters at home? They could avoid having one more. You saved a trip to town. They saved a bit of weight, bulk, and recouped some of their fuel cost. If you worry about the bulk of the accrued empties, clobber it with a boulder. If you are bothered about the weight, make part of the $3 deal that you buy the partial and they pack out your previously emptied (and flattened?) canister.

Often when you expect the world to support you, the world shakes its head at you. Often, when you offer to pay for small things, they are given freely.

Why/How do Jenn and Hig score a lot of freebies? Because they are traveling 800 miles totally human-powered, half of it trail-less, bear-infested wilderness with a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old and blogging about it as they go. You and I will never do anything near so cool or challenging, so we shouldn't expect as much assistance.