How much fuel to carry?

2:59 a.m. on March 6, 2007 (EST)
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How much fuel to carry?

Dear all,

After seeking the advice from this board I’ve gone ahead and bought a Primus Omnifuel and now I’m faced with the question of how much fuel to carry? (i.e how many fuel bottles to purchase?) There will be 2 persons trekking for three weeks without fuel resupply and two hot meals per day. Assuming sea level treking in this instance:

1. What is the commonly accepted amount of fuel (white gas/diesel) to boil 1 litre of water on a multi-fuel stove?
2. From your experience how much fuel is required to cook one hot meal for one person?

Zen Backpacking stoves assumes 1 pint of water per hot meal cooked. Is this enough? Statistics are all well and good but I'd like to hear what your own experiences are? This is my first trek with a multi fuel stove so what are your thoughts and experiences?

Best Wishes,
Stephen McCutcheon

7:54 a.m. on March 6, 2007 (EST)
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You're correct, statistics are well and good, but if you've already got the stove then an experiment to come up with your own numbers would probably be a lot better!

Fairly simple, also. Pour a measured amount of fuel into the stoves tank. Start the stove and bring a fixed quantity of water (probably a pint or quart) to boil. Shut the stove off. Empty the remaining fuel into a measuring cup and compare the before and after quantities. That will give you a baseline (fuel per minute at full blast) - then figure simmer time, longer boil times (perhaps to santitize water, perhaps because you're starting with colder water), heat loss due to wind (and increased boil / cooking time), spillage of fuel - you should be able to figure out how much fuel you need pretty easily and familiarize yourself with the stove in the process.

11:06 a.m. on March 6, 2007 (EST)
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If you are using a liquid fuel stove without windscreen, and a normal black aluminum pot, maybe this will help as a rough guide. Last summer, on an 8-day trip, I used my Optimus Nova with a GSI hard anodized pot, and no windscreen. Cooking was done at elevations ranging from 7100' to 11,500', in ambient temperatures ranging from 30F to 65F. I boiled a total of approximately 16L water, simmered food for a total of approximately 70 minutes, and ran the stove at full burn for at least 45 minutes to cook two batches of fried steak and potatoes. For the whole trip, I used a total of 26 fluid oz (770mL) of fuel. I was making no attempt to be fuel efficient, you could get better results by using a windscreen and running the stove at less than full power when boiling water.

My brother will probably chime in, he had outstanding results using an MSR Superfly and Snow Peak Giga coupled with a GCS pot on a recent trip.

11:10 a.m. on March 6, 2007 (EST)
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I forgot to add - my experience has been that, for my cooking habits, I need 1.5 fluid oz/person/day. That means cooking oatmeal for breakfast and usually boiling water for freeze-dried dinners, with some simmering to ensure full cooking of the dinner. Some of the dinners are things like rice or pasta with sauce or macaroni and cheese rather than standard freeze-dried dinners, which take longer with a fair amount of simmering time. And I always boil some water for cleanup afterward.

11:28 a.m. on March 6, 2007 (EST)
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I'm with Steve. No matter the fuel/stove combination, run the stove, boil some water using the cookwear you plan on using, and allow some slack for variable weather conditions.

I did the type of math you did and packed fuel accordingly. I carried a LOT of extra fuel through the Brooks Range because I didn't know what the stove actually burned.

12:42 p.m. on March 6, 2007 (EST)
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As the others noted, the best thing is to measure the fuel consumption yourself. This covers your own stove and your own style of cooking. I would strongly advise doing this before a 3 week, no resupply trip.

A bit different suggestion for a first pass at the fuel consumption that will be somewhat more accurate -

Get a kitchen scale, preferably one of the digital type. Fill the fuel bottle and put the pump in. Weigh the fuel bottle, full, and with pump. Next, using the pot you will be using on the trip, fill the pot with 1 liter of cold water (try to match the water temperature you expect on the trip, since cold water takes longer to boil than typical tap water). Light the stove using your personal "standard" lighting technique, and boil the liter of water. You might want to time this as well to get an idea of your food preparation time. Now weigh the fuel bottle and record it. The difference is the fuel per liter of water boiled. Repeat this several times without refilling the bottle, starting each time with cold water, and remembering to cool the pot. As you add these up, you will get an average fuel per liter boiled.

I find that on trips with breakfast and dinner being the hot meals, I use about 1 to 1.5 ounces of white gas or kerosene (that's weight, not fluid ounces!) per day per person in 3-season usage (getting liquid water from streams), and about the same for compressed gas. In winter when melting snow it runs closer to 8 ounces per day (this even held on Denali, something like 9 gallons for 10 of us for 22 days).

When teaching backpacking courses for Boy Scout leaders, I tell people to plan on 2 ounces per person per day, in part because the youth tend to be a bit less efficient with fuel, and in part to allow for spare fuel.

Of course YMMV, depending on whether you are doing rehydration of freezedry or gourmet-level cooking.

2:36 a.m. on March 7, 2007 (EST)
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Hi all,
Good points raised. The pots and bottles I want aren't available here in Hong Kong but I agree that the only way to know before jumping in is to test so I'll buy a 1.0 litre bottle and a cheap pan to test and then make an assessment. The experience guidelines you've mentioned will also be a good guideline. I'll do this tonight and post results tomorrow.

1:30 p.m. on March 7, 2007 (EST)
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Another item which may be noteworthy (or not!) - you can rehydrate your food before heating - at least for some items - breakfast cereals, dried veggies and fruits, some grains, danged near any beans, most noodles - now - the consistency may not be "just like home" but you'll use less fuel. Doing this, of course, requires planning - and a waterproof container or two (zip-lock type freezer bags are a favorite of mine - and they double as a water container if you need to pack some H2O before getting to a dry campsite). For beans and dried fruit - there's nothing wrong with letting them rehydrate all day while you hike or overnight (for breakfast fruit, I don't do breakfast beans!) - oatmeal (standard oats, not instant) do well overnight as also. For noodles and such an hour seems to do the trick for me - more and I seem to end up with a carbohydrate blob more than noodles ...

Experiment before your trip - but rehydrating in advance of cooking can reduce cooking time and fuel consumption!

And I like the idea of weighing the fuel bottle before and after use - far more accurate than my slapdash method of decanting fuel between multiple containers (where surface adhesion could account for some of the fuel assumed to have been burned) - safer as well (since you're not chugging flamable liquids between various containers).


10:06 p.m. on March 7, 2007 (EST)
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Experiment at home with the stove you intend to use and the food you intend to eat. That's the only way to tell for sure. Everyone cooks and eats differently, so what works for me might not work for you.

Having said that, a conservative approach is to use 3 fluid oz (about 2 oz by weight) of white gas per person per cooking day as long as you are not melting snow or cooking in very windy conditions.

I find that the way I eat on the trail I use less than this - sometimes quite a bit less.

April 21, 2018
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