Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Evaluating what stoves to use for what lengths of trips

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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: Melbourne
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.