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  • Canister stove/fuel FAQ

    Canister Stove/Fuel FAQ
    Edited by Yellow Jacket (tlbj6142)
    Q: Can I mail canisters?

    Yes, according to USPS guidelines, you can ship a 1L (or smaller) canister via ground delivery if the package is marked with an “ORM-D” and/or "Surface Delivery Only" sticker. This is the same sticker that must be placed on a package if it contains alcohol hand sanitizer (Purell).<o></o>

    See http://www.usps.com/cpim/ftp/pubs/pub52.pdf, section 342.22a-c, for details.

    However, don't be surprised if some post masters quickly respond with a "heck no you can't ship butane in the mail", as some seem to take the "better to say 'no' than bother to find out for sure" approach.

    Conversation from a trip to PO (Dublin, OH 43017 4/4/2005 about noon):

    Me: Holding an 8oz MSR canister in my hand. "Can I ship this propane/butane fuel in the mail?"
    PM: "No."
    Me: Holding Section 342.22a-c from Pub 52 in my hand. "According to Pub 52, it reads like I might be able to as long as I ship less than 1L of fuel."
    PM: Walks over to some big chart on the wall. Stood there for several seconds and came back to the counter. "Looks like you can, but I'll need to mark the package as 'Surface Mail Only'".
    Me: "Do I need to fill out any additional paper work?"
    PM: "No"
    Me: "Do I need to leave the box open when I arrive at the PO?"
    PM: "No, just declare the package's contents and the PM will need to put 'Surface Mail Only' on the outside of the package."
    Me: "Are there any additional fees?"
    PM: "No"
    Me: "Will you put the ORM-D sticker on the box?"
    PM: "No, we don't stock them. I just need to mark the package as 'Surface Mail Only'."

    This is where it gets a bit funny (at least to hikers).

    Me: "Can I send the package General Delivery?"
    PM: "Does the person you are sending it to have an GD account setup with their PO?
    Me: "No, I'll be sending it to myself."
    PM: "If you want to send any package GD, you need to notify the PO before you send the package."
    Me: Trying not to laugh. "It's common practice for hikers and backpackers to send packages to themselves via GD. They don't typically notify the PO."
    PM: "Our PM does not allow us received GD packages. Other PM have their own rules."

    So, if your your PM tells you no, mention Publication 52 (and/or bring a copy of printed page 42, document page 28) and that you are mailing less than 1L of fuel. Reassure the PM by stating that you expect the package to be delivered via "Surface Mail Only". You might want to bring in your package opened just so the PM can "see" canister, though that does not appear to be a requirement.

    The one thing I forgot to ask about was Priority Mail. While over short distances Priority Mail is probably delivered via surface mail, I expect it isn't if delivered over long distances.

    Q: Where are canisters available along the AT?<o></o>

    While not as readily available as alcohol, with a bit of planning you should not have to worry about fuel availability. The following is a list of crossings which our members claim carries canister fuel.<o></o>

    Any “real” outfitter will carry canister fuel. Call ahead if you are not sure.<o></o>

    Yes: Walasi-Yi, NOC, <st1:city w:st="on">Hot Springs</st1:city>, Erwin (I think Uncle Johnny has them), <st1:city w:st="on"><st1>Damascus</st1>, </st1:city>Pearisburg, Daleville (near Troutville),<st1:city w:st="on"></st1:city> <st1:city w:st="on">Waynesboro</st1:city>, <st1:city w:st="on">Williamstown</st1:city>, Harpers Ferry, <st1:city w:st="on"></st1:city>Front Royal, Port Clinton, Pawling, Cornwall Bridge, Great Barrington, <st1:country-region w:st="on">Kent</st1:country-region>, <st1><st1:city w:st="on">Manchester Center</st1:city>, <st1:state w:st="on">Hanover</st1:state></st1>, Pinkham Notch, Gorham, Caratunk, Monson<o></o>

    Maybe (?): I'm pretty sure Delaware Water Gap has canisters.<o></o>

    No: Duncannon, Boiling Springs, Unionville, <st1:city w:st="on">Salisbury


    Q: Can all stoves use any of the fuel mixtures available from other manufactures?

    Yes, as long as the attachment fitting on your stove is compatible with that of the cansiter's (See next question).
    Check your stove's instructions to be sure. And be aware that some manufactures claim using 3rd party cansiters voids your stove's warranty. But, then, what can go wrong with a canister stove?

    The various fuel mixtures are attempts at over-coming the issues with using pure propane or pure butane. In particular, propane is heavy and butane doesn't expand all that well below freezing. So, a mixture of these gasses is used to overcome both of these issues to one degree or another.

    The various mixtures also have some affect on stove performance at a given temperature and altitude. As each of the gases used has dramatically different temperature vs. ambient pressure characteristics.

    Taken directly from the
    BackpackingLight.com's Canister Stove FAQ:
    Fuel that is a mix of iso-butane (boiling point 12 °F) and propane, works better in below freezing temperatures than fuel containing butane (boiling point 31 °F), because the fuel in the canister will continue to vaporize (albeit more sluggishly) at cold temperatures. For cold temperature performance (below freezing), the propane is the basic driving force (because of its low boiling point) that makes the stove work; iso-butane will volatilize and burn along with the propane (but in decreasing amounts) down to its boiling point of 12 °F, while the n-butane will just sit there. Warming the canister will enable it to perform at even lower temperatures. Examples of cold weather fuels are: MSR IsoPro fuel - 80% iso-butane and 20% propane; Snow Peak GigaPower fuel - 85% iso-butane and 15% propane; and Jetboil JetPower fuel which is 20-30% propane with the remainder iso-butane.

    Q: Is there more than one type of canister adaptor?

    Yes. There are two different attachment fittings. The vast majority (including all US manufactures) of canister stoves use the EN417 Lindal valve, while in Europe, several use the Camping Gaz canisters which are very similar except that the valve is smooth instead of threaded like the Lindal valve. At least one stove, the MSR Superfly, will work with either type of fitting.

    In the US, the Lindal fitting is by far the most common. In fact, it is difficult to even find canisters for the Camping Gas fitting.

    See BackpackingLight.com's Canister Stove FAQ for details.


    Q: How weight efficient is a canister stove?<o></o>

    According to tests performed by our pal Sgt. Rock and ACYE they are very weight efficient. If the empty canisters were a bit lighter and/or could be refilled, we wouldn't even need this FAQ as everyone would be carrying canister stoves.<o></o>

    Most users who boil 16oz (2 cups) of water once per day are able to make 8oz (12oz including the canister weight) of fuel last 10-14 days.<o></o>

    See http://www.thru-hiker.com/articles.asp?subcat=2&cid=57 and http://hikinghq.net/stoves/weight_time_compare.html for more details, including pretty pictures and dozens of charts.

    Q: I've read that canisters stoves are unstable, is this true?

    The majority of canister stoves attach on top of the canister, thereby creating a rather high center of gravity. Care should be taken to ensure the cansiter itself is placed on a stable level surface before placing a filled pot on the stove. Furthermore, pots larger than 2qts are probably too big for most canister stoves. We don't want any spilled noodles now do we.

    Brunton makes the CanStand which attaches to the bottom of the fuel canister to improve the entire setup's stability. It can be used with any 4oz or 8oz canister and stove.

    There is at least one stove, MSR WindPro, which has its own stand and does not sit on top of the fuel canister. Consider this stove if you are cooking larger (> 2qts) meals for groups.

    Q: Can I use a windscreen with my canister stove?<o></o>

    Sure, as long as you don’t let the canister get too hot. If you can put your bare hand on the side of the canister for 15 seconds while the stove is in use, the canister is fine. Consider a ¾ windscreen like the one shown at the bottom of BackpackingLight.com's Canister Stove FAQ.

    Q: Should I run the stove wide open?<o></o>

    Not unless you have no interest in fuel efficiency. Studies on www.backpackinglight.com indicate a savings of 18% to 46% can be achieved my reducing the fuel output.

    Q: How can I tell how much fuel is left in the canister?

    While I haven't confirmed this yet, I have read if you place a canister in water it will float. The water-line is suppose to represent the fuel line.

    Weigh a full cansiter before you leave on your trip. Whenever you walk through a town, stop by the PO (or Deli counter???) and weigh your canister. Eventually you'll have gathered enough data points to determine how much is left in the canister and how long you can expect it to last.

    <o></o><o></o>Various stove model comments:<o></o>

    MSR Pocket Rocket: Light, easy to use and cheap (~$40 retail). The pot stands are a bit wobbly. The hard plastic case it comes with is really cool.

    I own a Pocket Rocket (seduced by the triangular case and a 10% off coupon), but I would not buy one again as the pot stand is way too unstable IMO. Unless the bottom of your pot is ridged (like most of the MSR pots), your pot can easily slide around on the tips (the only point of contact) of the three legs. There are several other stoves on the market for the same price that offer "better" pot stands.<o></o>

    Coleman Exponent Ultralight F1: Very similar to the MSR Pocket Rocket (including cost), but has a more stable pot stand (the legs are flat, rather than pointed like the PR). Received top marks on a recent canister stove round-up on www.backpackinglight.com. It is the only stove in the round-up to boil water in cold windy conditions (lab generated) besides the Jetboil.<o></o>

    Jetboil: This all-in-one setup includes a cup, pot, stove, “pot cozy”, Piezo igniter and handle. The entire setup including a small canister (4oz of fuel?) fits inside the pot. It works great in windy setups as the stove has a built-in windscreen and heat exchanger. It is a bit pricy, and heavy, compared to other setups. It has a manufacture maximum water capacity of 0.5L despite having a 1L pot. The folks a www.backpackinglight.com see no reason why 0.8L can’t be safely boiled in the setup.<o></o><o></o>

    Snow Peak GigaPower: As good or better than the Pocket Rocket, and costs the same. Has a "better" pot stand than the PR and most models come with Piezo igniter.

    Brunton (Crux and Raptor): Good stoves. Both have Piezo igniters. The Crux model will fold up such that it fits into the underside of a can of fuel for very compact storage.

    Large portions of this information were collected from the following resources:

    BackpackingLight.com's Canister Stove FAQ
    Gas Stove FAQ -- by Roger Caffin

    First edition 4/2/2005.

    4/3/2005 -- incorporated a few more comments from users. I need to put the towns "in order" from S to N.

    4/4/2005 -- Finally fixed the links in the resource section and re-ordered questions. Added conversation with my local PM. Other minor edits. Added Brunton. Added stability question.

    4/11/05 -- Fixed quoting method used as "article" viewing doesn't appear to show quotes correctly. Updated Pub 52 page references.

    4/25/2007 -- Added note about PO scales.

    7/05/2007 -- Added link to Roger's stove FAQ

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Seven mile's Avatar
      Seven mile -
      This Link worked for the Post Office pub52
    1. SunnyWalker's Avatar
      SunnyWalker -
      Thanks for the links, people. Thats what I was reading all this for. I sure do appreciate it.
    1. bear bag hanger's Avatar
      bear bag hanger -
      You don't mention the very real danger a canister can be. I've seen one explode and will no longer use one myself. If the canister in question had been on top of a picnic with a normal load of hikers sitting around when it exploded, quite a few people would have been hurt.
    1. ATMustang's Avatar
      ATMustang -
      I was trying to find information on this! However, I think I will probably just buy as a I go.