Stoves the debate white gas vs. canister

8:39 p.m. on April 23, 2006 (EDT)
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I have been on a few backpacking trips but always with friends where I use there gear like stoves tents and things like that. Now I am starting to Purchase my own gear and the last major thing I have to purchase is a stove. I'm trying to decide between white gas and canister. I usually don’t have a problem figuring out how things work and how to fix them I would prefer something that is not over complicated but it doesn’t have to be quite so simple as turn a valve and light a match I also like real food not the dehydrated stuff I actually cook when I get to camp there usually fairly simple things like macaroni and cheese or beans and rice but it takes time to cook. And the last thing is I live at a high altitude 6000 feet and I usually take trips at a higher one 7 or 8 thousand. And I don’t know how that effects the stoves can anyone give me advice or insight on which stove type will probably work better for me

10:42 a.m. on April 24, 2006 (EDT)
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The tradeoffs between liquid fuel (specifically "white gas", but also kerosene) and compressed gas (butane/isobutane/propane mixes and propane) have been discussed many times on this and other websites. For a more complete discussion, scan down through the past 3 or 4 years on this site.

But a very condensed list of pros and cons -

White gas (actually Coleman Stove Fuel, which is naptha, or generic "camp stove fuel" from other labels, which is basically the same, and this is NOT unleaded auto gas) -
cheaper, no cold weather problems, no questions of disposing or recycling the containers, no problems packing out the exhausted containers, you can fill the fuel bottles with just the amount needed, no worry over whether the fuel can is too close to empty so an extra full can is needed, higher heat output ...
but - special procedure (specifically priming) needed to light, vast majority of people overprime (indicated by priming flame more than 3 or 4 inches above the burner, also carbons up the fuel feed lines rapidly), requires pumping occasionally to keep pressure up (except a few heat-pressurized stoves which are rare these days), stoves need frequent cleaning, fuel stinks up everything when leaking in pack plus contaminates food the spilled fuel comes in contact with (kerosene is worse than white gas), if spilled fuel is ignited by accident fire is just made worse by putting water on it, stove+pump+fuel bottle is generally heavier than compressed gas stoves ...

Compressed gas (usually refers to canisters with butane and/or isobutane with a small amount of propane) -
easy to light (either just a match or the included piezo lighter), extremely light (as little as 2 ounces plus the canister of fuel, which means less than most white gas stoves including the pump), very compact (whole stove plus a small canister will fit inside a small cookpot), clean burning (no cleaning unless you spill the soup), no fuel spills (leaks just evaporate and blow away - a hazard for ignition if you violate guidelines and cook in your tent, of course, but same applies to liquid fuels), no lingering odors ...
BUT - hard to tell how much fuel is left in the container (you always have to have an extra full canister with you, even on a short weekend trip, unless you like eating dry noodles - with white gas, you just pour the needed amount into the fuel bottle before starting the trip), more expensive per unit heat output (especially in the smallest canisters, which can be up to 10x as much as white gas for equivalent heating), you must carry empty canisters out, you cannot just toss the empty in the regular trash (explosion hazard) but few communities have a recycling program (you can punch a hole in the canister and vent it for several days, then crush it for smaller volume to pack out), serious cold-weather problems (the canisters lose pressure, with many butane canisters losing all pressure below freezing temperatures - there are ways around this, which have been discussed several times in Trailspace, but they are somewhat complex and require extra effort) ...

Personally, I use both liquid fuel and compressed gas. I tend to use compressed gas for weekend trips late spring through early fall (when and where temperatures will be above 40F) and liquid fuel for all other situations. The crossover for weight between canister stove + fuel and liquid fuel stove + fuel is at about 4-5 man-days (compressed gas for less than 4-5 man-days or 2 people for the weekend and liquid fuel for longer trips or more people).

Since you seem to be taking short trips and are inexperienced, I would suggest canister stoves until you have more experience and are headed out on longer trips. Before you use a white gas stove, get someone experienced to teach you the proper way to light the stove (unfortunately, most people do not seem to know the correct, safe way, even after years of using the stoves). Also, although Bleuet (aka Camping Gaz, owned by Coleman) is a quality stove, they use a proprietary connector, and the canisters are not as available as the industry standard threaded connector (aka Lindal valve). You will get the most for your money by buying one of the major brands - MSR, Primus, Markill, Bibler. Yes, I intentionally omitted several popular brands - Coleman (stoves tend to be heavier, except the Xtreme series, which uses a proprietary connector and harder-to-find canister), SnowPeak (more expensive although very light, with their smallest canisters being by far the most expensive per unit of gas), JetBoil (I like my 1.5 liter version, but the standard one only takes 1 liter in the pot, so is mostly good only for freeze-dry water heating or making your coffee/tea/hot chocolate), and a few others.

Ok, others will leap in here trumpeting their favorite brands and proclaiming that my less-favorite list is actually the best.

10:44 a.m. on April 24, 2006 (EDT)
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Altitude

Forgot to answer your question about altitude - living at 6kft and going to 7kft makes no difference as far as the choice between liquid and compressed gas.

11:22 a.m. on April 24, 2006 (EDT)
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Re: Altitude

thanks for all the help one question how do you access the archives of this fourm i have looked and have not been able to figure it out and can i use a diffrent brand canester and stove if they have the same connedter eg a msr canester on a primus stove

12:53 p.m. on April 24, 2006 (EDT)
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Re: Altitude

I will let Dave, the moderator of the forum answer the question of accessing past threads.

You can use any brand of canister that has the same connector. This means you can use Primus, MSR, SnowPeak (Gigapower), Markill, and 3rd party canisters that contain butane/isobutane mixes (with or without propane added), as long as they have the industry standard threaded connector (called a Lindal or Lindahl valve). These can be the tiny ones holding about 100 grams of fuel on up to the large ones with something like 500 grams of fuel. The one thing to consider, though, is that the larger canisters will not pack inside some of the cook kits like the Jetboil or Snowpeak, and the smaller canisters will not provide enough stability for a large pot (Jetboil's 1.5 liter version has a plastic base stabilizer that fits the smallest canisters).

Canisters that do not interchange with other types are the old Camping Gaz/Bleuet puncture-type S100/S106/S200/S206 canisters (available in other brands, though the stoves are not being sold these days - Markill makes an adapter for the S200/S206 size canisters to fit onto an industry standard thread stove), the current Camping Gaz/Bleuet 270 and 470 series (connector is same size as the standard connector, but is not threaded - however, the MSR SuperFly will take both the standard and Bleuet 270/470 canisters), the Coleman Xtreme series (different name for the series now, which I have forgotten), and some special cartridges that look like a butane lighter refill unit, that are intended for a small, table-top burner.

1:32 p.m. on April 24, 2006 (EDT)
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Bill give a pretty thorough overview. For general use, it often comes down to personal preference and comfort level. I have both liquid and compressed fuels stoves. In winter I prefer white gas, but for short suymmer trips and car-camping, I almost always grab the MSR SuperFly canister stove.

To add to the confusion, there are a couple stoves that can burn both liquid and compressesed fuels. (Not to be confused with most "multi-fuel" stoves which just burn various liquid fuels). The one that pops to mind is the Primus OmniFuel. And Coleman has announced that their new Fyrestorm stoves will burn either white gas or compressed gas from standard Lindahl-valved canisters. The Coleman stoves are supposed to be available later this spring.

Re: old posts, see my reply to your post in the feedback forum

1:43 a.m. on April 25, 2006 (EDT)
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Bill and Dave have summed it pretty well, as usual, but I might add a couple of thoughts. There are several inexpensive canister stoves on the market and for someone just starting out, those are good choices. You can see many of them at REI, or online at several retailers. If you can get to an REI, they should be able to start them up for you.

I have a Primus Micron, which is very small, but not the cheapest. I have several other stoves, including a new Coleman Extreme. For a white gas or multi-fuel stove, it's hard to beat one of MSR's various models, but stay away from the XGK-it's expensive and really designed for mountaineering use. I have one and it's a great stove, but I bought it before I really knew much about it. I used it during a trip to New Zealand years ago.

MSR has very good customer service. Brunton, who sells Optimus stoves (got one of those too)doesn't. That in itself is important. MSR parts are easy to get and MSR packages replacement kits for most of their stoves.

Here's a couple of places to look for stove reviews and comparisons-
http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/Cook%20Gear/Stoves/
http://www.backcountrygear.com/catalog/familydetail.cfm/Stoves

1:58 p.m. on April 25, 2006 (EDT)
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i have used and like the Campingaz Turbo 270 stove but i have to drive about a hour to get the fuel for it can any one recommend a similar stove with the standard valve the wind screen is very important because it is very windy here which makes cooking a challenge or if you could recommend a alternative wind break.

1:05 p.m. on April 26, 2006 (EDT)
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inmate asked:
"i have used and like the Campingaz Turbo 270 stove but i have to drive about a hour to get the fuel for it can any one recommend a similar stove with the standard valve the wind screen is very important because it is very windy here which makes cooking a challenge or if you could recommend a alternative wind break."

Gee, I hardly know what to say. I live in the SFBay Area, which has lots of outdoor stores and I also have to drive about an hour to get fuel for any stove, especially at certain times of day. It's faster most of the time to ride my bike to the stores. How far away in miles is your 1-hour drive to the store?

As Tom D, Dave, and I have already posted, companies like MSR, Primus, Snowpeak, Markill, Bibler, Coleman, and others all make canister-top stoves (burner screws directly onto the threaded connector on the top of the canister) for the industry-standard connector. Each has several burners that are comparable to the Bleuet 270 Turbo you say you like. Do you have any outdoor stores in your vicinity that sell backpacking gear? If so, they almost certainly have at least one of these brands. Do they have the threaded canisters (so you won't have to drive the hour away)? Best bet is to just go to the local store and look at what they have in stock. Or go on line and order from someplace like Campmor, Sierra Trading Post, REI, EMS, or one of the other outdoor retailers. Even chains like Sports Authority (also under the names SportMart, Gart, and several others), Big 5, Herman's, and others, plus even Sears have backpacking stoves with the standard thread canisters. And you can mail-order the canisters - the companies that sell them comply with the hazmat shipping rules and will probably ship UPS, FedEx, DHL, or one of the other standard companies within a few days. No need to drive for an hour.

A serious point - you should be very careful about windscreens you use with any stove in which the fuel tank is directly attached to the burner. This goes for your Turbo 270 or any of the canister stoves in which the burner sits directly on top of the canister, or the Svea 123 and similar liquid fuel stoves. The problem is that a windscreen that is designed incorrectly can reflect heat directly onto the fuel container, overheating it, and potentially resulting in an explosion. I have seen such things way too many times, so it is not just a "possibility", but a reality that has happened, with serious injuries in too many cases.

It is easy to devise a wind screen that allows ventilation for the fuel tank (the canister in your case). One simple solution is to have a reflecting shield between the burner and the canister. MSR's hanging kit for the SuperFly has such a shield, as well as a heat exchanger that directs all the heat from the burner onto the cook pot. A one-sided windshield will accomplish the same thing. You can get such shields from places like Campmor (campmor.com, and they sell a variety of canister stoves of the screw-onto-the-canister type). You can improvise one with stones at your campsite, but be sure you only block the wind from one side - do not surround the whole stove with rocks. It is as simple as picking the place you camp and set up your cook area. I find it hard to imagine a place so windy and with so much windshift that you could not easily deal with the wind. We had no problems on mountains like Denali, where 50 knot winds are common, and I have cooked many times in storms. If there are rocks, downed logs, snow (to build a wind wall), or even your body, you can shield the stove from the wind. Plus, the windshield that goes with the Turbo 270 (and other Bleuet stoves - I have one) is heavy and not really that effective (the bowl-like thing with the iron hooks that hangs from the burner, and weighs about half the weight of the burner assembly). You can do better with aluminum foil, shaping a shield that protects the burner and reflects heat away from the canister.

6:28 p.m. on April 26, 2006 (EDT)
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i have a sierra trading post here and the hour drive is about 55 miles i have a sierra trading post here but what they have is kind of hit or miss i have a rei and another sporting goods store i like in ft Collins as for the wind it is not that uncommon especially in the spring and fall to have 35-50 mph winds but that all depends on where you are and if it is sheltered or not.

5:18 p.m. on April 27, 2006 (EDT)
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I have never been a fan of canister stoves. Always went with white gas. I had an old (and heavy) Phoebus 725 that sounded like a jet and cooked like one, too. No simmering with that thing--it was either really hot or outrageously hot.

Lately, I've decided that I like alcohol stoves. There are plenty of commercial models available and more homemade versions than you can count.

Alcohol pros & cons (from my perspective):

Cons:
more expensive than white gas
not as hot as white gas (longer boil time)
invisible flame in daylight

Pros:
available everywhere
(yellow Heet is found at practically every gas station in the western hemisphere)
no odor when spilled, evaporates very rapidly
simple stoves, often with no moving parts
lightweight
(some homemade versions are only a few ounces)
inexpensive
(most homemade versions are practically free and even the most expensive commercial models are cheap compared to most white gas/canister stoves)

The one that really appeals to me is the no stink-um factor. If your alcohol stove fuel spills in your pack, it's OK. Won't hurt a thing, and when it dries there's no residual odor.

Check out www.zenstoves.com and you'll see what I mean.

5:42 p.m. on April 27, 2006 (EDT)
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I have been there and I have the penny stove ( http://www.csun.edu/~mjurey/penny.html ) that is what I use right now but I am looking for something that I can cook real food on I can make some food on it but if I need to simmer something for more than 10-15 mins I’m out of luck I like the stove and I like the weight but I am looking for something that I can really cook on not just boil

9:59 a.m. on April 28, 2006 (EDT)
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Ft Collins!?!?! There are lots of excellent shops in Ft Collins. The mountaineering shop next to CSU at Mason and Laurel (I forget the name) has some very knowledgable people who can help you out. Besides the REI, there is an EMS south of CSU a few miles on College Ave (equivalent to REI), and both REI and EMS have a full selection of stoves. With both, you do have to be a bit careful with the sales person, since a lot of their people know even less than you profess to know. But these all have a good selection of stoves.

Gary Neptune's shop in Boulder is less than an hour away (I drove between Ft Collins and Boulder many times while my son was in university there). I would place them at or near the top of outdoor shops anywhere in the world. Boulder is just crawling with good mountain shops, not to mention shops in many of the towns along the Front Range and up into Wyoming (Laramie and Cheyenne). Estes Park has several good shops, and they are only about an hour away.

You are actually close to more mountain shops within an hour than any place else in the US. Take advantage of these places. You can get more info from in-person knowledgable people within a 50 mile radius than anyplace in the US.

1:36 p.m. on April 28, 2006 (EDT)
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i live in cheyenne and dont know of many shops here i like jax in ft collins and rei but there not always the most helpfull if you know of any good shops around here and if you could even recomend some trails that woud be great im kindove new to the area

12:24 p.m. on May 26, 2006 (EDT)
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So you live in Cheyenne-I live in Laramie-Welcome!
As for you question about stoves. I have used both and currently use the coleman extreme. I like it for ease of operation, weight, and when the canister is empty you can crush it like a beer can, extra room in your pack. I gave my buddy my firefly by MSR. We usually hike at 8-10 thousand ft. Just for fun we compared em, I can boil a quart of water in just under a miute less. The extreme needs no pumping, no pre-heating. And you said you wanted to cook food-not just boil water, it is my choice. As far as fuel availability-they have it at JAX. You inquired about trails. I prefer to hike in the Wind River Range up by Pinedale, solitude vs. the masses in CO. There is all the good stuff there, grizzlies, cougar, and even if the Game & Fish won't admit it, wolf. If you want an easy primer, hike into the Green River Lakes and climb Square Top.
Good Luck

7:05 a.m. on May 27, 2006 (EDT)
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I have no idea why Bill S keeps telling everyone that to purify water, it should be rolling boiled for a full five minutes.

Personally, I think filtering water is the best and only way to go.

Ed G
Old Grey Mustached One

6:38 p.m. on May 27, 2006 (EDT)
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Ed is making up stories again

Ed, you know that I have never said boil for 5 minutes. And you know that all the current backcountry medical references say that all that is needed is to raise the water to 150F, or higher, and that will kill all the biological baddies (doesn't get rid of chemical contaminants, though). No need for boiling or a "full boil", much less a "rolling boil for 5 minutes" (or 10 minutes as some books in the 1930s had it).


No matter how long you boil water, it will not do anything for the chemical contaminants. The chemical contaminants, whether organics like pesticides, fertilizers and the like (found in lots of rivers like the Mississippi and San Joaquin), or the solvents used around here in the electronics industry, or the runoff from mines and smelters, like the mercury and cyanide used in gold and silver mining (find a lot of that in WV, MT, NV), require activated charcoal filtration. And many of the filters sold for backpacking do not have any activated charcoal component.

Halogens, whether iodine, chlorine bleach, or chlorine dioxide, do not kill all the critters and do absolutely nothing for chemical contaminants.

Don't claim I said things I never (and never would) say. Especially safety and health questions like water safety. We get too many newbies on this site who might actually believe you.

Anyone who really wants to know the real story on water purification should get an authoritative wilderness medicine text like Paul Auerbach's Wilderness Medicine book (you don't need to get the thousand page tome, just the smaller condensed version). Actually, on any health topic, whether purifying water or fixing a blister, don't just take the word of any of the posters on any website - get the real information from something like Auerbach, Weiss, Tilton, or WMI's books for most medical topics, or specialists like Houston or Hackett's books on altitude questions. And that means a real wilderness-oriented medical text, not something buried in a general backcountry overview.

5:57 a.m. on May 28, 2006 (EDT)
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Re: Ed is making up stories again

Jeeze Bill, take to many serious pills yesterday?

"Lookie here son, I say thats a joke"

7:41 p.m. on May 29, 2006 (EDT)
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Re: Ed is making up stories again

Safety things are serious, not joking. I know you were joking, but there are lots of newbies on here who might think you were serious, and that's the problem. Would have been amusing off-line, but someone might take the comment seriously and get in trouble because of it.

2:16 p.m. on May 30, 2006 (EDT)
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Re: Ed is making up stories again

I seriously doubt someone could get themselves into trouble by boiling or filtering their drinking water.

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