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which backpacking stove to use

Posted: Thu May 02, 2013 8:23 am
by Alpine high
I have an old reliable MSR stove that uses white gas and I'm going on a 9 day backpack trip in the high sierra with 3 other people. I know the stove, fuel bottle and fuel weigh a lot compared to the newer stoves that use canisters or alcohol but we only want to take one stove and I am trying to decide if a different stove and or/system makes more sense. I've read that the MSR is great for extended trips with 3 or more people and is great for high altitude areas. I've also read that it's a dinosaur, can be finicky and doesn't pack as small as the newer stoves. Any input would be great, thanks.

Re: which backpacking stove to use

Posted: Thu May 02, 2013 9:08 am
by Scouter9
I also have a very reliable MSR stove, an XGK, that's excellent and...heavy. Reluctantly dragged into trying "canister stoves" that I associated with Bluet stoves worthy of mockery, I have learned up and relegated the MSR to the display table. Check this out: my XGK stove, without bottle, fuel or pump, weighs more than my stove, week of fuel, cook kit, lighter and spork, and the new rig fits in one side pocket of my pack.

The canister stoves burn as hot, work fine at altitude and won't be in weather on your trip where the "cold" will matter (and there are simple ways to deal with that). They're lighter, faster and easier. They light instantly, without priming or flare ups. Yes, I suggest you do change to canister stove, and that you consider a kit that allows you to store components within each other.

I regularly take groups out in the Sierra with canister stoves and think that you can certainly manage one stove for 4 people in nine days. No problem. If you're eating Mountain House, one pair eats 5 minutes later than the other, that's it. If you are using a 1 liter pot and only boiling water to cook, then you can plan for 19-22 boils per 250gram fuel canister, so calculate using 19 and plot out both your meals and a few coffee/tea/cleaning boils as needed. I think this puts you at two canisters of fuel for your trip, btw. You might stash a spare 110 gram for bonus rounds, etc... If you want to fry, simmer, etc... then you will have to play with the stove you buy to check times and look for a stove with a wide burner, rather than a little thumbtip one.

I suggest you look at a couple of stoves that REI, sadly, doesn't sell but that can be had in kits that work GREAT:

--Optimus Weekend HE Kit, including the Optimus Crux stove head. This .9 liter pot kit includes a separate mini pan, the folding, wide-head Crux that also simmers well, boils very fast and fits the stove, fuel canister and jib-jabs inside itself. This is my personal rig, mentioned above, and works very well. I've used it with two other men on 7 day trips and loved it. They're on eBay for $70, shipped.

--Olicamp Kinetic Ti plus XTS pot combo. This setup uses a 1 liter pot, also a "heat exchanger" that boils super fast, and a titanium stovehead that's lighter than the Optimus Crux. The stove and fuel will fit inside the pot. "Olicamp" is an old brand, but this is rebranded from a joint in China that makes name-brand stoves for several brands. The XTS pot, being a liter, is large enough to boil sufficient water for two, 2-person MH meals, feeding all four simultaneously. eBay for $65

--Olicamp Xcelerator Ti with XTS pot combo. This setup is what I've switched my Scouts to, and it's super! This is the same stovehead as on the Kinetic above (and, hey as the Optimus, but made out of titanium!), but is "remote canister" style: the stove sits on its own titanium legs and connects to the canister with a braided hose. This enables you to easily surround the stove with a windscreen made of tinfoil, it's very, very stable with a heavy pot, it's wide enough to support a skillet, it simmers all fits inside the 1 liter pot with a 250 gram Snow Peak fuel canister (the 250 gram MSR fuel is 3mm taller, poor fit). On eBay for $80-100, shipped. A full on system the size of your old Nalgene, but lighter?? Oh yes.

If you want a rapid demonstration of how light a canister stove can be, do go to REI and mount a "Snow Peak giga" stove onto a 250gram fuel canister. Just hand weigh it, compared to a white-gas MSR stove head with no fuel or pump. You'll be sold. Of course, you can build a great system with stoves and gear they sell there, but the rigs above allow you to reduce each trekker's "personal mess kit" to a cup, bowl and spoon. Very light and fast.

Re: which backpacking stove to use

Posted: Thu May 02, 2013 10:17 am
by longri
Scouter9 wrote:If you're eating Mountain House, one pair eats 5 minutes later than the other, that's it. If you are using a 1 liter pot and only boiling water to cook, then you can plan for 19-22 boils per 250gram fuel canister, so calculate using 19 and plot out both your meals and a few coffee/tea/cleaning boils as needed. I think this puts you at two canisters of fuel for your trip, btw.
I think you mean 220g fuel canisters?

Cooking style matters and Alpine high hasn't indicated their plans. In the summer, backpacking with one or more friends, I like to eat well (no pre-packaged freeze-dried meals) and usually budget one 220g canister for every 6-7 person-days. For 4 people and 8 nights that would mean at least 4 of those canisters. That's about 1.3 lbs of metal, by the way, when doing the weight comparison with your XGK.

edited to add:
As a rough estimate, take how many fluid ounces of white gas you carry in your XGK for a typical trip and assume you'll use a similar amount of canister fuel in grams multiplied by 20. For example, an 11 ounce bottle of white gas is roughly equal to a 220g canister.

Re: which backpacking stove to use

Posted: Thu May 02, 2013 10:19 am
by markskor
Indeed the MSR XG (many different gas models) are heavy beasts; carried one for years. Once the gold standard of stoves, they still have their place today - for larger party, winter treks – specifically when having to melt snow. Other than that, agree that today’s canister stoves do work well in our Sierra.

S9 mentions a few options, all great - depending what type cooking you intend and for how many people served/meal. If only boiling water, no simmering – then any pocket rocket/titanium/latest micro-stove will work. Not my cup of tea but those “kits” where stove, canister, cup, bic, spork, et al all fit in a side pocket – amazing technology.

Being a realist, liking to cook, and realizing that I am a hiking disaster waiting to happen – (read drop and break things easily)…prefer a remote canister stove. They are more stable with larger pots, allow a wind-screen, sit lower, will simmer, and have the ability to invert the canister. Why is invert-ability a key feature? When cold, the two liquid gasses in the canister – one is heavier and often cold mornings – will not turn into a gas – stove just farts.
Turning over the canister has dramatic results – instantly works… (Long scientific explanation available).

Anyway on a recent 19-day adventure, the two of us did breakfasts, coffee, cooked pasta, cooked some trout/misc dinners, etc – some real cooking all above the fires allowed zone - one big canister lasted 18 days with much abuse. BTW, I carry the MSR Windpro but many similar remote stoves seem to compare specs favorably. Look for one with the wide burner – just like cooking at home over a gas range.

RE Your kitchen and those afore mentioned kits:
Instead of a small kit, think backpack system. A larger pot can also serve as protection/ storage for the remote stove (yes larger than a Pocket Rocket, but…), a fishing reel, spices, extra fishing spools, windscreen under pot… and will allow more people to eat – no waiting. Weight difference is negligible. Someone else carries the gas canister – (easy to stash a smaller canister somewhere too as a back-up.)

Like said above...all depends but this works for me.

Re: which backpacking stove to use

Posted: Thu May 02, 2013 12:54 pm
by Scouter9
I did mean "220gram" canister. Sorry, the Snow Peak 220gram is called the "250g"...

The reason I suggested number of liter boils and testing if one plans to simmer or otherwise slow cook, is precisely because those of us with many years of experience using white gas stoves, or canisters, know that one has to take one's plans into account. In terms of using a canister stove to boil water for coffee, dehydrated food, some hot cocoa, hot water to clean the #$%@!! MH Lasagna (never again!) and sizzling up a few trout in the mini-pan in the Optimus kit referenced above, we cooked 4-serving MH dinners for 6 nights on trail with one 220gram canister (which we killed/drained on the last morning at coffee, with a near-boil) last August. Our compatriots used an identical stove and fuel for three persons, also cooking "four serving MH" but an old, 1 quart perc pot without the guts and without the HE fins on the bottom the Optimus has. They ran out of fuel on our last night, and swapped-in our spare canister for the morning.

Notably, their post was large enough to boil water for 4-servings in one move, and we were doing 20 ounces, then 12 ounces, in the Optimus due to the smaller pot. We were typically as fast or faster and we used less fuel, if only by a tad. That sold me on the HE pots and we've outfitted the entire Troop with them.

Say, a note on remote canister stoves, since Mark mentioned the ability to invert the canister in cold weather: NOT with all such stoves. The stove has to have a "preheat loop" running up above the burner to be truly safe for canister inversion. The remote-canister stove I mentioned above, does not have this. Therefore, in weather where it's going to get down to say 20f, one stashes the fuel canisters inside the tent (or for you midgets, inside that empty foot of your bag) so they don't get as cold as ambient, and then they work fine. If it's going to be colder than 20 when you cook, you want a stove that can invert, for sure! If you don't need that feature, then you save grams by being able to eschew the tube and use titanium for more of the stove.

The "olicamp" remote stove up there, weighs 98 grams. When it's colder than 20, I sleep in. :thumbsup:

Re: which backpacking stove to use

Posted: Thu May 02, 2013 2:34 pm
by longri
Yeah, you're right, it's called the "250g". They say the "g" is for gold but it sure looks like something else.

Suggesting fuel amounts to someone is tricky because fuel efficiency depends on so many factors. Pot size is the one you point to but it's not the only thing. You say you can get 19-22 boils in a one liter pot but if you're filling that pot as you imply then you're getting an efficiency of around 60-75%. In my experience that is on the high side. Even Jetboil is a little cagey and deceptive when they claim 80% efficiency.

Re: which backpacking stove to use

Posted: Thu May 02, 2013 9:19 pm
by paul
Canister stoves are definitely more convenient and easier to use. Better for simmering than any model MSR other than a Dragonfly.
If you will want to use a larger (like 4 qt) pot for your group, then I'd suggest a remote canister stove for stability's sake. The Kovea Spider is the one I'd go for. Remote stoves also are easier to use a windscreen with. If you are using 2 qt or smaller pot, a top mount is fine and a little lighter.

My personal fuel usage has been like this: cooking about 1/3 of breakfasts, nothing at lunch and all boiling-water-and-reconstitute dinners for 2 people, with a few hot drinks but not at every meal, I go about 10 days on the 220g canister.

Re: which backpacking stove to use

Posted: Fri May 03, 2013 7:38 pm
by KathyW
The stove I've been using for the last couple years is a Soto Micro Regulator Stove - a canister stove and it works great. I also have a Primus canister stove that still works great too (I don't think they make the model anymore), but the Soto boils water faster; so I take that backpacking. Both stoves have worked fine when camping at higher elevations in the Sierra. I use the Primus when I go car camping. My cooking for car camping isn't much different than for backpacking - I just boil water for coffee, oatmeal, and other dried meals, but I get to to in in the back of my truck instead of in a tent. I try to use the partially full fuel canisters I have for car camping. I have a ton of partially full fuel canisters.

Re: which backpacking stove to use

Posted: Sat May 04, 2013 8:36 am
by Alpine high
Thanks for all of the responses. I have done a little homework.
I think I am down to 3 stoves/systems.
1-Olicamp Xcelerator Ti w /XTS combo- only thing I don't like about it is that I can't invert it
2-Kovea Spider-it inverts but I'd like a pot to come with it
3-MSR Windpro 2-also inverts but again I'd also like a pot with it

I am leaning towards the Olicamp Xcelerator since it has a pot and will save me quite a lot of weight. Whisperlite, pot, and fuel weighed in at 61 oz.
Olicamp Xcelerator,XTS pot combo, 2- 8oz. canisters plus 1-4 oz. canister will weigh 39.2 oz. Shaving nearly 1 1/2 lbs. sounds good to me.

My old Whisperlite may have to take a back burner I guess.

Re: which backpacking stove to use

Posted: Sat May 04, 2013 2:02 pm
by rlown
so, i've seen references to convenience. What do you actively do to recycle the empty canister? I know it's been referenced on older threads.. just wondering if that's changed. I know Markskor has a closet full of semi empty cans, and yet i haven't called the fire marshal yet.. :D

About your white gas v. canister question. That's a matter of choice. I like my white gas stove. I can simmer and cook a fish. I've seen Mark do that on his can, but even in Sept, he was tilting his can over to make it work for pasta.

If you just boil water.. who cares. to each their own. Depends on your goal.