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Canister Stove Fuel Amounts


I'm just using canister stoves (MSR WindPro) for the first time in a mountaineering environment. I'm trying to get a good guage of an accurate fuel amount for cooking and for melting snow. I've read MSR recommends 4 oz per person per day for regular cooking, 8 oz for melting snow and cooking. This seems pretty heavy when you start looking at an extended trip and with multiple people. Any thoughts?

Welcome to Trailspace pPlodder

The amounts have a lot of variables to consider, how efficient your stove is, btu output, altitude, ambient temperature, brand of fuel etc. And no one uses the same amount of fuel IE I use more than your average person due to the fact that I like my coffee. So in end result it is hard to say, I try to bring a little bit more than I will use.

Also note there as been a few threads on this topic in the Backcountry & Gear Selection topic's that also may help you.

The amount depends heavily on your style of usage - what kind of cooking do you do (boil water for freeze dry? gourmet multicourse meals? lots of pasta? stews from scratch? fry fish you caught?), season, whether you turn the stove on only when actually cooking and turn it off immediately on being done, heating lots of water for coffee/tea/hot chocolate, ...

Ultimately the only way to tell is to keep close track on a few trips. This is one place where a good kitchen scale (electronic kind that measures to 0.1 ounce or nearest 10 grams). Weigh the canister before the trip and after the trip, the difference being the amount you used (for how many people, how many days, how many meals - record this). Since you will have to pack empty canisters out (Leave No Trace principles, plus legal requirements about trash, plus you do want to recycle, don't you), weigh the empty canisters, too, if you run one out and start a new one.

The canonical number for most backpackers is 2 ounces (weight) per person per day for 3-season backpacking. Winter with melting snow or ice for water can be as little as 8 ounces per person per day (about what I run on expeditions and extended backcountry ski tours) or as much as a quart (2 pounds) per person per day. Incidentally, compressed gas and liquid fuel ("white gas" and kerosene) stoves tend to run pretty close in fuel usage for a given person's habits (conservative of fuel vs let the stove burn a lot even when nothing is heating or cooking).

If you are using a canister stove in real mountaineering environments, you will soon run into the low temperature problem with compressed gas with your WindPro - they lose performance at temperatures below 40F and unless you are using a primarily isobutane mix, will pretty well cease below freezing (32F). Yes, there are a number of tricks to using a butane-based stove at temperatures below 40F, but it takes a bit of familiarity with your stove and its idiosyncracies to get them to work properly.

Thanks gents. Seems like there is no sure fire rule of thumb, guess I'll have to get out there and play with them to get a feel. Appreciate the input.

As mentioned before there are lots of varietables. But I use my canisters sparingly. When ever I cook anything like Pasta that has to be rehydrated I either presoak it in cold water then bring to a boil or bring the water to a boil, add the pasta or instant Ramen, rice or whatever, turn off the heat, insulate the pot with lid with a shirt and let sit about 20 minutes till tender.

I can usually make my canister fuel last about one to two weeks.

Pretest cook foods at home before trips to find out approx cooking times, use less water than called for again trying it at home to see whats needed under non emergency conditions until you know.

I usually only cook the evening meal and its usually the largest meal of the day. If I want more liquids to cook with I will add cheese and crackers to thicken the pot instead of tossing the water with starches and vitamins out.

Gary brings up a good point that I try to include in my winter camping and 50-miler training courses - don't throw out that water you used to cook the pasta, and when you rinse out your pots after the meal (for cooked meals as opposed to rehydrate in the bag type), drink the rinse water with all the little bits of food. You burned a lot of fuel to melt the snow, heat the water, and cook the pasta (or whatever), and you usually need all the nutrition you can get. So rather than tossing the water with all the nutrients in it, ingest it. (On month-long expeditions, you really do need all the calories you can take in).

Ok, I know, lots of readers out there think drinking those bits and pieces of left-over food is "yucky" (some even call it "garbage") . I have had people tell me the bits of veggies "tickle my throat if I drink it". Hey, toss a tea bag in it, or some instant coffee. Just don't waste the water and food and all that fuel you already burned.

Or if like me you can save the rinse water and use it to cook the next meal with. When I camped in the Sierra the winter of 79-80, I found that I could save even my uncleaned cookpots leftovers no matter how much or how little, in the pot and it was just frozen and could make the next meal a little more hearty.

I just returned from four days at a 12,500 ft. elevation camp site with four people.
We used my Windpro exclusively to cook two meals per day and make coffee/tea for the group. Breakfast required boiling water for oatmeal. I used only one Primus 15.9 oz. "Power Gas" canister (available at REI) for the whole trip and I am continuing to use the same one in my cabin. I think this is the best stove on the market and now this experience with the Power Gas fuel has been very impressive. Sorry, we didn't have to melt snow but maybe this is of some help. Steven

June 16, 2021
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