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Thread: About Stoves

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    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
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    Default Something I wrote. :)

    There are many backpacking stoves available for the consumer now. Lightweight alcohol stoves, canister stoves and white gas stoves are the most popular now for general use. But what stove is "the best"? The true answer is: NONE OF THEM.

    The article below will go into the pros and cons of the various stoves for "real world" (not marketing) use depending upon your needs.

    The "best stove" depends upon what your use is for. Boiling a lot of water? Backpacking as a couple? Doing "real" cooking in the back country? Long time without resupply? Winter camping? These are all questions that need to be asked when considering a stove for backcountry use. Just as you would not use a screwdriver to put in a nail, certain types of stoves are suited for different type of tasks than another stove.

    Here is my rough guide (and I do mean rough!) to the different stove uses.

    First the baseline for my personal stove use. Most of my backpacking is for solo, three season use. When thru-hiking on the Western trails, tend to do about 25-30 MPD. Do some winter backpacking in Colorado. Resupplied every 5-7 days on average for the PCT, CDT and the Colorado Trail. Resupplied 3-5 days on the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail thru-hikes. My longest stretch without resupply was 10 days in the High Sierra.

    Also, I define a meal as enough for the standard two Lipton's and enough water for a hot drink. For me, that equated one ounce of alcohol for most of my cooking. Never had to use more fuel than that, but I've used my stove enough where I make it work with a min. amount of fuel.

    A quick note on Chemistry 101: In case your 10th grade chemistry class was forgotten (and remembering the cute blonde who you had a crush on when you were sixteen does not count!), here is a quick reminder: Fuel volume and fuel weight are not a one for one ratio. One ounce of fuel by volume does not weigh one ounce. One ounce of alcohol (by volume) weighs approx. .8 oz. A 10 oz of bottle of fuel weighs about 8oz (not counting the weight of the bottle). White Gas weighs slightly less per ounce; 10oz of fuel weighs about 7.5 oz. And so on...

    On to the stove comparison!

    ALCOHOL STOVES: For solo, three season use, this stove works very well. A homemade alcohol stove is light (less than half an ounce), easy to use, inexpensive and runs on fuel that can be found in most towns.
    As a base , here is my alcohol stove setup:

    2 qt. Alum. Pot w/ tinfoil lid 4.500 oz
    Soda Can Stove .250 oz
    Windscreen / Potstand 1.00 oz
    Ziplock Bag .375 oz
    12 oz. Mountain Dew Bottle (Fuel) .625 oz

    Total: 6.75 oz

    The major disadvantage of an alcohol stove is that after about 10 meals (10 oz of fuel), you lose major advantage of the weight savings. My alcohol stove setup weighs 14 oz with 10 days of fuel. If I were to go longer, an MSR PocketRocket (see below) would be more efficient for longer use. For cold weather temps (below 15F, the raw edge of three-season hiking IMO), a white gas stove would be much more efficient. Alcohol and canister stoves (rated to 15F by manufacturers), perform poorly for winter use.

    From Mechanical Engineering Magazine, August 2004 issue:
    Once a trip extends beyond a certain duration, the advantage of the homebuilt's near weightlessness bogs down in alcohol's low heat content,compared to white gas or isopropane (11,500 vs. 20,000 Btu/lb.). Hikers relying on alcohol end up paying a fuel-weight penalty if they can't resupply every four to five days.

    (The above figure is for two meals a day)

    Altitude has NOT been a factor for me with alcohol stove use. Have used it as high as 13k feet in October when it has been snowing out. Feel that is a good representation of what I consider the "raw edge" three season hiking.
    Another advantage of the alcohol stove is that as you use more fuel, your weight becomes less and less than that of a canister stove. An empty metal container weights about three ounces by itself! If I go out for a weekend, two ounces of fuel weighs 1 oz a the most. So, my setup is would be about 7oz for a weekend vs 21oz or for the popular canister stoves.


    ALCOHOL STOVE SUMMARY: The alcohol stove is suited best for three-season, solo use. The light weight, ease of use and easy resupply makes it a solo thru-hiker favorite. If you need to do "real" cooking, long term resupply (more than 10 meals worth), or share a stove then you may better off with a canister stove. Two people can use alcohol stoves efficiently, but more planning is needed. Though alcohol stoves are not hard to use, they are not as convenient as canister stoves. That may or not be a factor in your decision.

    More info on alcohol stoves

    CANISTER STOVES: A good alternative for those whose needs are more than typical, three season solo backpacking. A canister stove is easy to use, more fuel efficient in the long term than an alcohol stove, an is better for couples/partners/families. "Real cooking" is also done easier on a canister stove.

    You do have to pack out the empties and resupply is not as convenient as alcohol or white gas stoves. You often have to mail yourself containers on longer treks. Whiteblaze has a good thread on mailing yourself fuel containers. As with alcohol stoves, canister stoves are not meant for winter backpacking. The canisters are rated to 15F by the manufacturers. They perform slightly better in cooler temps than alcohol, but not by much. In other words, for real world, three-season backpacking, the temps are not a factor for white gas vs. alcohol vs. canisters.

    Jetboil

    A very popular canister stove system in the past two years is the Jetboil system. It is popular because it is a "system". Small pot, fuel efficient stove, easy to use. Boils water very fast. It is expensive and heavy though! The integrated cup is meant just for boiling water and not cooking in, so it is of less use for partners (unless you are doing Mountain House type meals). Still, the convenience makes it an attractive stove for some.

    Here are figures from some Whiteblaze Jetboil. users. Thanks to Sdwoonek for compiling the data that I copied and pasted. ;-)

    Originally Posted by Just Jeff
    So a total of ~21 oz with a full canister.

    Originally Posted by hopefulhiker
    Old style Jetboil new snowpeak canister (21.6oz)

    Originally Posted by joel137
    Jet boil and one small full canister is...21.7 oz


    Originally Posted by SoundWitness
    total with new fuel canister....21.1 ounces.

    Skeemers data is obviously thrown off by the addition of the "small cloth", but since it was weighed and posted, I had to include it....

    Originally Posted by Skeemer
    26 oz with a small cloth and a couple of uses


    So that's about 21oz for the average Jetboil user. As the Jetboil people themselves advertise the stove for personal use (and the setup make it inconvenient for more than one person), it takes a longer resupply stretch to make the extra weight of the Jetboil more efficient than an alcohol stove over the long term. This weight penalty is more pronounced on shorter resupply stretches typically seen by most backpackers. It is a system as well, so it is hard to use with other cooking stoves or pans. Again, not very friendly for multiple use. Still, the convenience and ease of use does make it attractive for some users. It is $80 though, and I think there are lighter and less expensive alternatives for canisters stove use if convenience and ease of use are not your main purchasing points.

    Other Canister Stoves

    The MSR Pocker Rocket and SnowPeak Giga Power stoves are roughly the same weight, price and performance. Google them to find more thorough reviews.

    In short, these stoves weigh about 9.5 oz with a full fuel container and stove. Add in my 4.5 oz pot and windscreen and it is about 15 oz. If I hiked with a partner (my main use for this type of stove), I'd take a bowl to eat out for myself or my partner. Call it one ounce for a Cool Whip bowl. So that is 16 oz total. for the setup I would use. These stoves are very fuel efficient; getting about 25 meals with a full fuel container! Wow!

    A "real world" caveat is that people tend to pack in extra canisters because they are afraid of running out fuel. A more experienced canister user tends to gauge fuel use more accurately. If you pack an extra canister in "just in case", you are adding 3-6 oz of weight, ruining the overall efficiency of the stove.

    Lighter canisters are also sold with less fuel capacity as well. The 4 oz fuel canisters, from what I've seen, last about one dozen meals. The canister stoves work best for couples due to not being able to hold more than a 2 ltr pot without tipping over. For larger group use, a white gas stove with a more stable base would be best.

    CANISTER STOVE SUMMARY:

    Jet Boil: For ease of use and quick boil times, but for a high price and weight, the Jet Boilstove may be a good choice for some people. It is not a good choice for couples or group use. Jet Boil is coming out with a stove that is designed for more people in the near future.

    MSR Pocket Rocket/Snow Peak/Others:
    For more than ten meals, couples use and longer resupply, the canister stoves would be a good solution. If I ever hiked with a partner, I'd lean towards the Snow Peak because it is more stable for pots than the the Pocket Rocket (based on reviews I've seen). If I ever did a trip with longer resupplies (like the Yellowstone to Yukon corridor ), I might take a canister stove.

    All the canister stoves do have the resupply disadvantage which could be mitigated with careful planning. As with alcohol stoves, canister stoves are not meant for winter backpacking. Their performance is somewhat better in colder temps than alcohol stoves.

    More info on canister stoves

    Jetboil
    MSR Pocket Rocket
    Snow Peak Giga
    Canister Stove Reviews

    WHITE GAS STOVES: Heavy, complicated to use, noisy, expensive. For most three-season backpacking, there is no real reason to use this stove. Though it is more fuel efficient than the other stoves, the heavy weight outstrips the weight savings by overall fuel efficiency. If you are cooking for more than two people at one time, a white gas stove makes more sense because they have a more stable base (in general) and can boil lots of water quickly. Winter camping and high altitude mountaineering is where these stoves shine. It was the original use of these stoves after all! They work much better in cold weather than the other stoves and can melt snow quickly; an important chore in winter camping. The white gas stoves do have a bit of learning curve and can be finicky to use. Most of the white gas stoves also have two settings: "Blast furnace" and off! If you want to do "real cooking", be sure to get a stove with a simmer function.

    White Gas Stove Summary: For true winter camping/high altitude mountaineering and large group use, it is the stove of choice. Otherwise it is too heavy for three season backpacking use.

    Popular White Gas stoves include:
    MSR Simmerlite, MSR Whisperlite, MSR XGK, Coleman Feather 442, Svea 123 and many, many others!

    White Gas Stove Reviews

    ZIP STOVES: (Note, the data for the zip stove was provided by Terrapin. Thanks!)
    Zip Stoves are an an interesting stove. They are a battery operated stove that burns wood, twigs, cones, etc. With a single AA battery, up to six hours of burn time can be achieved. A fan is powered by the battery to achieve an efficient burn.

    Advantages
    • No need to carry fuel
    • burns almost anything (pine cones, knots, etc.)
    • Infinite cooking time (make elaborate meals)
    • personal campfire" on cold, wet days
    • generally reliable
    • very high BTU output, once it's going (boils water quickly)
    Disadvantages
    • tough going when it's been raining for days (solution: carry fire-starter materials)
    • requires fire-starting skills
    • requires constant attention while cooking (feeding more fuel into stove)
    • time required to gather fuel, start the stove, and cool it after use
    • your cookware will be covered with soot (and most likely so will you...)
    • Needs AA battery
    • Works best in a forest environment; Obvious limitations in desert or alpine environment.
    • If there is a fire ban, the Zip stove may be banned for use
    • Weighs 18 oz, including battery
    Zip Stove Summary: The Zip stove offers the advantage of needing no fuel other than that which you collect at camp, off the forest floor.

    It uses a small fan, powered by a single AA battery, to create a very hot and surprisingly clean-burning wood fire. Fuel is reduced to pure ash. One battery provides several hours of cooking time.

    Its main disadvantage is that it's fussy and dirty. It takes time to collect fuel and start the stove, and once it's lit, you must feed more fuel into the stove every couple of minutes. This stove will help hone your fire-starting skills!

    If you spend a lot of time in camp and like to do a lot of cooking, it's not a bad choice.

    The "personal campfire" feature is not to be dismissed, and really needs to be experienced. No other stove offers this.

    There is now a Titanium version of this stove that weighs 10 oz, but it is $129!

    If you look at the Zen Stoves article, there are links to DIY type stoves as well that are a bit lighter and less expensive.

    More info on Zip Stoves
    Zip Stove Reviews

    SOLID FUEL STOVES

    (I've only used the stoves a handful of times. Thanks to Sgt. Rock and Ken aka "Big Cranky" for first hand research!)

    Solid fuel stoves use tablets that are lit to boil water. They are lighter than even alcohol stoves (because of the fuel themselves), are more fuel efficient and make the overall lightest setup for all lengths of hauls. The disadvantage depend upon which solid fuel you use Esbit (hexamine) or Trioxane tabs.

    Esbit (Hexamine):

    First, let's discuss Esbit. Though you can buy a special stove for them, there is no reason. A home made alcohol stove turned over works well. Some people even use tent stakes as a pot support with the tab in the middle. Though this method can work, in inclement weather you are S.O.L. Probably worth it just to bring a cut off soda can bottom as your "stove" and a light weight pot support.

    The major advantages of the Esbit tabs are similar to alcohol stoves; even more so. Lighter than alcohol and more fuel efficient. If an alcohol stove is less efficient after about 10 + meals, doing some rough math the Esbit stove is not as efficient as the canister stove at about the 21 meal mark. That's a long time between resupplies! If you are out for a long or short haul and want something light, Esbit is a great option!

    The major disadvantages? Price and resupply!

    An esbit tab is about .50 each. Even with bulk discounts, it is still much more expensive than other fuels. If you do a retail resupply of .50 per tab, that's $5 for 10 meals. Multiply that figure by a thru-hike! Even a discount rate of "only" .25 each makes Esbit expensive compared to the other fuels.

    Resupply on a long haul can be problematic as not many places stock Esbit. As with canisters, careful planning can mitigate this problem. Unlike canisters, Esbit is safe to mail. No special forms or packaging needed. Since Esbit can eat through plastic, a foil lined ziplock is suggested to carry the fuel. The ziplock also helps prevent the smell from permeating through your pack. The smell has been described as "rotting fish". Mmm...rotting fish.

    Esbit has been reported to be hard to light. In my limited use, found the Esbit hard to light as well.

    As with alcohol and canisters stoves, Esbit does not work well for true winter camping. Esbit is also for "boil only" meals as well and is a bit slower than the other stoves. This stove is best for solo use.

    Trioxane

    As with Esbit, do not need a special stove. Trioaxne can usually be found at Army surplus stores (online and local). The fumes are toxic, but not usually a problem unless you use in a poorly ventilated space (you should not use ANY stove in a poorly ventilated space!). About the same weight as Esbit for a quarter the full retail price. Because it is surplus, quality can differ. Trioxane burns hot, but not very efficiently. Takes about two trioxane tabs to equal one Esbit tab; price savings over Esbit goes quickyl. Not really suggested for general use. May not be bad as a backup to another stove.

    Solid Fuel Summary: For the lightest system, you can't beat Esbit. With careful planning, can avoid the resupply issue. The major disadvantage of Esbit is the price per tab. Trioxane? Last resort only!

    Esbit reviews

    Trioxane (really, I would not use it personally!)

    CAMP FIRES And let's not forget the first "stove" humans' used: A campfire!

    Steep learning curve, can be hard to light in wet weather or snow, can't always be used when there are fire bans as well as in alpine or desert environments. For the absolute lightest way to go, a camp fire is still the best..with major disadvantages. But how many people tell ghost stories around an alcohol stove? In all seriousness, a camp fire is best when you can use one, don't mind waiting a bit and want ambience. I find it best, personally, to just cook dinner on a regular stove and build a small campfire later. No stove will replace a camp fire for a great atmosphere!

    ABOUT "DAILY AVERAGE HAUL"

    "Daily Average Haul" is a concept Two Speed (a White Blaze user and a civil engineer) and myself came up with via e-mail exchanges. Sgt. Rock, one of the main admins at Whiteblaze, has also done much research on this concept. I shamelessly used some of his data for this section.

    What this concept essentially means is that a stove system (stove, fuel and cooking system) has an initial starting weight, but also a weight that decreases over time due to fuel use. The weight of a stove system has a differing average depending over the time a stove system is being used. Hence the term "Daily Average Haul".

    For example, the initial weight of an alcohol stove is very light. But, if many meals are cooked without a fuel resupply (over ten), the weight savings of a an alcohol stove is mitigated. More fuel means the "daily average haul" weight increases.

    Conversely, a canister stove system's weight does not differ much over time. A 4 oz canister is good for about 12 meals or so. After the fuel is used, you are still left with a canister that weighs 3oz and can no longer be used. On a weekend outing, 4 oz of alcohol weighs about 2.5 oz. The empty 12 oz Sprite bottle weighs .625 oz. Taking the first example, the "daily average haul" for the alcohol stove is noticeably less than a canister stove (never mind a Zip or White Gas stove) for a shorter period of time.

    If you are a canister stove user who packs another canister "just in case", the weight penalty for "daily average haul" is even more pronounced.

    If you are out for a REALLY long time without a fuel resupply, some stoves (e.g. an MSR Simmerlite or a Zip Stove in the appropriate environment) will have an "daily average haul" weight that is lighter than other stoves.

    When thinking about which stove is lighter, "daily average haul" is a useful concept to keep in mind. Depending upon your time out without a fuel resupply, one stove system may be more efficient than another.

    Naturally, there are are other reasons to use one stove system over another besides weight (convenience, time of year, availability of fuel, etc). but "daily haul average" is still a useful concept to keep in mind when determining what type of stove system best suits your needs.

    OVERALL SUMMARY

    There are many stoves to choose from. Which one is the best depends upon your intended use.

    If you are resupplying for less than ten meals, solo and three-season backpacking: Alcohol Stove
    If you are a couple and/or going long time between resupplies: Canister Stove other than Jet Boil
    If you are solo and want a convenient all in one solution: Jetboil
    If you are winter camping/high altitude mountaineering OR doing 3+ person meals: White Gas Stove
    Doing lots of "real cooking" in a forest environment and not hiking far: Zip Stove
    Want the absolute lightest stove and price/resupply is not an issue: Esbit

    There are other stoves as well that can be best called "specialty" stoves. These stoves are less used, but can prove a viable option for some people. Zen Stoves has a great summary of these different types of stoves.

    OTHER RESOURCES
    Sgt. Rock's Stove Comparison
    Zen Backpacking Stove Comparison
    Mechanical Engineering Magazine article about stoves (has my PCT picture in it! Woo hoo!)
    Thru-hiker.com Stove Comparison
    Lightest Weight Backpacking Stove Calculator
    Last edited by Mags; 02-15-2007 at 01:04. Reason: yet more expanded info :). I think it is now DONE!
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    First Sergeant SGT Rock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mags View Post
    ABOUT "DAILY AVERAGE HAUL"

    "Daily Average Haul" is a concept Two Speed (a White Blaze user and a civil engineer) and myself came up with via e-mail exchanges.

    What this concept essentially means is that a stove system (stove, fuel and cooking system) has an initial starting weight, but also a weight that decreases over time due to fuel use. The weight of a stove system has a differing average depending over the time a stove system is being used. Hence the term "Daily Average Haul".

    For example, the initial weight of an alcohol stove is very light. But, if many meals are cooked without a fuel resupply (over ten), the weights savings of a an alcohol stove is mitigated. More fuel means the "daily average haul" weight increases.

    Conversely, a canister stove system's weight does not differ much over time. A 4 oz canister is good for about 12 meals or so. After the fuel is used, you are still left with a canister that weighs 3oz and can no longer be used. On a weekend outing, 4 oz of alcohol weighs about 2.5 oz. The empty 12 oz Sprite bottle weighs .625 oz. Taking the first example, the "daily average haul" for the alcohol stove is noticeably less than a canister stove (never mind a Zip or White Gas stove) for a shorter period of time.

    If you are out for a REALLY long time without a fuel resupply, some stoves (e.g. an MSR Simmerlite or a Zip Stove in the appropriate environment) will have an "average daily haul" weight that is lighter than other stoves.

    When thinking about which stove is lighter, "average daily haul" is a useful concept to keep in mind. Depending upon your time out without a fuel resupply, one stove system may be more efficient than another.
    Naturally, there are are other reasons to use one stove system over another besides weight (convenience, time of year, availability of fuel, etc). but "average daily haul" is still a useful concept to keep in mind when determining what type of stove system best suits your needs.
    OK, set up your post here as the new article.

    But here is what I wanted to mention about average haul. Lets go with the premis of over 10 days without resupply. For my example we can call it a two week section, 14 days...

    With the alcohol stove, lets say you have the 4 ounce pot, 1.4 ounce stove with windscreen and stand, and the stove is not the most fuel efficent you can get, so about 1 ounce per boil times 2 per day, so you need 2 ounce of fuel per day, that means you need 28 ounces of fuel. So you get a couple of 16 ounce and 12 ounce fuel bottles (at about .7 ounces per), of feel them with the fuel you need. Since alcohol weighs less than an ounce per fluid ounce (something some people forget) you are talking about 25.2 ounces plus your stove, pot, and bottles = 32.2 ounces (roughly). At the end of 7 days you have used up the first 14 ounces of fuel, and the end of 14 days you have will be out of fuel. The average base weight remains 7 ounces the whole way. Your average fuel weight carried over the entire time is half the used fuel (14 ounces) so 14 ounces of fuel which is about 12.6 ounces in weight. So you now have your average base weight over the entire time of about 19.6 ounces...

    Go to the Coleman F1. You have the 2.6 ounce stove, and the 4 ounce pot from the same example, but you will need about one 8 ounce canister which weighs in at 16 ounces. And this will about make it about 22.6 ounces for your start weight (pay attention JetBoil users, this is about the weight of a JetBoil for a one week section)- this is about 9.5 ounces lighter than the alcohol stove. But you go for one week and use the first 4 ounces of fuel and you still have the same canister on your stove. Go for the full two week and the canister is empty, but you still have to pack it out, so your base stays 14.6 ounces for the pot, stove, and canister the whole way. You add in half the fuel for the average weight over time and you come out with 18.6 for the average weight carried. You are an ounce under the alcohol for that same section.

    Now that is with a not so great alcohol stove. And with a canister stove, the weight isn't so easy to control, so if you bump that up by 4 days, you need another canister (say a 4 ounce canister at 8 ounce start) so you get a start weight that is now 30.6 ounces and your base is now stuck up around 18.6 ounces (since you can't chuck the can on the trail) but now you also have to factor in an extra 2 ounces of unspent fuel in the tank so your base is actually 20.6 ounces. And your average weight is going to still be that plus one half the used fuel, which is going to be 10 ounce total, so 5 half, that makes the "haul Weight" about 25.5 ounces. When you get done you also have a canister that has 2 ounces left in it you have to calculate when buying for. If the next section is only 6 days, you either have to get another whole canister and add that (carrying two canisters) throw a half full one away, or go without fuel for a few days on that section to keep the weight down.

    Go to that same example with alcohol and you only have to change one of the bottles to a 20 ouncer which will bump your base up to 7.1 whole ounces and your start weight will be 32 ounces of fuel = 28.8 which is lower now than the same canister starting weight. Now over the time that Haul weight will be 21.5 ounces which is lighter than the same canister system.

    So this points out that when you use a canister based on the fact that you are going to be out on sections longer than 10 days, it still isn't that simple. This playing the canisters is something I have seen from other canister users which have two, sometimes even three canisters because they are carrying one with some fuel and another full one, or are worried they cannot get a cannister until they reach some point.

    Anyway, thanks for putting up with my rambling.
    SGT Rock
    http://hikinghq.net

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    Quote Originally Posted by SGT Rock View Post
    So this points out that when you use a canister based on the fact that you are going to be out on sections longer than 10 days, it still isn't that simple. This playing the canisters is something I have seen from other canister users which have two, sometimes even three canisters because they are carrying one with some fuel and another full one, or are worried they cannot get a cannister until they reach some point.

    This "playing with the canisters" thing is all new to me. I've basically dissed canister stoves from the get-go, for this very reason -- but they do seem to be coming back into use among AT thrus.... so now I'm interested again... but wary. I'm going to be looking long and hard at the canister-resupply options for my next long section.

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    I had a cannister stove years ago and got rid of it because the cold weather performance sucked and it let me down when I needed the most plus issues with just this problem. I recently got an F1 ultralight from Coleman to play with and have had fun with it, but feel this could still be a problem.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SGT Rock View Post
    I had a cannister stove years ago and got rid of it because the cold weather performance sucked and it let me down when I needed the most plus issues with just this problem.
    I had the same experience. I have never considered trying again in cold weather.
    That's my dog, Echo. He's a fine young dog.

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    Interesting article, Mags, thanks. There's an older article on the thru-hiker.com web site that talks about total weight over time between different stove systems, and the lightest by far in their tests was the solid-tablet (Esbit) stove, using the smallest Esbit stove (not the huge standard stove). With the 13-gram esbit stove available on backpackinglight.com, the weight differential might be even more pronounced. I see solid fuel stoves having several advantages:

    • No packaging -- put the tabs in a ziploc sandwich bag.
    • Take exactly as many as you need for a given trip.
    • Stove weight is comparable to or lighter than alcohol stove.
    • Tabs are more energy efficient than alcohol.


    The tablet system is very similar to an alcohol stove setup, with many of the same disadvantages, too. I wouldn't use it for a group, or for serious winter use. It's also far more expensive per meal boiled, and you have to ship the tablets or carry all you need. But it's somewhat more convenient than an alcohol stove (though neither is as convenient as a canister stove for three-season hiking). Still, it's a very lightweight option that some hikers might want to consider.

    Cheers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mags View Post
    "Daily Average Haul" is a concept Two Speed (a White Blaze user and a civil engineer) and myself came up with via e-mail exchanges.
    I think we'd probably better share some of the credit with Sgt Rock. I think he's been revolving around a very similar concept for a while. Even if he hadn't been doing that the concept of mass haul has been used for highway construction since the 1930's. Either way I think it's a useful concept, whoever cooked it up.

    To pick at another very small point, I personally like the fact that my alcohol stove is somewhat "slow." I can relax or attend to other camp chores while my stove does it's thing, so is it really "slow" if it allows me to complete other tasks at the same time? Absolute minimum time to boil ain't always a good thing.

    Even so, it's a great article and I think it's a valuable addition to the site.
    Me no care, me here free beer. Tap keg, please?

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    Default 2 cents on stoves

    First off, I have to say that I just love these techno discussions. I have really learned a lot reading them since I joined Whiteblaze, so my thanks to all who participate and educate. I am not a stove expert, but over the years have either owned or been out with a group that has virtually every imaginable stove. I think that the posts by Mags and Sgt. Rock pretty much cover the basics. However, a point that I would like to add, as I switch over to an alcohol stove for non-winter use, is that I am starting to see more efficient alcohol stoves where a two cup boil can be done with around 1/2 ounce of fuel. (To name two, we have Whiteblaze member Zelph’s wickitized wedding favor tin ‘Starlyte’, and the soda can stove on steroids ‘FeatherFire’ - www.packafeather.com ) Even assuming a bit less than ideal condition 1/2 ounce per boil fuel consumption, a 2 week average haul weight of 16 ounces looks achievable and the start weight would be about the same as a canister stove. Beyond two weeks, I can’t imagine that a few ounces of stove maters much either way when you have over 30 pounds of food on your back. (In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a recent buyer of a Starlyte). doodah-man

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    Back from a little cross country skiing..woo hoo. Beautiful out. Sun broke through and lots of powder! Some more tomorrow and Monday (if I am don't party too hearty! )


    Anyway...

    As always, thanks for all the valuable input!

    Rock: I made an edit that was probably being done in the original thread as you created the article. I mentioned the "just in case" canister stove penalty. I'll just re-add it back in this article. Good stuff you mentioned, though!

    Big Cranky: My last post in the original thread mentioned how I am going to add some esbit info.

    Pretty much what you said. Esbit is the lightest, but resupply can be problematic. Bought some today at the Army/Navy store in town.

    They also sell the Trioxane solid fuel. (Nasty stuff, but cheap and works). After I play with the esbit a bit more (I've only used it 2x in my life) will add a bit more info. Esbit can be a great option if you have a good resupply "quarter master general" and/or don't mind being tied to mail drops. I found Esbit hard to light (the 2x I used it in 2002), others have reported it as well. The trioxane is cheap, but as I said, NASTY. Not as efficient as Esbit as well. Does light easier from what I remember in my boyscout days.

    Anyway..that's a project for early next week.

    Two Speed: Yep..gotta give the good Sgt. some credit. His research blows my half-ass stuff away. I just sum up what other people researched.

    Doodah: Interesting. Can make a brief blurb about new stoves that are out that could make alcohol stoves even more efficient. Are there any "Field tests" yet by you or others?

    Off to do some editing!
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    I agree with Big Cranky. I did an average daily haul analysis several years ago comparing the MSR Whisperlight, GigaPower canister, a sideburner alcohol stove and Esbit on a non-standard burner/pot support. The Esbit won hands down for unsupported trips of any length. Alcohol was neck and neck with the canister, losing out after 12 days solo using my assumptions.

    Today, I use a dual alcohol/hexamine rig. I found after many tests that a tea light cup (or tequilla cap) filled with glass insulation was as efficient as any other alcohol burner. Rocked my lame assumptions - after having made scores of alcohol stoves. So I just turn the burner cup upside down and put a hexamine tab on it. For a trail like the AT, that combination provides versatility and efficiency.

    Trioxane.
    Mags, check Wickapedia or any other reference under formaldehyde. You will see that trioxane is a polymer of formaldehyde. Not only does it outgas nasty stuff, but it is much much less efficient than hexamine. It is carcinogenic if it does not destroy your lungs first. Really. Don't use it.

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    You know I'm not sure why there is a great big discussion about this.

    We all have different set-ups for different seasons. Why should our stoves be differnt?

    The initial article was very informative and has made me rethink all of my equipment. Most of my hikes are solo weekend jaunts in the 3 season range. I do go a long hike every Feb. or March but here in the south that is a 3 season time. Alcohol stoves seem to be the choice for me.

    Bobby Woods

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    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
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    Default More stove stuff

    I edited the article to emphasize the "just in case" canister penalty. Also added some credit for Sgt. Rock!

    The biggest addition? Said the heck with it..between my own limited use (and making some cocoa just now!), along with other "real use" info (Thanks guys!) added the Esbit info.

    Also did a brief blurb about the "original stove" a campfire. It is the lightest "stove" afterall..if some major disadvantages. But, as I said in the article, who wants to gather around an alcohol stove at night ?!?!?!

    Thanks for all the input!
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    Looks great, Mags. Thanks for all the work.
    Ken B
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mags View Post
    But what stove is "the best"? The true answer is: NONE OF THEM.
    That advice is excellent, and could be applied to ANY piece of gear. I cringe everytime I see someone ask, "what's the best (fill in the blank)".

    An outstanding job on the article Mags. Really good work!

    Quote Originally Posted by Mags View Post
    Back from a little cross country skiing..woo hoo.
    I am green with envy! 60 degree temps and cloudy here in East Tennessee today. Only 7 weeks til Colorado!
    'All my lies are always wishes" ~Jeff Tweedy~

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    Good thread Mags.

    I am not a stove expert by any means. With my alcohol stove I am finding that the alcohol fuel temp is the most important factor (given your stove/setup works). I have used mine in 15 degree temps after warming the fuel. I now carry a 1 oz plastic container to warm the fuel in. I have not used any canister stoves, but I heard the same is true for them.

    Another factor Doctari brought up somewhere is total time of use. My total time from pack to set up, use, and repack my alcohol stove is a lot faster than my MSR gas stove. But I guess when backpacking you have more time, although I don't like to wait to eat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Spock View Post
    Today, I use a dual alcohol/hexamine rig. I found after many tests that a tea light cup (or tequilla cap) filled with glass insulation was as efficient as any other alcohol burner. Rocked my lame assumptions - after having made scores of alcohol stoves. So I just turn the burner cup upside down and put a hexamine tab on it. For a trail like the AT, that combination provides versatility and efficiency.
    I do something similar to that. But what I do is a little cheaper - I go alcohol and wood. See I get to camp, and if there is an established fire ring and good fuel around (and someimes even if there isn't a ring) I will make a small twig cooking fire and save my alcohol for later. With the right type of stand and windscreen for your alcohol stove, you can actually use these for your fire - this is something I actually figured out over here playing with a new form of fan powere wood stove. This means no extra tabs to carry, and an 8 ounce bottle of fuel can last me 2 weeks. Normally it takes me about a handfull of twigs the size of a pencil to boil a pint of water.

    Trioxane.
    Mags, check Wickapedia or any other reference under formaldehyde. You will see that trioxane is a polymer of formaldehyde. Not only does it outgas nasty stuff, but it is much much less efficient than hexamine. It is carcinogenic if it does not destroy your lungs first. Really. Don't use it.
    Yes, I did a boil test of Triox vs Hexamine and found that Triox burns hotter, but it also burns too hot too fast. It took more than twice the mass in Triox to get the results of the slower burning Hexamine.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mags View Post
    Rock: I made an edit that was probably being done in the original thread as you created the article. I mentioned the "just in case" canister stove penalty. I'll just re-add it back in this article. Good stuff you mentioned, though!
    No problem. This is something that hit me at Trail Days a few years back watching a JetBoil user go through his pack. This is a guy that shall remain nameless, but he gave me crap about how alcohol users could go with a 10 ounce fuel bottle, but in his experience they went for 20 ouncers and that made his Jetboil ligher than alcohol. Then as he was going through a part of his pack he pulled out three canisters for his JetBoil. I didn't ask, having used a canister stove before I know one was probably less than full, but he didn't want to toss it, one was the full one he had for the stove when that one ran out, and the other was a back up for the other two. So basically he added another pound of weight over and above the weight of his JetBoil PCS and was shortsighted enough to ignore that while at the same time seeing a flaw in someone carrying an extra 10 ounces of alcohol fuel wich only weighs an extra 9 ounces.

    Add to that another assumption I often see when people calculate these weights to compare they don't realize alcohol actually weighs less than an ounce per fluid ounce. So a 20 ounce bottle of alcohol does not weigh 20 ounces.

    Pretty much what you said. Esbit is the lightest, but resupply can be problematic. Bought some today at the Army/Navy store in town.
    The only good, reliable way I can see to do this would be buy a big stock of it and then mail drop it all the way up a long trail, or start a shorter section with what you think you need.
    They also sell the Trioxane solid fuel. (Nasty stuff, but cheap and works). After I play with the esbit a bit more (I've only used it 2x in my life) will add a bit more info. Esbit can be a great option if you have a good resupply "quarter master general" and/or don't mind being tied to mail drops. I found Esbit hard to light (the 2x I used it in 2002), others have reported it as well. The trioxane is cheap, but as I said, NASTY. Not as efficient as Esbit as well. Does light easier from what I remember in my boyscout days.
    It is harder to light, takes some playing with to learn some shortcuts - like light something else and put that against the block - like a cheese puff. Another problem with Hexamine is the smell, it has the odor of dead fish and can permeate through plastic - that is why I reccomend a foil lined zip lock style container.
    Quote Originally Posted by MOWGLI16 View Post
    That advice is excellent, and could be applied to ANY piece of gear. I cringe everytime I see someone ask, "what's the best (fill in the blank)".
    Great point. I feel the same way and even mentioned that in the packing list article. I think when this stove thing is done I will link to it in that article so people can get the more detailed considerations on stoves.

    Good work Mags.
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    Do-it-yourself pepsi can stoves - $20 each. Amigi'sLastStand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ed bell View Post
    I had the same experience. I have never considered trying again in cold weather.
    Put one in your sleeping bag at night. No problems.....unless you smoke in your sleeping bag.....
    You are in heaven.

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    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MOWGLI16 View Post
    Only 7 weeks til Colorado!
    Woo hoo! We will have to get together when you are in Boulder. I should be around!

    Yet another glorious day for some cross-country skiing. I was the 4th or 5th car there today at 9:30am. When I returned to the TH just before 2 pm, the parking area was full .I was not the only person who had the same idea...I was just up earlier.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SGT Rock View Post
    I will make a small twig cooking fire and save my alcohol for later. With the right type of stand and windscreen for your alcohol stove, you can actually use these for your fire
    I actually did this method a few times this past summer/fall. Conserved my fuel a bit.


    Quote Originally Posted by SGT Rock View Post
    Add to that another assumption I often see when people calculate these weights to compare they don't realize alcohol actually weighs less than an ounce per fluid ounce.
    Fuel in general. Not everyone seems to remember 10th grade chemistry class! I hope people can read behind the lines when I say 1oz of fuel weighs about XX oz. Hmm..think I'll add that it in just as a reminder.


    Talking about Esbit:

    Quote Originally Posted by SGT Rock View Post
    The only good, reliable way I can see to do this would be buy a big stock of it and then mail drop it all the way up a long trail, or start a shorter section with what you think you need.
    Yep. That's why I shied away from it. If I had a quartermaster general at home mailing me everything or don't mind putzing around with maildrops (or a more frequent bounce buket), Esbit could be a great choice. I tend to shy away from mail drops if I can help it though.

    On a trail such as the AT where resupply is easy, I'd REALLY be loathe to use mail drops. But, YYMV and HYOH and all that. But that's why there are so many different choices!

    My buddy and I plan on doing the 100 mile wilderness this year in the Fall. I am actually planning on taking a SnoPeak (Gasp!) because it is going to a bit more relaxed than my thru-hiking pace, we plan on doing two hot meals a day with hot drinks (Coffee in the morning..oh yes!) and there are two of us. An alcohol stove may actually be less efficient or only barely more so than the canister stove for my intended hike. See, even I can go with convenience vs. pure weight savings.


    Quote Originally Posted by SGT Rock View Post
    Good work Mags.
    Thanks! Glad I can contribute in some way!

    Call the article "done" once I add the Chemistry 101 reminder about weight of fuel vs. volume of fuel.

    (Unless there is something else to add..think I covered all the basics. Once we get into speciality alcohol stoves or other types, starting to veer away from a general use article IMO)
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    As I remembr it, alcohol is ABOUT 0.9 ounces per fluid ounce and gas is about 0.7. But that is off the top of my head.

    As for canister fuel, it is measured in weight, so an 8 ounce canister has 8 ounces in weight of fuel in it, and on the average the empty canister seems to weigh about as much as the fuel in it, so most times an 8 ounce canister will weigh about a pound when full. Note that this is just what we call "beer math".
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