White Box Stove REVIEW

While not the lightest around, this simple pressurised alcohol stove is remarkably robust.

Overall Rating: Above Average

The White Box stove is robust and powerful, but it is a little slow to prime and slightly heavier than competitors. It will suit larger pots for two people but is not good with a solo user's small pots and beer cans.

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by Roger Caffin |

White Box Stove The White Box stove, (image courtesy of White Box).
Note that in use the centre well is capped by the pot.

Overview

Unlike so many small alcohol stoves which are made from extremely light but very fragile bits of aluminium, the White Box Alcohol Can Stove is made from a more robust aluminium energy drink can. The construction is very simple, but the performance is, like many other similar pressurised alcohol stoves, quite powerful.

What’s Good

  • Robust!
  • Good alcohol capacity - 2 ounces
  • Quite powerful
  • Moderately stable on the ground

What’s Not So Good

  • Slow to prime
  • Flares when pot is removed
  • Not as light as some
  • Flame spread is much too wide for narrow pots and beer cans

Specifications

  Manufacturer

White Box (can be purchased via e-Bay or from www.gossamergear.com)

  Year/Model

2006 - Alcohol Can Stove

  Construction material

Aluminium drink can, 'thick'-walled

  Construction process

Pressure fit and rivets

  Mechanical design

'Pepsi-can' style, 60 mm (2.3 in) diameter by 55 mm (2.1 in) high

  Jets

21, drilled around outside, 20 mm (¾ in) down from rim

  Alcohol capacity

Open centre well claimed to hold up to 2 oz denatured alcohol

  Stove style

Looks like an open jet, but pressurised in use

  Windscreen

Matching windscreen is included

  Burn time

Depends on amount of fuel used

  Target use

One or two people, can take heavy pots and heavy use

  BPL measured weight:

Stove: 30 g (1.06 oz), windshield 27 g (0.95 oz)

  MSRP

US$20

Description

There are several different classes of alcohol stoves, depending on your personal preferences, but one major classification is between pressurised and unpressurised ones. In all of them the alcohol has to boil to create the vapour for burning of course; in the pressurised ones the vapour usually comes out of a ring of holes around the side, As they rise up to the pot on top the flames heat the stove to keep the alcohol boiling. Inside the pressurised class we have two main categories: those which are inherently pressurised and those which have an open centre hole and are pressurised by the pot sitting on top blocking that central hole. The White Box Stove fits into the latter category.

Many stoves in this class are made from very light aluminium beer or coke drink cans. As such they can be a little susceptible to damage. This White Box Stove is made from a thicker aluminium drink bottle - think miniature SIGG water bottle or conventional white gas stove tank. As such, the wall is much thicker and stronger. The company claims the drink bottles they use have walls 3 to 4 times thicker than found in 'Pepsi' cans. I measured the wall thickness in the White Box Stove as 0.040 millimetres (0.0016 inch), while an energy-drink can I measured had a wall thickness of 0.010 millimetres (0.0004 inch). That is 4:1. To be sure, the alloy used in the drink bottle may not be quite as hard as the alloy in a 'Pepsi' can, but I can certainly feel the greater rigidity in the White Box Stove.

The windshield supplied with the stove is made of aluminium foil with all the edges folded over for safety. There are small holes punched along the bottom edge. The windshield is the normal 600 millimetres (24 inch) long by a slightly higher than normal 90 millimetres (3.5 inch), and it weighs 27 grams (0.95 ounces). This is almost as heavy as the stove, and I found myself taking a lighter (17 grams or 0.60 ounce) windshield in its place. However, the White Box windshield is probably more robust than the lighter one.

The White Box company claims (on their e-Bay web site) to have sold some 1,900 of these stoves. That is a very large number: it may be that the solidity of the stove is commercially attractive- very understandable. (It also means someone has drunk a huge number of drinks out of those cans - no comment!) The warranty offered with the stove is for a free replacement if you manage to 'burn this stove out'. I doubt this has happened very often.

However, the extra strength carries two penalties, and the most obvious one is the weight. The White Box Stove weighs 30 grams (1.06 ounces), while the moderately similar Mini Bull Designs Elite stove weighs about 7 grams (0.25 ounce). Whether the extra robustness and slightly greater diameter of the White Box Stove justifies the (slight) extra weight is something each user will have to decide for himself. I would point out that the extra weight of the stove is rather small compared to the weight of alcohol you need to be carrying for a trip of almost any duration.

The second penalty only appears when you compare the operation of the White Box Stove with a lighter competitor. The White Box Stove seems to take longer to prime and get going compared to some competitors. The leaflet which comes with the stove suggests the stove may take a minute or more to get going properly, and this is what I found. Of course, it is burning up alcohol while it is getting up to speed. It is never clear (to me) whether quoted burn times and fuel quantities allow for this priming.

I think there are several reasons for the longer priming time. It is obvious that the greater mass of aluminium will take some extra heating, but it is not the full story. The larger size of the stove may also mean it takes longer for the flames to spread the heat all the way down into the alcohol. But I think the larger size of the stove compared to something as small as the Mini Bull Designs Elite stove may mean there is a bit of a tendency in practice to put just a bit more alcohol into this stove. Of course, the more alcohol you start with, the longer it will be before it has been heated up to boiling.

White Box Stove - 1 The White Box Stove sheltered by rock and windshield.
(Windshield open for the photo.)

Performance

The White Box company claims (on their e-Bay web site) that their testing 'has shown it can boil 2 cups of water in approximately 4 minutes with only 2/3 ounce of fuel and we were able to boil 3 cups of water in less than 6 minutes with only 1 ounce of fuel. It has boiled 6 cups of water in 12 minutes with 2 ounces of fuel.'

I tested these claims with the supplied windshield and an AGG 2 quart (1.8 litre) pot. The windshield is 90 millimetres (3.5 inches) high, and was spaced about 15 millimetres (0.5 inch) out from the AGG pot. I was able to match the White Box performance claim only if I held the pot up above the flame as soon as I had lit the alcohol. I could not match these figures if I waited until the jets around the outside had started burning. I think you have to use a real metal pot holder (rather than a glove or bandanna) to hold the pot above the stove while it is priming, and that is extra weight. In practice therefore I think you can expect slightly longer boil times in the field.

The instructions which came with this stove claim you can light the alcohol by putting a 'lighter down into the large top hole of the stove'. Don't try it: you will burn your fingers! Even on a hot day (33 C or 91 F) in a closed lab, the alcohol vapour did not seem to reach to the rim. For these stoves I use a small stick dipped in the alcohol to transfer the flame down into the centre well. Once lit I found I had to wait a little over a minute before the flames were coming out of the jet properly. That is a lot of fuel-burning time.

Once the stove has flames coming out of the jets around the side I found that the jets do put out a lot of alcohol vapour, making the stove quite powerful. In fact I found that the flames were coming well up the side of the AGG 2 quart pot I was using - which is not such a good thing. It means that a significant fraction of the flame heat is being wasted up the sides. It seems that a fast heating rate usually does mean that the efficiency drops. This could be improved by having fewer jets or by having the jets slightly smaller.

The AGG pot used in for my bench testing is reasonably large: almost 150 millimetres (6 inches) diameter. Even so, as mentioned above the flames were licking way up the side of the pot. Putting a smaller pot such as the MSR Titan Kettle or, worse still, a beer can pot on it results in very high flames and a lot of wasted heat and fuel. Reaching such a narrow pot while the flames are licking up the sides becomes an 'interesting exercise' if you are not carrying a metal pot lifter. Frankly, I found it rather hazardous.

I thought that the flames from this stove look very long compared with the flames from a similar stove such as the Mini Bull Designs Elite. This makes me think this White Box stove should preferably be used with large pots, cooking for two people perhaps. However, balancing large pots such as the 1.4 litre (1.5 qt) GSI Bugaboo pot (190 millimetres or 7.5 in diameter) on such a small stove presents its own problems. The Mini Bull Designs Sketti stove handles this rather well by being much bigger in diameter and lower in height.

Other Hazards

The instructions do mention that once the stove is running you should not take the pot off it. If you do the boiling alcohol in the centre well will send a column of flame leaping upwards, and this can be quite dangerous. Do not have your head over the stove in such a situation! Also you should be very cautious about using this stove inside a tent or under a tarp for the same reasons.

The carbon monoxide emission from this stove is quite significant, as with many other alcohol stoves. Use of it inside a closed structure such as a hut or tent could be quite dangerous for this reason.

What's Unique

  • The robustness of this stove is its unique feature.

Recommendations for Improvement

  • If the jets were made a little smaller to bring the flames a little more under control, the stove would be both a bit safer and more suitable for use with small ultra-light pots. It might also improve the efficiency in terms of alcohol used.


Citation

"White Box Stove REVIEW," by Roger Caffin. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/white_box_stove_review.html, 2007-03-07 03:00:00-07.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » White Box Stove REVIEW


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Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
White Box Stove REVIEW on 03/06/2007 22:38:29 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

White Box Stove REVIEW

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Not perfect but... on 03/07/2007 03:16:20 MST Print View

Roger you have found all of the foibles of the White Box, namely the slow start up and the wide flame. The weight and the flaring are negligible to me because, as you pointed out the extra weight is "slight" and , in my opinion, more than justified by the extra strength and moderately larger diameter, for pot stability.
I have made a modification to one of mine but cannot check the result till I get the other one back, it is on duty in Tasmania right now.
The flaring is a non issue to me because I boil water for soup or coffee or bring water to boil with my food in it and than cover with a home made cozy and layer of clothing and let it "cook" Dutch oven style for 20 min or so.
The reason I use the White Box is because it works every time including windy and down to freezing days. My typical alcohol use is 1/2 oz for coffee/soup and 1oz for dinner for two, almost no difference in any weather.
Franco

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: White Box Stove REVIEW on 03/07/2007 07:57:14 MST Print View

I use a priming ring (pan) from AGG under my White Box, and get almost instant flames, and don't have to light it from inside.
Easy cheezy!
It also cuts off the amount of time to boil 3-4 cups of water. I used mine with 1 ounce fuel, windscreen and a Primus Lite Tech tea kettle. I did this boil in around 4 minutes.

Chad Mason
(porch13) - M

Locale: Arizona
...add a wick, slash the time to "blosom" on 03/07/2007 07:58:22 MST Print View

I have two of these stoves. One "regular" and the other I sent to Tinny (minibulldesigns) and had him add a wick. The unwicked version takes well over a minute to blossom whereas the version with the wick blossoms on just under 20 seconds.

James Loy
(jimbluz) - M

Locale: Pacific NW
Re: White Box Review on 03/07/2007 14:50:16 MST Print View

I agree with the review and most of the comments by readers. The stove & windscreen seem well-made, though I am thinking about trimming the windscreen to fit into a MSR Kettle. I have tested mine a few times in calm conditions in the 42-46 degree range. Yesterday, I was unable to bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a MSR Titan Kettle on 1 oz of fuel due to the time required for the stove to vaporize. Using 1.5oz was more than sufficient, however. When the MSR kettle is used, a pot lifter, in my opinion, is necessary. I also have a Thermojet Microlite and a Caldera Cone setup from Trail Designs and for me at least, I find them both more efficient. Each of these stoves has their advantages and disadvantages, so the conditions of my trips will dictate which one I take with me.

Scott Lukkason
(shirley) - F
White box stove on 03/07/2007 19:32:22 MST Print View

Mine works great and has provided many hot meals in cold and windy novembers in montana. I give it a 5 out of 5.

Edited by shirley on 03/07/2007 20:00:44 MST.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Handle with care on 03/08/2007 04:05:50 MST Print View

That was the other point, that I forgot. Pot holders are a must with the White Box, again as Roger found out. I use them with gas anyway so I overlooked that , my pots have had the handles remouved. I tried to make a wick ring as shown by Jason Klass but failed, and to think that I was able to tie my shoe laces by the age of 17.
Franco

simon pemberton
(simonpem) - MLife

Locale: Cheshire,UK
white box stove on 03/25/2007 15:37:15 MDT Print View

I have no problems with mine,i use a small priming pan and set up the stove with my stripped down msr kettle on top,slide the wind screen (custom titanium) up to light the priming pan and i have a lit stove in about 10 secs,flame pattern seems to match the bottom of the kettle perfectly,its one of the best stoves i have seen,alcohol or gas.

BILL BALLOWE
(billinmt) - F - MLife

Locale: www.whiteboxstoves.com
Re: White Box Stove Review on 04/05/2007 11:39:56 MDT Print View

Since I have been contacted by quite a few people over the somewhat lack-lustre review that Roger Chaffin performed, I thought I would add my 2 cents worth.

FYI: BPL had this stove last October and tested it back then. For the record they never published their test results until after Gossamer Gear started selling the stove this February. I received several emails and promises from Roger that he was going to post the review but never did until GG got involved. Could that be part of the reason, in my opinion and opinions of numerous other stove owners, for the lack-lustre review.

Roger included some information with the article that needs to be looked at. Most all alcohol stoves are really made for boiling water and for single users. For the vast majority of the backpackering people in this world a 1/2 ounce extra weight is no big deal especially when it makes the stove many times more durable than a typical pop can stove and again when the stove is designed to be used by 2 or more hikers. Most alcohol stoves are barely capable of handling the needs of one hiker let alone 2 or more.

Also the windscreen shown in the picture in the review isn't the right windscreen. It obviously must be something Roger found somewhere else. Controlling the air flow with a properly designed windscreen is important and it looks to me like his windscreen has twice as many holes as the one I provided with the stove. Also, as per instructions, wrapping the windscreen to tight around the pot, which Roger did, works against the efficiency of the stove. Any "qualified" stove tester should know that.

Roger also claimed flames were licking up the side of his pot. Could be because he didn't place the pot on the stove as soon as the stove blossomed out. But I think perhaps he could possibly have a fuel contamination problem more than a stove problem. If a picture is worth a million words then watch the attached video for yourself to see if the flames go up the side of the pot.

http://minibulldesign.com/myadventure/index.php?blogid=1&archive=2007-03

Another point Roger Chaffin brought up is that the stove flares up when the pot is removed. Again this might be because of the fuel he was using. I can disprove that by the video that was produced by Tinny from MiniBull Designs. You might find it interesting to know that Tinny, one of the best and innovative alky stove makers in the world, and a competitor, not a friend, of mine, actually thought the stove was way better than what BPL's reviewer thought. Watch the video and see for yourself.

http://minibulldesign.com/myadventure/index.php?blogid=1&archive=2007-03

To counter another "educated guess" by Roger. His comment "If the jets were made a little smaller to bring the flames a little more under control". Making the hole size smaller so you get a smaller flame pattern won't work. If you change the hole size and make them smaller, the stove won't function as good and the flames tend to go out. Also that fact seems to be seconded in Tinnys article and video.

Thanks to all my loyal customers who have contacted me about the BPL review.

ONE LAST THOUGHT: Is it the reviewers job to throw insults during the review. Let me quote a part of Roger's article referring to the number of stoves I've built and sold: "(It also means someone has drunk a huge number of drinks out of those cans - no comment!)" Tell me, what does that have to do with reviewing as stove. To me that shows a true lack of professionalism. Had I known Roger would have written something like that I would have never ask BPL to review this stove. I really feel insulted by the inference that I drink a lot. Any one who knows me will tell you that I haven't drunk and type of alcohol in over 30 years. Can you say that Roger? All of the bottles I use for this stove are scrounged from the roadways and litter containers and recycled into a very good product. Roger if you are reading this you owe me an apology!

Now that I've had my say, again I want to thank all the loyal White Box Stove owners, worldwide, who enjoy the stove and realize it is one of the best made.

Bill in MT

Miguel Marcos
(miguelmarcos) - F

Locale: Middle Iberia
My first alcohol stove... on 06/04/2007 00:17:54 MDT Print View

I'm preparing for a 5 day summer stint in the Pyrenees with a pal of mine. Among other things, we needed a stove. After much deliberation and wanting to keep things light, I decided to got for an alcohol stove and chose the White Box which I ordered from the UK. I tested it this weekend in optimum conditions in my mother-in-law's garden and I have to say it works quite well. It's a minor spectacle to see the jets suddently go to work and it was easy to light (hard to see the flames in the the light of day). I didn't suffer from flare up as the review stated.

We'll see how it does in the mountains this July...

mark henley
(flash582) - F
I love the White Box on 04/07/2008 11:13:39 MDT Print View

The White box stove fits in the bottom well of a 32 oz Heinie pot PERFECTLY. This gets the bottom of the pot much closer to the jets and, at least from casual observation, seems to improve the performance of this little powerhouse even more, if that's possible.

I own a number of other stoves and this one is by far my favorite setup .... a 2 oz kitchen ROCKS!

In head to head playing around the picnic table last weekend, the overall performance wasn't all that far off from by buddie's jetboil.

Clay Lang
(Clang) - F
. on 05/07/2008 09:13:13 MDT Print View

.

Edited by Clang on 05/07/2008 09:36:10 MDT.

Leon Pantenburg
(Survivalsense) - F
lighting alcohol stoves on 07/21/2010 12:57:46 MDT Print View

My experience is that the best and safest way to light an alcohol stove is to use a flint stick. Works like magic, and keeps your fingers away from the flame!

Evan McCarthy
(evanrussia) - MLife

Locale: Northern Europe
Lighting Alcohol Stoves on 07/21/2010 13:25:10 MDT Print View

I use a Caldera Cone (love it, despite the overall weight). It may be overkill for the wallet, the environment, etc. but I use waterproof "flare" matches to light my stove.