Advice on Stoves

8:49 a.m. on May 30, 2006 (EDT)
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6 forum posts

Hi all,

I'm looking for a Stove to trek China with and I'm tossing up the Brunton Opimus Nova, Primus Omnifuel and MSR XGK. All seem just as good and reliable. Research shows these are the best. I'm happy to spend the money here to get a good stove.

I need something that won't break down (esp. not in China), can survive 40+ C plus heat, -10+C cold and altitude.

Optimus seems to be the BACKUP stove used for many expeditions and I've never read a bad review. So I'm favouring that at the moment.

The MSR is popular due to it's reputation but seems to break down quite a lot (esp. the pump)

The primus also gets a good review due to its end user performance.

I have no experience here. Any suggestions?

Thanks. Steve

10:56 a.m. on May 30, 2006 (EDT)

Huh... why to you need a stove to trek in China? Where in China are you going?

11:16 a.m. on May 30, 2006 (EDT)
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I have had an XGK for many years and never had a serious problem (had to replace the G jet after about 10 years of hard use). And I have had a Primus MFS (the predecessor of the Omni) for about 12 years. When using liquid fuels, I find them about equal. I have used white gas, autogas, kerosene, autodiesel, jet fuel in the XGK (change the jets, of course), and in the MFS white gas and kerosene. The one advantage of the MFS (and Omni) is that you can also use butane mix canisters (the ones with the industry standard threaded coupling). The one problem I had with the MFS was that the hose developed a leak right at the swage, probably due to stuffing the stove into the pack too hard a few too many times. The Omni has the hose attachment a little changed with the simmer valve added, so probably wouldn't have that problem. Besides, with a bit more attention to how I pack the stove, I haven't had the problem since.

The problem people have with the MSR pumps is rough handling. In over 30 years of having MSR stoves, I have never had a problem with one of their pumps, although I have seen other people break them, usually by doing something brilliant like stepping on the pump, and once by a careless arrangement of the windscreen that directed heat from the stove onto the pump - melted it, producing a spectacular jet of flame. Take care of your stove, and it will serve you well.

I will note that if you go to places that are frequented by serious expeditions, MSR stoves (mostly XGKs) and Primus far outnumber Optimus. I will also note that every stove failure I have witnessed has been the result of carelessness, other poor handling, or lack of maintenance of the stoves. Even the problems that are common to MSR's Dragonfly can be prevented by proper maintenance (an MSR tech rep once told me that if people would read and follow the directions that come with their stoves, he would be out of a job). Overpriming is probably the biggest source of poor performance (I see this all the time in the winter camping and backpacking courses I teach). Lack of cleaning is probably second, especially when using 3rd world fuels, which are often contaminated (by the way, do NOT use marine diesel in your stove unless you are very very sure of its cleanliness). Just plain carelessness with handling and spills is another major source of problems.

Be sure you take an expedition-level maintenance kit with you, with spare jets for both white gas and kerosene. You can get the kerosene almost anywhere, but you may not be able to get the white gas everywhere. Although the XGK and Omni can burn autogas, you probably should not use them except in a dire emergency. These are leaded in most parts of the world, which introduces both the lead poisoning problem and clogs the stove quickly, meaning frequent cleanings. Carry several spare filters (the ones that go on the fuel line). Use separate fuel bottles for kerosene and white gas.

And learn how to do the regular maintenance, including cleaning the fuel lines (the "pipe cleaner" trick) and jets (remove the jet, so the junk doesn't just fall back into the fuel line). And, of course, learn to properly prime the stove (if your priming flame is more than 2-3 inches high, you are overpriming).

I am not as familiar with Optimus stoves, but, as I noted above, they certainly are not as popular among climbers in the major mountains. I haven't been tempted to get an Optimus, even though I have been offered several freebies.

5:20 a.m. on May 31, 2006 (EDT)
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That was great info. Thanks a lot for going to all the trouble. You make a good point re. the MSR range (or any stove for that matter). It depends on how a stove is kept (or abused!) to how it performs. features wise I prefer the optimus, but the XGK is so solid it's a difficult decision.

12:25 p.m. on May 31, 2006 (EDT)

Stove?? Think fuel!!

Hi Steve,
If you are going with a group, your guide or contact in China should supply your group with stoves...etc. However, if you are going by yourself and really need to carry a stove (hmmm... you may want to think twice), what fuel you can buy at where dictates what stove you carry. Frankly, I can't think of any reason why you really need a stove in China. Just eat what the local eats and bring a lot of Imodium (sp?). Good luck.

11:59 p.m. on May 31, 2006 (EDT)
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1,902 forum posts

I have a Nova and in my limited experience with it, I would recommend against it. It worked fine the first time I used it, but several months later, when I went to test it for another trip, it was clogged up and needed to be completely dismantled to work. The feed tube on the pump came loose after one trip as well. I still haven't figured out how to reattach it. It is overly complicated and you better have spares with you. I ran brand new fuel in it, so I know that wasn't the problem and no Bill, I didn't step on it-hehehe.

I wrote to Brunton and never heard back from them. It will simmer, but so what if it won't start at all?

On the other hand, I have an old (80's)vintage XGK. Once I figured out how to start it without causing a major flashover, it worked flawlessly. After being in storage for many years, I got it out to see if it still worked. It needed some new parts, which I got with one phone call to MSR-for FREE. Big difference in customer support.

Granted the XGK is loud and won't simmer, but I've read that it can sort of simmer by using some kind of heat shield over the burner.

I've seen the new XGK, but never used one. I assume they aren't much different, except in looks. Mine still has the old plastic pump. I burned white gas and meths (alcohol) in mine, but it will burn almost anything, including kerosene, which should be common in China. When I was in NZ in the mid-80's, kerosene Primus stoves were common in the huts. I bet you'd find them in China as well.

I'd trade features for reliability on a trip like you are planning. MSR also makes an "international" version of the Whisperlite. I'd check it out as well.

6:48 a.m. on June 1, 2006 (EDT)
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Again it would seem that it depends on how a stove is treated (or hit!). From the MSR range I prefer the XGK to the Dragonfly. More reliable and seemingly less problematic.

6:51 a.m. on June 1, 2006 (EDT)
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Sorry I'm trekking by camels and horses across Northern China for ten months to retracing the old caravan routes from Delhi to Beijing. I won't be much contact with major 'civilisation' along the 'roads' i'm taking, so a correct stove is vital. This forum has helped alot though. i'm going to ponder it a bit more then decide.

10:15 a.m. on June 1, 2006 (EDT)

I think I see a stove flying

Hi Steve,
It's me again. Well, assuming you're buying your stove over here and not over there, and assuming you'll test it out and play with it before you leave... How are you going to get it from here to over there, I mean over to Delhi?

1:14 p.m. on June 1, 2006 (EDT)
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Re: I think I see a stove flying

Les has a good point. Airlines are pretty strict about stoves these days, ranging from complete prohibition of stoves and fuel bottles in checked or carryon luggage to requiring only brand new in their original shrinkwrap. Some allow stoves and fuel bottles that pass a "sniff" test (air the stove thoroughly, wash the fuel bottle by washing thoroughly and airing out). Some people have just put the stoves in their luggage and managed to get them through, but others have had stoves confiscated from checked luggage.

Best to check the airline's policies on their websites and by calling.

You can send the stove to yourself or a friend/B&B/hotel via UPS or FedEx (check both for current rates - I have found FedEx often cheaper and faster). Both sometimes will "hold for pickup", but you better know where the pickup point is. I have no idea what the equivalent of General Delivery is for China, but have used it for stoves in US, Canada, Mexico, France, Switzerland (also used American Express for a pickup once, which may be a possibility - mail it to yourself or have someone mail it to you at an AmEx office that you will be near). Years ago, I also used air freight on the same airline I was flying several times and had it actually go on the same flight - very much pre-9/11, so probably doesn't work now.

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