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Stove Types

September 15th, 2009

There are two types of lightweight stove:

1) Canister Stoves, which burn liquefied gas (butane or butane-propane mixtures) you purchase in ready-to-go sealed canisters found at outdoor stores and other outlets.  These stoves feature instantaneous lighting.   Best for: Weekend backpackers, pedalers, and paddlers who primarily camp in warm weather, at low elevations, and who would rather trade dollars and a few ounces for an extra measure of convenience.

2) White Gas Stoves that burn a gasoline-like liquid bought in quart or gallon cans, and poured off into the stove tank in the quantity you need. These usually require some form of priming to light properly.  Best for: Ounce-counting adventurers bound for long trips (5+ days) in a variety of conditions and topography, including high, cold places. Also best for people concerned about the monetary and environmental costs of using canister stoves.


Canister: Although canister gas provides really light heat for short trips, on longer trips with more canisters, the weight of the canisters soon mounts up and makes the stoves heavy overall. For example the small Peak 1 canister for 3.5 oz (100g) of fuel weighs (3.1 oz) 88g empty. That’s nearly as much as the fuel it contained! Larger canisters are not as inefficient.

White Gas: Although the stoves themselves are heavier than most canister stoves, the difference is not so large if you factor-in the following: 1. You can tell how much fuel is in the tank and can save weight by carrying no more fuel than you need. You don’t have the weight of the extra canister you must take when you aren’t sure how full the other canister is!
2. A fuel bottle carrying 14.5 oz (420 g) fuel weighs only 4.8 oz (140g). Compare that with the canister figures!

Running Cost

Canister: Running costs are very high compared to white gas. This becomes a significant factor on long trips or if you use stoves a lot.

White Gas: Very cheap to run — a gallon of white gas can be bought for little more than the price of one 8-oz canister.

Cold Weather Performance

Canister: Not great once temperatures approach freezing, better when fuel contains propane and uses iso-butane instead of n-butane as the main component of the mix.

White Gas: Performance unaffected by cold.

High Altitude Performance

Canister: Reduced exterior air pressure improves gas flow, even at low temperatures. Convenience and no need for priming are assets in cramped high-altitude tents, and when people are functioning below par due to altitude effects.

White Gas: White gas stoves seem to function at high altitudes if you have appropriate working conditions, such as base camps in which to use them. Not as nice to use inside tents as canister gas because of fumes and large flames during priming.

Additional resources: www.gorp.com

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