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Canister fuel consumption - Snow Peak Lite Max

12:36 a.m. on May 22, 2013 (EDT)
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The Snow Peak Lite Max I started using recently is my first canister stove.  So I'm about to raise the perennial "how much fuel do I have left" question.

The full 110g canister weighs ~210g.  So if there's really 110g of fuel then the canister weighs 100g.

The canister I have used on two overnighters currently weighs 130g.  So subtracting the 100g canister that leaves 30g.  That means I've used 80g of fuel on two overnighters.

My consumption on each trip consisted of making boiling water for a 16oz cup of tea, plus about half of a .9L pot of water for an "entree" for dinner, then about the same usage for tea & oatmeal for breakfast.

I have not yet devoted the time to craft a wind screen for the stove, and during each usage there was a bit of buffeting of the flame by the breeze.

My questions:

- is this typical real-world usage for this type of stove?  (and I'm not asking about MacGyver style heroics using an ounce of fuel and three toothpicks to feed an army of 50 for a month, I'm talking about real world ordinary person usage :-D).

- is the 30g remaining fuel likely to be accurate (and usable)?  Or is some portion of the rated 110g "unusable" (kind of like you can't really use 18 gallons of an 18 gallon auto gas tank)?

If it's accurate, it means one 110g canister will be about 10g short of what I need for 3 overnighters.  Or to put it another way, I'll need one canister plus 10g of a second for every 3 nights on the trail.  Or put yet another way, given my remaining canister, I need to carry it, plus two new ones on a 4-night trip.  Geesh.  Well I guess it's still lighter and more compact than the liquid fuel alternatives ...

8:25 p.m. on May 22, 2013 (EDT)
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I get 2-3 days of breakfasts and dinners and other uses from the large canisters typically sold.  I do a fair amount more boiling and cooking than you describe, and always use an efficient wind screen, even when no breeze is present.  That said, I am not a slave to optimizing every gram of fuel; I like lots of hot water for things like tea, coffee, dish washing, and sometimes personal hygiene on cooler days.  Using these stoves without a wind screen will really cut down on their performance and efficiency. 

I find you can run canisters down to their approximate tare weight.

Ed

9:33 p.m. on May 22, 2013 (EDT)
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With my old MSR Pocket Rocket, I could make one of their small canisters last 8 days of dinners and one instant oatmeal breakfast. Most dinners only required 1.5 cups water.  I have a new Micro Rocket that I've only used once and got a Snowpeak GS100 over a year ago and have not done any tests with it, but have used it three times.  I try to use a loose fitting windscreen, a tighter fitting one would help with efficiency.  My go to stove for vacations the last two years is a Caldera Cone and a .9L, this year going with a even smaller CC and smaller .550L cup/pot.  It only used 2.5 oz. of alcohol last year in 6 days of dinners and one hot breakfast.  That's pretty light.

Duane

10:47 p.m. on May 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Bill, the canonical baseline rate of fuel usage for summer use is 2 oz weight per person per day for petroleum fuels (white gas, butane, kerosene). This converts to 55 grams weight (compressed gas is packaged by weight). The actual amount depends strongly on the individual's habits. I have seem people go through a large butane canister in a day, and I have seen people get nurse one of the tiny canisters for multiple days. It sounds to me like your 80g for 2 overnighters is pretty close to the "standard", or perhaps even a bit on the frugal side. You are doing a dinner and a breakfast, which require some "cooking" (well, rehydrating a freezedry meal and some oatmeal and a hot drink or two, plus presumably a sandwich or other non-cooked lunch).

Couple of things to consider, though - the 110g canisters are vastly more expensive per ounce/gram of fuel than the mid or large canisters. I use liquid fuel most of the time, though when I do use compressed gas, I find that the extra weight of a full large canister isn't really that much, given the desirability of not running out unexpectedly in the middle of the trip.

Another thing I do is to weigh the canisters on return from trips and write the contents on the canister in grease pencil. I have saved several sizes and brands of emptied canisters so I have the tare weights readily to hand. That plus my electronic kitchen scale lets me have a pretty good estimate of what I nave on hand and what my consumption rate is.

Barb and I do gourmet dinners on the trail sometimes, and those are huge fuel consumers. We do have some records of how much fuel was used, but we generally just carry a gross overestimate of what the from-scratch pancakes and omelettes require (biscuits and cakes are only done in a dutch oven, which means only when setting up a base camp which you can drive to or have an animal to carry the heavy armor). 

10:54 p.m. on May 22, 2013 (EDT)
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There are so many variables to consider.  Cooking style, how long you boil or simmer, how many meals per day you cook, wind conditions, and pot...the list goes on.

You can maximize fuel by sheltering from wind.  Using a dark colored pot also helps, as does limiting boiling time.   Once the water hits boiling, there is no need to keep it going at a rolling boil.  Run the stove at less than max and you will also increase efficiency.

On backpacking trips when I have boiled a liter at breakfast and 1.5-2 liters at dinner, plus an occasional lunch and maybe a few minutes simmer time at dinner, I can get six days use from an eight ounce canister.  That is with an MSR Windpro stove with windscreen, using a Jetboil GCS pot.  With that combo, I can boil water as fast as the MSR Reactor (tested side by side when backpacking with a friend who had a Reactor).

11:07 p.m. on May 22, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for the feedback everyone, it sounds like my usage is "expected".

OGBO, I got the 110g Snow Peak canisters because I figured I should use Snow Peak (being a Snow Peak stove :) and that was the only size REI seems to stock.  But they're $5 each! If there are other preferred brands I'll try them next time I need to stock up.

Good idea about marking the canisters with the weight upon one's return.  That's one less thing to deal with during a subsequent trip-packing session ...

Oh, and I think I've seen tools to puncture the canisters to make them safe for recycling, but I think it was an MSR.  Should I do something like that with these?

2:28 p.m. on May 23, 2013 (EDT)
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All canisters with the industry standard thread will fit all stoves with the industry standard thread. That means that your SnowPeak stove will take Snowpeak, MSR, Primus, Jetboil, Coleman (careful here, Coleman has 5 or 6 different canister connecting systems, including 2 for their Bleuet/Camping Gaz line), and several Slovenian and SE Asian canisters. There are differences in the blend of gasses (butane, isobutane, propane) in the canisters from different manufacturers, though, that burn with different efficiencies and different temperature sensitivities. By experience, I have found that MSR and Markill have the best low temperature and efficiency performance (both are isobutane-propane mixes).

The Camping Gaz/Bleuet (French company, now owned by Coleman) 270 and 470 canisters have a connector that looks similar to the industry-standard threaded connector, but in fact is not threaded. Their old 100 and 200 series are puncture-type canisters that are no longer made by Camping Gaz, but are available from some SE Asian and Slovenian sources. Coleman's PowerMax stoves and canisters are also no longer made, though apparently you can find them from some sources.

The puncture device you are talking about is made by Jetboil, one of the few decent things they make. If you have exhausted a canister completely, you can puncture it with any pointy tool (I have used an ice ax to put several holes, then used a rock to flatten the canister for packing out). Since you live in the SFBay Area, most of the municipalities make provision for recycling the canisters, including a couple that will take canisters that still contain gas.

Be very careful about any windshields you use with any canister stove. Shield the burner, but do NOT shield the canister in a way that directs heat onto it. I have seen several get overheated and explode with lots of shrapnel. At some point, I may post the proven safe methods for using compressed gas in subzero F temperatures, which are acceptable to the manufacturers (again, since I have posted them before on Trailspace).

8:39 p.m. on May 23, 2013 (EDT)
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I'd like to rig up a more efficient windscreen, but since I use a canister stove for such a short period of time, I have no issue using an old MSR brand or similar windscreen with it.  You can always feel the temperature of the canister, plus with fuel usage, it is self cooling somewhat.  YMMV.

Duane

8:59 p.m. on May 25, 2013 (EDT)
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gotta be careful with those full windscreens. I got the windscreen that came with my snowpeak gigapower 100 at the same time I bought the stove, and am glad I did. this windscreen covers the burner only, and shields the canister from the heat of the stove. it is really the way to go for the gigapower 100.

9:52 p.m. on May 29, 2013 (EDT)
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I've been using the windscreen from my MSR Simmerlite with the Snow Peak stove, because it's better than nothing, but not by much.  It's just not tall enough.  I don't wrap it around the stove, I just form a sort of fence on the wind side.  I check the canister to make sure it isn't warming up.

Anyone have any pointers to burner-only windscreens that would work on the Snow Peak Lite Max?  In other words, shield the burner from the wind, and deflect the heat upward toward the pan...

11:17 p.m. on May 29, 2013 (EDT)
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A couple things:

1. I confirmed the empty 110g canister weighs 100g (so the can weighs 100g).  I also discovered the "inconvenience factor" (I knew there must be one!) of using canister stoves.  It's really inconvenient when you're hungry after a day on the trail, you're in the middle of making dinner, and the fuel runs out.  At least in my way of thinking, once that happens, you have to sit and wait for the stove to cool off before you can swap canisters and resume making dinner.  I imagine if one was doing more than just boiling water it would be even more inconvenient. This would "never" happen with a liquid fuel stove because one would fill the tank before starting dinner.

2. I did pick up an 8 oz (227g) canister for my trip this weekend, and had an issue with it late in the (4-night) trip.   I had used it for 3 breakfasts & 2 dinners (both just boiling water as described in my first post above).  During the 3rd dinner, the stove slowed & sputtered out.  It seemed odd that it would be empty already, so I let it cool & prepared to swap it out for a spare.  After it cooled, I turned on the nozzle to be sure it was empty.  I heard a very faint sound of gas.  On a hunch I shook the canister to see if I could hear anything inside.  I heard a sloshing sound.  So I re-attached the stove and tried again.  It lit up and worked fine again.

This repeated -- the stove started to fizzle out, so I gently shook the canister, and it ran normally again.

The air temp was approx 40 degrees at about 7,800 ft when this occurred.  Previously (that morning) it had worked fine at 29 degrees at 10,800 ft.

The canister still weighs 239g and there's still a significant "slosh" when shaken.

Any thoughts for a canister-newbie as to what happened here?

8:05 p.m. on June 1, 2013 (EDT)
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possibly the valve on the canister is malfunctioning. or you got crappy fuel. I've never had that problem in all the 12 years I've been using canisters. what brand of canister is it? the other thing is just the canister got cold. you have to warm them up under your jacket or in your bag before lighting them on cold days. that's why I got a windpro 2. you can invert the canister.

8:16 p.m. on June 1, 2013 (EDT)
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The stove worked fine down to 29 degrees the morning before this happened.  The issue occurred in the evening after a day of hiking in warm sunny conditions.  The temp was 40 at the time.

This was with an MSR brand canister.  I bought it at the Lodgepole visitor center in Sequoia NP, but assumed the canisters don't 'age' etc so figured it wouldn't matter where I bought it :).

2:37 p.m. on June 2, 2013 (EDT)
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that's odd. generally the msr canisters are good quality. I've never had a problem with them, even snowcamping. maybe the canister was old.

8:16 p.m. on June 2, 2013 (EDT)
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A bit late to ask this, of course, but did you observe any frost or condensation forming around the bottom of the canister as it was sputtering to a halt? Remember that to maintain pressure to shove the gas through the jet into the burner, the liquified gas has to evaporate, which draws heat from the liquified gas remaining in the canister. After 3 breakfasts and 2.5 dinners, you were getting close to the nominal number of person-meals capacity of the 8 ounce canister, so your heat reservoir (the remaining liquified isobutane/propane mix) doesn't have much heat in it to get from 40F to well below 32F (I don't recall the heat of vaporization number for isobutane/propane mixes right now). That's why I keep track of how much fuel is left and plan on at least one full 16 oz or larger canister spare for anything more than a weekend trip (or, more usually, just use liquid fuel stoves).

If you observed frost on the lower part of the canister, the remaining liquified fuel was dropping down close to the limit of its vaporization temperature. The simple remedy is to put some liquid water in a shallow pan and set the stove canister in the liquid water. This will provide enough heat to the small amount of remaining liquified isobutane/propane to completely empty the canister. Of course, if you have emptied the container and still have food to cook, well, you have to put a new canister on. To repeat my basic rule with compressed gas stoves - ALWAYS have a full canister in reserve. Plus learn the little tricks to squeeze the final milligram of fuel out into the flame.

Oh, and something canister users sometimes find out the hard way - in really cold weather, the neoprene grommet that is part of the lindal valve design does just like the seals on the solid rocket boosters on Columbia - it looses elasticity at low temperatures (rare, but I have seen it happen). So the grommet is already cold, and the vaporization of the compressed gas produces even more cooling. So when you stop cooking and remove the stove top, there is a slow leak (sometimes not so slow) because the gasket doesn't rebound instantly (ever notice a gas smell when packing up the stove? That's what it is caused by). If possible, pack the stove with the canister still firmly attached (making sure the fuel valve can not be accidentally rotated). Not a problem in warm weather.

6:05 p.m. on June 3, 2013 (EDT)
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good answer, bill s. I thought the canister might be cold or the fuel might be bad, but I forgot about the pan of water trick...

6:43 p.m. on June 3, 2013 (EDT)
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Re: MSR canister fuel issue.

From your description of operating the stove the preceding night below freezing it is appears possiible you consumed the the propane component of your fuel (I believe MSR uses a propane/isobutane mix), leaving only the butane when you tried to operate it at 40 F.  While the ambient temperature is sufficient to generate butane gas in the canister, once you start operating the stove the contents will chill, and probably were cooled enough result in insufficient gas being generated to replace the volume used while operating the stove.  I think this is what Bill S was commenting in the first paragraph of his 6/2/13 post.

Wind screen tips.

I prefer to wrap my wind screen entirely around the pot when operating my stove.  My wind screen reaches the top of my tallest pot.  I use those steel spring paper clamps you can get from the office supplies store to adjust the diameter of the wind screen to fit the pot, leaving a slight gap around the pot.  The wind screen as I just described can create a safety issue with over-canister stoves (stoves that mount directly onto the canister), as the trapped and radiated heat will heat up the canister, and can cause an explosion if the canister gets too hot.  I prevent this by making sure a sizable air gap exists at the bottom of the wind screen to allow a draft to circulate and cool the canister, and also by adding to my wind screen a disk of foil that is placed between the burner and the control valve.  This foil disk reduces the amount of radiated heat reaching the canister.  The foil disk is somewhat larger than the canister diameter.  The windscreen elements can be fashioned from disposable heavy gage foil pans and trays available in the cook wares section of the grocery store.  Be sure to roll any cut edges over to prevent accidentally cutting yourself while handing the wind screen.  When using your windscreen, monitor the canister heat to assure your set up doesn’t overheat the canister.  If it gets hot to the touch, increase the size of the air gap below the screen, or open up the screen a bit so it doesn’t completely wrap around the pot.

Ed

3:15 p.m. on June 4, 2013 (EDT)
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having the disk to shield the burner from the canister is a good idea, it's what makes your setup work. you just have to keep your eye on canister temp. do that and you're good to go!

3:46 p.m. on June 9, 2013 (EDT)
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Thanks for all the suggestions & feedback.  I haven't had a chance to look further into what happened with that canister, but I'll post an update when I do.  I didn't notice any frost on the canister though ...  I guess I'll try the water trick next time.

April 19, 2014
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