stove blowed up!

4:52 p.m. on October 5, 2012 (EDT)
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so we were out enjoying a bit of peaceful car camping...when the last day of the trip my good ole coleman butane stove blowed up! a jet of yellow flame started coming out the shutoff valve packing...melted the knob and I almost didn't get it turned off...went to the coleman website to find out the parts are unavailable. crap! that was a good stove! so now I'm in the market for a replacement I can use for car camping as well as backpacking. and I'm also looking for any good stove blowed up how bout it trailspace? any good stove blowup stories to share?

6:58 p.m. on October 5, 2012 (EDT)
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I never have had a stove blow up. But once when hiking in Denali Park in Alaska I came across a guy who's stove flared up when he lit it, inside his tent and the flare up evaporated his tent. All that was left was the floor and the poles still over it where the tent used to be.

11:22 a.m. on October 6, 2012 (EDT)
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I worked with a lady in Idaho that had a Svea 123 explode in her face.  That was a discouraging story, requiring Medivac and a whole day to get help.

4:04 p.m. on October 6, 2012 (EDT)
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I understand those sveas are good for blowing up. I would never get one. I  had my stove for ten years before it finally blowed up. I got my mileage out of it...:P

2:33 p.m. on October 7, 2012 (EDT)
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An issue with Svea 123's is that people will sometimes put too large a pot on them and concentrate the heat in the tank. This can cause a flare up where the pressure valve releases gas which then ignites. They do not technically blow up, but they will release excess pressure which they ignite. I have never had an issue with a genuine 123, nor has anyone else I know, even after decades of service. There was an issue with Chinese knockoffs of the 123, which did not have decent release valves and poor seam welding, which caused some catastrophic failures. The issue with any stove is to use it as directed and with common sense. Do not use large pots, or an MSR type wind screen with a 123 and they will give decades of reliable service.

As far as jester's Coleman issue, ALL stoves are potential bombs at worst, if not used properly and maintained. Canister stoves, like many others, depend on pressure to deliver reliable heat. A poor seal, caused by age, or debris, can send fuel up near the burner which then ignites. 

Stoves, like any other piece of gear, need periodic maintenance and an intimacy with their use.

5:01 p.m. on October 7, 2012 (EDT)
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like I said I had the stove for ten years, so it was just a matter of time before something like that happened. It's just plain worn out, so I need to get a new one. bummer is they don't make that stove anymore, so I have to find something different. I get to go stove shopping! :) 

5:09 p.m. on October 7, 2012 (EDT)
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In the 6+ decades I have been in the woods and hills, from car camping at the trailhead to backpacking to major expeditions, I have witnessed a couple dozen (maybe more, since I haven't kept a notebook on the topic) stove incidents. Most were integral-tank stoves (such as the Svea 123 type, but including Coleman Peak 1 and other brands, and butane canisters of the old Bleuet "puncture cartridge" type and the screw-on type, such as Jetboil, Primus, Coleman, and others make). Several were what Erich describes (oversize pots reflecting the heat and/or tight windshields that reflected heat onto the fuel tank or canister). Two of those produced shrapnel that landed some distance away (including a couple pieces that embedded in nearby tree trunks and one injury). One involved a professional climbing guide on an expedition who wanted to speed up the cooking by setting 3 XGKs with their burners together and the windscreens clustered around the pot, unfortunately including the plastic pump end of one of the fuel bottles inside the windscreen. The image below shows the stove and fuel bottle after they were heaved out of the cook tent into the snow.

One incident, during a winter camping course for Boy Scout adult leaders, happened when the stove owner had improvised a windshield from a large coffee can and set the Coleman Peak 1 inside his "windscreen". Another that I witnessed in the former Biolet Campground in Chamonix (France) involved a couple of Irish lads who decided to make a brew (tea) after a late night at the Bar Nacionale. I didn't witness the first part, but ran over after the yelling started. They were sitting in the door of their small tent (one door only) when the relief valve let loose, igniting a huge jet of flame (much more than my height by the time I got there). Since their tent had no back exit, they felt trapped. Luckily one of the other climbers was a skilled futbol player and booted the flaming stove over into the grass (we had had a huge rainstorm that afternoon, so everything was well soaked).

Probably the most famous stove incident is the one described in the book "The Hall of the Mountain King" by Howard Snyder, concerning the disastrous 1967 Wilcox McKinley Expedition. At one point, the entire group are in their cook tent when one of the stoves runs out of fuel. They were using the Optimus "suitcase" stoves, modified to reduce their weight. They proceeded to refuel the empty stove while the second stove was still burning. According to the book, this triggered an explosion/ignition of the fumes. The tent, a sleeping bag, a couple of parkas, and other gear vanished within 10 seconds (one of the expedition members said he had leaped for the tent entrance and by the time he got there, the entire tent was gone). Wilcox subsequently published a "Reader's Guide" to the Snyder book, intended to be "point by point rebuttal". Regardless, 7 of the original 12 members of the expedition perished, with 6 of the bodies remaining under the snow somewhere on the "Football Field" just below the summit.

And, of course there are the many carbon monoxide poisoning incidents, including Admiral Byrd, who was rescued just in time before he died from using his stove in a small, tightly sealed hut in Antarctica.

As Erich implies, "operator error" is involved in the vast majority of stove incidents. As far as I remember, it was the sole or primary cause in every incident I have witnessed. In one or two of the cases, it was poor maintenance. But the rest were "operator error" - carelessness, or sometimes just plain "dumbness". Hmmmm ... "poor maintenance" is "operator error", too, when you think about it.

On the other hand, Barb and I have had our 2 Sveas and the very similar Primus 71L since the middle 1960s (1959 for the Primus 71L), and they still work just fine. They have had a few parts replaced (O-rings) over the years. We do use others of our 30-some stoves more these days (XGK-EX mostly and sometimes the Jetboil Helios).

As a friend of mine, Clyde Soles, wrote in an article on stoves in Rock and Ice Magazine a number of years ago, "Treat all stoves like the barely controlled explosions they are."

10:09 a.m. on October 8, 2012 (EDT)
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I found a mangled butane stove piece on Bob Stratton Bald at 5,300 ft. I am guessing the incident was spectacular. 

The only "Stove blowed up" I've experienced doesn't even really fit the bill. I was up on the Bob with Tipi and Hootyhoo, starting up my alchy stove to fix a late evening cup of tea.  I didn't initially put enough priming fuel on the wick, and it started going out, so I used the squirt-top on the alch bottle to shoot a little underneath the windscreen.  Predictably, when I released pressure on the bottle, flame was sucked back into the bottle with the returning air.  The resulting "KaPOW! Zing!" of the alcohol vapor combusting and lid being shot across the meadow wasn't very dangerous, but it was quite startling!  Hootyhoo, thinking the stove had exploded, dove for cover, while Tipi sat with a surprised yet unmoved expression. He's got stones, that's for sure :) 
I was quite embarrassed, to say the least. 

4:21 p.m. on October 8, 2012 (EDT)
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thats a "fuel bottle blowed up" story...but a good one!

bill s - it never ceases to amaze me all the stories you have...due to your neverending experience, I imagine. I particularly liked the one where the cook tent evaporated...very interesting. it is remarkable that all that came from one stove.

10:53 a.m. on October 9, 2012 (EDT)
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On many sailboats built in the 60's and 70's, stoves were of the pressurized alcohol type. A joke from that period is, "A parachutist is free falling and can't get his chute to open. He sees someone approaching from below and yells, 'Hey do you know anything about parachutes?' to which the other replies, 'Hey, do you know anything about alcohol stoves?'"

10:34 p.m. on October 10, 2012 (EDT)
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What model stove did you have?  Some of the discontinued Coleman stoves can be bought off of eBay.  I've picked up lightly used ones like a Exponent F1 Power Boost and was given a cranky regular F1 which all I did to get it to work was oil the spindle and got the thing to move properly, really puts the heat out, much more than stoves in the limelight.


1:09 a.m. on October 11, 2012 (EDT)
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I remembered seeing the pressure valve on a  Primus stove release and flame-up during a snow camping trip back in the early 70s.

"Operator error" as the door on the front of the metal stove 'box' was closed. This caused the stove to heat up, over-pressurize and release the valve.

No explosion, just a very dramatic flame!  Snow was thrown on the stove doused the flame / cooled down the stove.

(BTW -I also have an Expoenent F1 Powerboost - great stove with tremendous BTU output. As noisy as my XGK!)



4:23 a.m. on October 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Many years ago I had a petrol stove that had a coil of brass tube coming from the tank with a jet at the bottom of the coil. Safety was a lead seal on the filler cap! This was a brilliant wee stove, very light weight and very efficient until the day when a brew was attempted on a narrow ledge half way up a rock climb on the Romsdal Horn. The lead seal started to leak and a jet of flame appeared from the filler. With great presence of mind my buddy flung it into space as I grabbed the pot of near boiling water. A loud bang and a fire ball seconds later denoted the demise of the stove. Our lucky escape was discussed over tepid tea.

If I remember correctly the stove was called "Stesco" and came in a tin with blue writing.

My current stove is a generic "Pocket Rocket" which is great!

9:45 a.m. on October 11, 2012 (EDT)
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LOL!  I have a good one for you... it isn't about a stove blowing up, but fits the topic.

While out on a week long canoe trip with the guys one of our "not as experienced" members decided to help with the cooking.  We were using a Coleman Xpedition Double burner Powermax Stove (a very good car camping and backpacking stove by the way...) and were just finishing up cooking the fish we caught.  Well the canister wasn't producing the heat we wanted so I decided to replace it with a fresh bottle.

With a cigarette in mouth the newbie decided it was a good time to recycle the bottle...he punctured a 1/4 full bottle.  Since I was focusing on the dinner I didn't witness him puncturing the bottle, but I heard the hissing sounds and felt the flame!  To this day I am still not sure how a cigarette could start a firework show.

Luckily no one was hurt and he had the foresight to set the canister on a rock to burn out.  As you can imagine he didn't have his eyebrows after the incident and we have one good story!  "Don't let Newbie near the stove!" :-)

10:29 a.m. on October 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Not a stove story, but certainly falls into the category of 'operator error'.

One guy watched me dribble a bit of alcohol from my fuel bottle onto some wet wood before lighting it to help it get started. When I lit it, I had a flicker of flame (like lighting a candle) that helped dry everything out.

The next morning, he poured some of his own fuel (a half-cup or so) onto the logs. I was dozing in my tent and heard a lovely 'whoomph' when he lit it. He was using white gas from his MSR stove.

1:17 p.m. on October 11, 2012 (EDT)
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personally I use and recommend the MSR windpro stove.  The burner unit is attached to the canister via a metallized hose so it sits low on the ground instead of stacked up.  Second, since the canister is away from the burner, one can put a wind screen right up against the burner/pot all the way to the ground (or table surface) to get max heating.  Of course one must leave a little ventilation room on the wind screed for air to get to the burner.


I've had mine since they first came out (10 years?), and it aint "blowed up" yet.

3:35 p.m. on October 11, 2012 (EDT)
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I was thinking about getting one of those. would be good to use with my msr windscreen. how much do they go for?

3:38 p.m. on October 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Great stories here!  No stove issues yet.  Jester, for what it is worth, I use a MSR Whisperlite for car camping and cold weather trips.  Mostly though for backpacking, when the weather is not going to get below 25F, I use my       Soto OD 1 R.  Other times I use my tiny Vargo Triad Ti alcohol stove. 

All said and done, the whisperlite is heavier, but super reliable and efficient and can be used for all kinds of pots, small and large.  The Soto will not support large pots safely and the Vargo probably wont handle more than a liter to boil practically speaking. 

I also have a coleman peak1 micro blended fuel canister stove.  I bought back in the 80's (i think) and used it for a long time with absolute flawless performance.  I still have that one, but do not use it because the Soto is a much lighter stove without sacrificing performance. 

The one stove that I have but have used only once is an Esbit.  I do not recommend this one. 

As usual too wordy here!

I love this stove for solo backpacking (99% of my activity). 

3:55 p.m. on October 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Actually I do recall a fuel bottle "blowed up" story.  Here it is in boring detail. 

once upon a time near Water Rock Knob stealth camping in deep in a gorge near the BRP, where I was whiling away a portion of my squandered youth, my dang Korean Svea knock-off sputtered out and I could not get that thing unclogged.  So, i set to starting a camp fire with some very soggy wood.  I thought that some white gas trickled on top would encourage some flame from this smoldering pile ( i never said i was smart)  Well the flame came fast and furious right up to my half full Sigg (remember those?) well at this point I did the only sensible thing and flung it down into a gulley, where it left 20 little fires about every 5 feet or so. 

Ever try putting out a white gas fire on leaves?  Fortunately for me it was rather damp, and I got it under control. 


7:14 p.m. on October 11, 2012 (EDT)
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I used a Svea 123 at 3,000 m on Spanish Mountain in the Sierra Nevada. For reasons unknown (the valve and rubber in the cap became clogged) the valve and the cap began shooting a flame. Before long the stove blew apart at every seam. Amazing and we were very lucky.

9:34 p.m. on October 11, 2012 (EDT)
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I never had my fine Svea 123 disappoint me, but the sound in a small log cabin when you have the Svea and an Alladin lamp both going at max is disconcerting.

The only stove I had explode was my $26 sheet metal air tight wood stove. It exploded often and well. If I had a guest at my cabin, they would inevitably wander over to check the fire in the stove. If the stove had been shut tight, when they lifted the pie pan like stove cover, the fire would appear to be out and they would replace the cover with a shrug. That burst of oxygen was enough... in twenty seconds the stove would explode, sending the stove cover banging against the flue and my guest into the air. Ah, it's the little joys that are memorable.

11:59 p.m. on October 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Duhhh! Who lights up a stove in their tent??

12:12 a.m. on October 12, 2012 (EDT)
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I had a vintage Optimus embossed model 8 vent out the SRV.  I had boiled two pots of water to use to drink as I had not brought my water filter.  About the time the second pot was boiling, a flame developed out the SRV, flaming over an inch is all.  Some said to fix it, I say it was doing its job by venting.  After shutdown, you could hear the fuel boiling in the tank.  I'll have to be sure in the future to only use it for a shorter length of time.


12:03 p.m. on October 12, 2012 (EDT)
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graham.j said:

Duhhh! Who lights up a stove in their tent??

Look through past posts on the subject. Apparently, WAY too many people do.

In fact, there was even a renowned arctic explorer, Admiral Byrd, who almost died from carbon monoxide poisoning by doing exactly that. Many others have died from the same cause.

Then there are all the people who burned down their tents or their gear.

7:26 p.m. on October 13, 2012 (EDT)
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maybe I should start a separate thread for "tent burned up" stories...

7:56 p.m. on October 13, 2012 (EDT)
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peter1955 said:

...In fact, there was even a renowned arctic explorer, Admiral Byrd, who almost died from carbon monoxide poisoning by doing exactly that. ...

 Byrd was in a hard-sided hut, not a tent, that was part-way down in the snow (standard practice at the time to help with wind protection). I mentioned this in my post a few above. This was during his second expedition to Antarctica:

One goal of this expedition was to collect meteorological data from the interior of the continent. Initially envisioned as a three-person task, Byrd felt that he could not ask others to undertake such a dangerous mission. This exploit nearly cost him his life. Suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, and barely coherent, Byrd had to be rescued by a Little American crew that was nearly unable to make the 123 mile trek to his 9' by 13' hut. Byrd returned to Little America a weakened man.

Actually, there is more to the story. In addition to the CO from the stove, Byrd was using a gasoline-powered electric generator for his radio communications back to base. The combination of the stove CO and back-leakage from the exhaust of the generator finally overwhelmed him during a radio session with base. His collapse during the session is what alerted the Little America crew to the need to rescue him.

5:47 p.m. on October 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Re: stove blowed up! AND MSR WINDPRO STOVE.

Any windscreen you have right including plain aluminum foil (heavier grill type) will work on the MSR WndPro.  Since the unit sets on the ground and NOT on top of the canister, one does not need the screen that normally sits on top of the canister.  For cold weather use, I simply set the canister closer to the stove unit, and find the heat that escapes thru the windscreed sufficient to warm the canister.

I have never had a flare up from the actual burner, but from time to time have detected gas odor by the junction with the valve and the canister and have been concerned about a fire there....probably justifies as has already been noted to make sure the O-Rings are clean and lubricated.

8:10 p.m. on October 14, 2012 (EDT)
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yeah I checked my stove before we left. lubed the o-ring and checked for cracks/dirt. none. I think it is just plain worn out. since the valve stem packing can't be replaced, I just have to get a new one. I like the windpro. I think I'll go to REI and check it out.

3:33 p.m. on October 17, 2012 (EDT)
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went to REI online and ordered the windpro 2. should be coming in next week. I'm anxious to try it out. It had a stand you can use to invert the canister for cold weather use. I'm curious to see how well that works.

Happy trails!

4:05 p.m. on October 17, 2012 (EDT)
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hikerduane said:

I had a vintage Optimus embossed model 8 vent out the SRV... ..Some said to fix it, I say it was doing its job by venting...

You really should replace the fill cap.  Heat from the flare up can damage the seals, not to mention soften and alter the spring that regulates the SRV's pressure control.


6:52 p.m. on October 20, 2012 (EDT)
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sounds like a "stove blowed up" story in the making...let us know how it turns out!

11:27 p.m. on October 20, 2012 (EDT)
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A few years ago I was backpacking with a friend and his MSR Dragonfly suddenly flared from the burner.  It had been burning properly (with the correct placement of the windscreen and fuel bottle, and a small pot) and it suddenly turned into a four foot fireball.  After that he couldn't get it to work right.  I never found out if he discovered the source of the problem, I think he just replaced the stove.

3:36 p.m. on October 21, 2012 (EDT)
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I also have a dragonfly...sounds like the o-rings on the generator assembly let go...they need to be replaced periodically due to wear. never had a four foot fireball from mine although it has sputtered on a number of occasions. Its twelve years old and due for a maintenance kit.

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