Winter Stove Question

1:49 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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I have always been a warm weather camper, but this winter I am ready to brave the great outdoors. I have several stoves, which I will list below. Which one(s) would be the best to take on a backpacking trip at 7400' with possible temps into the 'teens at night, low 20s-30s daytime?

Trangia 25 (alcohol)

Homemade Alcohol (from Bud bottle)

Snow Peak Lite-Tec Titanium (isobutane)

Brunton Flex (isobutane)

Esbit

Gel fuel (Swiss M75)

 

--Any suggestions or comments???????

2:27 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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Really, none of your stoves are very well suited for the use you describe.  You might get by with one of the alcohol stoves, but you will long for higher BTU output.  The canister stoves you reference are not suited for this application, due to performance issues of upright canisters in the cold  And the pellet and gel stoves are not the type of work horse stoves you need when camping in the cold.  Can you get by or Mickey Mouse the set up or manner in which these stoves operate to work in these conditions?  Yes, but performance will suffer, along with potential safety issues.

White gas stoves are the most dependable for cold camping, while canister stoves that permit inverting the canister, such as the MSR Wind Pro, are acceptable too.  I personally plan to limit my use of canister stoves down to only about freezing; if I go in weather that is forecast to be colder, I use my white gas stove.

Lastly, the obligatory advisory:  Never cook in the your tent or vestibule; camping stoves have a habit of bursting into flames, something you can't manage in the cramped living space of a tent.  

Ed

3:47 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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you need a white gas stove if you're going below freezing, msr xgk or the like. you definately need a liquid fuel stove. forget about alcohol stoves in that kind of weather. the wind would probably blow them out, and they don't have the btu's for that cold weather. check the gear page for a good selection of stoves as well as where to buy them. 

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/stoves-and-cookware/

3:51 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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First of all, kudos for giving us a lot of info on what you are doing. Too many people just ask "what should I buy" with no details.

To follow up on Ed's comments, I am with him on this.  I'm not keen on your choices, either. Some UL campers do use alcohol in winter, but it is not very efficient. The same is true of the Esbit or gel stove. Remember, you may have to melt snow for water and that takes a lot of energy.

I have used a Primus Micron canister stove at 7K in Yosemite at those temperatures. It worked. However, I wasn't using it as my primary stove for meals, but took it on day hikes to make tea or soup. At sea level, it might not have worked as that is about the limit for them. Altitude helps because the outside air pressure is lower. That's why you can see photos of climbers using them at 20K feet. What happens is canisters usually have a mix of gases. In colder temps, the small amount of propane, the lighter gas, burns off, but the heavier gas in the canister won't vaporize. It stay a liquid. Pick one up in cold weather and shake it around and you may hear the butane swirling around.

There are discussions about stoves on virtually every camping website with winter campers posting on it. You can actually watch the canister frost up once the stove is going. If you do use one, try to keep the canister warm by storing it in a jacket or sleeping bag and placing the stove on a piece of blue foam or something else to insulate it from the snow when using the stove.

You may also see tips on how to use windscreens or even wrapping wire around the canister with the tip in the flame to keep the canister warm. I've read too many stories about blown canisters (one or two are enough) to risk heating up the canister. A windscreen is fine, but don't wrap one closely around the canister itself. 

Remember, think of a canister as nothing more than a bomb that hasn't gone off yet and not safe until its empty and treat it as such.

A better choice is a liquid fuel stove burning white gas (Coleman fuel). There are many out there. I have an Optimus Nova and an MSR XGK (a very old one). I also have an old Svea 123 (a Swedish stove designed about a 100 years ago).

The new XGKs look like a moon lander, but operate the same. The Svea and the Nova will simmer, but the XGK is basically a liquid fueled rocket engine with pot supports and sounds like one once it is going. It is for what I call "brute force cooking" - heating up water for precooked meals and noodles, that sort of thing. I bought it before I knew much about stoves except that it was rated as highly reliable, which it is and will burn almost anything, which it will. Don't buy one if you want to anything more than heat up water; there are other choices. MSR also has great customer service.

MSR makes a range of multifuel stoves, as does Optimus and Brunton. I had some problems with my Optimus with the fuel filter freezing up. I had to dismantle the stove and remove it (a very tiny piece of something in the tube) and after that it worked okay. Fortunately, the stove came with a tool to take it apart, otherwise, I wouldn't have been able to do that. I had no idea what was wrong, but was able to see that no gas was getting past the filter, so took it out and solved the problem.

4:00 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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the msr dragonfly would be a good choice. it was my goto stove back when I was snowcamping. it simmers as well as burns like a rocket when you need it to.

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/msr/dragonfly/

8:04 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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+1 that a white gas/liquid fueled stove is what you need, there are alot of options other than the XGK, though the XGK is a awesome stove (i own one)

However, you CAN use an alcohol stove. It wont be the best option. It will take more fuel to do the same tasks, and ALOT more fuel if you are going to be having to melt snow for water. I take my alcohol stove on winter overnighters all the time. But if I am going on a multiday trip then it is whitegas all the way.

IF you don't have to melt snow for water then alcohol will get you by just fine. Keep your alcohol warm before your going to use it. I put it in my pocket for 45m or so to warm up first---it works about 30-40% better this way. Alcohol wont evaporate when it is really cold out and can be finicky to get lit. I recommend using matches vice a lighter, or at least have some matches with you.

10:21 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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As others have said, a white gas stove will be your best option. The XGK and some of the other MSR stoves are good. The SVEA 123 dates to the 50's, but the basic burner design goes back to the early 1900s, and the MSRs use essentially the same concept. You basically want a pressurized fuel stove with a fuel that will not freeze. A pressurized alcohol stove would also work, as would a kerosene burner, however, these are uncommon. Non pressurized stoves are essentially like building a small campfire. Borrow a stove, or find one used. There are tricks to each stove. Your non pressurized stoves won't flare up like the pressurized stoves. While the kero burners have the advantage of a less volatile fuel, they can be messy. White gas burns hot, evaporates if spilled, but is volatile enough that they can be dangerous if not used properly. 

The basics:

1. Make sure all connections are tight before starting.

2. Close the valve when priming.

3. Don't refill a hot stove.

4. Don't run a stove in a closed tent.

5. Running a stove in a tent is very dodgy and not recommended.

1:51 a.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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I think that pretty much covers it, but one more thing - whatever you take, practise with it and make sure you can get it to work every time. Learning in the field is the wrong way to do it. As some of the long time members may remember me relating, I set my XGK on fire in my kitchen while test firing it after a rebuild. Should have done it on the deck, but aside from that, I was ready for this possibility and quickly put out the fire with little damage. The cause was a loose connection to the pump In the field, it probably would have been far worse and I could have blown up the fuel bottle.

So practise, practise, practise. Also, know how to take it apart and bring spares. Most stoves have kits available with spare parts and a simple tool that fits all of the fittings.

9:31 a.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks everyone--these suggestions and input were very helpful--BUT I still have one more question--how come I see so many photos of mountaineers on snowy expeditions using canister stoves, especially Jet Boils? I understand completely about the fuel issues though, as I've actually experienced problems on chilly days when my Snow Peak was sputtering a bit.

Also, no one really said much about the MSR Whisperlite--would that be a good choice?

For the particular trip I am going on, it is only for one night, a 3 mile hike in, and it is at an established campground that is supposed to have water. I was planning on taking in 4-5L of water rather than melting snow, but plan to melt some for the experience (and I know to put some water in my pot and get it warm before adding snow).

I will, however, be doing more trips this winter as I want to get as much experience as possible so I can enjoy the outdoors year round. Although I am loathe to buy another stove (I have a few others I didn't mention, including some wood burners), especially the high-priced white gas one, I can see that I may have to do it. The MSR Whisperlite seems the least heavy, although the Svea is also a workhorse from what I've heard.

9:44 a.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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I personally have owned quite a few stoves over the years and as others have stated white gas is the way to go when temps drop into the "nether region."

My "go-too" stove for cold weather has been the MSR Simmerlite(Simmernot.)

(all shiny & new)
SimmerLite-001.jpg

(In the field:)

LHHT-January-2012-047.jpg

My primary use of a stove in cold weather is typically to melt snow(if need be) and boil water. This is a solid option for this purpose and as the name suggests it is a lighter weight model.

Cascade Designs recently 86'd this model from their lineup but I am sure if ya look around you should be able to find one if ya want too whether it be NOS(new old stock) or used.

Another option would be check out the MSR's Whisperlite Universal. With this model you get the best of both worlds being you have the ability to burn a multitude of fuels including white gas & canisters.

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/msr/whisperlite-universal/

I do own this model but have not had the opportunity to use it much being I work alot anymore(new position with the company I am employed with.)

 

11:08 a.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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Linda,

Good info here.  Do not count on water to be available at 7400 in the winter in a campground.  It will probably be shut off.  Plan to bring enough fuel to melt snow for a water supply.  You don't mention your planned destination, but it could be a lot colder than the teens.  Plan on enough fuel to make things like a hot drink or soup during the day.

1:07 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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ppine: It's Little Jimmy Campground in the Angeles National Forest. And yes, with the unusually cold winter and the abundant snow we seem to be getting lately I doubt very seriously if there will be water. I think the water source is a spring though, so who knows? We are getting about a storm a week and each one is dumping new snow. I plan on being ready for anything and just bought a larger pack to accommodate the down and fleece (ULA Circuit).

1:34 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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Linda, you are correct that canister stoves can work in colder temperatures, depending on fuel type. In the early days of winter climbing in the 60's, all I had was Bluet Gaz stoves, an early canister stove. we used to sleep with the canisters, otherwise they would freeze. I still sleep with my water bottle, but between the bottle and the canisters, it was never the most comfortable. I love my SVEA and it gets used regularly after 40 years of service with little maintenance. However each stove has its quirks. In the case of the Whisperlite mentioned, they do not simmer well. The Svea will simmer well, but needs to be insulated from the snow because of the integral tank and the lack of a pump. As Tom pointed out, learn your stove and its quirks before you are out in the field. One thing you may not be familiar with, since the stoves you listed do not need priming, is the priming regimen. All pressurized stoves that I'm familiar with, require priming. This is a way to get the vaporizer hot so the liquid fuel will turn to gas vapor. In operation, the vaporizer stays hot because of the burning process. However, to get it hot initially, a small amount of fuel is placed in a recess around the vaporizer and ignited. In the case of white gas, this can be a little disconcerting. However, the flare ups that people describe, can occur later. If the vaporizer is not hot enough after priming, turning the valve on can result in an ejection of liquid, not gas vapor fuel from the burner, which then ignites. To avoid this, prime sufficiently for the vaporizer to be hot, and when you turn on the valve after priming, do it slowly until you know you are burning gas vapor fuel, rather than liquid.

Although this may all sound complicated, and potentially dangerous, using pressurized stoves in the outdoors has been going on for over 100 years. Although there are stories of tents burning down and stoves exploding, compared to driving on the freeways or flying, these little burners are actually quite safe if used properly.

2:19 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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There are certain blends of canister fuel that work "Ok" in colder weather, but they are far from ideal. A night or two is fine, going out for a few days and they are a horrible choice IMO. The emptier the canister gets the harder they are to operate in cold weather/the lower the pressure gets in the canister.

To answer your question the whisperlite is a perfectly fine white gas stove. Any white gas stove will work, but like any stove there are a bunch of models for a reason, they all do something a little different than each other. A really good budget white gas stove is the coleman single burner ones, think they are called a Sportster maybe, they sell them at walmart etc for like $30. I love mine and use it mainly for car camping nowadays but used it for many a years backpacking. It is much heavier than backpacking specific stoves, but it is cheap and works awesome.

MSR makes the whisperlite, the dragonfly, simmerlite, and xgk. Then are some other brands as well such as Svea, Soto, and Optimus, but i am really only familiar with MSR white gas stoves.

+1 on planing on the water source to be unavailable this time of year. It may be frozen, or there may be a large ice cap you have to break before you get to flowing or liquid  water. I would bring extra fuel in case you have to melt snow/ice for water.

2:30 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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If you dont wanna buy a new stove, you can work with a cannister stove in those conditions. I would carry an alchy stove and my cannister, plus a shallow pan big enough for the cannister. The warm an inch or two of water in the pan, dont bring it near a boil maybe 100 degrees. If you cant stick your finger in it and leave it there its too hot. When you have the temp right, REMOVE the pan from the alchy stove. Place your cannister in the water and cook as normal. You prob wont have to warm the water unless your cannister is running low. NEVER place the cannister in the pan over the heat. It is a bomb, it will explode if you cook it. Anyway, thats a low budget trick to get you through a short trip. It a pain in the a$$,but it works well.

3:33 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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+1 on putting a canister in water to boost performance in the cold.

In my experience it isn't really neccesary to heat the water though. The theory behind it is say the outside air temp is 0F, so the metal canister is also 0F. If you put the canister in a bowl of liquid water, well water is at least 32F if its still liquid, so you are effectively warming the canister by 32 degrees in that scenario. As long as the canister is at or near 32F they seem to work ok. It all has to do with the boiling point of the specific gases in the canister.

Butane: 31.1F

Isobutane: 10.9F

Propane: -43.7F

So above you can clearly see the difference in the different fuels. Depending on the brand and specific canister of fuel you buy they either have ONE of those gases, or a combination/blend. The more expensive the fuel canister TYPICALLY means the higher the concentration of isobutane and propane.

The cheap coleman canisters for example are 100% butane. Which frankly suck mucho for cold weather.

Here are the mixes from my research:

Brand: Butane/Isobutane/Propane:
Coleman: 100/0/0 some are 90/5/5

Primus: 70/10/20
MSR: 0/80/20
SnowPeak: 0/65/35
Jetboil: ?/?/? : Company doesn't state the ratio, but it is at my best guess near 0/75/25 or similar to MSR. Jetboil states the canister is rated at 20F, with "short duration" use down to 0F or below.


For extreme cold propane is best, and of all the canisters out there the Snowpeak canisters are best because they have the most propane plain and simple.

That should pretty well explain canister stove use in cold weather. Hope that makes sense.

 

 

4:12 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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Linda, the reason you see climbers using a stove like a Jetboil is that (1) canisters work at high altitude even in cold weather because lower outside air pressure means the gas will vaporize at lower temperatures and (2) they aren't really cooking, they are heating water and tossing in some kind of noodle or prepared meal.

I'm not keen on the Jet Boil because it is basically all one piece, compared to a stove that you can set a small pot or larger pan on depending on what you are doing. The popularity of the Jet Boil demonstrates that there are plenty of people out there who like the integrated design.

As already mentioned, priming a liquid fuel stove can be tricky, but that's why I say practise, and do it outside. I had my XGK flare up once when I had a bit too much fuel in the priming bowl, but it is all metal and the pump and bottle are far enough away that the occasional misshap with it usually won't result in anything other than scaring you a bit. Just don't get too close to it when you are starting it so as not to burn a jacket or glove, but that is true of any stove.  FYI, unlike an alcohol stove, when an XGK is on, you know it. As I said before, it sounds like a jet engine; the Optimus isn't much quieter.

FYI, the reason you don't see higher mixes of propane in small canisters is that the lighter gas requires higher pressure and the canisters aren't strong enough. Compare a small mixed gas canister to the (usually Coleman green) propane canisters you see in the stores. That is a reason the Colemans are so heavy - they are 100% propane.

4:13 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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agree with comments above:

-white gas is easier and more reliable to use for cold weather, but other options can work if you're careful/meticulous about warming the fuel.  

-test any stove before you go out, particularly if it has been a while.

-any decent white gas stove will do.  have used the MSR Whisperlite, Simmerlite, XGK, Coleman Peak 1, and Optimus Nova in the winter.  all worked fine.  My circa 1985 MSR XGK still works fine.  DO NOT swap Optimus and MSR fuel bottles - the rubber seals are in slightly different places, and they do not cross-pollinate.  

-on the topic of reassembling stoves, check the rubber/viton seals and gaskets for the stoves that attach to a fuel bottle - both on the stove and on the bottle.  leaks of any origin create a significant risk of an uncontrolled fire.  learned the hard way when a seal on my Nova failed, and i ended up with a puddle of fuel.  had it ignited, would have been serious bad news.

5:21 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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the msr whisperlite is a good stove, although it doesn't simmer. if you are looking to melt snow for water and boil water for dinner/coffee/tea/etc then the whisperlite is a good choice. if you want a stove that simmers then I would choose the dragonfly. be sure you get an msr bottle to go with your msr stove, the primus bottles have a slightly different thread on them. get the big bottle to be sure you have enough fuel to melt snow. have fun!

6:17 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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Little Jimmy:

The spring was flowing the few times I have hiked into the snow up to Little Jimmy.  I doubt that area remains cold enough to freeze up even a melt water spring.

One of the oddest hikes I have experienced was an early spring walk along the ridge leading east from Little Jimmy.  The trail follows along or very near the ridge crest.  The slopes on the north (desert) side were covered in snow, and the trees sported rime and ice.  It was a chilled, still, quite, winter crystal garden.  On the south (city) side slopes spring was literally bursting out; verdant ground cover abounded, the trees sporting new buds, flowers blooming,  birds yakking, and myriad of fragrances.   At some points the demarcation between these two radically different zones was the mere width of the trail itself. 

------------------

Another venue good for first time snow camping is taking the tram up from Palm Spring to San Jacinto, and camping in Round Valley. 

-----------------

I would not advise hiking off into the snowy mountains in So Cal unless you have floatation and traction gear.  If the snow is soft you will need snow shoes or XC skis.  Few people are strong enough to post hole to these destinations.  If the snow freezes, traveling on any slope will be dangerous without traction devices like crampons, and an ice axe.  You will need to know the proper use of this gear before you take it into the woods.

-----------------

About the Whisper Lite Stove: A good stove for your trip.  Easy to use. 

Ed

8:42 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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+1 on taking the tram. You can leave your car in the closest lot The parking lots all have names, I think it's Jaguar, ask whoever is directing traffic. Be sure to get your backcountry permit at the ranger station. Get the map. The trail is hard to follow when covered with snow. Take snowshoes or skis. Snowshoes are easier to get around on, but skis are quicker if you are a good skier.

It can get cold up there. It's low teens at night this week. Check the weather on the tram's website-

www.palmspringstram.com

Better yet, get it off of the NOAA site.

 

10:31 a.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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I like the idea of becoming familiar with quirky stoves before a trip, especially in winter.  It reminds of the time I went to a drive-in movie with an outdoor friend.  We were sitting in the back of an open pickup parked toward the screen.  My friend didn't say anything, but pulled out his Svea stove and made popcorn on the tailgate.  That was someone who was comfortable with his stove.

11:46 a.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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Erich--LOL--yes, I hear you about the stove stories! I intend to get the Svea stove after reading everything here. All the posters have been VERY helpful and supportive on the topic and it is very much appreciated. It also helps me become less fearful about using liquid fuel stoves.

11:57 a.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

Little Jimmy:

The spring was flowing the few times I have hiked into the snow up to Little Jimmy.  I doubt that area remains cold enough to freeze up even a melt water spring.

One of the oddest hikes I have experienced was an early spring walk along the ridge leading east from Little Jimmy.  The trail follows along or very near the ridge crest.  The slopes on the north (desert) side were covered in snow, and the trees sported rime and ice.  It was a chilled, still, quite, winter crystal garden.  On the south (city) side slopes spring was literally bursting out; verdant ground cover abounded, the trees sporting new buds, flowers blooming,  birds yakking, and myriad of fragrances.   At some points the demarcation between these two radically different zones was the mere width of the trail itself. 

------------------

Another venue good for first time snow camping is taking the tram up from Palm Spring to San Jacinto, and camping in Round Valley. 

-----------------

I would not advise hiking off into the snowy mountains in So Cal unless you have floatation and traction gear.  If the snow is soft you will need snow shoes or XC skis.  Few people are strong enough to post hole to these destinations.  If the snow freezes, traveling on any slope will be dangerous without traction devices like crampons, and an ice axe.  You will need to know the proper use of this gear before you take it into the woods.

-----------------

About the Whisper Lite Stove: A good stove for your trip.  Easy to use. 

Ed

ED--Thanks for all the good info and nice to hear some from someone who is familiar with the area. I may go with the Svea--I found one fairly cheap and the weight is good on it.

I am going with a group to Little Jimmy and the leader advised crampons (which I have). Depending on whether or not there are recent storms, I don't anticipate a postholing scenario, though there will surely be places along the route where it may be necessary.

I've also signed up for a group trip to the San Jacinto Wilderness (Round Valley) at the end of March.

In early March I am taking a snow travel course with Sierra Mountaineering International, owned by my old friend Kurt Wedberg. I should get plenty of great training that weekend.

Your description of the ice/spring scene is amazing--did you by chance take any photos on that trip?

11:58 a.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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ppine said:

I like the idea of becoming familiar with quirky stoves before a trip, especially in winter.  It reminds of the time I went to a drive-in movie with an outdoor friend.  We were sitting in the back of an open pickup parked toward the screen.  My friend didn't say anything, but pulled out his Svea stove and made popcorn on the tailgate.  That was someone who was comfortable with his stove.

 Great story!!!!!

12:02 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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Tom D said:

Linda, the reason you see climbers using a stove like a Jetboil is that (1) canisters work at high altitude even in cold weather because lower outside air pressure means the gas will vaporize at lower temperatures and (2) they aren't really cooking, they are heating water and tossing in some kind of noodle or prepared meal.

I'm not keen on the Jet Boil because it is basically all one piece, compared to a stove that you can set a small pot or larger pan on depending on what you are doing. The popularity of the Jet Boil demonstrates that there are plenty of people out there who like the integrated design.

As already mentioned, priming a liquid fuel stove can be tricky, but that's why I say practise, and do it outside. I had my XGK flare up once when I had a bit too much fuel in the priming bowl, but it is all metal and the pump and bottle are far enough away that the occasional misshap with it usually won't result in anything other than scaring you a bit. Just don't get too close to it when you are starting it so as not to burn a jacket or glove, but that is true of any stove.  FYI, unlike an alcohol stove, when an XGK is on, you know it. As I said before, it sounds like a jet engine; the Optimus isn't much quieter.

FYI, the reason you don't see higher mixes of propane in small canisters is that the lighter gas requires higher pressure and the canisters aren't strong enough. Compare a small mixed gas canister to the (usually Coleman green) propane canisters you see in the stores. That is a reason the Colemans are so heavy - they are 100% propane.

 This is great info and suggestions. I will only be heating water for this trip. I have invested in a number of cottage industry backpacking meals and will be trying them out this year (I plan to bring one I've tried and one I haven't in case one is so bad I can't eat it!). I got some from Packit Gourmet and Hawk Vittles after seeing reviews of both on YouTube.

I suppose I could have stated in my original post that all I was going to do was heat water, but I am learning as I go along here on Trailspace that the more info/detail one gives, the better. 

1:10 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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Hi Linda,

The SVEA 123 is a great little stove and I use mine regularly. Look for my review elsewhere on this site. Make sure the one you are buying is the real thing, and not a knockoff. It'll have Svea engraved on the top of the tank. It has only one moving part and doesn't need to be assembled, which I've always liked. The 123 R has the cleaning needle, while the 123 has a pricker(a separate piece), though I have never had to use the needle in practice.

Good luck and let us know how your trip goes. And don't hesitate to post or PM me if you end up with the SVEA and have questions about it.

3:21 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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if all you want to do is boil water and melt snow, get the whisperlite. just be sure to get the big MSR bottle, so you have enough fuel. if your finding a svea stove cheap I doubt its an original svea. stay away from the chinese knockoffs, they tend to explode!

6:34 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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Campmor has the 123R-

http://www.campmor.com/optimus-svea-123r-backpacking-stove.shtml

The stove is now known as the Optimus/Svea 123R since Optimus bought Svea. These stoves are not light, compared to MSRs and others, but are extremely reliable. For just boiling water, you can't beat the XGK, but the Svea is a good choice if weight is not a big issue.

I have a 123, XGK, Nova, Primus Micron, Coleman Xtreme (obsolete, fuel no longer available) and a homemade soda can stove.

 

6:54 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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Tom there is some of that coleman fuel on craigslist nh at not too bad a price

8:11 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks. I can't believe Coleman orphaned these stoves. They work really well in cold weather, much better than other canisters. I think it was bad marketing, it sure wasn't the stove.

 

8:16 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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I agree a guy I used to hike with had one that worked great. The guy on clist has several bottles, there have actually been two diff guys with some for sale here on clist. If he doesnt want to ship them ill meet him and play postman for you.

2:29 p.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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Not an exact fix, but you can get one of these and still use the coleman stove with any standard threaded canister instead of the powermax canisters

http://www.amazon.com/Coleman-9705-725-Powermax-Fuel-Adapter/dp/B001H55KNY

6:34 p.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks, the problem is you can't mail gas cartridges. I do have a couple. Had I realized Coleman was abandoning them, I would have picked up more of them. He wants $15 apiece and I can't really justify that.

The problem with using a different type of canister is that what makes these work so well is the pickup tube design. They will work in far colder temps than  something like my Micron or a Pocket Rocket with the canister under the stove or even the ones that run the inverted canister. Another reason these work so well is that they are a 60/40 mix, far more propane than the standard canisters.

It would be interesting to find out what happened to the molds and tooling for these stoves. Maybe someone will buy the rights and start making them again.

12:51 a.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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You can mail fuel, box has to be labeled, shipped by ground and marked as such, but in limited volume, such as three of the large Powermax canisters.  I stock piled a bunch of them.  I've found out that their fuel is just as susceptible to low temps as isobutane, but I've only used one canister almost.

MSR Whisperlites are the standard of backpacking stoves, but they do not simmer well, but reducing fuel bottle pressure is supposed to help quite a bit.  Be forewarned, the Dragonfly, XGK, Nova, 123 make a lot of noise, the 123 less so since it is smaller.  I have some silent caps for my large stove collection, the Dragonfly turns from a great stove to a super stove and so quiet with the cap for it.  Get a older 123/123R that is "made in Sweden", they should be better than the Chinese made ones that may only say "Sweden" on them.  For the little you may be out, I'd just get a small canister stove, keep the fuel warm and dip in water if necessary.  Another trick is when the water is a little warmer, dip the canister in that, be sure the bottom of the canister is clean.  The canister stove may be cheaper, like a SnowPeak Giga Power, MSR Pocket Rocket or Micro Rocket, or a high btu canister stove, the discontinued Coleman Exponent F1 or F1 Powerboost.  They have concentrated flames so don't expect to do fancy cooking with them.  The regular F1 is really fast heating water up as it has a whole bunch more btu's than the others.  The F1 Powerboost doesn't seem to be that great, seems it would be with the larger burner, but maybe it needs to be matched to a bigger pot.  Makes sense.  Buying a canister stove, you'd only have to buy a canister or two for a short trip, not a gallon of white gas for the MSR stoves and such.  If going out a lot, white gas is cheaper.  I've been out with Alameda Frank who used his alcohol powered Caldera Cone, but we had open water to use, not having to melt snow.  Have fun.

Duane

2:59 p.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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Okay guys--I am going to throw a wrench in here. After doing some more research (and getting some PMs on the topic), I am going to try some Primus PowerGas for my Snow Peak Lite-tec stove, and also take the Swiss M75 gel fuel to try out. I've used the gel at 35-degrees and I know it works, so I can keep it in a warm spot during the night and use in the morning to heat water from my hammock for coffee. Then I will use the Snow Peak to boil water for my food. I will post a full report with photos after the trip on the 26th, including temps for the trip.

I want to thank all of you for your commments and suggestions--it's been a lively topic!

Here's the Swiss Gel being used on my homemade pot stand in the snow last weekend (8400', 35-degrees) I also put a doubled piece of foil under the gel can. It boiled 2 cups of water in about 7 minutes in the GSI stainless steel mug w/lid:


IMG_0285.jpg

5:55 p.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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Here is the Primus PowerGas that I am going to try with the Snow Peak Lite-Tec stove. It has some interesting ingredients that just may make the stove functional:

http://www.primus.eu/templates/pages/product.aspx?ItemId=38052

 

7:49 p.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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Ive used those cannisters. My local outfitter started carrying them this yr, as they do work better than the others ive tried in cold weather. They are slightly more expensive and heavier as well. I didnt buy a second one because of those reasons, but it did work slightly better. When the cannisters are half full or better I didnt notice a diff but as the.fuel was used that product worked longer and with lower volume or pressure. Worst case scenario you can warm water with the gel and bring your cannister back to life.

8:50 a.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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I would be wary of  Optimus. I paid 114 for an Optimus Nova that leaked from faulty Chinese made seals --on the second trip. They advertise it as "Optimus of Sweden" (not MADE IN SWEDEN), but the USA maker is Katadyn. My stove was made in China and it sucked/sucks. I had a rough time trying to get them to warrant the stove. It still sits in a drawer in my house. They were finally forced to recall the stoves. I did not bother returning mine. I just really doubted that I could ever trust that potential BOMB again. Money wasted. All things change. I had two SVEA stoves - the first was bought new in 1976 - and I loved them. I just personally think there are much better options out there, especially for the money. I would bet that if you do get the SVEA you will eventually wish you didn't. Moontrail has the Primus Omnifuel in a Ti model and the original model, also. It is bombproof.

A long time ago it made it sense to carry a heavy brass stove with a heavy little cup, a stainless sierra cup for dipping in streams, a poncho for rain protection, pup tents, herman survivor boots, two quart canteens with a canvas cover and strap, external frame packs with unpadded waistbelts, woolrich yukon shirts, leather belts on levis, and of course never leave home without your ribbed cotton long johns. 

4:32 p.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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Hey everyone, new to Trailspace, but not the debate. Great to be in a place where so many people want to talk gear. 

Keep in mind that elevation and temperature impact fuel performance, not the stove itself. Keep a canister with a propane fuel ingredient warm and it should run in cold and at altitude on most stoves. Wind is your primary concern and efficiency is what's most important to the manufacturers. This is where the difference is made. Some of the small single mixer tube designs can't handle the wind, which contributes to heat loss = more fuel = less efficient = cold coffee. Don't get too caught up in BTUs, that's like 0-60 in a car. It only measures how much fuel the jet allows through. Sure, it's hot, but for how long and at what cost? You want a balance between impressive numbers and fuel longevity. Remember too, that a broad-bottomed pot is more efficient than the taller, narrow versions. (Our desire to be more compact led the industry in that direction.) 

Jetboils, preferably the ones with a regulator, are the most efficient on the market. However, the MSR Reactor sweeps in boil time consistency and wind performance. And the Reactor is way more durable than the now really plastic Jetboils. Still, I have the very first Jetboil from the company's initial release and it has never failed. A true champ. 

The Whisperlite is indeed a backcountry legend and sure, it can get finicky; but the key is that it can be fixed in the field. This is why they have been around so long.

6:10 p.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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My Nova is one of the first generation with a different pump. I bought it off eBay back when Brunton was distributing them. Bad customer service from Brunton, but I got help from Optimus in Sweden when I needed an answer to a simple question. I'm still leery about the stove and take a back up canister stove.

 

10:15 p.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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You may be surprised, but the Svea 123 aluminum cup (2.6oz) that is smaller than the ti .550L (3oz) pots so popular with the SUL crowd, is actually lighter, but maybe by the time the handle is adding in, it may be the same.  I weighted my bp pots and they were lighter of course, the smaller the pot.  The 123's cup just seems heavy as it is made from thick aluminum.  I just picked up a used ti .550L pot, the seller thought it was a TiGoat product.  As an extra, he sent the Caldera Cone in ti, so I was very pleased.  I have too many Caldera Cones now. I'll have to see if I need to get rid of one size. 

Tom, you have the good one.  Anyone else can research online and find out which Nova's were recalled.  I picked one up last winter used, works fine, I don't see what people see in them, another stove in my collection.  Roarer burner, does not simmer that great, the MSR Dragonfly runs circles around it and I have a silent cap for the DF.

Duane

10:47 p.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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You can also think outside the box and mix components.  If I am backpacking with a group and plan to cook for more than just myself, I use an MSR Windpro stove with a Jetboil GCS pot.  You get the benefits of a stable free-standing stove with windscreen that will allow you to invert the canister for true winter use, plus the high efficiency of the Jetboil system.  For summer backpacking, when cooking breakfast and dinner for two, one 8-oz canister lasts me six full days.  And it is fast.  On one trip I cooked next to a friend who had an MSR Reactor, and my stove/pot combo boiled water as fast if not faster.

I must have gotten lucky with my Nova (I got it in 2005, the older version).  Works like a champ, and simmers well, too.  I have used it next to two different MSR Dragonfly stoves, and it was much quieter.

You can find older Svea 123R stoves on ebay for not much money.  They are a simple bulletproof design.

2:49 a.m. on January 17, 2013 (EST)
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Duane, I'm not that wild about it, either. It folds up pretty small, the pot holders are nice, but I just don't trust it. It seems to work okay, though. I made the mistake of leaving the pump in my fuel bottle sitting on my deck and now it's corroded, but that's just cosmetic. I like canisters. I might get one of those new Soto regulator stoves some day, but for winter, I might go back to the XGK. I don't really cook, just heat stuff up, so that's all I need.

9:08 p.m. on January 17, 2013 (EST)
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Tom, with me collecting stoves, the old MSR stoves work so great and seem to run forever.  I got a very used shaker jet X-GKII from Matt, a triple crowner I believe, that stove still cranks the heat out.  I did figure out on one recent trip that the flames on one of my G's were not touching the pot, so when I got home I pushed the flame plate back down which made the flames shoot up more than sideways.  It did warm my BD Hilight tent up pretty fast, even with the vents open.  Not much mention for awhile I've read on the Soto stoves.  I've only used my Nova in the field once, so maybe it needs to be run more.   Well, take a number.:)

Duane

9:46 p.m. on January 17, 2013 (EST)
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My XGK isn't the shaker, I have the pricker tool for it somewhere and the kerosene jet, which I never used;when the striker snapped off of it a while back, I talked to MSR and they sent me some parts for it - free. Didn't replace the striker, just a small bolt and nut instead. The striker never really worked all that well anyway.

I know they say don't burn alcohol in it, but I have. It works, just doesn't burn very hot. I was using what Kiwis call methylated spirits, basically denatured alcohol.

10:51 p.m. on January 17, 2013 (EST)
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I use my TD 12-10 stoves and Caldera Cones for denatured alcohol, alcohol is not good I guess for stoves, but from what I've seen, it may take years to do the damage, I think mainly because of alcohol attracting moisture.  I picked up a rare Optimus 11 Explorer last winter, the guy said he only ran alcohol in it.  It was still in pretty good shape with all the parts and even the jets for all the fuels.  Super cool!

Duane

2:26 p.m. on January 18, 2013 (EST)
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If going in January, barring any significant cold fronts like we've had in early January, you can expect 20's at night and 50's daytime.  Nice thing about LA area is there are lots of opportunities in the mountains for hiking (short season tho), snow and mellow temperatures - usually.


Wind is your biggest hazard anytime near exposed ridges.


The stove can become the social center when it gets cold.  Have one that will perform for a crowd.  A wind break of a light weight tarp is handy then you can just sit around sipping hot stuff in your fleece and down.  Bring something insulated to sit upon.

That same tarp (mine is home-made silnylon, stuffs to fist size, can double as tent 'footprint') works great later in season as an eating area rain fly if it has grommets and a center hole.  Nice over a table or a large stump/blowdown in a persistent rain front.

For longer hikes white gas (e.g., MSR Simmerlight/dragonfly, etc.)  trumps canister propane type gas for weight and function.

For your hikes coming up, you probably have a good solution.  The temps are not a lot different than the swings in the summer Sierra.

If you had been on east coast at 4,000' or Rockies at 8,000'+ you would be wiser to stow the canned gas stove until summer.

7:53 p.m. on January 18, 2013 (EST)
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the old xgk will burn practically anything, particularly if you swap in the large-bore jet.  kerosene smells pretty bad, but sometimes, that's all you can get.  

5:46 a.m. on January 29, 2013 (EST)
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Dragonfly does look sweet.  Are any othe the canister stove systems - refillable? (the canisters)

6:04 a.m. on January 29, 2013 (EST)
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francescal said:

Dragonfly does look sweet.  Are any othe the canister stove systems - refillable? (the canisters)

Technically yes, there are kits made to do this, but I don't know if you can get the gas blends of the OEM products in bulk.  In any case these fuels are inherently dangerous; I wouldn't want to mess with them using some less than industrial duty set up for this purpose.  Just recycle the cans and be glad your tent didn't burn down on your trip:)

Ed 

9:44 p.m. on January 29, 2013 (EST)
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Are the Optimus Nova's you guys are referring to the old ones made in Sweden? I jumped on one last year that is the old design, "made in Sweden". Has the CEJN fittings on the pump/fuel line. It's been bullet proof.


Here's a good article on how to tell the difference between the good ones and the junk.

http://adventuresinstoving.blogspot.com/2011/03/stove-of-week-optimus-nova.html

12:42 a.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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MY WINTER STOVE PREFERENCES (best 1st)

Most Reliable:

1. MSR Whisperlite International (multi liquid fuel)

2. MSR Dragonfly (simmers losest of any liquid fuel stove but heavy)

 

Most Versatile:

3. Trail Designs, makers of the Caldera Conestoves.Tri Ti or Sidewinder recommended(titanium sheet stoves. Most efficient alcohol, ESBIT or wood burning stove made. Period. They come with alky burner & ESBIT "burner"/holder. Optional Inferno gassifier insert needed to burn wood)

This is an ideal winter stove if wood is available B/C you don't have to carry fuel, only tinder. Makes a nice, contained campfire when not cooking. Max efficiency comes wth using a mating pot, available from Trail Designs 

1:46 a.m. on February 5, 2013 (EST)
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I wish I still had my Optimus 80 that cost $8.95.  We were convinced they were dated, but they were simple and always worked.  I miss the sound.  It was great comfort on a solo trip, but I never got used that couple of moments of quiet after turning off the stove.  I have used an MSR Whisperlite for years, but prefer the simplicity of an Optimus canister stove similar to a Pocket Rocket in mild weather.

10:41 p.m. on March 2, 2013 (EST)
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What Ed said....... This is why I own 2 Svea's 123  and 1 Svea 123 R, and a whisper lite.

You can't even give me a canister anything, and people have, and i won't take them. The only problem i would have is flying and i don't do that either.

If i did i would buy a MRS bottle here, ship it ahead and pray for white gas on the other end.

More or less I don't mind the weight of the Svea's and will take them before the whisper lite because the whisper light reminds me if a octopus, and is more difficult to get packed and not crush it.

At times i can get a bit ham fisted with things if i am not having my way, and tricky little gizmos that must have detailed attention tend to get on my nerves when i am out for a fun time.

Cooking doesn't excite me much anyplace.

The Svea excels there. back when Stoffers made 2 boiling bag meals, which would be noodle/rice and something that matches noodles/rice i would buy these frozen and of course keeping them frozen was a no brainer.

I tore off the paper boxes, threw the food into my pack and headed.

When i got hungry enough to bother with hot food, out came the Svea, and i grabbed a main item and noodles/ rice, which didn't make a bit of difference to me if i grabbed the correct match..

With water i was going to use as a hot drink i boiled both bags til hot, dumped the main into the bag of noodles/rice and ate that as i fixed my hot drink. While the Svea was still running I made a wide mouth nalgene bottle up with tea and tang mixed, and a fingers worth more hot water to clean the cup.

For 10 days stay my trash was all in 2 Swiss Miss packets when i was done and cleaning dishes was no issue because i didn't have a dish in the first place. Did it all with 2 cups. I never used the Seva alloy cup for anything other than protecting the stove, and as a holder for a tin of sterno used to pre heat the Svea with.

In case you had the idea to heat a body, camp or something don't. The first post almost read like that to me.

These small stoves won't heat a out house, and if one will I am so sure I wouldn't want to be there!

IMO you want the whisper Light not a Svea 123 R, but maybe I am wrong there. The 123 R has a few little details that make you need to pay minor attention or it can act up a bit. I have seen a few get drop kicked out a cabin door, because it's owners were not paying enough attention.

It can get a little exciting when a guy forgets his 123 is warming, and the safety valve blows, as some other guy is yelling Thar She blows and team work happens.. The first and most serious excitement is the 3 foot long plume of flames emitting from that safety :-) then the team work happens in quick order where a guy opens the cabin door, and another guy sweeps the stove off a table onto the floor where yet another guy boots that fire ball right thru the goal post err the door way.

Inevitably the 123 owner will complain about the stove getting a nasty dent, after he re-claims it from getting frozen in if it is cold at all.

Because the whisper light has a manual pump, none of this other non-sense is required. It is more a stove with nice manners, just difficult to pack.

September 2, 2014
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