Brad: Humor me, if you would. Pretend this isn’t a product review. Pretend that we’re hoisting a pint while talking gear, and get caught up in a discussion on backpacking stoves… It strikes me as a glaring discrepancy that we have canister-mounted stoves weighing less than two ounces, but the lightest (readily available) remote-canister stoves weigh at least three times as much. Take, for example, the Snowpeak Litemax, at 1.9 ounces, and the MSR Windpro, at 6.6 ounces. HUH? I mean, let’s see… you separate the canister-mount stove from its valve, add a fuel line, and a few legs. Where the heck does all the weight come in?!
Ryan: I would love a remote canister stove that weighs 3.5 oz. I would love it more if I could use it in the winter and run it in inverted canister mode for a liquid feed. I would love it even more if it could replace my MSR WindPro for both group cooking (2.5 to 4.5L pots) and winter cooking and snowmelting chores. I know, I know. What do you expect for 3.5 oz? So, we'll let Brad approach this review as a wise and cautious reviewer might, so that he can counsel you into a wise recommendation about this stove's performance-to-weight ratio. As for me, I'll try to give my perspective on Reckless Use Scenarios (RUS's) that might be well outside the scope of both manufacturer recommendations and the types of activities practiced by the traditional (is there such a thing?) ultralight backpacker.
Enter the Olicamp Xcelerator Ti (and equivalent Fire-Maple FMS-117T), a new stove to the US market - a remote canister stove that weighs only 3.5 ounces. (Note: While Brad was using the Olicamp model, Ryan used the equivalent Fire-Maple FMS-117T. Both stoves are exactly the same in terms of design, function, materials, and performance; they are just branded differently by two different companies).
Medium-sized head, minimalist but rugged pot supports, stream-lined valve and mucho titanium all help the Olicamp Xcelerator / Fire-Maple FMS-117T hit its low weight.
Canister stoves can be a great, hassle-free option for three-season backpackers. The stoves are easy to use, just requiring you to open the valve and ignite the stove. Canister stoves generally give you excellent flame control. They’re almost impossible to break, burn clean, and tend to be small and light. But a top-mount canister stove does have some drawbacks. Top-mounted stoves are not noted for their stability, with the pot sitting relatively high above the ground… and on relatively narrow pots supports. Further, top-mounted stoves essentially preclude the use of a windscreen (to avoid over-heating the canister).
In contrast, a remote-canister stove sits closer to the ground, typically has a broader base, and using a windscreen is no problem. Remote-canister stoves would tend to work better for larger pots and/or more people per cook group. The ease of use associated with remote-canister stoves can also make them ideal for Scouting groups.
All packed up and ready to go. Fits great in an MSR Titan mug.
Remote-canister stoves can be excellent options for “actual cooking.” The fine control of flame adjustability, combined with a more stable stove, make these stoves good for more than just boiling water. Brad used the Olicamp Xcelerator / Fire-Maple FMS-117T to cook bacon and eggs, make pancakes, and grill bread on car-camping trips - Ryan used it to bake cinnamon rolls and fresh trout in a makeshift fry-bake pan. If you want a stove that can simmer a sauce and not tip the first time you stir the pot, this could be a good stove for you.
Baked cutthroat trout from an alpine lake in the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, Montana. This succulent dish involves steam baking the trout at the lowest possible simmer and was an easy challenge for the Olicamp/Fire-Maple Stove.
Both of our samples of the Olicamp Xcelerator / Fire-Maple FMS-117T weighed 3.4 ounces. The burner head is approximately 1.75 inches in diameter, and the base of the stove is approximately 5 inches in diameter. The titanium pot supports are reassuringly solid, and easily fold in to sit on top of the burner head. The legs pivot inwards toward the bottom of the stove. The valve is a clean, stream-lined assembly with a knurled aluminum knob that provides easy control. The fuel tube is flexible and thin, and thus, highly compactible.
Brad: I’m not usually a canister stove kinda guy, but I like the Xcelerator Ti. A lot! I find myself toting it along on trips just because it’s so… mindless. In a good way! It’s the kind of stove that you can do nearly anything with, without really having to think about the stove. You can concentrate on the food, the meal, instead. Or the conversation. Or whatever. The burner head is a good size for heat distribution, the weight is negligible.
Ryan: My choice for a solo canister stove is a Jetboil SOL Ti. What Brad calls mindless I call too much work. Call me lazy, but I like a stove that I can fire up from my bivy sack using one hand and no vision (I haven't had my coffee yet, after all). So I approach the Olicamp Xcelerator / Fire-Maple FMS-117T from an entirely different perspective: I'm looking for winter or group cooking power, and fine control for simmering exquisitely gourmet dishes. Power to boil a 4.5L pot of water, or melt a pot of snow. Simmering control so that I don't burn the cinnamon rolls that I'm surprising my guided clients with.
Ryan's makeshift "fry-bake" pan (a 9" MSR fry pan topped by an aluminum plate with a wing nut knob). Although hard-anodized, uncoated aluminum makes the ideal fry-bake pan, this Teflon-coated version works in a pinch and is lighter, but demands very low simmering. The Olicamp / Fire-Maple stove delivers this ability, but not at the expense of the usual degree of latency (the time between valve adjustment and flame power change) common to all remote canister stoves.
We have a few quibbles with the design: We’d like for the bottom of the stove to sit slightly higher off the ground. If there were any way to leave everything else the same, but machine some of the bottom off, that would be great. We suspect that the legs would have to be lengthened slightly, however. The only possible flaw we saw with this stove is that it requires a slightly flatter platform. Because the center of the stove is so close to the ground-roughly 1/8 of an inch-undulating ground can make the stove high-center a bit. It was never a problem for me. I’d just move the stove a few inches. But this is the stove’s only potential negative.
One issue with this stove, and it's hardly a negative (unless your pipe dreams have been shattered for winter use, as in Ryan's case) - is that the stove offers no pre-heat tube or other mechanism for vaporizing liquid fuel as it leaves the burner. That means running the stove in an inverted canister mode is ... risky, due to the intermittent little blobs of liquid fuel (which turn into fireballs) that leave the burner head. Note that we said risky and not impossible. This is where Ryan's RUS strategy for product testing was executed. Our conclusion, though: don't expect a miracle, and be prepared for utterly low performance (wasted fuel) and extremely hazardous operation.
Not much in the way of ground clearance, here, but then that adds to stability. This proved to be more of a slight psychological irritation, more so than a problem in the field. If I found myself needing more level ground, I just moved the stove a bit.
The Olicamp Xcelerator / Fire-Maple FMS-117T might be a stove most backpackers should consider in their gear closet. If winter is for sipping cocoa by the fireplace, then you couldn’t really want anything more, or less, from a backpacking stove. If winter means “Finally! Time to go campin!” then perhaps this isn’t your stove… unless you have a dedicated winter stove already. Reality, though, is that this is a very versatile, very light stove that is nearly as easy to use as your home stovetop. There is only a 1.4 ounce weight difference between the Olicamp Xcelerator / Fire-Maple FMS-117T and a Snowpeak Litemax… and frankly, the Xcelerator has relegated both of our canister-on-top stove to storage. The weight difference is negligible, and the benefits of the remote canister design are too many to ignore just to save an ounce or two.
The Xcelerator and a Snowpeak Litemax folded up for travel. Considering how diminutive the Litemax is compared to other stoves, the Xcelerator is remarkably small.
Ryan's group cook kit designed around the needs of a 4-person Scout Patrol includes the Fire-Maple FMS-117T, a 2.5L pot for water boiling and pasta cooking, and a 9" fry-bake. We use the latter in combination with the stove's simmering ability to make cinnamon rolls, pizzadillas, fried bagels, baked trout, baked mac-n-cheese, and more. The morale provided by fry-baked foods cannot be underestimated. My conclusion for group cooking: The FMS-117T replaces my WindPro II for pot sizes less than about 2.5 liters, where fuel consumption and efficiency between the two are similar. However, for larger volume pots (we use 4.5L pots for large patrols and groups), The WindPro II's larger burner head, and preheat tube (which allows for the canister to be inverted) means that boil times and fuel use are significantly less (15%+ depending on conditions) with the WindPro II vs. the FMS-117T.