Little ultralight stoves that screw into compressed gas canisters were a pretty exciting market when Snow Peak introduced the three-ounce GigaPower eleven years ago.
Since then, improvements have been incremental at best, and reviewers have spent many nights with furrowed brows monitoring the temperatures of water in titanium pots trying to measure differences between the products in this niche, which now number into the dozens.
It's pretty safe to say that there is precious little difference in these stoves. They are all just about durable enough, light enough, fuel efficient enough, hot enough, stable enough, and stowable enough for even those of us that are most discriminating with their gear. I've received so many review samples through the years that I've collected them all into a single bin. When I want to use a canister stove, I just reach in and grab whatever is on top, paying almost no attention to what it is.
In other words, they all pretty much work well enough, and I probably have better uses of my time than trying to sort out what I perceive as pretty meaningless little differences between them.
So when I received the latest titanium incarnation of canister stoves from Monatauk Gear, I let out an audible yawn at what was undoubtedly another copycat stove from the same Asian manufacturer that makes the easily-recognizable burner heads and fold up legs that appear on other stoves.
The little Monatauk Gnat balances a wide burner head with an ultra-simple design that is bare enough to evoke real beauty in design.
However, I do appreciate what Monatauk has tried to accomplish with the Gnat, and I think it's something that is aesthetically powerful from a design standpoint:
- There's lots of titanium in it, and what's not titanium is aluminum. There are only tiny bits of other (heavier) materials in it - fasteners and the jet.
- The jet housing, air intake, and valve housing are all stripped down to the very barest of essentials, which means the weight has been spent well on a large burner head and pot supports that collapse and grab the pot to prevent it from sliding off.
The result is a canister stove that the manufacturer claims weighs 1.6 ounces. I verified it on my scale to weigh 1.69 ounces, and yes, that irks me. The manufacturer should have claimed a 1.7 oz weight. The Gnat is 0.2 ounce or so lighter than the next-lightest stove on the market, the Snow Peak Lite Max.
It would be a stretch in responsible journalism to try to compare the “compactness” of the dozens of little canister stoves on the market, but the Gnat at least meets the minimum standards that an ultralight backpacker is most interested in - which means it has to collapse as much as possible to fit into a tiny little cup.
My only complaint about the Gnat is that the folding joints for the pot legs are loose and wiggly. A little tighter riveting would have inspired a bit more confidence in manufacturing quality.
Other than that, it's awfully hard to be critical of the little Gnat, and for its weight and beautiful design aesthetic, I'm going to make sure it resides at the top of my little pile of canister stoves, within easy reach.
Paired with a single 8-ounce (net) canister of fuel, a Backpacking Light 550 pot and lid, and a sleeping pad rolled around it for a windbreak, the expedition-conscious ultralighter can turn down the fuel power and eke out thirty-six to forty boils (at 12 oz/boil) without much difficulty, making this sort of setup an extremely attractive option to both alcohol and solid fuel.