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Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not?
Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves
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kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
MSR press release on 06/29/2007 12:05:01 MDT Print View

Was this MSR's way of acknowledging the BPL Test/Report?
MSR, to their credit, has been good through the years about correcting "not quite ready for prime time" gear.

Edited by kdesign on 06/29/2007 12:06:07 MDT.

John Kays
(johnk) - M

Locale: SoCal
Cause of Death? on 06/29/2007 15:30:14 MDT Print View

On Memorial Day weekend, 1987, a storm enveloped the entire west coast extending from Canada to just north of the Mexico border. The memory has stuck with me because I was in the in the Sierras tent bound while it snowed non-stop. Arriving home the newspapers reported the death of two “world-class” (i.e. experienced)climbers, either on Rainer or Mt. Hood, found in their tent with no signs of trauma and with no obvious indicia of the cause of death. Their tent was intact and remained unburied in the snow. Authorities were unable to provide a cause of death until autopsy and further investigation. I followed the news for awhile but never heard any follow-up to this story. Since then I have skimmed books dealing with fatal mountaineering screw-ups but no mention of this incident. This discussion has revived my increasingly stale memory and have often wondered if they were asphyxiated cooking in their tent? Might anyone here recall and know the outcome of the coroner’s report of this mountaineering tragedy?

Edited by johnk on 07/02/2007 11:13:43 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not? <br>Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves on 08/17/2007 23:24:09 MDT Print View

> Seattle, WA, June 29th, 2007 — Stringent Testing Protocol
> Results in Minor Design Adjustment

> SEATTLE, Washington – MSR (Mountain Safety Research), the
> Seattle-based manufacturer of proven backcountry gear for
> demanding users, today announced that the MSR Reactor
> Stove System, previously scheduled for release in spring
> of 2007 is not ready for release yet.
Er, yes, quite...

> As Seattle-based production increased and stoves were put
> through MSR’s stringent testing protocols, the majority of
> units met demanding test standards; however, a minority
> fell short of a particular worst-case combustion condition
> test, and produced higher than desired levels of Carbon
> Monoxide (CO).
Hum - I thought the CO level was an inevitable consequence of the combustion chamber design myself. I guess I dispute the word 'minority'.

> Carbon Monoxide is a byproduct of all fuel-burning stoves,
> and although the elevated levels produced by the Reactor
> would have posed little appreciable CO risk to those using
> the stove as directed,
'as directed": 6 feet from your tent in a howling blizzard...

But, I also demonstrated a small design change which would largely solve that problem, and supplied that info to them, so there is hope yet. Whether that will be the solution they eventually adopt, I do not know.

The unresolved question is whether anyone would ever want to run the Reactor at full power? Has MSR understood that few users ever use really full power? Does the machismo race for advertising rights to 'maximum power' benefit walkers at all? That's where stoves like the Snow Peak GST100 and similar by other vendors win: superb control.

Edited by rcaffin on 08/17/2007 23:24:56 MDT.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not? <br>Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves on 08/30/2007 08:11:51 MDT Print View

Roger,
I noticed you've returned from your European trip. I hope you had a great time.

About this article, after I read it in may, I posted a few questions (on 30/5)e.g. about the pressure regulator in the Reactor, Primus Gravity/Etapower. Are you able to look through those questions and answer them.

Perhaps an extra question: if I remember correctly, you mentioned that CO2 emissions for the Primus Gravity on high power were the result of an insufficient air supply. During my recent trip in Spain, I noticed that on the underside of the Gravity burner there is circle of covered holes. The coverage of these holes is adjustable. Doesn't this influence the air supply to the jet?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
for Tom van Wauwe on 09/05/2007 04:52:50 MDT Print View

Hi Tom

Sorry - I missed your questions about the Reactor.

> Do you have an idea how this pressure regulator works and how it can influence the results of your tests?
I have not pulled the regulator apart to see, but the usual method is to have a small diaphragm over the outlet hole. The higher the pressure on the diaphragm, the closer it is pushed to the hole, and the more it restricts the flow. These can be made very small.
Would it influence the CO levels? Most unlikely.
Is it really necessary? Judge for yourself: no other stove needs it.

> Does the high back pressure influence the cold weather performance of this stove.
I doubt it very much. It's pretty hot in there!

> finned heatexchangers used in the Jetboil, Etapower and Reactor? I would suspect that they could influence the results by quenching the flames.
Well, not in the Reactor because it does not have conventional flames. The fins do not seem to have much effect on the Etapower CO levels either. In general the fins are above the critical parts of the flames, imho.

> Gravity stove: which jet did you use? .45, .40 or .35?
The 0.45 jet is the one for canisters. I did try the smaller jets: they just produce smaller flames. I don't think the CO level changed much.

> hose with a swivel connection for the Etapower. I was wondering if it can be retrofitted to a Gravity stove (EF version)?
You can retrofit almost anything to anything if you do enough work. In this case I think the correct answer is no.

Cheers
Roger

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
also for Tom van Wauwe on 09/05/2007 04:56:16 MDT Print View

Hi Tom

> on the underside of the Gravity burner there is circle of covered holes. The coverage of these holes is adjustable. Doesn't this influence the air supply to the jet?
Yes, it does, but during my testing I made sure the flaps were quite open. I didn't try the stove with them closed up - that was obviously not a good idea.

Cheers

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not? <br>Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves on 09/05/2007 07:59:32 MDT Print View

Thanks Roger,
interesting remark about those flaps on the Gravity because they're closed when you buy the stove and nothing is mentioned about opening them in some sort of manual (unless I missed that part). I only decided to open them on my lst trip after rereading your article and noticing the air supply problem of this stove.

About the pressure regulator, if I understand it correctly the diaphragm limits the flow through the hole and the lower the flow, the lower the pressure, right? So the argument that such a system is very usefull in cold temperatures or with nearly empty canisters doesn't make sense. It looks more that gasflow out of full canisters is restricted than that gasflow out of nearly empty canisters is improved. Or am I misinterpreting what you're saying?
Or could there be another way for a pressure regulator to function so that flow at is improved instead of restricted?
Because otherwise I can't even understand why MSR mentioned the pressure regulator in its pressrelease or even thought of including such a regulator. It doesn't seem to have any real purpose.
Reason why I ask this is that Campingaz also has a stove with a pressure regulator, the Twister HPZ, and a couple years ago I had the opportunity to test one next to several other stoves. Because of the pressure regulator, with all the marjeting blabla, we decided to test the effectivity in cold temperatures, and the result was nill, nothing, zero, ... That's not just marketing blabla, that's a pure lie. I can't understand why MSR would go the same way.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not? <br>Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves on 09/05/2007 15:52:15 MDT Print View

Hi Tom

> the diaphragm limits the flow through the hole and the lower the flow, the lower the pressure, right?
Well, it would be more correct to say the pressure controls the flow.

> So the argument that such a system is very usefull in cold temperatures or with nearly empty canisters doesn't make sense.
Well, if you design the system to work with a very low pressure to start with, then the pressure reduction at the regulator does make sense. This is why the large Propane (LPG) tanks always have a pressure regulator on the bottle. You would NOT want to put full pressure from a propane tank onto a stove.
This does not answer the question of whether the Reactor needs a regulator. I would not have thought so myself, but if MSR have gone to the expense of including one then I have to assume it is needed. No company includes features at extra cost if they are not needed.

Note: the release of the MSR Reactor was obviously delayed by our CO testing results. MSR claim to have fixed the CO problem, and have promised me a replacement stove for testing. It will be interesting.

The Twister is an upright stove, and if you were testing it in serious cold, yeah, it could well fail. It is not meant for cold weather.

Comment, entirely biased and ill-informed. If you want a heat-exchanger stove for cold weather and with low CO emission, then try the Primus EtaPower stove.
The Jetboil is heavy and dies in the cold (or the cool).
I have yet to test the modified Reactor.

Cheers

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not? <br>Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves on 09/06/2007 13:42:44 MDT Print View

Hi Roger,
(un)fortunately, my Gravity stoves works perfectly (well, what you call perfect of course) so I don't need a new one. Although I am thinking of buying one of those etapower pots for efficient gastronomic cooking.

Sorry that I have to keep on asking things but a pressure regulator in stoves has intruiged me for a number of years now. Particularly since nobody seemed to use one except that French manufacturer in a not so particularly exciting stove. I've used the normal Twister for quite some years (because it was cheap) and the advanced model with pressure regulator didn't perform any better while costing twice as much. It's not that it can fail in cold weather that bothers me, it's the fact that Campingaz suggests that the pressure regulator is there to give better performance in cold weather that irritates me. And now MSR has come up with a pressure regulator and I'm wondering how usefull it is.

OK, pressure regulators can be usefull if you would want to work with a lower pressure like with propane and the regulator limits the pressure from canister to stove. And perhaps the internal mechanics of the Reactor stove need that lower pressure. But what I still don't understand is how a pressure regulator can help when the pressure in a canister is already low (because it's empty or because it is cold). Do claims that a pressure regulator helps a simple butane stove perform better in winter than that same stove without regulator, make any sense?

Sorry that I keep on asking but my engineering degree forces me to question as much as I can. :-)

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not? <br>Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves on 09/06/2007 15:31:38 MDT Print View

Hi Tom

> But what I still don't understand is how a pressure regulator can help when the pressure in a canister is already low (because it's empty or because it is cold). Do claims that a pressure regulator helps a simple butane stove perform better in winter than that same stove without regulator, make any sense?
Yeah, your puzzlement is understood!
My own, unverified opinion, is as follows. It applies to both Campingaz and MSR if necessary.
Engineering found that they had to put the pressure regulator in to prevent problems (flare, blow-out) when someone turned the valve wide open, especially in HOT weather. They probably also found (or knew) that in cold weather the regulator was either ineffective or obstructive.
Marketing decided to make a big thing of it without fully understanding what they had been told, and came up with the ridiculous idea that the regulator would help in the cold. It won't.

I discount most of what I read in marketing releases and advertising. It eliminates a lot of confusion. (Like a bottle of distilled water with a 'New, Improved' label...)

Cheers

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Re: Re: Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not? <br>Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves on 09/07/2007 04:08:20 MDT Print View

Roger,
your own unverified opinion is al I need to know. You just confirmed what I have been thinking for a long time but couldn't really explain. Unfortunately not everyone has the background to understand that some marketing statements don't make any sense.

BTW, how was your trip through "la douce France"?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: Stoves, Tents and Carbon Monoxide - Deadly or Not? <br>Part 3: Laboratory Measurements for Canister Stoves on 09/07/2007 05:10:55 MDT Print View

Hi Tom

> some marketing statements don't make any sense.
It would not be the first time I have made unkind comments about 'marketing'...

France - wetter than expected, even snow in some places (in summer?) and exhausting ... But we enjoyed it. We'll do it again, sometime.

Robert Mohid
(mohid) - F
Got mine yesterday on 09/20/2007 12:33:18 MDT Print View

Not having looked at the origial version Roger used for his CO testing. It looks like MSR's reduction stragegy was to plaster every square inch of the product with warning labels about carbon monoxide poisoning.

Roger, can you confirm that the version on the shelves now does indeed differ from the one you used for testing ?

Robert Mohid
(mohid) - F
NDA on 10/15/2007 13:48:15 MDT Print View

If you're bound by an NDA from MSR, just don't reply Roger :)

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Got mine yesterday on 10/15/2007 15:34:30 MDT Print View

> Roger, can you confirm that the version on the shelves now does indeed differ from the one you used for testing ?

I can confirm that MSR have made SOME changes, although not as many as I would have liked. Yes, they seem to be relying on using many warning labels to avoid any legal hassles. They do specifically warn about the CO hazard while simmering. No, I have not signed any NDA.

I now have a replacement Reactor and it is in test. Publication WILL follow - we are just working out how to handle the 'update' aspect for the web site. Cataloging issues.

The performance is better than it was, but it still emits a fair bit of CO, especially at simmer. This is one stove I would NOT use inside a tent or a building.

Cheers
Roger

Robert Mohid
(mohid) - F
Thanks on 10/16/2007 08:34:49 MDT Print View

Thanks for the update Roger !

I was/am planning on using this stove extensively in Alaska, I'll be looking very closely at your results, my life might depend on it.

Jason Livingston
(jasonlivy)
Still confused about the pressure regulator... on 01/10/2008 03:44:36 MST Print View

Roger:

Thanks for the excellent article and insight. I do have a few questions about MSR's Internal Regulator (I'm sure your getting sick of these)...

The way I understand it is that the Reactor (from conversations Ive had with MSR) is engineered to perform optimally (roughly 10,000 btu) at only 13 psi. According to MSR, most stoves need 65 psi to perform at this level (based on a full canister). It makes sense to me that the pressure regulator in the Reactor maintains 13 psi throughout the life of the canister. In other words, when the canister is pumping out 65 psi, the Reactor restricts the flow to only 13 psi where it's able to produce 10,000 btu. When the canister gets low and/or as it cools down the pressure regulator is less restricted but maintains 13 psi. This would mean that the claims MSR is making regarding the need for a pressure regulator does work when the canister gets cold and the fuel level drops, which result in the pressure going down.

As I mentioned before, other canister stoves require 65 psi to obtain 10,000 btu. Thus as the fuel level in the canister drops and as it gets colder then less btus result. I'm wondering if this sounds right and is it possible to obtain 10,000 btu from only 13 psi?

Any insight would be greatly appreciated!!!

Jason

Edited by jasonlivy on 01/10/2008 03:49:14 MST.

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
Still confused about the pressure regulator... on 01/10/2008 04:56:59 MST Print View

Well, Jason,
where did you get this question from ?
;-)

Woubeir (from Europe)
(Woubeir) - F - MLife
MSR Reactor: Still confused about the pressure regulator... on 01/11/2008 07:48:33 MST Print View

Roger, just to bring the question of Jason (see e few posts earlier) under your intention because I'm also interested adn in the flood of posts, this thread dissapears easily.
I understand that you have received an updated Reactor stove. Perhaps you could try to do some testing to see whether this pressure regulator really works and what the limits are?

Jason Livingston
(jasonlivy)
Re: MSR Reactor: Still confused about the pressure regulator... on 01/13/2008 14:40:29 MST Print View

I'm headed to the OR Show this week and will ask the engineers at MSR what their point of views are. As I am very familiar with MSR (Cascade Designs), I don't doubt that the internal pressure regulator is there for a purpose and probably does what they say it does, as Roger alluded to in an earlier post. What I would like to get is how and is it a different technology than has been introduced previously in other stores.

I would also be interested in reading about any new changes (now that the Reactor is in full production) was made on the stove and if the CO levels have decreased on simmer. I know this takes time. I'll try to be patient:).

Edited by jasonlivy on 01/14/2008 17:28:47 MST.