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Choosing a Stove


It used to be that nothing could compare to a hot meal cooked over an open fire while camping beneath the stars. But recently the greater focus and appreciation of minimal impact camping means choosing lightweight, portable stoves for camping or travelling is a must. To find the right stove it is important to consider the kinds of trips you want to take and the sort of meals you want to enjoy (culinary ability aside). Also you will need to consider how many people you will be cooking for, what kinds of temperatures or altitudes you will be cooking in (which may affect the kind of fuel you burn) and which areas or countries you will be in (this may affect what fuels are readily available).

 

Stove Designs and Fuel sources

 


Stoves come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and designs. It is important to look at stove design from the functional aspects of reliability, useability, weight and dimensions. Some factors to consider are:

  • How easy is the stove to set up? Does it require assembly every time it's used? If so, is the assembly easy or complex?
  • Is the stove sturdy? Is it stable on uneven ground? How hard is it to balance a pot on top?
  • If a gas canister is used, is it easy to attach and remove? Can it be detached before it's completely empty?
  • How easy is the stove to light? Does it require priming? Can it be primed with fuel from the stove itself?
  • How easy is the stove to control? Can the heat output be adjusted easily? How easy is the stove to maintain in the field?

 

 

Fuel Sources


When choosing your stove, your first consideration should be the type of fuel it requires. Take a few minutes to decide which one will work best for you and this will also help narrow down the number of choices. The various fuels and their benefits/weaknesses are discussed below.

 

Gas Canisters (LPG)

This is the generic name for the perhaps more commonly known fuels, butane, iso-butane and propane. The types of stoves that use this fuel are often the easiest ones to use and require the least maintenance. The fuel is contained in pressurised canisters, which are available in most industrialised parts of the world, though they are almost impossible to find in some regions. In this range Paddy Pallin offers MSR , 360 Degrees, Jetboil and Optimus stoves, both in stores and online. 

Recommendation: These stoves are lightweight, ideal for general camping where you require a quick easy heat source.

 

Positives: 

  • Convenient, clean burning and easy to light
  • Burn hot immediately and do not require priming
  • Can be adjusted easily for simmering
  • Can't leak when in transit

Negatives: 

  • More expensive than other fuel types
  • You must carry and dispose of the fuel canisters (although they are recyclable if empty and punctured)
  • Performance may decrease in temperatures below freezing
  • Fuel is not always readily available

 

 

Multi-Fuel stoves (Unleaded petrol, Aviation fuel, solvent, white gas)


Probably one of the most popular types of stoves around, white gas and multi-fuel stoves can be used in both backcountry and international environments. White gas is also sold as Naphtha, camp fuel, or lighter fuel and can be found in outdoor stores, some service stations and hardware stores in North America, Australia and New Zealand. The lack of white gas in other parts of the world makes the multi-fuel option of these types of stoves more important. Paddy Pallin offers MSR and Optimus ranges of these stoves in stores or Online.

These types of stoves are easy to operate and maintain, and are generally considered quite reliable. However, because of the volatility of the fuel, their use may not be suitable in all environments. Relative to canister stoves, these stoves can also require more maintenance.

Many (but not all) white gas stoves can be adapted for multi-fuel use (though they tend to be a little more expensive) which means with simple modifications, they can operate using other fuels like kerosene, automotive and aviation fuel. These types of stoves are highly suited to users who may find themselves in environments where white gas is not available. These types of stoves require priming/ pressure regulation of the fuel canister and fuel line. The process is best instructed via the manufacturer's instructions.

 

Recommendation: These stoves are great overall performers, perfect for travel around the world (including remote regions if you have a multi fuel option) and suitable in just about any weather conditions. They are generally reliable, inexpensive and efficient.

 

White gas:

 

Positives

      • Inexpensive, easy to find throughout most industrialised countries
      • Clean, easy to light
      • Spilled fuel evaporates quickly

Negatives

      • Volatile (spilled fuel can ignite quickly)
      • Priming is required (fuel from the stove can be used)
      • Can be hard to find in some countries

 

Unleaded petrol, Aviation fuel, Solvent:

 

Positives

      • Very inexpensive, easy to find throughout the world

Negatives

      • Burns dirty/sooty
      • Extremely volatile

 

 

Kerosene


The use of kerosene is often dictated by the country you are travelling where many of the other fuel alternatives are not available. Kerosene stoves also require the use of white gas, alcohol or priming paste as a separate priming agent. Paddy Pallin offers MSR and Optimus ranges of these stoves in stores or Online.

Recommendation: Kerosene burning stoves offer a cheap and versatile fuel option for backpackers that plan on travelling off the beaten track in less developed countries.

 

Positives:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to find (throughout the world)
  • High heat output
  • Spilled fuel does not ignite easily
  • Can be used in many of the multi-fuel stoves

 

Negatives:

  • Somewhat messy (burns dirty, smelly)
  • Priming is required (best if different priming fuel is used), as kerosene tends to gum up stove parts
  • Spilled fuel evaporates slowly.
     

 

Methylated spirits stoves


While unavailable in some parts of the world, this is the only fuel that does not require pressure for stove operation. Unfortunately, methyl alcohol does not burn at very high temperature and will produce about half the amount of heat as the same weight in gasoline or kerosene. Trangia is one example of this style of stove offered by Paddy Pallin in stores or Online

Recommendation: These stoves offer an environmentally sensitive option for backpackers and campers who enjoy the quiet of these slow burning stoves and are not pushed for time on their travels. It is possible to carry an extremely reliable, light and compact emergency stove which uses this as a fuel source as a backup stove.

 

Positives:

  • A renewable fuel resource, low volatility
  • Burns almost silently
  • Alcohol-burning stoves tend to have fewer moving parts than other types, lowering the chance of breakdown.

 

Negatives:

  • Lower heat output, so cooking takes longer and requires more fuel
  • Fuel can be hard to find in many countries

 

 

Stove Performance

 

Priming

 

Priming is the process of igniting a small amount of stove fuel (or other flammable substance) at the base of the burner unit to warm up the fuel's path before the stove is lit. This process heats up the burner, the fuel line and the generator so that when the stove is first turned on, liquid fuel will come out of the jet already vaporised for easy lighting.

Priming is not necessary for stoves that use compressed gas fuels, since the fuel is already a gas when it reaches the burner. Some regular stove fuels (like white gas) can be used both for priming and regular stove operation. Others (like unleaded gas or kerosene) do not work well for priming. If you have trouble using your regular fuel for priming, carry a small container of priming paste or alcohol to use instead.

 

Stove Specifications

 

One of the best ways to compare performance is to review in store comparison charts at Paddy Pallin or online Click here to view or research any available stove literature. Some of the more telling statistics include

  • Average boiling time - This measures how hot the stove burns.
  • Water boiled per unit of fuel - This measures how efficient the stove is.
  • Burn time at maximum flame - This measures how long the stove will burn on a given supply of fuel before it has to be refilled
  • Weight, shape and size
     

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