Thursday, July 8, 2010

Backpacking, Mountaineering, Camping, and Climbing Stoves

There is a huge demand for a small portable flame in the wilderness to heat water. There are three general categories of stoves which I  describe.

Solid Fuel Stoves:

  • Stoves that burn wood, charcoal, fuel tabs
  • Easy to transport fuel and easy to find fuel
  • Hardly any control of flame size and heat
  • Cheap
  • Dirty
  • Best uses: true unsupported long wilderness treks where wood is easy to find but carrying two gallons of white gas is not practical. These are for beginners who like fires or experienced people who like the simplicity. Simple backpacking or camping are their best uses.
  • My favorite: soda can alcohol stove
  • My least favorite: coffee can wood stove
Liquid Fuel Stoves:
  • Stoves that burn white gas, kerosene, diesel, alcohol
  • Easy to find fuel but difficult to transport fuel
  • Very good flame size (heat) control
  • Moderately expensive
  • Somewhat clean
  • Moderately heavy
  • Best uses: general backpacking. In the US and abroad fuel is easy to find. They work well at higher elevations and in cold temperatures but are not the lightest option. They are too volatile to be used in tents and can not be hung.
  • My favorite: MSR Whisperlite International
  • My least favorite: They are all pretty similar I don't have a least favorite.
Canister Stoves:
  • Stoves that burn propane, butane or a mix of the two
  • Difficult to find fuel or fuel that is new and not in refilled cannisters
  • Generally only on or off so no flame control
  • Somewhat expensive, especially the fuel
  • Very clean
  • The lightest option
  • Can usually be hung and still work
  • Best uses: where weight is an issue and so is time. Ultralight backpackers who need to boil water faster than an alcohol stove. Climber and mountaineers who want to go lighter or hang their stove.
  • My favorite: MSR Reactor. It's efficient, light, powerful, and hands down my favorite stove.
  • My least favorite: I have a decade old Coleman with a huge burner and pot support. Nice for camping not for backpacking.
That's a general run down of stoves to be used in the hills.

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