Folding Kayaks Forum

Which stove to buy?
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Author:  gregn [ Fri Jul 20, 2007 4:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Which stove to buy?

What is your recommendaton on a cooking stove for local kayaking trips? I'm out of touch with the camping equipment and need your help in sellecting a stove. I'm not planning any exotic destinations, so airlane regulations are not critical here.

I'd appreciate imputs from the practical - experienced users' point of view.

Thanks in advance.

Author:  maryinoxford [ Fri Jul 20, 2007 5:08 pm ]
Post subject: 

How fast do you want to cook/boil? I use an alcohol-burning stove (Trangia). Good points - very simple, nothing to go wrong, quiet. Drawback - fairly slow. Stoves that burn compressed gas or petrol/gasoline are hotter and faster, but make noise. I opt for quiet when I'm camping.


Author:  krudave [ Fri Jul 20, 2007 7:24 pm ]
Post subject: 

Any alcohol stove will have lesser heating effect per unit of fuel, because it is an oxygenated fuel, compared to hydrocarbon-based fuel. Hence, any of the hydrocarbon-based fuels will be inherently more efficient in terms of weight/volume of fuel carried. This is my basic prejudice agianst the Trangia, although having a fuel on board that will not seriously contaminate other stuff, if you get a leak, is an advantage.

I've used white gas/unleaded gas-based stoves for almost 40 years, with no fuel leaks or other incidents. Liquid fuel is more space efficient than liquified gas (propane/butane/mixes therof), and you can use a reusable fuel container instead of the nonrecyclable, nonreusable canisters. In addition, you get a higher flame temperature from white gas/kerosene/diesel-based stoves (owing to larger molecule size), so that you can heat stuff up faster. Caveat: you have to be good at securely closing fuel canisters to safely use these stoves; if you can not securely close the lids of fuel bottles, do not get such a stove.

The upshot for me is that I have used a Coleman 442 white gas/unleaded gas stove, exclusively, for sea kayaking for the last 15 years. No breakdowns, no failures, no cleaning, no maintenance. Every 5 or so years, I replace the pump seals; once, I replaced the atomizer, on general principles, even though it was still working fine.

The down side? You have to prime the things to get them to light: some fuel in the cup below the atomizer must be burnt to get the system working, then you get clean burning. If you want a stove that lights easily, then you are stuck with propane/butane/mixes thereof. Note: the Trangia also needs to be primed to light. EDIT: WRONG WRONG WRONG; No priming needed for a Trangia. thanks, Mary, for pointing out my error.

Author:  maryinoxford [ Sat Jul 21, 2007 9:43 am ]
Post subject: 

krudave wrote:
Note: the Trangia also needs to be primed to light.

Really? Nobody told me... I just fill the burner with meths (British name for fuel alcohol) and wave a match over it. In breezy conditions, I might need 2 matches. Am I buying more volatile fuel than you? How would you prime a Trangia?


Author:  krudave [ Sat Jul 21, 2007 11:55 am ]
Post subject: 

maryinoxford wrote:
Really? Nobody told me... I just fill the burner with meths (British name for fuel alcohol) and wave a match over it. In breezy conditions, I might need 2 matches. Am I buying more volatile fuel than you? How would you prime a Trangia? Mary
Oops. My error. I'm just plain wrong. I'll fix that in the previous post, Mary. Thanks for pointing out the error.

Author:  mje [ Sat Jul 21, 2007 10:35 pm ]
Post subject: 

I like the Trangia for quiet, safe heat in warm to cool weather, and for the clever cookit design. For concentrated heat in cold weather and when I need to boil a lot of water I like the LPG cartridges from various makers and sources. The Trangia set is more relaxed. Like, I'm in no hurry and don't really care if it takes longer to boil water for me tea...

I haven't used one of the classic self-pressurized Svea or Primus gas stoves in decades. A single LPG cartridge or a small bottle of alcohol is good for a week if you're not melting snow or boiling huge pots of water. And there's nothing simpler than a Trangia. It's the most trouble-free stove imaginable. No moving parts, valves, filter to clog, etc.

Author:  warren [ Sun Jul 22, 2007 12:27 am ]
Post subject: 

In the lower temps the trangia does need it's own sort of priming. Either douse the stove and light it to warm it up or use Trangias cold weather attachment- essentially a priming pan that snaps under the stove with a pad of fiberglass or some such material. Soak the pad, light and warm up the stove for use.

I've been using butane canisters when kayaking. I've been kind of worried what sand might do to the more complex white gas stove and I try to actually cook instead of boil when kayaking, my butane stove does that better than my white gas stove.

That said, I find I deal with wind more kayaking than when backpacking, there tend to be less of a wind break near the shore than in the middle of a forest. Canister stoves tend to be wind sensitive.

Author:  krudave [ Sun Jul 22, 2007 12:32 am ]
Post subject: 

Warren, I have not had trouble with sand in my Coleman 442's (on the 3rd one). As you say, butane stoves tend to be prone to wind-blown extinguishing. Even the well-protected 442 will go out in a real blow; I use an aluminum windbreak that Coleman sold with the first 442, fifteen years ago, except when a large pan prevents is use.

MSR (now, REI) sells a heavy-gauge aluminum foil windbreak that folds down pretty compactly, first offered with the original MSR stove (the one that roars like a dragon and can not be made to simmer). Otherwise, I just set up behind some driftwood.

Author:  Alm [ Sun Jul 22, 2007 1:02 am ]
Post subject: 

LPG cartridges (propane, butane etc) are the most reliable - after alcohol Trangia.

Pros of Trangia (or any alcohol stove): simple, silent, no smell.
Cons of Trangia, compared to LPG or "normal" liquid fuels like white gas: slow; fuel-guzzler; no regulation of power - or very primitive one; you need to put it out and refill sometimes in the middle of cooking (because it's a fuel guzzler); needs matches or lighter and some care when igniting - there is a risk to burn fingers with barely visible spill.

Bottom-line - I carry Mini-Trangia and 1 liter of alcohol as a backup for LPG stove in short trips. In long trips I carry solid-fuel Sierra as a backup (because Trangia needs a lot of fuel - gallons in a multiday trip, and where the heck would I get alcohol out in a wilderness...

Liquid-fuel stoves and LPG often have a built-in ignitor - great thing, no need to look for matches or lighter and click that sharp button of 50-cent lighter with fingers soft and sensitive after long paddling day. (Okay, there are $50 wind-proof super-sturdy expedtion lighters - I never needed one since bought a stove with ignitor). With LPG you just screw the hoze onto the tank and click the ingitor - no filling and refilling, priming etc. One small LPG tank is good for a week of 2 hot meals a day.

Liquid-fuel stoves VS LPG... I think it's a matter of personal preference. Liquid ones have moving parts and need priming - LPG don't. Liquid fuel is smelly - LPG isn't ; God forbid spilling a white gas or kerosene in a kayak or backpack - smell will haunt you for weeks. Though, spills are very infrequent normally. But it stinks TAD any time you open the bottle or use the stove, anyway. Liquids will work in subzero temps - LPG won't, but I don't paddle in subzero temps - too old for this kind of challenge.

Here is a bright side (for liquids, which I'm not a fan, as you might've have guessed): they are very good for simmering. LPG has quite narrow range of flow regulator - still it can cook rice, buckwheat etc on low flame. Especially on mine - I replaced the regulator with a big one from big propane stoves.

Yes, LPG cartridges are not environmentally friendly - they are not reusable. Drill the hole and throw it to metal scrap - this is all you can when it's empty. Or don't drill the hole - if it's really empty (hypotetical danger might be for recycling workers, when gas residue blows up in recycling oven).

So, if you decide to go for LPG - get anything free-standing, with a tripod and hose, - not screw-on-top. And with a piezo ingitor. Like Primus Gravity Easyfuel:
or Primus Etapower Easyfuel (this one is praised at REI as very good for simmering for some reason):
Or Primus Himalaya Omnifuel, if you want it to work on both LPG and liquid fuels (I personally don't believe in multifunctionality in stoves):
All are available at MEC, go and have a close look.

With liquids I would also prefer free-standing one, - not screw-on top.

Author:  chrstjrn [ Sun Jul 22, 2007 3:29 am ]
Post subject: 

I have all kinds of stoves. Seriously-- I have a nice gas stove (the heaviest, but perhaps the most versatile and the hottest), I have an alcohol stove (the lightest option and allowed on aircraft, but no other advantages), I have a primus canister-gas stove ("LPG"? the easiest to use, and second-lightest-- the first choice in countries where the fuel is readily available and the trip is not too long), and I have a wood-burning Zzip stove.

Consider the latter. The Zzip stove only requires a single AA battery, and litter from the ground. This limits it's use at high altitude, but that's not a factor for paddlers. You burn leaf litter and twigs, and under the right conditions it produces a hotter flame than any of the others-- there is a small electric fan that works as a bellows. It can be difficult to light, and it's messy because of the wood smoke. You don't have to carry the fuel, which means it would be the lightest option on a longer trip. Due to fuel and airline issues, it's often the best option in the third world. And there is something very satisfying about using it.

Only the alcohol stoves and the Zzip are allowed on commercial aircraft, and even then don't say the word "stove"! They are "cooking equipment" or "cooking platform"s.
(paste link back together to use)

Author:  Alm [ Sun Jul 22, 2007 11:40 pm ]
Post subject: 

I have a nice gas stove (the heaviest, but perhaps the most versatile and the hottest), I have an alcohol stove (the lightest option and allowed on aircraft, but no other advantages), I have a primus canister-gas stove ("LPG"? the easiest to use, and second-lightest-- the first choice in countries where the fuel is readily available and the trip is not too long), and I have a wood-burning Zzip stove.

My collection is similar, only I don't have a liquid fuel stove (white gas etc).
Btw, small propane cartridges are more readily available in third world and other odd places, than more expensive LPG cartridges (containing usually a mix of propane and butane, if I'm correct). Fancy LPG cartridges are for "gringos" (foreigners), they cost much and not needed in homes or fish camps of local villagers. That's why I've retrofitted my Primus Easyfuel LPG stove with a regulator by Coleman, so it's accepting now only propane cartridges (different thread):Image

These are available in automotive and hardware stores, often in longer tanks of the same volume as green Coleman, and are used for welding and metal cutting. These "welding" tanks and green Coleman tanks are heavier (thicker walls) than MSR/Primus etc LPG cartridges, but I don't care about extra 1-2 lbs in a kayak. They are also reportedly 15-20% less efficient than thin-wall cartridges from tourist stores, but they are also 20% cheaper (anywhere where I saw them). You can see them in Autozone (USA), Long's (USA), Canadian Tire, Home Depot, and zillions of other hardware and grocery stores, sometimes - at gas stations. You can often see green Coleman 1 lb tanks connected to BBQ grills (not to confuse it with big white propane tanks, 2 gallons or so, these are available virtually anywhere, but I don't want bomb of that size in a kayak, even if I had a room for it).

The Zzip stove...

Yeah, I know, Sierra Zzip... nostagic smell of smoke... And the smoke itself, and sooty pots afterwards, and tricky "regulation" of power - usually by lifting the pot and holding it up, and need to collect that driftwood every time, even though this doesn't take much time.
Unless it's a very long trip in a truly wilderness, like 5 weeks or longer, I would rather click the ignitor of LPG/propane stove. LPG stands for Liquified Petroleum Gas, btw. In plain words, any pressurized gas - propane, butane, etc. I carry Sierra as a backup, striped of its heavy and bulky stainless pots, and hope not to have to use it.

Only the alcohol stoves and the Zzip are allowed on commercial aircraft, and even then don't say the word "stove"! They are "cooking equipment" or "cooking platform"s.

Not sure about that. I recall the wording (could be different in different airlines) "fuel and containers that were used for storing a fuel". So, alcohol stove is exactly a "container for storing a fuel", and unless it has never been used before, it should not be allowed. But I flew with it many times, thoroughly washed and dried. OTH, LPG stove has no "container" (buying a fuel is the first task upon landing), and can be called evasively "burner", or "head", if they ask. So far they never did. The worst in air luggage are liquid-fuel stoves - they are hard to clean so thouroughly as alcohol "container" or LPG/propane "head and hoze", and are more likely to be banned. Greg isn't going to fly, anyway.

Author:  acrosome [ Thu Jul 26, 2007 3:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Jetboil

Man, you can tell that everyone here has there own little pet projects when it comes to stoves. (Even I do- more on that later.)

For local trips, though, I just recommend one of the liquified gas stoves. Quick. Easy. Compact. For local trips you don't have to worry about finding fuel in exotic locations, but the truth is you can find butane or isopropane fuel in most places. They stock such fuel in hardware stores all over Alaska, for example. But the biggest seller is ease of use. No priming. Many models have pushbutton ignition. They'll even work in very high winds or very cold conditions. Idiotproof and reliable.

For most uses I really recommend the Jetboil or MSR Reactor or a similar high-efficiency stove. Most come with a dedicated pot, and the stove and fuel cannister fit inside the pot, making it very compact.

Regarding my personal project- I do not personally use a Jetboil. (So I'm really not just grinding an axe when I recommend one) Personally, I've recently gotten interested in two trends: 1) ultralight stuff, and 2) sustainable stuff.

When I am in an ultralight mood I pack a 1-oz. titanium alcohol stove made by Vargo Outdoors. A little squeeze bottle of methanol no bigger than a soda can more than lasts for a long weekend, assuming I eat a cold lunch. (I'm not sure where the "gallons" of alcohol requirement came from in the previous post.) You can buy fuel at any gas station, in the form of fuel-line de-icer (trade name HEET- the yellow is methanol which burns clean, and the red is isopropanol which packs more BTUs but is sooty). It definitely needs to be protected from the wind, though. There is kind of a cult following for alcohol stoves, and numerous websites will show you how to make one out of soda cans or other refuse. One model called the "penny alcohol stove" is actually quite ingenious and results in a self-pressurizing fuel compartment. I made one (it requires no welding or glues, unlike some other high-efficiency models) and it works splendidly. Other models are ludicrously simple but a little less efficient- basically alcohol-fired Sterno stoves.

When I am in a sustainable mood I pack a wood-burning stove in the form of a Kelly Kettle (aka Benghazi Boiler). It will boil 2.5 pints in 4 minutes or so (not counting time to collect the twigs and pinecones the thing burns). I just used it for an Alaskan expedition (which went awry in other ways- see my post under the "Trip Reporting" forum), and it kept four of us fed through the whole trip after the other guys lost their Jetboil in an accident. It really uses a remarkably small amount of fuel- and no batteries unlike the wood stove mentioned in a previous post, but it is heavy and the inside of the chimney does get sooty. But working with an open wood flame amuses me, so I like it. It also helps that I tend to pack food that only requires boiling water, in the interest of ease of use. The little adapter that lets you simmer stuff on a pot on top of the chimney doesn't work very well, in that the pot gets a bad hot-spot in the center that scorches food. I stick to boiling water.

Incidentally, after I purchased the Kelly Kettle I actually found another similar product that is probably better suited for kayaking. It goes by the trade name "Thermette", and is basically a copper version of the Kelly Kettle. Thus it is a little heavier than the aluminum Kelly Kettle, but this isn't much of a concern in a kayak and the copper is more corrosion resistant.

Anyway, there is my recommendation- Jetboil- followed by a lengthy discourse on my own petty projects.

Author:  Alm [ Fri Jul 27, 2007 1:34 am ]
Post subject: 

A little squeeze bottle of methanol no bigger than a soda can more than lasts for a long weekend, assuming I eat a cold lunch. (I'm not sure where the "gallons" of alcohol requirement came from in the previous post.)

Gallons were in my post :-) ... I said that in relation to multiday trips - not weekend trip, of course. From my personal, perhaps inexpirienced, playing with Mini-Trangia alcohol stove, soda can of fuel (10 oz?) lasts maximum one day, with 2 hot meals and some unnumbered quantity of tea cups with and between the meals. One meal that requires cooking - one about 20 minutes (plus 10 minutes to make it boil), and another one - instant or semi-instant. I don't know how 10 oz were consumed that fast, with Trangia capaciy about 2 oz (that burns about 20 minutes), but this is how it worked with me. May be - wind, cold ambient temps, loss of fuel through evaporation and on ineffective initial stages of burning when you start it and then - after refill the burner, and inherently ineffective design of alcohol stove when you need to keep it close to simmering - and the darn thing has only 2 speeds - "full ahead" and "stop".

So, on a multiday, say, 15-day trip I would need more than a gallon. Or 2-3 propane tanks taking less volume and less weight even including metal casing (this, plus the ease of use of LPG stoves, is why I prefer them to alcohol on both short and medium-long trips). With only one hot meal a day, especially when this is something instant, a soda can of methanol alcohol might be enough for 2 days, agreed. Unfortunately, I've found that instant meals are either expensive, or bulky, or inefficient nutritionally, - or all of these features. Doesn't work well in long trips - only as occasional supplement.

You can buy [alcohol] fuel at any gas station, in the form of fuel-line de-icer

Well... I didn't look, but have some doubts they use de-icer a lot in coastal Mexico, for example. Haven't seen any gas-stations along the route in last trip in Baja, either (and didn't use a car there). Gas-stations tend to be on paved roads, - not on wilderness campsites, you know... Even in relatively civilized Southern BC there are many islands and coastal towns without a gas-station. If the island is populated, there is (sometimes) a shop at the ferry terminal (if there is a terminal), and they might have a methanol or de-icer or at least a rubbing alcohol. One interesting thing I've discovered about my alcohol stove - it burns 70% rubbing alcohol (this is usually easier to find for "horseless" traveler), and also a strong booze. Poorly, and needs pre-heating, but eventually burns. Wouldn't consider the latter two a good fuel - sooty and ineffective, - just as an emergency solution.

If somebody is looking for readily available fuel, it is not an alcohol, but either some natural solid fuel (Sierra Zip), or - oddly enough - gasoline and diesel fuel. Even places without a gas-station have cars or boats or diesel generators and/or some local storage of gasoline or diesel fuel. Primus makes some multifuel stove that works on gasoline, diesel and LPG. I don't know how easily it can be switched between the fuels (this requires changing parts), and I wouldn't want a gasoline smell in otherwise odour-free LPG stove, and from my personal experience with gasoline stove it is a very whimsical thing - but apparently it works.

Author:  nohoval_turrets [ Fri Jul 27, 2007 6:50 am ]
Post subject: 

Alex, you're certainly right that alcohol is a relatively inefficient fuel, but I would argue that you're using it the wrong way. If you try and use an alcohol stove like a regular stove you will indeed need the gallons you mention, but I bring 330ml (soda can size here) for a weeks camping and have plenty left over at the end.

I only ever bring things to the boil. Then I take them off the stove and wrap the pot in a pot cosy, where the cooking can continue for up to an hour. I use 10 ml for porridge in the morning, and 20 ml for rice in the evening. The rest is for hot drinks and the occasional fish.

When used this way, the lightness of the stove and the fuel containers more than offsets the weight of the fuel.

I use Brasslite stoves - simple lightweight, elegant. I've also tried the Vargo that acrosome mentions, but found that it flared badly, and was easily extinguished by the wind. The Trangia is heavy but indestructible

Author:  acrosome [ Fri Jul 27, 2007 9:04 am ]
Post subject: 

I agree. I looked at some of those Trangia stoves via Google. Some are huge! They seem to be intended to do multiweek cooking tasks for a large group. I can see why they guzzle fuel! Also they are brass and steel, which I'm sure is heavy compared to my minimalist 1 oz titanium widget, thus loosing some of the weight savings that I enjoy.

But, yes, my Vargo stove holds about 2 oz of methanol, and one fill will bring 500mL water to a rolling boil. So, with a cold lunch I get one man-day of cooking for 4 oz. But it is also one of the relatively efficient self-pressurizing designs. One of the soda-can versions that is basically just a puddle of methanol set on fire wouldn't be as efficient.

Still, I agree, all alcohol stoves are inefficient compared to petroleum based fuels. Where the alcohol stoves win is the low weight of the stoves themselves. So, if you are going camping for more than 5 days or so the weight of the fuel outweighs the weight savings of the stove, and you are better off using a white gas or even liquified gas stove (if you are trying to pack as lightly as possible). But for a weekend trip it is hard to beat an alcohol stove for lightness. Then again, I have already established that for really long trips I like my wood burning widget-no fuel to carry around at all, and most rangers have no problem with it because it has a built-in firepan.

Yeah, rubbing alcohol is VERY inefficient fuel,and most alcohol stoves take FOREVER to boil when burning it. It is not a good choice. But, as you said, grain alcohol is available almost everywhere. Expensive, though. But this post was asking about LOCAL trips, and I would propose that you can get methanol very easily anywhere north of Mexico. Even in Mexico there are alcohol-based paint thinners that work well (just read the label so you know what you're burning). I just like methanol because it is clean- no soot at all. Isopropanol actually produces more heat.

I may be an alcohol-stove fanboy, but I do acknowledge their limitations. They are very finicky in the wind. And as I said for more than 5 days, get another stove. If you are a globe-trotter consider a multifuel stove that will burn anything short of pure water. Kerosene, turpentine, gasoline, diesel, methanol, ethanol, isopropanol, white gas- you'll always be able to find SOMETHING to burn. It may burn dirty as hell and prompt frequent burner maintainance, but it'll burn.

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