Home  •   Field Guide  •   Forums  •   Unread Posts  •   Maps  •   Find a Hike!  •    Register  •   Search  •  
Jump to:  
Login  | 

Board index » Gear & Goodies » Campsite Banter: Gear, Gadgets and Grub




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 60 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  Next
Author Message
 Post subject: Canister vs. Alcohol Stove
 Post Posted: August 17th, 2010, 1:02 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: January 17th, 2010, 11:04 am
Posts: 158
Alright. I think I am done with my honkin, huge, freaking 15.34 oz Optimus Nova stove. It has served me well (heck, even stepped on it once, no worse for the wear), but I'm getting to the point of really wanting to shed some weight and this is good place to start.

So. Let me know. I've heard really good things about canister stoves, except that they can sometimes have pressure issues at altitude/low temperatures, but I like the idea of alcohol stoves being fairly bombproof, not to mention light, not to mention not having to purchase canisters.

Anyone have experience with either and/or preference? I've heard that alcohol stoves can be finicky with burn times/fuel ratios but have no experience with them myself.

Gear junkies, discuss away! :D

_________________
___________________________
Trail Log: http://myroadstraveled.blogspot.com/


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Canister vs. Alcohol Stove
 Post Posted: August 17th, 2010, 2:44 pm 
Offline

Joined: May 28th, 2008, 11:03 pm
Posts: 625
I love my alcohol stove.....It is cheap (both the stove and the fuel), very light and it can't break (unless I crush it). I once had a white gas stove blow a hose in the middle of no where. Luckily there were others I could mooch time on their stove from. Ever since then, I've come to appreciate the simplicity of my alcohol stove.

The good on alcohol stoves:
- Very lightweight
- They can't break down (no seals, hoses, valves, etc to break)
- Reasonable boil times (4-5 minutes for 2 cups of water, depending on the stove model)

The bad on alcohol stoves:
- They use a fair amount of fuel. For longer trips, the weight savings of the stove might be outweighed by the weight of the fuel.
- They are either on or off. There is no "simmer". They are really good for boiling water, but not cooking.
- You have to learn how much fuel to put in the stove. Once you fill it, it burns until the fuel is gone. You can't really turn it off.
- You have to be careful, since the flame is invisible. I've never found this to be a problem, but others have mentioned it.

Bottom line - If you do freezer bag, dehydrated or freeze dried cooking (using boiling water), I think they are great. If you are a back country gourmet, it probably won't work to well for you. If you go on long trips, it might not work too well either (weight savings).

I would say buy one or make your own and try it out at home before committing to it. Their are a ton of sites on the net that describe how to make your own. I bought mine from antigravitygear.com (based on the recommendation of a friend) and have been very happy with it.

Good luck!

_________________
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: WOW-What a ride!


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Canister vs. Alcohol Stove
 Post Posted: August 17th, 2010, 3:01 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: May 28th, 2008, 11:03 pm
Posts: 4396
Location: Gateway to the Columbia Gorge
Everything you ever wanted to know about backpacking stoves: http://zenstoves.net/ There are tips on how to use a canister stove in cold weather that I won't repeat here.

I use a canister stove myself, and I'm not sure why except that I like the convenience. Most of the time I just boil water to rehydrate dried food, and an alcohol stove is just as good for that. If you're going to be out for a week or more, the canister stove is lighter because it uses less fuel per burn. For 2-3 day trips, though, the alcohol stove is lighter. (http://thru-hiker.com/articles/stoveweight_vs_time_14days.php) I have seen alcohol stoves being used and they are really no more fuss than a canister. I obviously am going to try out an alcohol stove (from a cola can) at home before using it in the field!

One problem with the canister stove is that you inevitably end up with a bunch of canisters each containing a small amount of fuel. This problem can be reduced (although not eliminated) as follows: Find out the weight of fuel needed to boil the appropriate amount of water or to cook a meal. Do this outdoors on a cool day, starting with cold (35-40*F) water and weighing the canister before and after use. Then weigh the leftover canister after each trip to see how much fuel is left. (The weight of the empty canister is the difference between gross weight and net weight shown on the can.) This will tell you how many meals (if any) the partially full canister will last. The empty canister cannot be refilled, but it can be recycled--take it outdoors, insert the stove and burn off any remaining fuel, then take a hammer and big nail (after removing the stove!) and pound the nail through the valve. Let the canister sit outside for a couple of hours and then put it in your recycling.

If you decide on a canister stove, I would suggest not getting a stove with a piezo lighter. It is wonderfully convenient while it works, but they seem to quit after 2-3 years. Might as well save the weight because you need to take the mini-Bic or matches anyway.

I'd hang on to your old white gas stove if you expect to do any winter camping. In below-freezing temperatures and especially when you have to melt snow for water, it works much better.

_________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.--E.Abbey


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Canister vs. Alcohol Stove
 Post Posted: August 17th, 2010, 4:32 pm 
Offline

Joined: May 28th, 2008, 11:03 pm
Posts: 173
Pop-can stoves have specific strengths and weaknesses; use them right and they are advantageous, use them wrong and they are a poor choice.

Advantages; cheap, light, simple and reliable. On the downside, they start slower and are non-adjustable. You have to learn how to meter fuel.

Pop-can stoves work really well if their strengths are complimented by the cookset and menu; streamline the cookset to match the stove, choose foods that cook fast and don't try to cook for a bunch of people. This can reduce baseweight by a pound compared to typical backpacking cooksets. Getting the most out of a pop-can stove is a synergistic thing.

I used a Giga snow peak for years but eventually the pop-can stove won me over. My cook-set weighs 4.5 oz (stove, pot, lid, windscreen/stand, spoon and hankerchief). It boils 2 cups of water easily and uses less than 4oz of fuel per day. That's two hot meals per day along with coffee/tea. Total cost - $10. The stove is good for foods like freeze dried meals, ramen, soup and instant mashed potatoes, not so good for hard pasta.

Pop-can stoves are the best choice for many trips if you are willing to use them to their strengths, especially for solo hikers. On the other hand, if you want a fast powerful stove to cook for several people, or for melting a lot of snow, then the pop-can stove is not a good choice.

There are fancy alcohol stoves with doohickies and bobbles and all kinds of crap attached to them, and the commercial versions are expensive or heavy. These designs squander the advantages, in my opinion. Stick with the simple homemade pop-can version and use it to its strengths - that's how you'll save weight and money and make your trail-life simpler.

Make a good windscreen, it will double your stove's performance. Half of the videos on youtube seem to come from people who have never backpacked because their windscreens are a joke.

Save money on fuel - buy denatured alcohol by the gallon from the hardware store (labeled 'shellac thinner' or 'denatured alcohol solvent').
Attachment:
scs.jpg
scs.jpg [ 102.53 KiB | Viewed 2301 times ]


Last edited by Pnw.hiker on August 17th, 2010, 11:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Canister vs. Alcohol Stove
 Post Posted: August 17th, 2010, 4:51 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: January 17th, 2010, 11:04 am
Posts: 158
Interesting. My husband and I are in a debate regarding the boil times of alcohol stoves, so it does sound like a good windscreen would be helpful (which I don't use now because my uber heavy stove is so powerful it just keeps on burning, wind be damned, but the weight of it just sucks). Oh, and the 15.34 oz is just the stove. Doesn't include the fuel canister. :shock:

I typically lean toward freezer-bag cooking, just something to rehydrate. Anything else that I carry tends to be snacky and I don't need water for it. Not big on breakfast but I am a coffee freak and that is the one time of the day where I am NOT patient with boil times. I want my coffee = I want it now.

It's starting to look like I will be solo packing more often. I've only recently started, yet it seems to be something I really enjoy but saving weight is becoming a huge priority.

I've never heard anyone talk about the weight of fuel outweighing the advantage of an alcohol stove. That's a really good thing to consider.

Grannyhiker, do you find the fuel guessing to be irritating? I think I could see that being something that would get on my nerves, but I definitely plan on checking out your links. Thanks.

How, exactly, does one learn how much fuel to carry for an alcohol stove? Just trial and error, boiling lots of water in my driveway at home? :)

Any good links that you would trust on homemade pop-stoves and windscreens? I don't like the idea of buying another stove just yet, especially if I can make one and try it out. I'm assuming that aside from weight savings, a canister stove is going to be fairly comparable to my current stove in functionality/boil time, so I guess I really am curious how alcohol stoves compare.

_________________
___________________________
Trail Log: http://myroadstraveled.blogspot.com/


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Canister vs. Alcohol Stove
 Post Posted: August 17th, 2010, 5:10 pm 
Offline

Joined: May 28th, 2008, 11:03 pm
Posts: 173
guernica wrote:
How, exactly, does one learn how much fuel to carry for an alcohol stove? Just trial and error, boiling lots of water in my driveway at home? :)


Yes. boil some water at home to learn how much fuel is needed to boil 1 or 2 cups. You can make a mark on the inner wall of the burner to help with measuring.

A 375ML plastic vodka bottle (filled with denatured alcohol) is always good for three nights/ four days (for me).


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Canister vs. Alcohol Stove
 Post Posted: August 17th, 2010, 5:35 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: May 28th, 2008, 11:03 pm
Posts: 4396
Location: Gateway to the Columbia Gorge
Yes, the fuel guessing for canisters is a pain, but better than having a dozen partly full canisters hanging around! Once you've figured out the amount per boil, it's just a matter of weighing used canisters.

For any stove, the water-boiling time depends on the amount and temperature of the water and the configuration of stove and pot. Canister stoves are pretty uniform as to boil times, but some have better simmer capabilities than others. Stove configuration is more important with alcohol stoves. There are homemade alcohol stove hobbyists who have dozens hanging around and keep tinkering to find out the optimum configuration! Yes, you should be trying any new stove out on patio or driveway before taking them out on the trail.

From my observations of others' stoves, it takes a couple of minutes longer to boil water on an alcohol stove than on the canister. This is offset by the lack of noise (annoying with the canister as it probably is with your white gas stove) and the fact that your fuel (if you use denatured alcohol, mostly ethanol, instead of HEET, which is mostly methanol) is more environmentally friendly. On the other hand, fires have been started by careless alcohol stove users who have knocked them over. In a few jurisdictions, when there are fire restrictions, stoves which lack a turnoff valve are not allowed. I don't believe that's true around here, though. Since the alcohol flame is almost invisible in bright light, it's possible to singe your eyebrows (or bangs, if you have them) getting too close to see if the thing is burning. At least you'll know that it's lit! :lol:

If you prefer to buy an alcohol stove rather than get involved with sharp metal edges (ouch), hole-punching and multiple trials to get a decent burn, here's a relatively inexpensive complete kit from Anti-Gravity Gear which uses a Tinman stove: http://www.antigravitygear.com/antigravitygear-stove-set-special.html
I just decided to order one for myself! I won't use the mug so the total weight is 3.1 oz., less than the weight of my canister stove alone.

_________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.--E.Abbey


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Canister vs. Alcohol Stove
 Post Posted: August 17th, 2010, 6:31 pm 
Offline

Joined: May 28th, 2008, 11:03 pm
Posts: 625
Grannyhiker wrote:
From my observations of others' stoves, it takes a couple of minutes longer to boil water on an alcohol stove than on the canister. This is offset by the lack of noise (annoying with the canister as it probably is with your white gas stove) and the fact that your fuel (if you use denatured alcohol, mostly ethanol, instead of HEET, which is mostly methanol) is more environmentally friendly. On the other hand, fires have been started by careless alcohol stove users who have knocked them over. In a few jurisdictions, when there are fire restrictions, stoves which lack a turnoff valve are not allowed. I don't believe that's true around here, though. Since the alcohol flame is almost invisible in bright light, it's possible to singe your eyebrows (or bangs, if you have them) getting too close to see if the thing is burning. At least you'll know that it's lit! :lol:

If you prefer to buy an alcohol stove rather than get involved with sharp metal edges (ouch), hole-punching and multiple trials to get a decent burn, here's a relatively inexpensive complete kit from Anti-Gravity Gear which uses a Tinman stove: http://www.antigravitygear.com/antigravitygear-stove-set-special.html
I just decided to order one for myself! I won't use the mug so the total weight is 3.1 oz., less than the weight of my canister stove alone.


That is essentially the kit I got, but mine has a few more things in it like this one: http://www.antigravitygear.com/antigravitygear-mama-s-kitchen-2-qt-deluxe-solo-non-stick-cook-set.html. 15.1 oz for the whole kitchen! And I've used it successfully for two people, although person #2 needs to bring their own bowl and cup....

While it may take a little longer, I didn't notice a significant increase in boil times between my white gas stove and my alcohol stove. I would suggest investing $12 for the stove and experiment in the driveway a bit to see what you think before you commit to an alcohol stove.

_________________
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: WOW-What a ride!


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Canister vs. Alcohol Stove
 Post Posted: August 18th, 2010, 1:21 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: November 15th, 2009, 11:52 am
Posts: 560
Location: SW Portland
I've been using canister stoves for several years, and really like their convenience. I first got an MSR Windpro, which worked fine. To cut down on weight & bulk, I recently replaced it with a Snow Peak Gigapower, with piezo ignition. I used that on a week-long hike and was very happy with it. It's really light, and boils water very fast. I bought the optional windscreen that fits over the burner, which I think helps heat the pot faster. Grannyhiker is right that the piezo igniters can be unreliable, but I still found it handy to have, and it seems like a small addition to the weight. Of course, you always need to have a lighter available for backup. My only complaint about canisters it that it's hard to tell how much fuel you have left.

I tried the Esbit tablet stove on one recent backpack. I know many people are devoted to them, but I thought it was just too slow, even for solo use, and even in non-windy conditions. I doubt I'll use mine again.

_________________
Time spent hiking will not be deducted from your life.


Top 
 Profile  
 
 Post subject: Re: Canister vs. Alcohol Stove
 Post Posted: August 20th, 2010, 9:51 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: May 28th, 2008, 11:03 pm
Posts: 7859
I've used canister stoves for years, very convenient.

I weigh the canister before and after trip, write the weights and the number of days used on the bottom. After a while you'll have a good idea of how much per day worst case. I use 1.25 ounces per day to boil 4 pints of water.

Then, weigh canister before trip, subtract weight of canister (5 ounces for 220 gram canister), divide by your ounces per day, and you know how many days it's good for.

I frequently camp a night at the car near the trailhead so I use up any almost empty canisters.

I got a MSR pocket rocket, but there are other equally good ones that weigh about 3 ounces.


Top 
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
 
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 60 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  Next

Board index » Gear & Goodies » Campsite Banter: Gear, Gadgets and Grub


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users

 
 

 
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  

Disclaimer: Information found on PortlandHikers.org and PortlandHikersFieldGuide.org is provided by website visitors and volunteers and should be considered anecdotal. All trails and directions and subject to current conditions. Trails and roads can be rerouted due to natural events and the website is not able to provide current information for every hike. Please verify against two other sources before planning a trip. Outdoor activities present inherent risks. Portlandhikers.org, nor any of its members, accept liability for injuries relating to information found on this website.