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Evaluating what stoves to use for what lengths of trips
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Steven Davis

Locale: SF Bay Area
Evaluating what stoves to use for what lengths of trips on 07/29/2013 17:39:57 MDT Print View

Hey Folks,

So I got all scientific with it and graphed out the weight (including fuel needs) for...

1) An alcohol stove (my zelph starlyte with small windscreen and SP 600 TI mug)
2) A canister stove (my snow peak lite max with taller windscreen and SP 600 TI mug)
3) A Jetboil Sol

What I learned...

Alcohol stoves are light, but require 3x more fuel weight than canister stoves daily. I need 3.5 oz of fuel/day to boil the needed water for meals. Basically an alcohol stove for me would be best for trips for anything up to 3 days / 2 nights. After that the alcohol weight needs outweigh the weight of the canister stove, so for anything longer I would switch to that. The jetboil is never lighter than the regular canister stove, and the only advantage is quicker boiling times, so that will probably not be used in backpacking trips anymore, and kept purely for car camping. I estimate that an average 8oz (small) fuel canister should last for about 24 cups (6 days).

Weight per day for each (in oz):

Alcohol / Canister / Jetbol

1: 0 / 0 / 0 (none needed for a day hike)
2: 8 / 15 / 20
3: 11.5 / 15 / 20
4: 15 / 15 / 20 (though alcohol and canister weight on day 4 are equal, i would use canister for less parts and more fuel stability.)
5: 18.5 / 15 / 20
6: 22 / 15 / 20
7: 25.5 / 15 / 20
8: 29 / 23 / 28

Edited by StevenDavisPhoto on 07/29/2013 17:43:44 MDT.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Evaluating what stoves to use for what lengths of trips on 07/29/2013 19:32:08 MDT Print View

Did you ever see this?

John Coyle

Locale: NorCal
Evaluating what stoves to use for what lengths of trips on 07/29/2013 23:42:07 MDT Print View

Hi Steven. Two weeks ago I got back from a 4 night 5 day backpacking trip in Lassen National Park. I considered taking an alcohol stove, but like you, I figured the weight of the alcohol fuel would be too heavy. I ended up taking an Olicamp Xcelerator titanium remote canister stove, which is a very nice stove and available from Amazon. My two friends and I shared all meals, cooking them in a 2L GSI anodized aluminum pot. Most meals evolved simmering for 15-20 minutes. One of my friends brought a Jetboil which was used for all the coffee. I was surprised that one 220g Gigapower canister lasted the entire trip and then three days at home making coffee once a day when I got back. I've been using alcohol stoves mostly for the last ten years, but had to admit the canister stove was a better choice in this case.

Steven Davis

Locale: SF Bay Area
cool on 07/30/2013 08:45:08 MDT Print View

thanks for the article link.

yeah, canister stoves are definitely better for anything more than a few days.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Evaluating what stoves to use for what lengths of trips on 07/30/2013 09:10:18 MDT Print View

That calculation doesn't work for me. I use maybe half (at most) the amount of alcohol you are using to cook a morning and evening meal. Are you doing more than 2 boils x 2 cups or do you have bad efficiency?

Alcohol is a good choice for me much longer.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: cool on 07/30/2013 09:10:27 MDT Print View

Hi Steven,

If I understand your OP correctly, you're burning 3.5oz of alcohol per day? I hope this doesn't come across as antagonistic but that seems a little excessive. How many pints of water are you boiling?

My daughter and I are going backpacking for a week. While we will be able to resupply a couple times, we're carrying all of our fuel from the get-go. If you combine everything loosely affiliated with our cook kit (mugs, lighters, esbit, spoons, etc), our combined weight is less than 11oz. This provides us with one hot meal and hot beverage each per day.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Re: cool on 07/30/2013 09:24:10 MDT Print View

Ian,I hope you will be doing a trip report for your Wonderland trip!Sorry OP for the off topic question.

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Re: Re: Re: cool on 07/30/2013 09:31:06 MDT Print View

Hi Anna! Absolutely!

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Evaluating what stoves to use for what lengths of trips on 07/30/2013 10:07:55 MDT Print View

Yep, I would have had to resupply alcohol multiple times for my Long Trail thru hike.. 1 4oz canister went the whole way using a pocket rocket (i use Optimus Crux now)

i use canister exclusively now because it's just easier for me, regardless of days out. 1.5c boil in 3 mins in my .7l stoic pot. sure i'll carry a few more ounces on shorter trips but i'll have less food anyway so it balances out.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
check your efficiency on 07/30/2013 18:31:32 MDT Print View

"I estimate that an average 8oz (small) fuel canister should last for about 24 cups (6 days)."

An efficient alcohol stove boils 2 cups with .5 fluid ounces, which weighs 0.4 ounces by weight. The following are using SLX, not high ethanol, denatured alcohol, with a sgt rock style ion stove/screen. These numbers can be improved with higher ethanol fuels, adds about 10-15% to the efficiencies listed below, which makes the canister even less competitive, but it's easy to find slx so I go with that.

0.4 x 12 = 4.8 ounces by weight. Alcohol has a density of about 0.8, which means one fluid ounce weighs 0.8 oz.

The alcohol fuel container weighs about 15 grams.

A comparable setup with screen, stove, and pot stand, weighs 44 grams, ie, the stove/screen/stand weighs less than just the burner on the canister stove.

At the end of your trip with canister you are still carrying the steel container, so you have to add that into the weight of the stove itself.

Switching to grams to avoid confusion, we have:
44 grams - stove/stand/screen:
15 grams - fuel bottle:
24 grams x days (that's two 2 cup boils at 12 grams fuel per cup)

let's say 6 days:
24x6 = 144 grams = 5.15 oz

total:203 grams total, for more days, add simply 24 grams per day, for more days for canister, you have to add either another canister weight that you will also be carrying with you the entire time, or a larger canister.

the entire setup with 12 2 cup boils of fuel weighs 7.25 oz, or less than the weight of a single canister, and at the end of the trip you are carrying only the weight of the stove / stand/screen/fuel bottle.

3.5 ounces per day of alcohol is enough to boil 14 cups of water, something is seriously off in your math here, or something is way off in your cooking stove efficiency.

Either people are getting horrible efficiencies with their alcohol or are doing something very wrong if the conclusion is that 4 days is the cuttoff point.

Sgt rock figured this out years ago, and his conclusion was that basically you will never benefit in terms of weight by carrying a canister stove. Convenience, yes, but I thought ul backpacking was about learning how to use techniques instead of gadgets.

If you can find a real sgt rock ion stove/screen, he gets 12 to 13 ml 2 cup boils with SLX fuel, which is about 10 grams per boil, give or take.

For two people alcohol doesn't fare as well mainly because of the cooking time. While canister stove gas contains more btus per gram, the problem is that canister stoves themselves aren't as efficient as a well made stove/screen combo for alcohol, though if you do as a recent thread here talked about and use remote canister plus a caldera type cone you should get more competitive with alcohol setups again, but the stove is heavier. If you use a faster alcohol stove, like a Penny type, it will not be as efficient, but it will boil 4 cups of water faster, maybe takes 1 oz per 4 cups by weight, give or take, but boils it a lot more quickly if you use a wide pot, which you'd probably do for 2 people.

I spent a while figuring out the science on cooking fuels and realized that people are either consistently miscalculating, using fluid ounces for weight of fuel for alcohol, or /and just simply also using extremely inefficient cooking setups, or flaming the stoves out, or something. I believe the starlight is one of the more efficient commercially available stoves.

The efficiency of canister gas is easier to calculate, add in the weight of the canister to your cooking stove weight, then weigh the canister when you get back, adding in the remaining weight of fuel you carried but did not burn to the stove weight, then you get how many grams per 2 cup boils you get, pretty basic. In other words, toss your burner, cannister, and screen if you use one, onto a scale, weigh it, then weigh the same when you get back. The difference between the two is how much fuel you used. The ending weight is the actual weight of your stove setup on your back. Figure out those two things, grams per boil and setup weight, non idealized, it's easy to do.

I believe you have to go around 25 2 cup boils or so before the weight actually goes to the advantage of a canister setup, but since canister setups often do not have screens, you have to measure this on your own system in real world conditions to determine your actual weight/efficiency per 2 cup boil, remembering that to add 4 cups boil to alcohol setup,you add 0.8oz, period, no extra canisters etc.

I see this claimed weight advantage of canisters all the time but the math does not add up.

Edited by hhope on 07/30/2013 19:01:09 MDT.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
re on 07/31/2013 00:02:32 MDT Print View

Thanks for that lengthy post.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: re on 07/31/2013 01:20:24 MDT Print View

I usa a standard TD Caldera cone. This weighs about 5oz. The bottle, a 12oz soda bottle) weighs about 1.5oz counting an extra vacuum cap (cap with a piece of stripped wire casing glued on.) I get about .5oz fuel/2 cups, but I have to do this twice in the morning (2 oatmeals, 2 cups of mocha) and twice at night (2 cups of cocoa and my food (this also requires about 10 moinutes of simmering.) Sometimes I will bake/fry a largish piece of dough (about 1/3 of the pot with olive oil and a 1/3 pound of dough.) I usually do this every third day or so. It is tomorrows, maybe the next day's trail lunch.

Soo, that means two liters of water, 4-larger cups, twice per day. I use around 2.3oz of SLX. If I do the "bread" it may take another ounce, but I don't do this all the time. So I figure, on average, about 3oz per day. Actually it is (2.67oz.)

Anyway, for 6 days out, it is 18floz or about 14.5oz in weight. With the screen, and bottle, it comes up to: 14.5+1.5+5=21oz.

The SVEA weighs 19oz. If I carry a 12oz bottle of fuel it weighs just about 10.5oz.
(This is actually enough for 8 days.) This IS heavier but is easier to use.

The canisters get similar fuel consumtion to the WG. So, I would need about 6 oz of fuel. I use 4oz when I can, because I have had some trouble with the lindal valves in the past. Nothing like cooking on a fire when you are carrying a stove, but ran out of fuel because of a leak... So, I would bring two cans. About 7oz each. Plus a windpro, plus the screen. That comes up to about 22oz. I always considerd them fairly unreliable, since I had 2 different types leak out on me. I really hope the cans have improved, because I will be getting one of Rogers to replace the old SVEA. But, note that there is no real difference between cannisters and alcohol stoves. 1oz is close on week long trips, and, I don't have to fiddle with it.

Note that for two weeks, I need to add another 8oz (9oz with bottle) of fuel to the SVEA, but, another 14oz in canisters at about 1floz per day.(I actually use a 16oz soda bottle for two weeks. For some reason, I always get about .3-.4floz per liter, average, with the SVEA.)

Mole J
(MoleJ) - F

Locale: UK
My analysis on 07/31/2013 06:33:15 MDT Print View

- After that the alcohol weight needs outweigh the weight of the canister stove, so for anything longer I would switch to that.


yes, but, have you done a more detailed analysis?

e.g. You will always carry the weight of the stove, and the fuel cart/bottle. Gas carts weigh an appreciable amount even when empty compared to a plastic bottle for alcohol.

I have looked at my kit, same pan each time , comparing my Caldera cone setup with lightest possible gas setup(Fire Maple/Monatauk Gnat - only 48g. and a light foil windshield)

Efficiency wise being generous towards gas (i.e. 8g of gas to boil 500ml (3cups) water) and ungenerous towards alcohol (20ml of alcohol for 500ml water).

Comparing a 100 Cart (12 x 500ml boils) with the equivalent amount of alcohol and doing 2 x 500ml boils a day. So a 6 day or so hike...

By just day 3 I have used more alcohol than gas so the weight is always getting less for alcohol i.e. it's better weightwise from then onwards. If doing a shorter than 6 day trip, then alcohol always wins as I only take what I need. And don't forget, this is skewing the fuel efficiencies towards gas...

Once I go up to longer trips, and use a 220 cart (lasting say 20 boils 15 days), then gas is the winner for the first week, but then day 8/9, alcohol starts to win out. (again this is being generous towards gas efficiency)...

Then you have the other advantages of alcohol and cones... With gas, as you can't measure it (and use too much if neglect to turn off fuel in time), there is always uncertainty as to how much is being used. With alcohol, I measure each dose, and if running low it is easier to ration myself.

Understand, this is just an analysis, I occasionally use gas, and don't really object to a pound or 2 either way in my pack, but, I do like to point out all of the factors involved.... You can't make a definitive statement about the weight advantage of the 2 systems as it varies depending on what size cart and how many days you are out and what fuel you use from day to day.

Really, it comes down to preference. Once you go for simmering and cooking real food it all changes again depending on techniques used. (e.g there are amzingly efficient alcohol stoves for a low flamenow)

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
good points on 07/31/2013 11:40:17 MDT Print View

J Mole, good points. Personally I'm interested in non theoretical real world 2 cup usage for various canister burners, by model and type, outside, in air that is moving.

I was going to mention simmering too, but that gets very unfair to canister stoves, I did a quick test after finishing the ion stove, which is easy to make, relatively, and created a simple can top with 1" hole in it as a simmer ring, and was stunned by the results, 10ml, 8 grams, simmered two cups of water for about 32 minutes, insanely efficient. I had to keep lifting the pot to convince myself the thing was still burning. Anyone who simmers should take a very very close look at a well done alcohol stove setup, if I actually cooked meals, not rehydrated, the alcohol would be a slamdunk no competition winner, since 25 ml/20 grams would cook a non dehydrated dinner, give or take.

I think a lot of the views of alcohol efficiency come from the early emphasis on raw speed over efficiency, and losing sight of the specific gravity of an ounce of alcohol, ie, comparing re weights apples to oranges, ml to grams that is.

Another issue is that almost nobody does real efficiency testing on the various burner/screen combinations out there for canister stoves, based on what I found with alcohol, it's quite likely that a remote canister with a high quality, custom fit wind screen like you use on a good alcohol stove setup, is going to significantly improve your efficiency, but by how much I can't say. So when someone points to a 1.5 ounce canister burner, no mention is made of the actual efficiency of that set of burner sets/valves, in a sense it would be interesting to do that type of research but that would involve buying a lot of expensive gear I'd never use, and a huge amount of canister cartridges. Easier if people who own their setups just report the information accurately, 2 cup boil, how much fuel required with burner x, screen, no screen, etc.

Since the 1/2 ounce liquid alcohol efficiency has been around some 8 years now at least, and the stoves that do that are easy to build and light and fill, I don't really see any particular reason to not use them as a standard, that will also show how various other alcohol setups perform, using SLX, which is also a standard, for methanol, figure some 10% more consumption, for ethanol, some 10% less.

By my math, using a 100gm canister, you can never reach the weight efficiency of alcohol, it's simply not possible because the canister body weighs almost as much as the contents if the weights listed here are correct, that eliminates the higher btu boost. So that's a non starter, no trip would ever be lighter using that setup, I don't see how it can be since 5 oz of alcohol fuel always weighs less when you take the container/burner into account, so I don't believe there's anything subjective there going on.

One good thing about thinking/researching this is that if I ever get a canister, it will be a remote, because then I can leverage all the same methods and efficiency techniques that alcohol stoves have taught me, once it's debugged I would imagine 8 gram or less boils should be quite doable, at which point the fuel / container gets competitive again, though I don't know the weight of a light remote setup.

I think there's a tendency to ignore these fairly empirical facts when selecting for the ease and convenience of the canister setup, it's fine to prefer one method over the other, but the numbers should be real and based on comparing apples to apples, not comparing a quick and dirty cat can setup with zero efficiency testing and no work on screen at all to a commercially produced machine, a canister burner unit, that is highly tested and optimized.

What I was, however, very pleased to discover, is that the cone is absolutely not required to reach high efficiencies with alcohol, well, rediscover, since this has been known for getting close to 10 years, it just seems to get forgotten because it's too simple and non glamorous so I guess people think there's some catch to it.


Edited by hhope on 07/31/2013 12:54:32 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - M

Stove Systems on 07/31/2013 12:07:31 MDT Print View

J Mole makes a good point about how weight changes over time and only looking at "starting weight" may not be the best approach.

Hands down, alcohol systems consume more fuel (by weight) than the other options. On short trips they make up for this by using really light components to achieve both the lightest starting weight, and the lightest average weight through out the trip.

On longer trips, the alcohol required can make the initial weight heavier than a canister system. However, most of the weight of a canister system is fixed, whereas most of the weight of the alcohol system is consumable so it decreases rapidly over time. So the weight of an alcohol system can drop by several ounces per day, while a canister system might drop by half of that. The point is that alcohol can win in terms of "average weight" even when it doesn't win in "initial weight".

How this translates into smart trekking isn't so simple. In many cases the day 1 pack load is already tough since other resources (ie. food) are maxed out as well. Thus it can be preferable to accept a higher average stove weight throughout the trip in exchange for a lower initial weight (ie. go with canister). In other situations, the more gruelling parts of the trip may lay further in, so it's better to choose the system that is lighter a few days in, even if it was heavier at the start (alcohol). While this can turn obsessive and overly analytical, the main point I'd like to make is that if an alcohol system is only slightly heavier on day 1, then it's still probably the best choice for the trip as it'll be lighter most of the way. You don't want to jump to a canister just because it's 0.5oz lighter on day 1.

Edited by dandydan on 07/31/2013 12:09:40 MDT.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
table, chart on 07/31/2013 13:38:04 MDT Print View

Using 12 gram per two cup slx boils, and 8 gram per 2 cup canister boils, ie, 24gm vs 16gm per day.

Pocket rocket: 85 grams firemaple Hornet Mini-Stove 45 grams.

Alcohol setup, simple, no priming, slx, wind screen, 15 gm fuel bottle, 60 grams. This is the real weight of the setup.

100 gram snowpeak canister: 7 oz/196 grams james marco on canister weights "I figure about 100% for canister weights vs gas weights for the smaller canisters. Larger canisters are more efficient but still weigh about 2/3 of the fuel weight. " OR: "100-110g canisters usually are 90-100 g when empty, and 220-230g are about 130-134g (one particular canister was 150g)."

so 85 gm + 100 gm + 100 gm = 285 for a 100 gm canister with msr pocket rocket. 245gm with fm mini. Assuming you use a screen for efficiency, wind protection, round it to 300 grams start weight for canister setup, 260 with 45 gm burner, and 210 with partially filled cannister, for a 3 day trip say.

day of trip/

As you can see, you will never at any point in the trip be carrying less weight using a 100 gm canister.

Check my results to confirm.

Using a 220 gm canister slightly improves it, but it takes a while to make these tables so I'll skip it.

As you can see, you will never gain any weight advantage ever on any day with a canister stove vs a decent alcohol stove, so that leaves only convenience, but I don't really see any edge there either to be honest, I did on my old priming penny stove, but I don't with the ion, pour, light, put pot on, same setup/time as a canister roughly.

Another factor is percent the canister is on, high flame, medium, low, etc, I assume high/fast boil yields much worse efficiency. I hope this table works, it shows exactly how no matter what you do, even bringing half empty cartridges for a 3 night trip, you will never be lighter.

[added: also, on a 7-14 day trip, you will never start with more weight using alcohol, that's 382 grams vs either 450 or 500 grams for 14 days, depending if you use 2x100 or 1x220 canister.] Since you will never start with more weight, and you will always end with less weight, there is never going to be a time that alcohol weighs more in your pack, this is clearly a myth based on bad stove design or something else. I will post a full table on my blog for all combinations]

Edited by hhope on 07/31/2013 14:10:48 MDT.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: table, chart on 07/31/2013 17:29:41 MDT Print View

Good write-up!
Yes, this was my basic conclusion using only two 500ml/day burns per day. But at my usage, about 2 liters per day, that means I have to carry about 3floz per day. This includes a basic simmer and occasional fry/bake for the trip.

weight on 07/31/2013 20:40:48 MDT Print View

It all depends on the gear options selected.

If you use an efficient alcohol setup (0.4 wt oz= .5 fl oz per day), only boil 2 cups for dinner, and have a very light setup, the alcohol will be better than the cannnister out as far as 2wks or more. Long enough to ALWAYS resupply with alcohol.

(Note that it usually doesnt take 2 cups to rehydrate. More like 1-1.5. I take the other cup, add some cold water to it, and have a cup of coffee while my food soaks.)

NOT just a couple of days.

It all depends on how much things weigh.

An empty 100gm cannister is about 3.3 oz
A gnat is 1.7 oz
without any fuel, thats 5.0 oz
The lightest pot/lid that will take the cannister heat is about 2.9 oz SP600.

Thats 7.9 oz before ANY fuel.

My alcohol setup weighs 2.0 oz . With a 0.9oz fuel bottle (8oz)= 2.95 oz.
7.9-2.9= 5 oz fuel . Thats 10 days for me.

So with 10 days fuel, Im at the same weight of EMPTY UL cannister setup.

There is no comparison on a wt basis if you have a UL alcohol setup, and use an efficient 0.5fl oz once per day.

But you can assume all kinds of crap that skews things. A caldera cone setup with a large heavy pot,will make it ridiculous to consider alcohol.

Edited by livingontheroad on 07/31/2013 20:52:38 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Evaluating what stoves to use for what lengths of trips on 07/31/2013 22:48:05 MDT Print View

"i use canister exclusively now because it's just easier for me, regardless of days out."

Hard to argue with that line of reasoning.

Funny how we fret over a couple ounces in a stove system, then bring "luxury" items that can weigh over a pound.

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Re:Evaluating what stoves to use for what lengths of trips on 07/31/2013 23:04:28 MDT Print View

"A caldera cone setup with a large heavy pot,will make it ridiculous to consider alcohol."

Maybe MB. I have a 1300 Evernew which is a pretty big pot. Not sure about heavy or if some other pots would be heavier. I use it solo because I like everything to fit in the pot. Of course, I could use a smaller pot and put the stakes in my stake bag but don't want to bother. The Ti-Tri and pot is about 8 oz. IF there are no fire restrictions, I carry either a couple of Esbit tabs or 2 oz of alcohol for a week long trip as a backup. So less than 10oz for stove, pot and fuel. If I was to do alky for 6 days, I'd still be at 4.8oz and 1.5 or less for the fuel bottle so 14.3 oz. But if I had no intention of using fire, I'd have taken my Keg-H for a total of 9.5 oz anyway.

Randy Nelson
(rlnunix) - F - M

Locale: Rockies
Re: luxury on 07/31/2013 23:16:49 MDT Print View

"Funny how we fret over a couple ounces in a stove system, then bring "luxury" items that can weigh over a pound."

That's why I fret over those combined ounces Nick. So I can bring along the 18 oz Slinglight that doesn't feel like a burden to carry but feels oh so good on my old, aching back. :)

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: Re: Evaluating what stoves to use for what lengths of trips on 08/01/2013 06:59:57 MDT Print View

"Hard to argue with that line of reasoning.

Funny how we fret over a couple ounces in a stove system, then bring "luxury" items that can weigh over a pound."

Yep, I have tried a cat stove on a few trips and it was not worth the effort and waiting. I used 1oz of denatured and it took quite a while for water to boil, even worse when it was windy with a windscreen that wanted to blow away. I can go from pulling out my cook kit to 1.5-2c water boiled in 4 minutes. Entire 280mi LT... zero resupply. Efficiency means different things to different people :)

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Re: Re: Evaluating what stoves to use for what lengths of trips on 08/01/2013 10:07:51 MDT Print View

I normally use a Caldera GVP with Esbit set up. It works for me.

However, on the few times I have hiked with others, I was jealous of the handmade burritos made over a Giga Power, to include warming the tortilla over the flame before assembly.

I have used (and own) just about every kind of stove made. The Esbit works for me on most trips. My favorite stove is a Svea 123, which I rarely use these days. I would jump on a titanium version if it was light enough.

It is hard to argue the merits of some of the canister stoves. Light, convenient to use, and many options for types of cooking.

Bottom line, IMO, is to use what works for you. There is no BEST stove. For most people, a canister is going to be the best choice.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
reminder of OP of thread on 08/01/2013 11:59:26 MDT Print View

"Alcohol stoves are light, but require 3x more fuel weight than canister stoves daily. I need 3.5 oz of fuel/day to boil the needed water for meals."

I want to remind, the original point of this thread was weight, primarily. That was the question.

As we've seen, this person was using a very bad stove setup probably with a bad screen, then comparing that to a commercial product, not a homemade tube with a crude valve attached. Since he's using a starlight, there has to be a massive error in either his screen setup or something else, the starlight is quite efficient, but not without the right screen setup. It sounds like significant user error to me, but it's hard to say without actually seeing the person setup the stuff and use it.

The point here is to compare roughly apples to apples, for example, a cat stove, jim wood style, is easy to make but very inefficient, just because it's easy to make doesn't mean it should be compared to a device that costs between 30 and 100 dollars, you should be comparing similar things, ie, a heavy canister setup to a heavy alcohol setup (say a brass burner, very heavy screen, etc), a medium weight canister setup to a medium weight alcohol setup, and, as MB pointed out, there is actually no option to compare a true UL alcohol/esbit setup with an UL canister setup because there is no UL canister setup due to the pot issue.

As I noted, this boils down to, heh, convenience, nothing else. It's sort of the difference between choosing a tarp or zpacks hexamid instead of a free standing tent.

The efficiencies in weight/fuel consumption are real, but they keep getting obscured because people use inefficient stoves with bad wind screens, then comparing those to manufactured stoves for canister containers, there's plenty of well made stove options out there, well, a few, that yield good boils, but the odds of you randomly coming up with such a setup yourself with no work or study or testing is not particularly high unless you very closely copy the designs for good systems.

The OP stated that alcohol stoves (an abstraction that does not exist in the real world, there are different setups that do different things) require 3x the weight of a canister stove, this is a false statement based on error, if he had gone out and bought a nice setup for alcohol, just as he did for his canister, then his efficiency / fuel consumption would be in the area of 8 gm gas vs 12 gm SLX per 2 cup boil, hardly 3x, in fact, only 50%, which is why the weight advantage does not exist, the container weighs that exact 50%.

I am ordering a remote canister stove so I can test the real world non fantasy efficiency of a gas setup, just out of curiosity, and to have one stove if high fire danger exists, I may also order a light firemaple top mount to see what wind does to these canister stoves.

I personally find it odd that UL backpackers preach endlessly about learning to subsitute technique and skill for heavier tools, then decide that doesn't matter at all when it comes to one component of their system, but this isn't religion and liking certain things to be 'easy' over other considerations is what I believe most backpackers do, you might also consider this next time you criticize a regular weight backpacker, who in general have decided, quite simply, they want it ALL to be easy, comfortable, and convenient, at the campsite.

I'll be updating the actual efficiency list however on my site so I can point to it whenever the false claims of less weight for canister stoves is raised here, just admit you like the convenience is my suggestion, and stop trying to rationalize it with false weight claims.

I believe, but I won't state it for sure until I test it, that some setups of canister may yield 6 gm boils, but I believe that will be roughly as difficult to achieve as a 10gm SLX boil, ie, that's the very maximum that can be achieved with a perfect setup. At 6 gm, or 8 days of 2x2cup boils, I believe you gain a tiny advantage of starting weight, but that vanishes the first day, and it's only going to be a few grams over alcohol.

It would be nice however for an apple to apple comparison to be made, ie, if you are going to compare a homemade inefficient super cat stove with a home made screen, with little efficiency testing etc, then please compare that to a home made canister burner, with little testing done, I think you'll find the results revealing then.

The key is to realize that these problems actually were solved a long time ago, the issue I believe is that there simply is not central collection of actual test results for most alcohol stove setups, and a lot of the testing done was simply bad, incomplete, and without enough information to test the results yourself.

I found this of personal interest because it's interesting to see how myths form around testing/engineering, and then how they propagate onwards, taking on a life of their own.

Nobody in general would argue against the convenience of using a canister stove, but oddly, many here argue against the convenience of using other gear that is comparably heavy and inefficient, if weight is the primary concern. It's probably just the faddish nature of gear stuff I would guess. Personally, I'm happy I did the work to test this, I had long suspected that there was exactly zero weight advantage to using canisters, now I realize, of course there cannot be, due to the canister weight, and I believe, the actual lower efficiency of the gas burner, which at 8 gm boils is I believe a touch worse than a 12 gm alcohol boil.

Edited by hhope on 08/01/2013 13:48:26 MDT.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
Posted full table, more complete on 08/01/2013 17:52:26 MDT Print View

I created a more complete table of backpacking fuel consumption/stove weight/pack weight.

That table covers 1 to 13 nights, and two types of alcohol stoves, an Ion type very efficient setup, at 60gm, and a penny type stove, at 70 gms, the penny type uses roughly 20ml to boil 2 cups, so I thought I'd that as another option, that's for faster boils, and should reflect a fairly wide range of stoves that boil faster but less efficiently.

I also added another canister weight category, 220 gm, and also compared using 2x100 on a trip longer than 6 nights.

The first time the starting weight is greater for an alcohol stove is for the penny at day 12, but then only for the first day.

Of course, always you return with less weight with alcohol since you bring what you need, and use it mostly up by the end of the trip, so the only time you ever will see any weight advantage over a less efficient alcohol stove is on trips greater than 11 nights, and then only on the first days, after that you carry much less.

I'm curious to learn a few other facts, like the actual fuel consumption of canister stoves for simmering, I saw some really bad numbers online, but I am interested to see what realworld use shows. I'll run some tests once the stove I ordered arrives, and also see if I can nudge down the per boil consumption of a canister stove in real world conditions, to my eyes the initial note of 24 boils of 2 cups per 100 gm canister, for 8 gm/ 16gm per day seems very realistic and in line with the relative consumptions of alcohol stoves. In a sense, to be truly fair, I should also create a 20gm per day canister boil, since that's a number I often see, to compare to the 32gm per day penny boil, ie, a not particularly efficient but probably common outcome.

I'll update this table as I get real data, but I don't think there's any actual doubt about the weight issue, the convenience is whatever it means to the person using it, silence to me is golden, so nothing could possibly improve on a silent stove.

Edited by hhope on 08/01/2013 17:59:54 MDT.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: reminder of OP of thread on 08/01/2013 20:52:48 MDT Print View

Actually, it isn't even 1/3.

Wikopedia has the heat values for common fuels.

Butane is listed, but not n-Butane, one of the isomeres.

Anyway: (Note: all values are appriximate)
Methanol is 9800BTU/lb
Ethanol is 12800BTU/lb
Butane is 20900BTU/lb
A typical alcohol fuel is SLX. It's about 50/50 so I will just average the heat values. This is rough and could be off a much as 50BTU.
For the Alcohol Fuel: 11300BTU/lb.
For Canister fuels(butane): 20900BTU/lb
For carrying a usable quantitity, most use a small plastic bottle (8floz)that weighs an ounce.
For carrying a canister, it is the can. It weighs about 3.3oz (it varies by manufacturor up to about 3.8oz.) So for 100g of fuel we have about 94gm of container. So,by simple proportions, we have about 53% of the total weight as fuel.
Multiplying .53 * 20900BTU/lb gives us the total heat value: 11077BTU/lb after adding in canister weight.
After adding in the one ounce bottle for 8oz of alcohol (or 1 ninth of the total weight, we have 90% * 11300BTU/lb or about 10700.
The difference is only 377BTU/lb.

Comparing to canisters (377/11077) or about 4%. Not the 1/3 you had posted.

Roughly speaking, the carry difference is only a bit under 10%, not 33.3% as you stated.

alcohol on 08/01/2013 22:51:43 MDT Print View

The most important aspects on alcohol to me are:

1) carry only what I need
2) simply and easily, visually see how much fuel I have
3) Silent operation

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: alcohol on 08/01/2013 23:18:22 MDT Print View

" 3) Silent operation "

The leak is silent also.


Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: alcohol on 08/02/2013 02:18:36 MDT Print View

"The leak is silent also."

Not to mention it is hard to see the flame and spills can happen easily with some alcohol stoves. Esbit doesn't require a container, other than a large Ziploc bag. Doesn't spill. Not sure of the weight of Esbit versus Alcohol, but it might be less per boil. Only problem with Esbit versus Alcohol on a long trip is availability. A Graham Cracker Esbit stove weighs less than an alcohol stove.

Maybe Harold can add Esbit to his chart.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Evaluating what stoves to use for what lengths of trips on 08/02/2013 04:48:16 MDT Print View

Zen Stoves is fairly good. It will take a full day to go through that site, though.
Note that it uses the lower heating values. Roughly the same proportions, though.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
esbit and maybe white gas on 08/02/2013 11:31:41 MDT Print View

James, I'll add the zenstoves link, I forgot about them. The key however with contained energy is that that number, as I learned when testing stoves/fuel extensively, then finally rereading the sgt rock stuff on testing/results, is almost but not completely irrelevant, because what actually matters is the efficiency of the cook system. As you can see in this thread, due to some unknown user/operator error the OP is using far more alcohol than he should be using.

The alcohol fuel consumption numbers I'm citing are quite precise, measured, reproducible, and fairly heavily tested, and include moving air because I use a fan. I'm going along with the numbers cited for canister stoves because I believe people know when they get 12 2 cup boils out of 1 100 gm net canister, that's easy to track, so that gives 8 gm. I've also seen routine reports of 10gm boils with canister stoves, and I know that in theory you can get better efficiency. Ethanol gives a 100% efficiency of about 7gm / 2 cup boil, with best ever reported 10gm, I can duplicate and repeat 12 gm easily, so that's the number I use. For faster boils, you drop efficiency but sometimes speed matters more, yet as you can see from the chart, you still basically never carry more weight except the first day(s) of > 12 day trips.

Nick, if you provide me with true esbit numbers for a measured 70F water start true measured 2 cup boil I will update the chart. Obviously, as you note, there will only be the stove/screen weight, and toss on a ziplock bag to keep it fair. Keep in mind I am using mid weight setups, so be fair in the stove/screen weight, if yours is the lightest possible, that only competes with an MB type UL alcohol setup, so give the weights of a decent screen at 15gm and a reasonably robust stove. The trick though I believe with esbit, correct me if I am wrong, is that you will usually pick either an amount of water to boil that works with one or two of the tabs, or you will break a tab in half, or something. To be fair it has to be 2 cups, and then note the weight of each tab, and how many you use for the boil, that's what you would use in the field. Obviously esbit is easy to cite efficiencies for since the only weight is the fuel. I'd use for the middle case that type of stove that keeps in the liquified esbit as it burns as the middle case stove myself since that is clearly efficient but not strange.

While you can measure water temp, it's not truly necessary, just burn what you need to raise a rolling boil, that's close enough to 212 to not matter. If you post the results here I will update the chart. I will also update using my whisperlight because I believe the numbers are way off for that too.

Now that I have all the night 1 to 13 rows, it's fairly easy to update the chart, but do make sure your data is not total best case, be realistic since this is about what you carry, not what happens in your kitchen.

MB, I agree with your 3 pluses, majorly. Another thing I'd add to that is the ability to also gauge quite accurately extra fuel requirements. If I assign 1oz per day of consumption, that is precisely what I will use, and if the water does not fully boil, that's fine, it's hot enough. There's no way you can get that accuracy with gas, it's just going to be a guess each time, though experience certainly would show over time roughly what you can expect, but you will not know for certain. I could see the last days of a long trip being quite nerve wracking, heh heh.

While I am ordering a canister stove to further test, can anyone here do a 30 minute simmer test on a gas stove and let me know how much fuel that consumed by weight? I believe that you can basically toss your gas stove out the window once you start simmering, like a whisperlight, in comparison to alcohol, but I'd like to be sure.

I can add another table with simmer data, that would be useful, but do make sure to actually weigh the fuel. esbit clearly cannot simmer unless there is some setup I haven't seen that does permit that, maybe there is.

BobG, I have in fact spilled alcohol by accident on a trip, but that was due to a stupid design error I had made, I had inserted an o ring onto the bottle to 'prevent leaks', not realizing that created a gap where if you did not jam the top on super tight, it would leak, and it did, but that exposed the MB noted advantage, I was able to note how much fuel I had left, and then use that much per meal for the rest of the trip. You'll note in the charts that you end with zero fuel at the end of the trip.

In real world use of course I'd bring an ounce or two extra, something you cannot do with canisters, which is another advantage, say 6 days, you want a cup of hot tea in the evening? no problem, add 6 gm per day fuel, or a bit less.

Nick, I'll trust any results/weights/consumption you give me, but I have found the stuff online is not very reliable, in fact, some of it seems completely removed from reality, so I'll wait for your results to add that. Remember, stove/stand/screen weight plus storage bag, then tabs/weight of esbit per day. If the tabs include packaging include that weight to be fair.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
MB, re pots on 08/02/2013 11:51:34 MDT Print View

MB, by the way, it's irrelevant what pot is used in this chart, because you can assume it to be a constant, however, you are also totally right to note that no high heat gas system can use a true UL pot because it will destroy it, so there is a level of UL that only esbit and alcohol can reach. I'm not going to cite that however because it would not be fair (since the system then would include the pot weight, and the pot weight used is not knowable in any chart), I am not counting the pot weight in these systems because you can more or less exchange those, with the exception of white gas, that requires a wide pot, a penny type side jet too really benefits from a wide pot as well. Personally I would not use a plastic lined aluminum beer can for a pot, but that's just my personal feeling on that matter, I do also see the attraction. I'm just noting this because you had written that using a heavier pot invalidates using alcohol, it does not, basically you cannot go heavier than canister unless you go with a white gas whisperlight type setup, the pot does not matter.

There is one further variable of course, wide pot vs narrow pots, and that will matter on probably most of the systems listed, but it also depends on the stove type. I may test on that too but it's a fair amount of work to do it so I'll hold off for now.

It's also worth noting that if you reach the max efficiency possible with canister gas, the real comparison then has to be the max efficiency with alcohol, so those proportions will not change all that much, what would change is possibly the range you can go with a canister, ie, the number of nights, but if you also go more efficient on alcohol stove setup, that difference should not matter much.

peter vacco

Locale: no. california
Re: Posted full table, more complete on 08/02/2013 12:08:28 MDT Print View

at one time in bpl past of long ago, we had a chart .. no .. a matrix of data about this issue. it had weights, atomic mass, use rates of boil, a zipstove, ambient temperature of the environment, and it all corrilated to How Long it was going to take for a given system to pay back itself. this electronic document was an edifice to Clear Thinking. it was a thing of analistic beauty. and it was just about useless too. because it did not include the Coolness Factor, a figure vastly more important than any lack of weight ever could be.

ie : how can we ever rate the rush of burning powdered coal found on an arctic gravel bar in a bushbddy. (well, you could rate it -$129, because it ruined my BB)


Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
so true on 08/02/2013 13:15:17 MDT Print View

Peter, it would not be fair to include the coolness factor, that simply would raise the bar too high against all white gas and canister products. I mean, you walk into camp, whip out your ion, set it up, in a few seconds, fill it, light it, and sit back, content, looking up at the stars, or early morning sunbeams piercing the fog that will lift in a few minutes, if it's breakfast.

Another camper wanders by, and cannot help but wonder why you are sitting in front a of a silent screen with a pot on it, which then after a while starts to bubble merrily, but silently. The camper asks, where did you get that? and you reply, somewhat nonchalantly, I made it.

So best to leave the coolness factor out I think, otherwise the tests simply would be too skewed towards the alcohol setups. I'm trying to be as fair as I can possibly be here, to avoid bias and other factors.

stoves on 08/02/2013 23:11:50 MDT Print View

I do think its fair to include the weight of a UL pot, because the difference is equal to 4 days fuel for me, not inconsequential.

I have never had an alcohol leak, but I primarily use flip-top nalgene bottles. I dont suffer any noticeable loss of alcohol stored in it in a closet for months either so its fairly vapor tight. If I use a PET bottle to carry extra fuel, I tape the lid on with a wrap of electical tape.

Of course I do try to keep it always stored upright in my pack, just in case. No sense tempting fate.

My alcohol stove (tealight cup) , weighs 0.07 oz. I dont know of anything lighter. Yep, that is LESS than the graham cracker at 0.1 oz.

I dont need to see flame, I know where it is. Its in the cup. BTW you can see alcohol fine if its dark. If in doubt, just place palm above cup a few inches and feel for heat, its not rocket science.

I think you can get slightly better efficiency with esbit than 0.4 oz alcohol boils for 2 cups, its obviously a hotter flame and boils slightly faster. I have gotten about 0.3X oz I recall. But saving the little fuzzy bits, and trying to reuse is kind of messy. Always a tradeoff. Some of the weight that is left may not qualify as fuel anymore.

Edited by livingontheroad on 08/02/2013 23:14:48 MDT.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
heh, no, you don't get it on 08/03/2013 12:36:32 MDT Print View

MB, you can't include it because it's not fair, as I noted, there is no canister/white gas setup that will support that pot weight, and the pot weight is constant in any case. It is worth noting the full weight of the basic cookset however, at a minimum, maybe I'll add some tables for that, but that won't change consumption weights/carry weights for fuel, so that would make a decent table on its own.

Fuel Consumption / Carry weight table

Pots differ in size and capacity, by not including the pot weight you allow for that, but it is certainly worth noting and also is correct that you cannot get as light as a fully UL beer can cook pot, but to me that's not a pot, I can't eat out of it or cook in it, so it doesn't have the same functionality.

With freezer bag cooking, by the way, you must include the full carry weight of the freezer bags as well, since that is an integral part of the cook system.

However, this is a fringe area, and doesn't impact the efficiency of the boil beyond the actual differences in pot/stove setup efficiencies, which are real ( could improve the alcohol numbers for wide pots, for example, my tests are all with narrow pots), the fact remains that alcohol is virtually always lighter, and it makes no difference what pot is used to make that determination. The pot weight is a constant, as is the stove etc weight, so you simply add/subtract that weight to the listed weights and there you have it.

But I am also glad you brought that point up, because it shows that there is a category below, ie, less than, in weight, all the listed categories, that only esbit/alcohol can support, let's call that a SUL category. ie, There are only esbit/alcohol SUL setups (and wood, of course). That's a fair thing to note. But don't forget the freezer bags in the weight.

While this is, as Peter noted nicely, a bit anal, the fact is, trying to do something resembling science, with empirically verifiable results, is always boring in the end, it requires a lot of tedious data collection etc. Some of the tables I found online, including from bpl, are so far removed from reality that I didn't even link to them, whatever they were measuring, they did it wrong. For canister results, the info online is pretty easy to confirm, because it's so easy to weigh/setup a canister, you buy the burner and the canister light it, boil, weight. However, Ryan Jordan, in a review of I think a fire maple UL burner, noted clearly that wind is a huge factor, just as it is with alcohol, so people who try to claim some advantage re canisters and wind are kind of cherry picking the case. I tend to trust Ryan's findings in general, so I won't question those. Makes sense afterall. I suspect the whisperlight however has a powerful enough flame and a good enough wind screen to not have to worry as much about wind, I know I cannot remember ever having even given wind issues a thought when I used xgk/whisperlight, nowhere I ever used it, in any climate, and I was in pretty bad weather with that thing.

I'm going to test white gas next, because I suspect that white gas may actually be the lightest weight on a super long trip, not positive, but it may be, but we're talking very very long, 3, 4 weeks. Well, actually, because I have it sitting here, heh. But again, only on the first days. I also just want to see what it does if I treat the testing like any other weight/efficiency testing, full boil, stop, weigh consumption.

Edited by hhope on 08/03/2013 12:44:29 MDT.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Posted full table, more complete on 08/03/2013 12:36:49 MDT Print View

Harald, thanks for the work on the chart.
So all of this seems predicated on solo use. Am I right? Curious to see how things look for two, with double the fuel usage per day, and assuming a single larger pot to accommodate boiling 1 qt at a time.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Posted full table, more complete on 08/03/2013 12:55:33 MDT Print View

Here is one from 2006

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
it's all linear on 08/03/2013 12:58:32 MDT Print View

Paul, one of the things I had to painfully relearn from high school chemistry is that the energy required to raise x weight of water y degrees F is a constant once you calculate the efficiency of the stove/fuel type/screen/pot setup. So, if .8gm SLX raises 2 cups of water 10F, which is about what it does, it makes no difference what the starting temp of the water is, for example, as long as it's liquid. So if you are boiling 4 cups, it's going to take 1.6gm SLX to raise that water 10F. The issue however then will be boil times, it's just going to take a long time to boil it (20min or so), and I think that's one reason people go with gas in that case.

If you go less efficient, like a side jet burner type stove, or a penny jet stove, or a variety of other types, then you need about 32 gm to boil 4 cups from 70F, and it will take about 12-15 min depending. I don't think I'd try to use an ION type efficient stove for non solo use, except for morning coffee or whatever with more than one person. But note that even with the less efficient category, you still do not exceed the first day carry weight using alcohol until the 22nd or so 2 cup boil.

This difference is part of the 'convenience' aspect of canister/white gas stoves, and it's certainly valid, but it has zero impact on the weight carried numbers of fuel, as with everything, you get to pick things, weight, convenience, speed, and picking one will nullify another.

However, I would suggest to people who have come up with fairly ridiculous stove efficiency numbers for their alcohol setup, like 3x more fuel required, or 1oz to boil 2 cups, that they take a look at their alcohol setup and either go out and support one of the fine stove / screen vendors out there, or figure out what they are doing wrong, to my eyes it's like me turning on the canister jet and letting it burn a few minutes before putting the pot on then complaining about its efficiency, or burning it in a high wind with no screen. As sgt rock told me, focus on the screen, not the stove, though the stove type does matter as well. Alcohol setups should be sold as a unit, and fitted to the pot diamater/height, that's I think the main reason cone setups get the efficiency, they are sold as one, same for the flat cat gear stuff.

Steve Martell
(Steve) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Washington
Re:Evaluating what stoves to use... on 08/03/2013 12:58:54 MDT Print View

Nice work Herald. Like many other hikers, I've noticed it's hard to beat the many advantages of alcohol stoves--

*Silent operation
* lightweight
*no stink (vs. Esbit)
*no residue (vs. Esbit)

About the only time canisters win the weight advantage is when snow melting is needed, for larger groups (>2) or more complex cooking (simmering, etc.).

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
testing on narrow pot on 08/03/2013 13:12:53 MDT Print View

Paul, also, yes, there should be tests on wide pots, because those always get better efficiencies. Because I prefer narrow pots, I have focused my testing on 10-11cm wide pots, which are 600 to 900 ml basically. I have a 1.3 L evernew though but I have a hard time motivating to set up the tests/screens for that because I never use it, but I know the efficiencies for alcohol will be at least 1 gm per 2 cup boils improved.

So while you will need more fuel for a 4cup boil, you should get better efficiency, but I believe that should apply to all stove types.

Now that I have the basic rows setup, it's not going to be too hard to add variations to them, ie, more rows per night. I'm tempted to pick up an msr pocket rocket or something like it too for testing, but the notion of trying to make a screen setup for that type of system does not at all thrill me, seems kind of convoluted to me. That's why I ordered a remote canister, that lets me test with real screens and optimal efficiency, just like with alcohol. There is about a 70gm weight penalty over top mounts there though, but to me that's not a big deal, I'll clearly never be bringing canister setups for the weight anyway.

Ken, yes, that's not terrible, but he's neglecting the stove screen in his tests for alcohol and remote canister, and the stove he used isn't I believe all that great, wasn't bpl selling the ion stove back then?

I think one major error people make with alcohol is neglecting the fitting / ventilation of their screens to the pot, ie, the notion you take a fancy feast can, then get some aluminum foil and punch some random holes in it with a random screen height isn't right, it works, but it's not how you get efficient setups in general.

Steve, the simmering ability of an ion or penny or probably most other types where the simmer ring has been developed as part of the system is beyond belief stunning, I literally could not believe it when I first saw the time/weight efficiencies. I will test this one day for dinner, but I believe you can cook 1/2 cup of uncooked brown rice using roughly 12 grams of alcohol, it should be close to that because you need roughly 6 to boil the 1 cup of water and 6 to simmer it 20 or so minutes, not sure on the smaller amount of water/fuel simmer time, I only tested 2 cups. In fact, I would suspect that even if you like canister stoves, you'd be well advised to bring a good alcohol stove with you for the simmering part of the meal.

I agree with your alcohol pluses, though personally I'm just not interested in getting fuel where I have to buy it by packages like esbit, particularly if it smells and leaves films of gunk, so I never really thought about using it, though I can see the convenience of it for sure. I would have listed the fiddle factor of a stove needing priming and little pieces, like the Penny, as a significant negative, but that's why I rediscovered the ion type, I was trying to get rid of the two main disadvantages of my alcohol stoves, fiddle to light etc, and setup, and the lower efficiencies I was getting. The ion type system is so absurdly easy to use and setup and light and refill and simmer with that in my opinion all those negatives were fixed, at which point what's left is something basically as easy to use and setup as a canister, easy to store, light, and truly simple. Sgt rock did a fantastic job when he did this research, and I do not understand why it's not a standard setup, no cone required, everything fits in the pot, super clean and simple. I'm sold, for solo use.

Edited by hhope on 08/03/2013 13:33:34 MDT.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: it's all linear on 08/03/2013 14:12:20 MDT Print View

While the fuel usage may be linear the container weight as a percentage is not, with canister gas getting more efficient in that regard as the quantity of fuel gets larger (220gm canister, then 450 gm canister). So a canister stove gains by that if the usage per day goes up, while an alcohol setup doesn't since the container weight is so low to begin with.

Re white gas for very long trips - I have done some analysis and testing of the stoves I own with the intent of finding the lightest setup for spring snowcamping trips of 8 or 9 days. What I came up with was that for my usage, canister and white gas would be about the same - within a few grams at both the start and the end of the trip. The key is being able to carry white gas in a plastic bottle, so that as the trip gets longer the total fuel/container weight per BTU drops, while with canisters the ratio cannot get better than what you get with a 450gm canister. Of course, if I had one of Roger Caffin's nice remote canister stoves that would take the lead, but it would only be by a couple ounces, and at some point the white gas stove (Simmerlite)might still catch up.

Just as a data point, what I came up with for snow camping fuel usage, by tracking what I use on trips, is that if I have to melt snow it takes me twice as much gas as if I don't. My average WG usage per day for two people melting at both dinner and breakfast is 124 gms. I also found that as a simulation of that, bringing 12 cups of 50 deg water to a boil is pretty equal to a meal for two.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: it's all linear on 08/03/2013 15:45:50 MDT Print View

> at some point the white gas stove (Simmerlite) might still catch up.
White gas stoves are almost always heavier than even remote canister stoves these days, and in general I find one uses about 50% more white gas than propane/butane. Reasons are that priming a white gas stove takes a lot more fuel, and there is always the temptation to leave a white gas stove running between uses to avoid having to prime it again. Oh yes - the wqhite gas tank and pump has considerable weight too.

Oh well, I dare say one could find a special case at the transition between canisters where a carefully measured amount of white gas works out close to equal. Contrived.

Dinosaur technology.


Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
just tested white gas on 08/03/2013 16:34:01 MDT Print View

I did one test, just to see, for old time's sake, 1.3 L evernew, whisperlite.

I don't know if the term 'dinosaur' is applicable, I took some many year old fuel, attached everything, fired it up, and water boiled in 3.25 minutes. I hadn't used this stove in probably 3 years beyond one test start a few years ago. Because this stove allows room for user error, obvious from reading the instances where people manage to blow these up, which is something I have no idea how to do, you have to really overpump it to stress it, but if you let in that type of room for user error, you will get user error, along with, like any mechanical device, including canister stoves, mechanical errors and failures, another area alcohol does very well, no moving parts. That will have to change in the future, we need an alcohol stove with a true on/off switch for fire danger issues.

Consumption was not good for this test, 70F start, 14.5 gm boiled 2 cups. For all I know I have the wrong nozzle jet adapter on it, I think this is the international version, not sure, I have both. I also probably used a touch too much priming quantity.

But the power is excellent, it was breezy outside for this test and I could see no loss of flame power at all. The old bpl test showed simmerlight at 11gm, but I did not spend much time on the test, and it was windy. I believe with practice you can optimize the fuel consumption by priming less, if I remember right, not sure.

However, white gas has the same advantage as alcohol, you can take what you need, exactly, plus it's very fast, and you are not bound to finitely sized heavy canisters. Simmers poorly in whisperlight, but not as badly as in xgk.

I'd say the white gas advantages are the same as always, takes basically any fuel, you can determine how much to bring, etc, incredibly strong flame, no cold issues I am aware of, virtually wind proof. But it's heavy, and in the context of this thread, very inefficient. Efficiency improves however the longer you burn it since you only prime it once. The start up wastes a fair amount of fuel.

I believe a better area to test whisperlight against canister stoves is large quantity boils, 4 to 8 cups, particularly snow etc.

stove on 08/03/2013 16:38:15 MDT Print View

I agree, many alcohol stoves are too fiddly.

If it needs to be primed, it falls into that category to me.

Its my opinion that alcohol stoves are a lot like fishing lures.

They are made not to catch fish, but to catch fisherman.

Its not that complicated.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Dinosaur technology? on 08/03/2013 17:06:37 MDT Print View

"Dinosaur technology"

I'm another who doesn't quite agree with that characterization.

For one thing, once you have really learned how to do it, the whole priming/flare up problem becomes tiny. I got to the point where I knew exactly how many pump strokes to do and how much to turn the valve and for how many seconds, and I got the priming fuel usage down to a minimum. That was on a high mountain ascent where we were completely tent-bound for all snow melting and cooking for about eleven days.

Another factor that hasn't really been discussed too much is fuel cost. If you are doing lots of snow melting and cooking for multiple mouths, you will go through a lot of fuel. At least for me, white gasoline (Coleman fuel) is cheaper than the alternatives for a given amount of heat.

Now, of course you can beat the cost by burning wood or something. However, for any high mountain trip in winter, I will always grab one of my white gas stoves.


Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
agree on 08/03/2013 17:45:03 MDT Print View

Bob, agree, you've done a lot of winter backpacking from what I've read from you here, and what you say makes me think the real test here would be: stoves taken into snow, outside temp cold, cold ground, melting snow as main task. That would expose the shortcomings of various canister setups, for example. Whisperlight has no shortcomings in terms of function that I am aware of, just the weight, that's why I always used those stoves in the past. In a sense, if MSR or someone else had focused more on efficiency of boils, they should have gotten the 2 cup boils down to 8gm fairly easily I believe, gasoline holds a lot of energy, and I'd say the whisperlight test I just did got no better than about 30% efficiency, maybe 25%.

The whisperlight isn't going to compete with any of the methods so far discussed in normal weather backpacking, but then again, nobody is generally claiming that you can melt snow well with alcohol either, so it may just be different tools there for different situations.

A table of that type of cold weather snow melting data would be interesting, but something tells me that when you're out in the cold trying to get some snow melted, weighing things carefully is probably not super high on the list of priorities, heh heh. That's a place where kitchen or workshop testing just does not cut it, you have to do it in the real weather with real snow etc. I'll leave that alone because that's something best done if you live in a very cold climate and can do real outside testing in snow/cold.

[added]However, given that many people do use whisperlights, I will add the numbers to my main table so they can see the differences for themselves, most people here know this already, but I know I never gave it a thought in the past.

Edited by hhope on 08/03/2013 17:47:56 MDT.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Number crunching on 08/03/2013 18:00:17 MDT Print View

These numbers are great!

Sure the numbers posted by many people will pan out in the real world vs a back yard test or an Excel spreadsheet, :D

Edited by PaulMags on 08/03/2013 18:02:14 MDT.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
thanks bob on 08/03/2013 18:09:07 MDT Print View

bob reminds me that you do have to practice a touch with white gas stoves, test 2 yielded 12 gm boil, with about 1 minute plus continuation of boil after shutoff as the gas in the tubes continued to burn, so you could get even better efficiency by turning off the stove right before it fully boils. I also kept the flow knob set quite close to closed, but open enough for full burn, about 1 turn or so.

So I'll call it a 12 gm boil for now, I was more careful priming it too. That accords well with the old bpl white gas numbers of 11 gm boil too.

I'll add this to the table, in all these cases, I want to be fair to each stove type, and present a decent middle case.

Edited by hhope on 08/03/2013 18:09:53 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: agree on 08/03/2013 18:21:33 MDT Print View

"gasoline holds a lot of energy"

Yes, and the negative people around here will claim that they are dangerous as a result. I hear that, but that is purely a user-training issue. Some of us got our feet wet with white gas stoves 35 years ago, so we have long since gotten past the beginner stage.

I would have to take an inventory now, but at one point in time I had about six MSR stoves, mostly model GK, XGK, or XGK-II. I've never owned a Whisperlight, although most of my friends have them. I think I have one new Simmerlight.

If we were going out to do a week-long ski camping trip, we would not consider taking stoves other than white gas type.

When we did one high altitude climb, the 14-member expedition was divided up into tent/cooking teams of two or three. Every one of the teams was using a white gas stove. Most, but not all, of the other expeditions were using white gas stoves as well.


Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
thanks for input on 08/03/2013 18:39:51 MDT Print View

Bob, do you have a rough feel for the efficiency re snow melting of the msr type stove?

ie, how many ounces fuel to create x cups water?

I'm working up the whisperlight chart now, and it's not nearly as bad as I thought. By the way, the old 32 oz aluminum fuel bottles weigh LESS than the new 20oz steel ones. Some sigg bottles fit, but you have to be certain it's the same threading. I am using 7oz aluminum, 20oz steel msr, and 32 oz aluminum msr for the fuel bottle weights. However, the 20oz bottle takes you to 17 nights.

If I spent the same time creating a custom fit and air gapped wind screen for the whisperlight I did for the ion, I have little doubt that I can hit 10gm efficiency with white gas fuel.

ie, a bit better than alcohol, but massively hotter.

Early results are in, the msr whisperlight is no more a 'dinosaur' than a remote canister stove, it's quite similar re starting weights for shorter trips, and for very long trips, or trips where you boil a lot of water (54 2 cup boil equivalent). When I add in the 60-100 extra grams or so for a remote canister stove, and subtract the heavier original msr windscreen, the weights are basically the same for those two systems if you start with a 220 gm canister, and not all that far off with a 100 gm. It's too bad msr is kind of conservative with this stuff, if they did a ti ul version of their stoves with aluminum fuel bottles, they are really not all that far off.

Edited by hhope on 08/03/2013 19:28:10 MDT.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
don't throw out the dinosaurs on 08/03/2013 23:08:06 MDT Print View

I've added a second table (under the first one, day 1-14) for larger consumption numbers, while still using 4 cups per day, I break it to 14/16/18/20/22/24/26/28 days, which is the capacity of basically the 32 oz MSR white gas bottle or the 450gm canister.

Roger should probably re-evaluate his views on white gas, the numbers do not support them particularly well for large volume usage, if you are doing snow camping, and use a remote canister stove, between 146 and 200gm, there is in many cases virtually no difference in weight between the carrying weight of a white gas and canister stove, sad but true, that's because the canisters are just so heavy that they get rid of any actual edge you might gain. A 32 oz aluminum fuel bottle weighs 113 grams, if the numbers I got online are right, a 450gm canister container weighs about 250 grams.

Also, of course, you can use plastic bottles to carry more white gas fuel, and this is of course why Bob noted everyone at the alpine camp used white gas stoves. Plus white gas doesn't freeze or have other cold issues particularly, it's kind of a no brainer I'd say if you have the white gas setup already.

It's interesting however seeing the actual numbers as they roll off my calculator. Since the most likely time you'd be using very large cartridges or white gas is for either snow melting or very large volume water boiling/cooking, as you can see, it's basically a toss up which you bring, it could literally depend on if you have a partially empty canister or not to fill out the days. Seems like a big pain to me, liquid fuel is so much more convenient, but each to their own.

Here's what it would look like on a 10 day trip with 8 cup a day boils. IS is ion stove, PS is penny stove, 45C is a 450 gm canister top mount setup, W32 is whisperlight white gas with 32 oz bottle.

day/night 1 7 8 9 10
9 - IS 551 239 191 143 95
9 - PS 713 297 233 169 105
9 - 45C 810 602 570 538 506
9 - W32 944 632 584 536 488

slightly more starting weight for white gas, return weight is about the same. Hardly worth changing anything in your setup I'd say. And that's not a remote canister stove, if you add those 80 grams, there's essentially no difference at all. Live and learn.

Note also that if you do longer boils, the actual fuel required in white gas is less because you lose less to priming, so these numbers would actually be a bit better for W32 for 4 cup boils or snow melting, ie, you'd need less than the fuel amount per day I estimated, which might actually bring the numbers between a 450 gm canister and white gas basically to being equal, or even better for white gas. Keep your whisperlights, your xgk's, etc, these are good stoves and the canister stuff doesn't offer much improvement that I can see for more heavy duty use.

Edited by hhope on 08/03/2013 23:14:51 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: thanks for input on 08/03/2013 23:31:01 MDT Print View

"Bob, do you have a rough feel for the efficiency re snow melting of the msr type stove?
ie, how many ounces fuel to create x cups water? "

I have no current numbers.

This will sound strange, but I used to estimate the amount of white gas to carry on a trip by time. One liter of white gas made a minimum of four hours of full flame on my XGK. It would be longer for less than full flame. As was mentioned earlier, when you do a snow camping trip and have to melt snow for drinking water, you double the amount of white gas to carry as compared to no snow melting.


Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
canisters lose on 08/03/2013 23:52:02 MDT Print View

I just retested whisperlite white gas on a 4 cup boil to more closely emulate what you'd use it for, and the fuel consumed was only 18.2 grams, as opposed to the 24 I'd been using as my first guess, and the 11x2 that the bpl table would have suggested. And I also turned it off too late so that included an about 2 minute boil after the full boil was hit as the fuel in the lines burned. 6 minutes to boil plus 2 minutes of boiling. In other words, the gram efficiency of the white gas is the same as canister gas, and that's not using an optimized wind / heat screen.

So I'd say you could do a 4cup, 70F start temp, boil using about 16 grams white gas, or so. But I'll call it 18 for now.

That's an improvement of 25% over the two cup boil. This makes the canister basically lose once the starting fuel weights are large enough, particularly with the added weight of a remote canister stove, which weighs between 145 and 200 grams from what I have seen for the kinds you'd use in snow camping, ie, where you can turn the canister upside down.

Bob, it doesn't sound strange, that's how I always used mine too, for cooking fully meals, no cozy, I needed about 40 minutes a day burn, for 9 days that was about 360 minutes. or 6 hours, or a 32 oz bottle.

The more I look at canister stoves, the worse they look, but that's not really a surprise to me, liquid is just a better way to carry energy than gas, that's why we generally use it in our cars, that wasn't an accident, the weight required to carry compressed gases is significant.

I'm going to update the chart, because unless you are boiling more than 2 cups per meal, there's not a lot of reason to bring a white gas stove. I knew the test data I'd found online was bad for stoves in general, but this type of example shows just how bad.

If it's a simple doubling of quantity, that would mean that melting it takes the same rough energy as boiling it, which sounds about right to me.

Edited by hhope on 08/04/2013 00:49:46 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: canisters lose on 08/04/2013 00:26:59 MDT Print View

Harald, now you have to sell this whole concept to Roger Caffin. Good luck.


Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
he's gotten sloppy on 08/04/2013 01:00:15 MDT Print View

maybe the white gas stoves are too complicated for him to operate, no idea, but I approached this as Richard Feynman suggests in 'The pleasure of Finding things out", ie, do not assume you know, allow doubt, reject certainty, do not accept bad test results, do not attempt to prove things to confirm your existing bias. Allow the data to guide your inquiry. Having opinions is fine as long as you don't forget that they are an opinion, not a fact. I believe engineers in general are more prone to opinions than scientists, it's easier to just do stuff in engineering then see if it works, I can see the difference. Feynman also reminds us to never listen to 'experts', that's a direct quote from him, and this is why you don't, experts get lazy and stop testing, because they are experts. I'm not an expert so I tested this stuff, and the results are pretty clear.

I only did the whisperlight for old times sake, but the fact is, if you compare a reversible remote canister setup with a whisperlight, particularly where you will use it a long time per day, the whisperlight is equal at least, maybe superior, but definitely almost the same weight, except you are not bound to silly fuel canisters that you cannot fill out of other fuel containers, meaning you need that heavy metal shell for each and every gram of your gaseous fuel.

I did not expect the white gas to be even remotely in the ballpark of alcohol, and it's not, particularly if you use the pounds/mile metric for weight, ie, what you actually carry over the trip miles, beginning to end.

What surprised me here was just how good whisperlight is compared to gas, plus of course, this is liquid fuel and no worries about the cold etc. When you add remote canister, the small weight advantage of canister stoves vanishes for large boil/melt amounts, that's a fact, and you can discover this fact in about 3 test runs of your stove. And, as you noted, you do get a bit better efficiency with practice on the whisperlight type stove. For a 3 night/4 day trip to the snow melting and boiling 8 cups a day, the 15 night/16 day number I list should be close to the consumption.

day/night 1 14 16
15 – IS 455 143 95
15 – PS 560 169 105
15 – 45C 810 602 570
15 – WW32 848 536 488
15 – 4WW32 758 524 488

As you can see, the 4WW32 yields better start and end weight than the 450 gm canister setup, particularly since you'd be using a 100 gram heavier burner probably for the remote canister to melt snow in the snow. Dinosaur, lol, yeah, right, more like a bird that's very well evolved. Good designs are good designs. The svea 123 is I believe also still a good stove.

That's why it's fun to poke at these things now and then, I'd never done an actual efficiency/consumption test on my whisperlight, nor had I ever used alcohol stove type boil then turn off methods, so this is not bad at all. You do only get the really good white gas efficiency when you cook for more than one, or with snow melting from these initial tests however, I guess for 6 cups it would be a touch better still, probably I'd guess around 26 grams or so. Gas and alcohol should burn fairly consistently, ie, 1 gram fuel heats x gm water, as long as the stoves are made right. Certain alcohol stoves are prone to the 'warm then boil too fast and burn inefficiently then peter out' type performance, but the right design gets rid of that problem. Gas burners just turn the gas on and off, so I assume you can take their efficiency and just multiply or divide by 2 or whatever.

I'm actually impressed by the white gas, I was not expecting that, but it figures, some designs and ideas are just very good, and they don't really stop being good just because people want the next trinket to buy, even when it isn't even actually any better.

Edited by hhope on 08/04/2013 01:26:13 MDT.

Drew Jay

Locale: Central Coast
Esbit on 08/04/2013 02:08:01 MDT Print View

Harold, you should include esbit as it bests any other system in terms of carry weight, trumps alcohol in boil times and efficiency, and very nearly matches canister stoves in efficiency. To use my two systems as an example:

The system weight is 42 grams (cone, esbit burner, foil ground shield, tyvek cup and ziplock.) There is no weight penalty for longer trips. It will boil two cups of cold tap water plus a dissolved ice cube using 9 grams of esbit. That's a conservative number, it has done better on occasion.

System weight is 38 grams (windscreen, esbit burner, foil ground shield, rubber band, ziplock.) It will also boil 2 cups cold tap water plus a dissolved ice cube using 9 grams of esbit.

These systems can also be used to simmer with a very simple and very light change or addition to the burner.

Edited by drewjh on 08/04/2013 02:11:29 MDT.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
not enough info on 08/04/2013 12:44:21 MDT Print View

Re esbit, I still do not have enough information. What I need is real world consumption for 2x2 cups 70F water over days, ie, how many tabs used per day/2 cup boil, weight per tab, etc.

esbit strikes me as being a bit more awkward with varying water temps since you basically have to know how many tabs/parts of tabs to use for 70f, 60f, 50f, 40f water. With alcohol you just squirt in a little more for colder water, with gas you leave the burner on a little longer, as with white gas.

In other words, on a real multiday trip, how do you really do it? Ie, 1.5 tabs for 2 cups?

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: Coghlans "Esbit" Tabs -- Weight? on 01/25/2011 16:09:22 MST Reply Report Post Print View

I use the Coghlan's tablets religiously. Each round tablet weighs 6.5 grams. I get 2 cups of water to just boil on 2 tablets. A box of 24 costs me about $5.99 at the local "Canadian Tire".

I used to use Esbit (the 14 gram tablets) but they were more expensive, harder to get, and I didn't notice a performance difference. Hope that helps.

John S
(jshann) - F
Re: Coghlans "Esbit" Tabs -- Weight? on 01/25/2011 16:56:15 MST Reply Report Post Print View

Square esbit sold in US is about 14 grams per tablet. bpl solid fuel weights

Not all the data required, but if it's correct that 13-14 gm are required, that's not particularly different from SLX. I'll add esbit as soon as there's some agreement on realworld consumption for 70f 2 cup boils, has to be the same numbers as the other tests use. Personally I use 2.5 cups for morning and 2 or so for evening, though I don't boil the 2.5 completely before taking the tea water out. I've noted some people, particularly the canister users, have adapted to the shortcomings of their stoves / consumption by boiling less water.

The efficiency of gas stoves doesn't appear to be all that good to my eyes, ie, good alcohol stoves burn alcohol with about 55% efficiency, great ones, 60%, average ones, 50% or so. I haven't worked out the gas canister efficiencies, but I doubt it's better than that. I'd have to figure out the kjoules per gram for gas to really know. From what I read, the fuel in esbit is a touch more energy dense than ethanol, something like 13 vs 12 for ethanol and 9 for methanol, SLX is about 10.5. gas is about 20, I'm dumping the units, that's the proportions roughly. If the stoves had the same efficiencies, a good gas canister setup would require about 6 gm to boil 2 cups water, but it seems to take about 8, ie, the setup is not as efficient. Same goes for white gas, I believe it's a bit less efficient than gas from what I can see once you actually burn the stuff in the real world. Cars, by the way, with gasoline, are only about 30% efficient. Alcohol, and probably esbit, win these efficiency things because the stoves/screens can be highly optimized without requiring machine tools and a big shop. I'm sure you could likewise optimize the burner units/screens for white gas and canister gas.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: not enough info on 08/04/2013 13:26:23 MDT Print View

I take a completely different direction for Esbit usage.

Before I start my meal, I light one standard Esbit cube, boil the water, and then eat the food. If it is critical to have the water boil, then I light a second Esbit cube right over the black residue of the first one. When my water has boiled, and there is still a cube flaming away, I blow it out. That leaves some large fraction of a cube ready for the next boil, but that is OK.

Also, I've found that the partially burned fraction will relight very easily. When it was blown out, it is left with a furry/spikey texture over the surface, and this seems to make the relighting task much easier for my mini-BIC.


peter vacco

Locale: no. california
whisperlite burn times. on 08/04/2013 13:34:59 MDT Print View

(for Harold) a long time ago.. in a world far away.. i had a job where it was possible to make endless cups of coffee (w/Kahloahh), and get paid while doing it. so, being a good bpl'r, to that end i optimized my stove.
by installing the K jet in my whisperlite inter and removing one set of burner rings, i was able to consistently get 17 minutes out of a fluid oz of fuel.
output is diminished to some extent.


Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
a few numbers esbit and white gas on 08/04/2013 14:38:06 MDT Print View

My experience with Esbit is limited but for what it's worth: when I used it on a Sierra summer trip, I used one Esbit brand tab each meal, basic Esbit folding stove (all I had ever seen at the time, 10+ years ago), homemade foil windscreen, 3/4 liter fairly wide stainless pot. The one tab boiled the 2 cups water and then simmered a few minutes while I stirred, every time, in roughly 50-60 degree air temperatures. No data on the water temperatures but straight out of a Sierra lake I expect 50-60 degrees at most.

White gas numbers: I have tracked my fuel usage on several spring snow camping trips. I keep track of total fuel usage for the trip, and the number of nights I find water and thus do not have to melt.
Averages, in ounces by weight:
if melting, for one person - 3
if not melting, for one person - 1.5
if melting, for two persons - 4.5
If not melting, for two - 2.25

The obvious points - if I have to melt I use double the fuel, and two persons use 1.5 times the fuel of one. However, my ski trip partner eats less than I do so he needs less water to reconstitute, partly explaining why the fuel usage for two is not double that for one. I realize priming fuel use plays a part here, but I believe a very small part, simply because my method is to light the stove once for each meal and once only. Also, when melting, I would melt some snow for cold water as well as for the meal, so one should not assume that melting enough snow for a liter and then bringing that to a boil would use double the fuel of just bringing a liter to a boil.

I have also tested my stoves at home to compare them. To do this I started with 12 cups of 50 degree water and brought it to a measured 210 degrees. Fule usage measured included priming. I have both a whisperlite and a simmerlite, and they came out the same, at 43 grams of fuel to do the job. Coincidentally, this is very close to my number for daily usage for one meal if I am solo and melting snow, so it's a reasonable simulation in that is is a single burn of about the same usage, thus having the same ratio of priming to running. I also have a remote canister stove, but it is a Bulin B5, which is notorious for fuel line problems, and when I ran the same 12 cup test, with canister inverted, I noticed it did not run as well as it had in previous testing with the canister upright. So I don't consider that an accurate test, and until I get another remote canister stove I can't compare accurately. I did run this test with my canister top stove - a Coleman F1 Ultralight (since deceased) and it used 34 grams of fuel to do the job. BPL testing in the past has shown that remote canister stoves seem to be less efficient than top-mounts - though why this is the case is not clear, and it may be differences in burner design. (Roger, can you please compare fuel usage of your remote canister stove to the the top-mount stove whose burner head you are using?) At any rate, even if we assume that a remote stove will be as efficient as the Coleman (noted for its efficiency in BPL testing) then the difference is only about 24%.

I should point out that one's kitchen style makes a difference here. If your backcountry culinary methods involve lighting the stove a number of times during a meal, you'll lose ground quickly via re-priming with a WG stove compared to a canister stove. And if you are not practiced, as has been noted by B.G. and others, you'll use more fuel to prime than those of us who have been using WG stoves for 35 years.

And another couple numbers, from other testing I ran:
Whisperlite, to prime and boil 4 cups water, avg. of 3 runs, 16.7 gms
Simmerlite, same test, avg of 3 runs, 17.7 gms
Note that here the Whisperlite beats the Simmerlite, while in the longer test I did that was not the case. I believe it takes more fuel to prime the simmerlite, but it burns slightly more efficiently and thus catches up in a longer burn.

Edited by paul on 08/04/2013 14:47:31 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: a few numbers esbit and white gas on 08/04/2013 14:53:23 MDT Print View

"And if you are not practiced, as has been noted by B.G. and others, you'll use more fuel to prime than those of us who have been using WG stoves for 35 years."

On one long trip, I got to the point where I was priming with about one drop of white gas fuel, and then it would run poorly through another drop of fuel until the burner began to go correctly. However, that took me most of a week to perfect the technique, and it would be completely different for any stove. It is mostly a matter of characterizing the fuel delay time.

Incidentally, you may assume that I did this to conserve fuel. No. I did it to control the amount of flare during priming. I was doing all of the snow melting and water boiling in the vestibule of a three-man tent, and I didn't want to burn the sucker down. For that matter, it was an expensive tent, so I didn't even want to toast the nylon anywhere. I had one huge piece of aluminum foil about two by two feet, and I put it against the vestibule wall where the flare would happen if it did. By cutting the priming fuel down to a drop, I got minimum flare, so minimum fuel wasted. The priming fuel that goes into heating the fuel tube is useful. The priming fuel that goes up in a flash of flame is wasted.


Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
WG containers on 08/04/2013 15:02:27 MDT Print View

Harald if youare computing system weight for WG stoves, use the smallest aluminum bottle you can. That's what I do - I take my 1/2 liter Sigg bottle and then plastic bottles for the rest, My 1/2 liter Sigg Bottle is 3 oz lighter than my liter sigg bottle, and the plastic bottles I use are 1.3 oz for 500ML, so I'm saving 1.7 oz that way.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: WG containers on 08/04/2013 15:17:12 MDT Print View

It is also important to know the volume of your Sigg bottle.

For one trip, we had calculated that three of us needed to carry exactly two quarts of white gas per person. So, we flew 5000 miles with empties and then went to a hardware store to purchase white gas. I got two quarts, the second guy got two quarts, and then the third guy pulled out his bottles. They were the 22-24 ounce size, and I don't think that he knew the difference. That just eliminated some of our fuel reserve. We did OK, but it was good that we were not pinned down by a storm for an extra four days.


Drew Jay

Locale: Central Coast
Esbit on 08/04/2013 16:30:36 MDT Print View


I am not surprised by the reports of 13-14 gram consumption for a two cup boil. What should be noted is that an inefficient esbit setup can very nearly match an efficient alcohol stove.

An efficient esbit stove such as a Caldera Cone or Snow Leopard style windscreen will boil two cups of water on 9 grams of esbit. I linked my two setups already, also see these threads for tests by Dan Yeruski and Jon Fong:

Dan and Jon are using the 4 gram tabs. I use a different approach. I boil two cups with a 14 gram tab and then put the unburnt remainder in a small ziplock. After boiling two more cups I combine the two remainders to boil the final 2 cups. So I can boil 6 cups with two 14 gram tabs, leaving just a bit of esbit left over.

I've had extremely poor results with the Coughlans tabs. I don't know if I got a bad batch or what, but they fall far short of the 14 gram tabs in my tests.

I don't drink tea and eat at least one cold meal a day, so I calculate my fuel consumption at 18 grams per day and round up to the nearest full tablet. If I was worried about saving the last few grams I could incorporate a 4 gram tab instead of rounding up.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: esbit and maybe white gas on 08/04/2013 18:53:21 MDT Print View


Regarding gas versus liquid stoves: the BTU of each fuel is almost the same, so one would expect the boil times to be similar. The variable in my mind would be the efficiency of the stove being used. Maybe it would be best to test both using the same stove – say a MSR Whisperlite Universal.

Denatured alcohol and Esbit have almost the same BTU, so it would be best to test both fuels with the same stove – not really possible. However Trail Designs have cone systems that use both systems.

Here is a test for your calculations.

Caldera Cone GVP with Esbit Graham Cracker stove in a Cuben sack = 86 grams

Caldera Cone GVP with Trail Designs 12-10 stove in a Cuben sack = 92 grams
Trail Desgins 5.5 ounce fuel bottle = 19 grams
Caldera Cone complete alcohol set up = 111 grams

Test results (2 cups water at 70F). Time to bring to full boil (212F):

Esbit = 8 minutes 01 seconds (9 grams of Esbit consumed)
Sunnyside Denatured Alcohol = 8 minutes 44 seconds (11 grams used)

BTW I weighed the Esbit (my scale goes down to only full grams).
Esbit tab in package = 14 grams
Esbit tab removed from package = 14 grams
Empty package on scale = 0 grams

I am not willing to open a bunch of Esbit packages to calculate the actual weight.

Last but not least, we need to calculate the cost of fuel. White gas and alcohol are cheapest. Esbit and IsoPro most expensive. Probably doesn't matter to folks who backpack once or twice a year. If you hike a lot (as I do) it is a consideration unless you have plenty of disposable income. Then there is the cost of the stove. White gas normally the most expensive unless you get a remote canister.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
great info! on 08/04/2013 19:54:00 MDT Print View

wow, really good stove information, I think I'm going to have to create a new posting on optimizing whisperlight burns, this stuff is too good to just let fade away.

It seems like there's a rough consensus then that for good esbit setups and usage, 9gm would be achievable, I'll include the links to all the stuff linked to here so people can figure it out for themselves if they are not reaching that efficiency. 9 gm is quite decent, 10 or 11 gm is I think about as good as you can get with alcohol, and then only with ethanol stuff, like sunnyside or kleanstrip green, so it's not surprising to see nick get that.

So I'll update the table, maybe I'll have two items, good esbit/average esbit. The table rows take a while to create, which is why I wanted to wait to see what people got as results.

Bob G, I know exactly what you mean about priming inside the tent or vestibule, many is the time I've done that in the rain with white gas, xgk or whisperlight, though I wasn't quite as clever in my solution, I did not however burn the tent, somehow, I think I used a pot over the flame, can't remember how I did it, but I do remember the problem.

The tip on optimizing the whisperlight int'l is really good, thanks peter v, again, these tips are too good to leave lying so I'll think of something to do with them.

The point of relative costs is worth noting too, obviously white gas and alcohol will be cheapest, since you can buy them by the gallon.

If I can get 17gm whisperlight 4 cup boil without modifying the stove, I'll update those rows, but it's also tempting to test the whisper intl to see if I can get the results peter v gets via mods. It's hardly fair, after all, to run highly optimized cone/screen/burner setups for esbit/alcohol and not see how good you can get the gas/white gas systems. already these numbers are far better than what the earlier bpl tables showed, so it's worth taking another look at the things. I see no real reason why a remote canister would not benefit from the same type of screen customization/optimization that I did for the alcohol stoves, the principles are similar.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
interesting on 08/06/2013 15:13:32 MDT Print View

I decided to test 4 cup boils on a variety of alcohol stoves after the unexpected results from the whisperlight. The results here were also unexpected. Blame Feynman, he notes you need to question assumptions by testing, even if someone else has tested before, and to carefully control the variables, particularly the wind screen, as sgt rock learned too.

MB is not correct that the stove type does not matter, they matter quite a bit, however, the results are interesting. All tests were done with an ion stove type screen, 4" high, 1/4" gap between screen and pot, about 3.5 sq" of air inlet holes. 1.3 L evernew uncoated pot. The wide pot lets me use the cat stove, and the standard penny, which you cannot use efficiently if at all with a narrow pot. All tests use SLX denatured alcohol, normal type. All tests done at about 70F air temp, 70F water, sea level plus a few hundred feet.

[changed times/quantities after more testing with revised screen)

  • jim wood style fancy feast stove, with jim wood style base: 6:15-7:00 to boil, 35 ml/28gm fuel, boils for 30-60 seconds. Clear choice if you want your food/beverage fast for not a huge penalty in fuel consumption. Easy to use, but requires priming before you put the pot on it. Not hard to do, but it loses about 30 seconds of burn that way.

  • penny stove, 12 oz can size, 6 jets point out, 7:45-8:30, 1+ minute boil, 30 ml/24gm fuel. Requires priming, but you can put the pot on it as soon as it's lit since it has a stand. The penny does much better on a wide pot, and with a larger amount of alcohol to start than it does with a narrow pot and less alcohol. 35 ml boiled the water for a bit over 2:30, solid boil.

  • ion stove, 17:30-18:30 min, about 1 minute weak boil, 25ml, 20gm (pot must have a real lid to get this boil, heavy enough to keep pressure in). No priming required, but this is probably longer than most people want to wait for 2 people.

I believe however that you can break alcohol stoves into types, by speed/efficiency, so you can find the simplest stove within each type, these three basically represent those types, very fast but not as efficient, reasonably fast and efficient, and very efficient but slow. As you can see, there's a roughly 10ml / 8gm range between most efficient and less efficient for 4 cup boils.

The wind/heat screen is very easy to use and carry, which makes to my mind the need for a cone questionable. High ethanol fuels like sunnyside or kleanstrip green should be about 10% better, methanol, pure, about 10% worse re fuel consumption.

Much to my surprise, all of these numbers except the ion are totally acceptable for 2 people in terms of both time and fuel consumption, in fact, I will have to update the page to note this for 4 cup boils. So you can very comfortably use an alcohol stove, if you have the right type/screen and get the same exact benefit as the ion solo 2 cup narrow pot, in other words, for 8 cup per day boils, the right standard alcohol stove/screen setup will also never be heavier than gas stoves, and will cook the food in a completely reasonable amount of time.

Edited by hhope on 08/06/2013 20:44:41 MDT.

Jon Fong
(jonfong) - F

Re: interesting on 08/07/2013 09:00:51 MDT Print View


PM me your mail address and I will send you a sample stove to test. Jon

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
WG on 08/07/2013 11:37:59 MDT Print View

Yeah, the older SVEA is a great little stove. Neither the Whisperlite nor the Simmerlite can come close to it for efficiency. On hissing (not puttering) low I get about 3quarts per ounce counting initial priming 3 times. I measured .23oz per quart (average for 5 runs) in the kitchen, but field use is more like .28-.30 per quart.
(Why quarts? Because the maximum fill on the pot is 1 quart, NOT one liter.) All started from 40F water, and I called a boil at 210F. I could typically get only about .75oz per liter with the older Whisperlight and slightly worse with the Simmerlite (I seem to remember about 7/8oz per liter.)

I normally use a tight fitting windscreen with a wider 4"+ sqin gap in the bottom. Note that 1qt is about it, it will overheat with more. I also use a light aluminum grease pot ( 4 cup filled to about 1/4" below the brim.) It has a series of rings pressed into the bottom to act as a heat exchanger, or maybe more to increase the surface area of the bottom by about 20%. It weighs about 94gm including the lid.

The only problem is the stove is heavy. I keep saying they need to make a ti version...

Anyway, at my usage, I need to get 5gm/liter out of a remote canister stove to be lighter. Neither the Windpro, nor Coleman F1 do that. I am hoping Rogers FM300T version will. Again, I will be using a tight fitting wind screen with wide air inlet's and the same pot.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
esbit added on 08/07/2013 18:31:45 MDT Print View

The backpacking stove fuel consumption / carry weight tables now include two esbit entries, one for consuming 9 gm per 2 cups, and one for 14 grams, ie, one tab.

I used Drew's 42 gram setup because it's solid, supports a standard full sized pot, and does nothing more than needed. People with Cones can just add the extra weight of the system, if present, to the daily/nightly totals to get the weight comparison.

I included in an appendix the good white gas tips, and cleaned up/rearranged the article to make it a bit more readable, though it's gotten pretty long with esbit and white gas added.

Esbit wins, but I also include a note / warning about the toxicity of the esbit fumes. I don't think I'd use esbit if I thought there was any chance of having to cook in a tent.

Also adding a rough cost too for each fuel type.

James M, I agree, I think msr and optimus/svea are really dropping the ball on this, if you look at for example roger caffin's work on his ultralight remote canister, it shows what can be done to lighten these setups fairly substantially, but they haven't touched their designs in years. I guess in that sense the term 'dinosaur' fits, it's odd how these corporations get all conservative when they were built on creating the best stuff out there.I see no reason they can't make a 6 oz white gas stove system, with aluminum fuel bottle, for example, built on the principle of efficiency over speed.

Edited by hhope on 08/07/2013 21:55:55 MDT.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: esbit added on 08/11/2013 18:57:47 MDT Print View

Yeah, Primus/Optimus are really slow to make any sort of inovation. Especially when it seems like a loosing proposition.

But 4oz of fuel is way more than needed for cooking a typical breakfast for one or two people. Including about a quart and a half of cooked coffee (perked for 7 minutes,) boiled another quart of water for three kids and 2 adults, a pound of bacon and a dozen eggs for 9 people on 2oz of fuel. The valve/expansion chamber could easily be aluminum, with a smaller ti tank. I believe the whole set-up would hit your 6oz mark. This pretty much eliminates the need for the aluminum bottle and pump.

Anyway, propane and WG have nearly the same BTU quanta (about 5% more for the typical butane fuel.) It is too bad the canisters weigh so much and are so unreliable. Anyway, I agree there is a lot of things that can be done with higher BTU fuels. Butane/iso-butane is actually only slightly better than alcohol, after considering the canister. Stove weight is the big killer with WG stoves. Esbit is messy on the pots.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
Field test of three stoves on 08/16/2013 16:27:27 MDT Print View

I was on a trip where we could compare a Caldera cone (alcohol) Canister (MSR Pocket Rocket) and a JetBoil. My conclusion was any difference was too close to call. Other considerations and personal preferences mattered more than just weight. The link to the comparison is here:

Some mesurements:

Caldera Cone weights:

Total weight, stove, pot and fuel, at start of trip: 36.1 oz
Total weight, stove pot and fuel, at end of trip: 18.1 oz
Note: we had 3 oz of fuel left over.


Total weight, stove, pot and fuel (one 220 g canister) at start of trip: 28.2
total weight, stove, pot and empty fuel canister at end of trip: 20.2 oz (weight of empty fuel container = 5.6 oz)

Pocket Rocket:

Total weight, stove, pot and fuel (one large and one small canister), at start of trip: 33.1 oz
Total weight, stove pot and fuel, at end of trip: 22.2 oz

Considerations besides weight: Its hard to fry fish in a JetBoil. You can't bake with either JetBoil or PR. Wind can and did make the Pocket Rocket inoperable. You can lose a whole canister of fuel at one stroke if the valve is not shut off. Its easy to tip over a Pocket Rocket with a pot of boiling water on it and we did on this trip. You can't beat the JetBoil for speed to boil, but does anyone care? So if the difference is + or - 6 oz on a week long trip, I'm going for the reliability and versatility of the Caldera Cone.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: he's gotten sloppy on 08/16/2013 18:20:24 MDT Print View

Hi Harald (and Bob)

I am not sure how many white gas and kero stoves I own. 'A lot' would be a simple answer. Most of the expected ones for sure. Very bluntly, I get given many of the new ones for review: cost is not an issue. And I have tested them all.

I have used white gas for years, but did not like the unexpected whoomps which sometimes happened. They can be upsetting in the snow in a tent. So I moved to kero for many years. Various stoves, but I found the Coleman Peak Apex II was one of the best as it has 2 valves. I have a couple of these in various states of heavily used or nearly worn out. I was actually repairing one of them on and off as some of the frailer parts died in the field.

However, my wife was always a bit scared of the WG stoves - we have both seen many accidents. Burnt packs, sleeping bags tents, and bits of skin. Not, I will add, due to my efforts. She suffered the kero stoves but seriously disliked them because of the smell they made and the way the fumes upset her nose when I was cooking dinner in the vestibule.

Then I was asked to do a survey of various sorts of stoves - WG, kero, canister, alky & Esbit. I was a bit astonished to find that the modern canister stove can be more powerful than most any WG/kero stove. Most of the WG stoves are limited in power to under 2.8 kW for technical reasons which the vendors never explain - it's to do with the fuel/air mixing process. Some of the canister stoves can reach 3.3 kW. The myths of low power probably trace back to the days of the Bleuet stove, which was underpowered. Mind you, running any stove flat out is very wasteful.

Then I looked at the fuel consumption. Yes, if you take a running WG stove under test conditions it may have a similar fuel consumption per litre boiled to a canister stove. But in Real Life, looking at hard data on fuel consumption over many long trips, I found that WG needed about 50% more fuel. The rest goes in priming and leaving the stove running between cooking. That's not theory; that's carefully recorded data from field use.

In answer to Bob, I think I can get a WG or kero stove going with very little waste - I have had a lot of practice with both. But even so, I was using more WG or kero.

During the survey, in the field, my wife was taken by the lack of smell, the safety (lack of fireball priming) and the speed of cooking which we got from the canister stoves. I don't apologise for using the 'fireball' word: you will find it in the XGK instructions.

Then I looked at the weights. Yes, there are heavy stoves of all sorts. Yes, the metal gas canister has extra weight. But the tank and the pump for a WG stove also weigh a lot. The remote canister stoves are in general much lighter than the WG stoves: the one I have developed weighs under 90 grams. Add a 68 g Powermax canister for fuel. That's light. That's fast to get going. That's very convenient in use. That's powerful. That's seriously controllable down to an extremely low simmer too.

Yeah, I'm biased. Now you know why.


Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: he's gotten sloppy on 08/20/2013 22:39:05 MDT Print View

I have read everything that Roger C has written... a lot of good stuff. I was not surprised with the results as gas and liquid (WG) have about the same BTU. Gas does not need priming. I can run a Svea 123 with very little fuel to prime it and usually perfectly time it to get the stove to light at exactly the time the priming flame burns out -- but it is fuel not used for cooking.

In cold weather the Svea is not ideal, but it works. I hate the flare-up with the MSRs, and a Roger states, MSR says it is normal.

So a properly designed remote canister is going to work in cold. To me it just comes down to preference, although I am more comfortable with a WG in cold because of lots of experience and familiarity. But I am using my WindPro II more and more in winter. I know there are lighter options.

I still think the Svea is the best stove ever made... little maintenance and never failed me in decades of use.

My go to 3 season stove is a Caldera GVP with Esbit. But I still occasionally take the Svea, it is like a trusted old friend.

P.S. I never have had an accident with a WG stove or burned anything :)

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Re: he's gotten sloppy on 08/21/2013 06:06:13 MDT Print View

"do not attempt to prove things to confirm your existing bias"

I think you failed on that score. To illustrate with just one point:

"Simmering a lot? – Forget it, bring alcohol stove!

Important! Simmering performance on canister/white gas stoves is dismal, if you simmer then alcohol completely decimates canister efficiencies. Sample: 8 gm fuel, ion stove, simmer ring added: 32 minutes simmer. I saw one canister number online for 8 minutes simmer, 7 gm fuel. So there’s literally no comparison at all once you start simmering.

You base canister gas consumption on just one unreferenced online quote.
When I am dry-baking a loaf of bread, I use less than 10g gas for 30 minutes cooking time.
Most people do not realise just how low a canister stove can go.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: he's gotten sloppy on 08/21/2013 11:57:29 MDT Print View

>"Most of the WG stoves are limited in power to under 2.8 kW for technical reasons which the vendors never explain - it's to do with the fuel/air mixing process. Some of the canister stoves can reach 3.3 kW. The myths of low power probably trace back to the days of the Bleuet stove, which was underpowered. "

I'll confirm the above. 20 years ago, I was experimenting with WG stoves to up their output from stock 8,000-10,000 BTU/hr (2.3 - 2.9 kW). Different orifice sizes, burner configurations, and I could sometimes get 10-15% more heat output but things were pretty ugly - unstable flames, poor efficiency as evidenced by soot production, flare-ups, etc. Really, the solution for my problem was to bring more stoves - six in all. The other solution was to go with the ultimate "canister stove" in the form of a propane-fired weed burner or 100,000 BTU/hour (29kW) stove burner (think Chili Cook-off in a 55-gallon drum). Empty tank weight sucked (a pound of steel per pound of propane) and the tank would quickly ice up, but pouring hot water on the tank or directing a small plumber's torch or BP stove at the tank defrosts it nicely (Do not try this at home, kids, mostly because directing flames at fuel tanks freaks most people out).

The six MSR WG stoves got the Backpacking Hot Tub Mark I up to temperature, but it took 4 hours. Met my wife on that trip. The Snow-Camping Mark II version with the propane burner was at 40C/104F in 40 minutes.

Stuart R
(Scunnered) - F

Locale: Scotland
Re: Re: Re: he's gotten sloppy on 08/21/2013 15:02:17 MDT Print View

David - many years ago I went to a lecture by an American guy about space optics. Anyway this guy had worked on Reagan's Star Wars project where they were trying out chemical lasers - hydrogen fluoride or sodium fluoride I think. They tested these lasers by firing them into a tank of water the size of an Olympic swimming pool which was heated to boiling in a few minutes.
You didn't by any chance work on the same project....?

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: he's gotten sloppy on 08/21/2013 15:46:01 MDT Print View

Hi David

> I was experimenting with WG stoves to up their output from stock 8,000-10,000 BTU/hr
> (2.3 - 2.9 kW). Different orifice sizes, burner configurations,
The longer chain molecules need a lot more oxygen for full combustion, as you know. Even an XGK is limited in it's ability to draw in the necessary amount of air. If you pressurise the air supply into the pre-mix section you can do better (I have done that), but otherwise is is hard.

One route which might work would be to switch to a ring burner: that would allow a number of smaller flames to each suck in their own air supply. That gets heavy and complex though.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: he's gotten sloppy on 08/21/2013 15:53:08 MDT Print View

> Important! Simmering performance on canister/white gas stoves is dismal, if you
> simmer then alcohol completely decimates canister efficiencies.
I will add to what Stuart wrote.

I can turn most any canister stove down to such a low simmer that it is hard for the pot to even reach boiling point. Even with a lid on the pot (and a windshield), normal losses can be more than the heat output of a canister stove turned really low. There should be a graph about this in one of my stove articles, but I forget where.

In my book, hard experimental data recorded with a thermometer beats hand-waving any day. But that is just me.


David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: Re: he's gotten sloppy on 08/21/2013 16:37:48 MDT Print View

Stuart: I never considered heating the hot tub from space. It certainly would have reduce the pack weights, but a few billion dollars wasn't in the budget.

Roger: "One route which might work would be to switch to a ring burner: that would allow a number of smaller flames to each suck in their own air supply. That gets heavy and complex though."

Or not. What is a ring burner but a torus with holes in it? It gets heavy only if its minor diameter is large (for burst strength). Some 1/4" aluminum tubing, wrapped in a loop, and drilled for the correct orifice size would handle any fuel gas pressure. They would be dang small holes, but that's okay. Seems like you could make a 8-cm diameter loop. If your pot had HX fins outside of that diameter, boil times could be super quick and efficiency quite good. HX fins should be bigger/longer than usual for the large hot gas flow. But all HX fins on BP pots should be bigger, denser and thicker than they are at present. "Flux-rings", etc presently available are fine at 6- to 20- people-days. But for longer trips or larger groups, we really should carry a few extra ounces of HX in order to save pounds of fuel.

Then there's the BBQ, gas grill approach - stamped sheet metal burners. But those are pre-mix burners. I'm liking your idea about pure fuel gas in ring burner. Liking it a lot.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
yes, agreed on 08/22/2013 14:16:25 MDT Print View

Stuart R, yes, that was an oversight, I'm going to correct the simmer data/comments, and add a table that has repeatable and quantified results, I just didn't get to it, it's not that interesting except in theory to me, I'll also use that data to refine alcohol simmering methods and maybe add that too. I'll use your data as well in that chart.

I picked up a few canister stoves to test on which I will probably sell again once I'm done since I find them aesthetically vile, particularly the non refillable canisters, which to me are as far from what I want backpacking to be for me as I could possibly get. I'll see though, depends, maybe I'll keep one of them just in case forest fires start getting even worse and fire controls more stringent, though personally I don't see any difference in actual fire risk, when used competently, between either system, except that risk of catastrophic failure is obviously far less for an alcohol stove, no valves/connections to fail, though that won't stop people from kicking over their alcohol stove cook sets and starting the next forest fire, just as some people will find a way to make a white gas stove blow up as well. Human ingenuity after all can always find a way...

Like Nick, I do not have the skill set required to make white gas stoves fail, blow up, leak, explode, or whatever else, never seen it, never done it, but I do believe that it can be done since I see people report it being done, for those people I definitely encourage them to use gas canisters no matter what, I'd suggest they also avoid alcohol because those stoves also give a good amount of room for user error and other bad luck things that some people I guess manage to do and others somehow avoid.

The white gas thing however was just a little side track on the entire efficiency question, something I'd not tested or checked for years so I thought it would be fun to revisit that matter. It was actually interesting to do it, particularly using the suggestions of people who use and like them. I will do some updates on the simmering consumption for the various stoves, that will form another table, I didn't have time to do that yet. By posting this data publicly, errors can be pointed out and corrected, until the data is fairly accurate.

The real question was actually gas canister/alcohol initially, not in terms of the mountaineering and off/on/off/on kitchen stove type cooking that gas canisters are good for, but normal backpacking. It's easy to go off on tangents when such questions come up of course, and it was an interesting question for sure.

I had actually believed the stories too about there being a cutoff point in terms of days out/cups boiled where alcohol would start being heavier, but as I found, there is in fact no such cutoff point for an efficient alcohol system. Due to cooking time, there is certainly a pragmatic point where it just takes too long for alcohol of course, 8 cups, for example, would take a long time, not worth it for most people I would guess, and you'd need a pretty big stove to hold the fuel.

I noticed here in a recent thread on narrow beer can pots with caldera cones that showed that the 12 gm per 2 cup boil can be reached even with a fairly inefficient pot, ie, that even using what I would have thought the least efficient setup was able to reach the 12gm point easily, so I would call that number a safe real world number for fuel consumption. White gas was really just looking back for me, out of curiosity, to see how good the systems were, and it turned out, with all the good feedback, particularly from people able to use the systems for years without blowing them up, that it was much better than I had thought, with lots of room for improvement. Roger, too bad you're so into canister gas, think of what a decent machine shop could do with that problem for white gas and for an alcohol stove with a true on/off valve, which would make it fully compliant with all fire danger issues. This thread here actually made me realize how good liquid fuel is re bringing the right amount, always, for any length trip, the same advantage would apply with white gas, and that system can be vastly optimized over what it is now in the market. Maybe your comment that it is a dinosaur system is correct in that sense, though not in the sense that it doesn't work or anything like that.

Re the actual tests, I went back in and weighed the alcohol instead of measuring it, and it turns out that 2 cup boils, raising water temp 140F, that is, took 11 gm with a narrow 10cm pot, and 10.(a bit over 0, which I didn't feel like finding the exact number, it's probably 10.25 or so) with a wide pot, but that's only with a well done system, so it's best to stick with the working 12 gm, which seems to be fully achievable by most efficient systems. I'm picking up a more accurate graduated cylinder measuring device so I can get some data better aligned with reality, I believe though I'm not certain that the specific gravity of denatured alcohol at 70F is closer to 0.75 than 0.79, that's something I'd noted months ago but discounted as measurement error.

And, of course, if you go for most optimized, lightest possible, alcohol setup, then you'd use ethanol, which would drop the per 2 cup boil to about 10gm/9gm. Remember, when comparing systems, it's best to compare a normal system against a normal system, and the best/most efficient against the best most efficient for the varying types.

Roger, I'm well aware of your biases, we all form them based on the style of backpacking we do, our physiology, our marital status, and many other factors, but it's important to remember that fact, ie, that's it's simply personal preference, a bias. When, for example, I used white gas, I had no problems with blowing it up, ie, I didn't, and I had no problems carefully using it in a vestibule, with care, and I understood that you start it once per meal, and worked inside that restriction. These were not difficult things to do.

These threads though would lead me to listen to bob gross over you since he seemed able to run the equipment without issues over years, up to the current time, maybe it's because he doesn't have a room full of stoves, but instead learned how to use the tools he has? I won't speculate, it's fine to have biases however, I am forming a strong bias for alcohol stoves, but I can see myself drifting to actual fire over time too, that just has such an appeal to me, same things, silence, less machinery, simpler, more disconnection from industrial supply chains, etc. You know, nature, and all that stuff. I never felt the need for the on/off/on kitchen stove type approach to cooking in the back country, others like to bring that convenience with them, seems silly to me since my goal is to leave that mindset behind me when backpacking, but each to their own, we all have different motivations.

Ignoring mountaineering, snow camping, and large party cooking, those being not really related to the original topic, the outcomes were interesting however, and surprising at times.

Re cooking times, as sgt rock noted recently, "if you are in such a hurry, why are you walking?". He's got a way with words that guy does.

Here's hoping for happy trails.

Edited by hhope on 08/22/2013 14:44:16 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: yes, agreed on 08/22/2013 15:18:17 MDT Print View

Harald: I get it. You think anyone who prefers canisters over WG or alcohol must be a prejudiced, ham-fisted, incompetent buffoon. I got it from your first few insults and sarcastic remarks about Roger. The next dozen were pretty redundant.

I must also be incredibly inept because over the last 40 years, I too have had some WG stoves flare up while starting and few older Swedish ones that had serious overheating problems. When I used the same stove, in the same conditions, I'd get dialed quickly, but each stove had a learning curve. The relearning curve would get shorter each season but the big yellow flames in other tents and other campsites, makes me conclude my exciting moments about once-in-every-50-uses are better than average.

"Beware the man with one gun" is the idea that if you have only one implement, you know it really well and there is some truth to that. But sometimes I'm on the Alaska mainland, sometimes in the Aleutians (can't bring fuel onto the jet). Or California, Hawaii, Africa, or the Alps. Different fuel availability, different stoves I might have or borrow, different group sizes, snow melting or not - my needs change from trip to trip.

And the converse of "Beware the man with one gun" is "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

Still, I assumed WG stoves to more weight-efficient for the reasons you mention - selecting container size and fuel mass precisely for each trip, and the reduced container waste, so I avoided canister stoves for a long time (Bluets on Boy Scout trips can create early, negative impressions.)

I didn't appreciate the "on/off/on kitchen stove type approach" until I started doing it. Rehydrate and bring the pasta to temperature, rather than simmer it for 10 minutes. Making a pot of food, powering off, eating a pot of food then restarting in 10 minutes instead of having all my courses lined up and ready to go in one firing saves bringing another pot. Depending on the menu, I could use half as many BTUs with a canister stove as a WG stove. That starts to reduce WG's initial container and cost advantages. And now that canisters are worldwide and most of the world involves a jet flight away, popping just a stove head in my pack keeps me in TSA's good graces (I hate those body-cavity searches).

But, hey, like noise versus spray versus guns for bears; HYOH. Bring your favorite stove. In the last year, I've used propane, butane-propane mixes, WG, alcohol, esbit, Sterno, and even a wax-based DIY setup (jet transport but no on-site fuels nor any trees on that island) as well as no-cook trips. But 60-70% of my outdoor meals are over canister stoves nowadays.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
yep on 08/22/2013 16:35:27 MDT Print View

dave, I certainly have developed a bias as well, to be clear, in this case, finding something that actually removed my number one annoyance/incongruous tool when backpacking (mechanical fossil fuel cooking), and replaces it with superlight simplicity, efficiency (to my surprise, I initially thought efficiency/weight would be the sacrifice, but that's not the case), and silence, an aesthetic slam dunk I would simply not have thought possible before looking into it further, but there it is.

Keep in mind, the actual question of this thread was efficiency/weight of cooking systems/fuel, not the emotional reaction we have to one or the other system, and that question has actually been largely answered, and it was not the answer I expected, though it can be fine tuned and refined with more and better data, which I'll add as time and energy/interest permits. In general, everything involves compromises, convenience means you let go of something else, weight, another thing. Pluses and minuses that is. There's two reasons alcohol ends up doing so well for the people who like its advantages: 1: fuel container/stove weight, and 2: efficiency of stove/screen system, up to 60% for alcohol.

I'll update the simmer stuff, it takes a while to research and then write this stuff up, but it's worth it to me, there's a lot of myths spread about this stuff, easier to just say, no, that's not true, here's the data, then go on with the discussion.

There is most certainly a category of person who will have issues with gear, and another that won't, it's silly to pretend that's not the case, and since I do not know the people who have issues, I have no way of knowing that about them, usually you can tell just by watching people interact over a few days with equipment to know, but you can really never tell online talking like we are doing, though some guys it's pretty obvious that they have very good hands, because they never have any negative issues with anything where user error was the cause. And some gear will have a mechanical failure, being a machine, that's just how things go, sometimes things fail, sometimes they fail when helped along by habits over time, it varies. It's hard however to discount when a certain type of person never has any issues, if it was just statistical mechanical failures, that is just not likely in my opinion. If a canister valve was made poorly and decides to let it all go, that's just how it goes, this isn't military grade gear after all, it's just cheap consumer stuff.

As for roger and his biases, they are what they are, at times interesting, at times tiresome, other times hugely informative and valuable, other times, not so much. As bob g said, good luck though getting him to see that... On questions like this, I'd pay more attention to the local guys, Bob G, Nick, etc, they have lots of experience but magically had different conclusions and outcomes, which suggests things might not have absolutes in this area, too many variables.

I like bpl because you can get these different types and see how they have different experiences, though I have to admit, over time, it no longer surprises me when certain people report very consistently a certain level of experience, there is after all someone in charge of the events, the person themselves. I've seen people airlifted out from one single slip up, didn't pay attention for that second, others will go 10s of thousands of miles with no issues, that's not chance in most cases, that's paying attention non stop vs slipping up now and then. Same I think goes for gear. I certainly do not think everyone should use the same stuff, it doesn't make sense, some things fit one person better than another.

here's, again, to happier trails, whereever they are...

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
How many grams does efficiency weigh? on 08/22/2013 22:18:43 MDT Print View

Not the efficiency of the stove, but the efficiency of completing tasks on the trail?

For me, wood is extremely inefficient and time consuming. Time to collect wood, start the fire, monitor it, and then clean up all the soot. Not to mention smoke in your eyes... wood stove or a camp fire.

Alcohol is not efficient -- measuring out the fuel for each burn, extinguishing fuel after boil is completed, and being extra careful.

White gas -- priming removes some efficiency.

Esbit -- pretty efficient. Scrap a bit with a finger nail to help it ignite. While it slowly boils your water you can do other tasks.

Canister -- most efficient unless you consider no-cook solutions.

My favorite stove -- Svea 123

My go to stove -- Caldera GVP in Esbit mode.

And, drum roll.....

What stoves did I pick out and give to my backpacking son as gifts....................?

Upright canister stove for 3 season use.

Remote canister stove for winter.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Stoves for kids. on 08/22/2013 22:37:34 MDT Print View

What stoves did I pick out and give to my backpacking son as gifts....................?

That passed through my mind while writing my last post, but it didn't get to my fingertips - Bringing a stove my 8 year old daughter can cook with is a big plus as we try to get the kids involved and more self-sufficient in the outdoors. And I'm going to let them use alcohol, Esbit, Sterno, canisters and wood for that matter before I let them use WG stoves.

I think I remember BSA allowing canister stoves and not WG stoves years ago. Anyone up on that?

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Stoves for kids. on 08/22/2013 22:40:52 MDT Print View

Your daughter is in the Boy Scouts?


David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Stoves for kids. on 08/22/2013 22:44:23 MDT Print View

"years ago" Like 35. When I was in Scouts.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Here
Evaluating what stoves to use for what lengths of trips on 08/22/2013 23:00:37 MDT Print View

"Alcohol is not efficient -- measuring out the fuel for each burn, extinguishing fuel after boil is completed, and being extra careful."

It may depend on how and what you use.
I put in the burner more fuel than I know I will use, at boil I snuff it in about 1 second, pour the hot water into my cup or food bag, by then the burner is cool enough to turn upside down retrieve the remaining fuel and put that back into the container.
Not sure how extra careful one has to be with alcohol compared to WG or even canister stoves. (I use the Caldera Cone)

Obviously the above does not work if you cook or there is a fire ban.