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M Performance Comparison Testing of Lightweight Canister Stoves: Controlled Data Evaluating Key Variables of Temperature, Wind, and Windscreen Use

by Will Rietveld

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Article Summary:

Our performance test of the Jetboil Personal Cooking System compared to conventional canister stoves like the Snow Peak GigaPower and Brunton Crux started us thinking about canister stove efficiency. The Jetboil system has a few limitations, as we pointed out, but its development is a major advance in backpacking stove technology and efficiency. We are looking forward to reviewing the new MSR integrated canister stove, due out in 2005, to see if it pushes the envelope a little further. Traditional canister stoves from different manufacturers are basically very similar. They are compact, lightweight, cleverly designed, and will boil a quart of water in 3.5 minutes (at full blast) - half the time it takes on your kitchen stove. What Jetboil did for the industry, and for backpackers, was to set a higher standard for stove performance by creating a cooking system with integrated components optimized to work together efficiently. Current design (with the exception of Jetboil and the upcoming MSR integrated canister stove) does not focus on heating efficiency. Canister stoves put out a lot of BTU's, but little attention is paid to efficient heat transfer to a cooking pot. In breezy conditions an unprotected stove can lose 60-80% of its heat (my estimate) to the environment. A windscreen greatly increases fuel and energy efficiency, but manufacturers include dire warnings (for liability reasons) of possible injury or death if a windscreen is used with their canister stove. Snow Peak has a heat shield available for the GigaPower stove (they call it a windscreen, but it is actually a heat shield to protect the canister from overheating), but that is about the extent of manufacturer provided tools to increase the heating efficiency of traditional canister stoves. (For more information on using a windscreen with a canister stove, see FAQs about Canister Stoves and Fuels and Homemade Canister Stove Windscreen). Jetboil has finally addressed the efficiency problem of canister stoves by designing an integrated cooking system, and MSR will be introducing their version soon. We hope to see many more lightweight, fuel efficient, and wind resistant canister cooking systems in the future. Stove heating efficiency (low fuel consumption, good wind resistance, good heat transfer) is an important factor to consider when selecting a backpacking stove. That information is not readily available for most stoves, so we ran lab tests on all of the stoves in our canister stove review suite. Through our testing we identify which stoves are more fuel efficient, and increase understanding of the factors that contribute to stove efficiency.