Advantages (?) of Regulator Valved Stoves, Part I

10:49 a.m. on July 31, 2011 (EDT)
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422 forum posts

INTRODUCTION
Soto Outdoors recently introduced their OD-1R Micro-Regulator stove.  Soto created a good deal of buzz when they posted the following video which makes it look as though a regulator valved stove has quite an advantage over a conventional needle valved stove.  The relevant segment starts at 1:03.

What advantages, if any, do regulator valved stoves offer? 

This post is Part I of Advantages (?) of Regulator Valved Stoves, an investigation into the advantages, if any, of stoves that have a regulator valve.

Several people have mentioned in passing that their canisters were more fully drained after using a regulator valved stove than when using a conventional needle valved stove.  In addition, in a discussion with an individual who has worked a good deal with LPG commercially, said individual felt that a regulator valve would function at lower gas pressures (such as those in a seemingly exhausted canister) than a needle valve.  If in fact a regulator valved stove were to make more full use of the gas carried when backpacking, this more full use would be of value to backpackers.  I set out to conduct a simple experiment to see if indeed a regulator valved stove might make more full use of the gas in a canister.  My experiment would exhaust a canister using a needle valved stove and then replace the needle valved stove with a regulator valved stove to see if the regulator valved stove could operate on a canister that, to a needle valved stove, was exhausted.


ENVIRONMENT
Location:  Stove Test Area 1 (UTM: 11S 383294 3792457), Haines Canyon, City of Los Angeles, California, USA
Date/Time:  30 JUL 2011, 1830 hours
Elevation:  2600'/792m MSL

Conditions:
27.20 InHg/921 mBar
80F/27C
Little to no wind (no audible susurrus, no visible leaf motion)


EQUIPMENT
Regulator Valved Test Stove:
-Soto OD-1R Micro Regulator
P1070137.JPG


Conventional needle valved stoves for comparison:
-MSR Superfly
P1070136.JPG

-Optimus Crux
P1070134.JPG

-Snow Peak GST-100
P1070135.JPG

All stoves together:
P1070133.JPG


Fuel:
-Canister 1.  Snow Peak 110g, weighing 88g
-Canister 2.  Snow Peak 110g, weighing 93g
-Canister 3.  Snow Peak 110g, weighing 166g

Ignition source:  Soto Pocket Torch. 
P1070138.JPG


TEST RESULTS
Test 1, canister 1 (88g)
A.  Superfly, valve fully open, flame on, run to exhaustion.  Flame out.  Cannot restart.  No sound of gas escaping.
B.  OD-1R, valve fully open, cannot start stove.  No sound of gas escaping.
C.  GST-100, valve fully open, cannot start stove.  No sound of gas escaping.
D.  Crux, valve fully open, cannot start stove.  No sound of gas escaping.

Test 2, canister 2 (93g)
A.  Crux, valve fully open, flame on, run to exhaustion.  Flame out.  Cannot restart.  No sound of gas escaping.
B.  OD-1R, valve fully open, cannot start stove.  No sound of gas escaping.
C.  GST-100, valve fully open, cannot start stove.  No sound of gas escaping.
D.  Superfly, valve fully open, cannot start stove.  No sound of gas escaping.  

Equipment Checking, canister 3 (166g).  Each stove tested for normal operation.
A.  Superfly.  NORMAL
P1070139.JPG

B.  Crux.  NORMAL
P1070141.JPG

C.  GST-100.  NORMAL
P1070142.JPG

D.  OD-1R.  NORMAL.
P1070140.JPG



DISCUSSION
Two very nearly empty canisters of gas were used to conduct the experiment.  A third canister containing far more gas was used to verify that each stove used in the experiment was working properly.  All stoves were in fact working normally.  To avoid the chance that the results might be skewed by some unknown, unusual characteristic in one of the comparison stoves, multiple needle valve stoves were used.  A butane torch was used as the ignition source for all stoves whether or not a given stove had a piezoelectric ignition so that ignition failures could not skew the results.  At random, a needle valve stove was chosen and used to exhaust the canister.  When flame out occured, a brief re-ignition was quickly attempted in order to confirm exhaustion of the canister.  If the re-ignition failed, the needle valve stove was swapped out for the regulator valved stove, and an attempt to run the regulator valved stove was made. 

I ran two tests.  See TEST RESULTS section above for details.  In both cases, the Soto OD-1R could do no more than a conventional needle valved stove.  An exhausted canister to a needle valved stove was an exhausted canister to a regulator valved stove.  For additional confirmation, after the test with the Soto OD-1R, the remaining needle valve stoves were tried.  No stove was able to operate after intitial exhaustion.  A exhausted canister was an exhausted canister, irrespective of the stove used.  After the test, canister 1 weighed 86g, and canister 2 weighed 86g.  

CONCLUSION
A Soto OD-1R regulator valved stove is not able to burn off more gas from a canister than a conventional needle valved stove.  This is not to say that a regulator valve might not have some value in keeping a flame constant as canister pressure drops, but when the canister is finally exhausted, a Soto OD-1R regulator valved stove offers no advantage over a conventional needle valved stove. 

4:12 p.m. on August 1, 2011 (EDT)
153 reviewer rep
235 forum posts

Thanks HJ.  That took care of your afternoon for a no difference.

6:54 p.m. on August 1, 2011 (EDT)
81 reviewer rep
422 forum posts

lol.  Yes, that was a lot of time spent to determine that the regulator made no difference whatsoever.

I'm kind of a curious guy, though.  There's all this hype about the Soto and how "the regulator solves the cold weather problems..." (actual quote from someone I talked to on-line).

Are regulator valved stoves worth anything?  Is there any advantage?  I'm tired of insipid reviews like in Backpacker Magazine that don't really say anything.  If there's an advantage, let's quantify it; let's be specific about it; and let's explain the how and why.

Notice that this post is entitled "Part I".  I plan to do a bit more work on the subject, time and God permitting.

HJ

10:30 p.m. on August 1, 2011 (EDT)
REVIEW CORPS
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Good to know, thanks HJ. You know sometimes it isn't even the result thats fun, its in the testing and toying. I recently made a raincover for my pack, not wanting to spend the $35 for the osprey cover, I spent $5 on silnylon and a dollar on elastic. It looks terrible and I get made fun of for it, but I also had fun stitching it! So instead of 35 I spent 6 and had some fun doing it. I imagine its the same for you Jim, more a labour of love?

1:29 p.m. on August 2, 2011 (EDT)
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422 forum posts

Jake W said:

 I imagine its the same for you Jim, more a labour of love?

 Yes, something like that.   I bought an Optimus Crux several years ago.  I've been pretty happy with it.  I've also got a Jetboil PCS and GCS.  Is there something so revolutionary about the Soto OD-1R that it's going to change my cooking style?  Make cooking so radically different that I just have to have it? No, of course not.  In the final analysis, the Soto OD-1R is just another stove, BUT :) there's that natural curiosity that I have.  I like to know why stoves work the way that they do.  I think I know what's going on in the video that Soto posted, but I won't know until I do some more experiments.  And, yes, it's the process of experimentation that's the fun.  I doubt anything I learn will radically change how I conduct my hikes and backpacks.

HJ

12:00 p.m. on August 6, 2011 (EDT)
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910 forum posts

In my humble opinion the main advantage to a regulator is that as the gas in a canister cools from evaporation/boiling off it maintains the same intensity of flame. I had a problem keeping my Jetboil lit when I first started it in cooler temps, until I learned to open it up and let it run a little before backing it down. The problem was much worse with a 100 gram canister than with a larger diameter canister. I have also had flame outs when trying to simmer with it in my office. 

I think the part about utilizing the canister better is because the regulator opens up at the end of the canister maintaining the intensity of the flame until the gas is used completely when not cooking at wide open. This gives the illusion that it utilized it more but it didn't, however it did make it much easier to utilize all of the gas.

HJ

My suggestion is to try your test at low flame. My guess is that you will have to restart a non-regulated and/or adjust it to keep the flame constant especially if it is colder.  Remember that a regulator can't boost pressure.  A regulator at wide open is the same as a needle at wide open.  A regulator will maintain the same gas flow as the canister pressure falls, something a needle valve can't do by itself.

August 1, 2014
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