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Cold weather cooking - stove choices
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Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Cold weather cooking - stove choices on 03/06/2014 10:36:12 MST Print View

Though I mentioned the Spider earlier, what I actually use is an MSR Simmerlite - that being the lightest white gas stove I know of. If I were starting out now and didn't own that I'd probably get a spider. I'm waiting for at least the second iteration of the Caffin stove before wanting one of those.

A white gas stove is the long-term proven solution for DEEP cold, but for anything in the moderate cold range - like above zero F - it seems like an inverted canister would be simpler. As to weight it depends a lot on how long the trip is and how you cook. What I have figured out from tracking my use and some testing is that there is very little weight difference for trips of a week or so IF your cooking style is light it once in the morning and once at night. If you start the stove more often, you'll lose ground with white gas due to re-priming. This also assumes you use the smallest aluminum fuel bottle and carry the rest of your fuel in a plastic bottle. By doing that you get a lower container weight with white gas than with canisters, which offsets the slightly higher weight of the WG stove.

The other aspect of cooking style that mattes is simmering - forget it with a Simmerlite, it's on or off. For me that is fine, I just boil water. But a Spider or other remote canister unit will give you nice flame control if you like to actually cook.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Cold weather cooking - stove choices on 03/06/2014 10:47:07 MST Print View

I was using my Simmerlite just last weekend in the bad weather of Southern California.


robert van putten

Locale: Planet Bob
Svea 123 on 03/06/2014 11:20:33 MST Print View

As Paul mentioned with his MSR, my Whisperlight is on in blowtorch mode or it is off!
Little or no simmering going on there.

But these days my cooking style is evolving more simmering ( the result of alcohol stove usage! )and I'm wondering if maybe the Svea 123 would be a better cold weather stove for me. I understand it simmers quite well and is much more fuel efficient than the Whisperlight.

I do light my stove three or more times a day as I prefer a hot meal for lunch when traveling in cold weather, and I like a hot mug of tea with it.

The Svea is about the same weight as my MSR so if it is more efficient, it would be the way to go, especially for melting snow. It would require me to carry a separate fuel bottle and funnel to fill the Svea though. With the MSR, I simply take a metal fuel bottle large enough for the trip.

Never tried canister stoves of any kind though, can't abide the waste and expense ( what do you do with all the half empty tanks?).

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Cold weather cooking - stove choices on 03/06/2014 11:25:14 MST Print View

I wish my old MSR Rapidfire (pre-Windpro) had a fuel line like the Windpro or Windpro II, it's so dang stiff. I have a virgin Simmerlite I'll have to get out sometime, but having too much fun with all my other, older bp stoves. Back to the mid to late 30's (Optimus 8).

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Svea 123 on 03/06/2014 11:41:27 MST Print View

Once I tried to get Svea 123 to work on snow. Wouldn't work. Couldn't get it hot enough to pressurize.

I'm sure with proper technique it would have worked, but just a bit trickier than pump WG or canister

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: Svea 123 on 03/06/2014 12:13:18 MST Print View

MSR stoves work much better in snow than a Svea. Trust me, I've been there.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Alas poor stove on 03/06/2014 12:28:52 MST Print View

The mighty MSR folks in their wisdom have DISCONTINUED the Simmerlite stove and so probably the best and maybe lightest white gas stove on the market is now history (although some are still around to buy). What is MSR thinking? Who could know. Companies often deep six their best stuff and lose a boatload of customers (think old North Face tents).

I've used between 3 and 4 Svea 123's over the last 30 years and gotta say when compared to a Mt Research Safety model the Svea has many drawbacks, which I won't list here. It's not the priming blasting fireball of the Svea which I'm talking about either.

Example---you are cooking with the Svea and the tiny fuel tank runs out midway. So, you wait a few minutes for the housing to cool and then carefully pour your fuel into the tiny hole of the stove---don't waste a drop! The stove of course is still warm (and your food is getting cold). You prime it again and light. KA-BOOM! The still-warm stove gas-ifies the priming fuel and you get a nice big fireball---no need to shave for a couple more weeks.

Example---one of the nail-like support prongs falls out and is lost---a fairly common occurrence. You need all 3 to support a pot. So, you fashion a couple from bent nails at home. These get easily lost in the dirt on your next trip. The wonderful little Svea.

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
White gas fireballs on 03/06/2014 13:07:55 MST Print View

This is NOT directed at anyone specific. I've used a whisperlite for many, many years and never had a problem when it would flare up. No one really leans over their stove when lighting it, do they? I don't lean over my canister stove even though it has never flared. I expect the flare up and it is never a problem. Now, I don't use my stove in or near my tent. I wouldn't use a WG stove in a tent. Otherwise I don't understand the problem.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Cold weather cooking - stove choices on 03/06/2014 13:38:42 MST Print View

Hi Nick

> I keep reading about the field failures and taking out filters and replacing them
> with toilet paper,
A shade unfair. The 'light Korean/Chinese canister stoves' are actually very good, but they are designed for use as uprights. As such, they are most excellently reliable. You should also note that the 'Western' company stoves are mostly made by the Chinese and Korean companies anyhow - with the exception of Primus who get theirs made in Estonia. But their engineering is a bit rough in comparison, imho.

The filter business is because I converted an UPRIGHT stove into a REMOTE stove. That changed things a bit. When used as they were designed, there are no problems. By the way, the tissue paper filter has now gone, replaced by a punched disk of filter paper. That works very well.

'Field failures' - well, first of all it was/is a BETA test, designed to find everything it could. There were a few 'user-training' issues which were NOT failures, there was one damaged O-ring, and one very early problem with a filler cord. Only the damaged O-ring could be considered an actual failure, and I/we have no idea how it got damaged. With the O-ring replaced the stove is now running fine. Incidentally, a white gas stove can have exactly the same problem with the O-ring. It is a good idea to carry spares and to check them.


Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Cold weather cooking - stove choices on 03/06/2014 13:50:12 MST Print View

Hi Paul

> I'm waiting for at least the second iteration of the Caffin stove before wanting one
> of those.
Chuckle. R&D is NEVER that simple.

The model which went into beta-test was V13(.1) of the 4th major generation (or was it the 5th?). That had the FMS-116T burner, and there were 10 of those. Then I switched to the FMS-300 burner around V13.3. The current model is V14.2 . The previous major generations were interesting (and worked) but were not good enough for release.

So 'second iteration' is not a very good description!

I decided to make 100 stoves, and bought that many FMS-300 burners. Most of those are gone. Will I make any more after all the current batch of burners are gone? Don't know.

PS: currently rebuilding my CNC machine, so there's a small delay anyhow.

David Drake
(DavidDrake) - F

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Re: Re: Cold weather cooking - stove choices on 03/06/2014 14:00:34 MST Print View

Hi Roger,
Are you saying replacing the sintered brass filter is unnecessary running the FMS 300T as intended (upright and using good-quality canister like Snowpeak)? I just got one and was considering replacing the filter using your method, but would prefer to leave it as-is. Obviously, I would also prefer no field failures.
Apologies to the OP for the slight thread drift.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Svea 123 on 03/06/2014 14:03:14 MST Print View

Well, I never had a problem with my SVEA. It does take a bit of attention to the weather when filling it, though. A full tank will last about 70-80 minutes on high. About 2-3 hours on medium...say around 2000BTU. It will run about 4 hours on low.

In cold weather I used it for heating my pup tent out on the ice while ice fishing. You need fairly good ventilation and a small piece of plywood, but compared to the ice auger, that was the least of our problems. -20F was the problem. The damn tip-ups were constantly freezing. We had to drop back to 5 between the two of us just to keep them ladled out.

Anyway, I picked up a midi-pump around then. With 3 strokes I could prime the stove without pouring fuel on it. I would turn it off to regulate the amount of flame while priming, though if you ignored it it often hit 2 feet tall. I cannot imagine anyone running out of fuel in the middle of a meal. I cooked for 8 people on it one morning (bacon, eggs and toast, two pots of coffee, 1 for tea/cocoa) and only used about 2-1/2 to 3oz.

Rugged as hell. My brother dropped an armload of firewood on it one time. When I got back I just pinched the brass around the pot stand where it had opened up and straightened out the wind screen.

(jpovs) - F - M

Locale: Arrowhead
Re: Re: Re: Cold weather cooking - stove choices on 03/06/2014 14:08:03 MST Print View


Edited by jpovs on 06/15/2014 13:57:07 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: White gas fireballs on 03/06/2014 14:14:13 MST Print View

"I've used a whisperlite for many, many years and never had a problem when it would flare up."

I've used a whisperlite for a few months worth of backpacking in total. I've singed my eyebrows a couple times, but I acknowledge I wasn't being careful enough. Also, once it clogged and I had to take it apart in the field, but got it to work. WG is dirty fuel, gums up,...

Starting 10 years ago, I've use upright canister stoves a few 100 days worth and never singed my eyebrows. The Exponent F1 developed a leak between stove and canister when I didn't tighten it really good, which caused a flame-up, but I just blew it out and tightened more. A couple times it leaked all the fuel when it got really cold overnight. But all this was a defect in that one stove. I had one canister that leaked when I removed stove, so I just left the stove on until I used it up.

Canisters are easier to use and lighter. Temperatures below 25 F or so require tricks or inverted, and below 0 F (?) WG becomes a better solution.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Alas poor stove on 03/06/2014 14:30:08 MST Print View

"What is MSR thinking?"

If a stove is too good and reliable, then MSR won't be selling them anymore stoves. They would rather see you going back to buy a new stove every two or three years.


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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Cold weather cooking - stove choices on 03/06/2014 14:51:48 MST Print View

"MSR XGK EX stove"

I've had quite a few MSR stoves like this. The old model G, old model GK, old model XGK, and lastly the model XGK-II. I have not yet owned any XGK-EX. This adds up to about eight or so stoves.

First of all, most of these white gas stoves that we're talking about are so-called plate roarer stoves. They tend to be high in efficiency, high in heat, a little noisy due to the plate during operation, and a little complex in construction. A different type would be a Simmerlite (no plate). It helps if you have high mechanical aptitude.

For many of us, white gasoline is the best fuel for winter use. Kerosene can be hotter in efficiency, but it doesn't vaporize quite the same way.

When I am doing anything in severe winter conditions, I will take my XGK-II. I would take the XGK-EX if I had one, but that will be the next stove. The -EX is not cheap. With these stoves, you really want to play with it for a while and learn its habits. Once you've used it for several days in a row, you will know exactly how much fuel to use in priming. I once got so practiced that I could prime it with about five drops of fuel. I recommend placing the stove and fuel tank on a piece of Masonite about 10 inches square. That keeps it insulated from snow, and it gives it a stable base.

If I am going in less severe winter conditions, like spring snow, then I will take a Simmerlite since it is lighter in weight. Once I get consistently above freezing, then I will take some butane canister stove running butane blend. Once it gets nicer than that, I will take Esbit for boiling, or possibly alcohol.


Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
MSR XGK E on 03/06/2014 14:54:18 MST Print View

"Why would someone use the MSR XGK EX stove versus what most everyone else is mentioning?"

Because it is heavier, bulkier, more $$$$ and overkill for what most of us are doing.

I am sure a Toyota Landcruiser with burly shocks and fat tires is superior to my 2005 Kia Sorento 4WD if I was going on a safari or crossing the Sahara. Since I merely driving up rough washboard dirt roads in Utah or snowy roads in Colorado, my Kia works for me.

Glad you need a stove to -40F. I am happy with -10 or so for my bragging rights. ;)

I already have two WG backpacking stoves. Frankly, I only need one (one was a gift, the MSR whisperlite needs a little TLC right now and I've been too lazy to strip it and put it back is 16 yrs old). Do I need a third stove?

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Fire Ball on 03/06/2014 15:00:18 MST Print View

James Marco---
"I cannot imagine anyone running out of fuel in the middle of a meal"

After a couple thousand meals with the Svea, it will happen more often than expected. Why? Because in order to be sure the tank has enough fuel for Meal #3 or Meal #4 or #5 or #7 you have to open up the tank and refill before cooking. Why? Because the stove is so heavy it's hard to accurately determine by holding and/or sloshing if you have enough fuel in the tank for the next 10 or 15 minutes of cooking. There is of course no fuel gauge.

And unless you have a funnel or a fuel bottle pour spout---and not just the standard bottle lid---getting fuel directly into the tiny hole of the Svea from a tilted fuel bottle usually results in some fuel spill and loss. Not good. Never good. And without the priming pump, there is always excessive fuel waste when priming unless you use an eyedropper to fill the trough or god help you go with a proprietary "fuel paste" to place in the priming trough. Enough!!

Ah, the MSR on the other hand has a 22oz or 32oz fuel bottle which lasts 8 or 9 days on a butt cold winter trip or 17 days on a regular trip before needing refilling.

(jpovs) - F - M

Locale: Arrowhead
Re: MSR XGK E on 03/06/2014 15:09:12 MST Print View


Edited by jpovs on 06/15/2014 13:56:06 MDT.

Phillip Asby
(PGAsby) - M

Locale: North Carolina
Thanks on 03/06/2014 15:23:05 MST Print View

great input as usual.

I'm in NC so high teens and low 20s is typically about the lower limit - but in scouts we do most of our camping in shoulder seasons and winter (summer is camps, etc...) so I've had my canister get shaky several times.

I did not like the Brunton Bantam I had - pretty clunky on several levels so I had about given up on white gas altogether... but I might be convinced otherwise - have my eye on the now discontinued Primus Express Lander which seems light and pretty simple.

I may order a Kovea Spider just to check it out - I admit I have a stove problem... in fact the "fiddle" factor of a white gas stove sort of appeals to me - as does the brass elegance in design/function of the SVEA 123 - would really like one of those and/or a Coleman 533/442.