View Full Version : How do you keep fuel canister operative in sub freezing weather....

02-08-2014, 19:24
I just did a 2.5 day 30 mile trip from iron mtn gap north to 19e in NC/TN great trip except !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

-Rolled my ankle about 8 miles in....roan, lil hump and hump were a bitch with only one good leg plus solid ice down roan to carvers gap.http://img.tapatalk.com/d/14/02/09/qazade9y.jpghttp://img.tapatalk.com/d/14/02/09/6eqy3y9y.jpghttp://img.tapatalk.com/d/14/02/09/anu2u9uj.jpg

-Half full fuel canister wouldn't stay burning @ 14-20 degree weather..

Ran out of TP....thank god for snow and a bandanna....saved the day...along w lots of hand sanitizer !!!

Great trip even with setbacks ... Thank god had plenty of vitamin I....

I've never had a fuel problem as I keep it inside my pack but it's the coldest I've been out in so far. How do you keep fuel useable in under 20 degree temps? I guess maybe my jacket pocket?

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02-08-2014, 19:54
Once it gets below about 25F canisters, especially half empty ones, just don't have enough internal pressure to keep an upright stove going. Warming it close to your body will help, but as soon as it cools down, you will have the same issue again.

Some stoves have a pressure regulator that helps, but physics are physics and the pressure is still too low when it gets really cold. Upright canister stoves are not winter stoves. Also Some remote canister stoves have a preheat tube that will allow you to run the canister upside down. That will allow the stove to operate down to around 0F.

Without buying another stove all you can do is try to keep the canister as warm as possible. You can make or buy a canister cozy, that will buy you a little time, but canisters make their own cold...

Sounds like a great hike even with the glitches.

Sarcasm the elf
02-08-2014, 20:38
What kind of stove were you using?

20 degrees is on the lower limit of where I find that cannister stoves really agreeable. I can get my jetboil to work at lower thet that, but i have to play with it a bit.

First, put the cannister inside your jacket for about 5 minutes before using it in order to warm it up. Dont take it out until you're ready to use it and then start cooking as fast as possible.

With my jeboil it is possible for me to hold the cannister and stove while it is cooking since the pot locks into the stove, i put my bare hands around the cannister to keep it warm (don't know that I'd recommend this method, but it works for me.)

02-08-2014, 20:41
The type of fuel blend also plays into how well your canister stove will operate. For this reason, I simply make it typical to carry Snow Peak Gold(the BEST for cold weather IMHO!), MSR, or Jet Boil canisters because their blends are better formulated for a wider temp range of efficient usability including down to a lower temp. When it gets REALLY COLD(regularly below 0 - -10*) I switch to other types of stoves and fuel.

Look here.


Nice pic of Carvers Gap. I've never seen it like that. Did you get over to the Roan Mt AT Shelter/Cabin?

02-08-2014, 20:50
If you have a shallow flat container, you can fill it with water and place your canister in that while you are cooking. The canister draws heat from the water. You can also just wrap your bare hands around the canister during cooking. This is cold! But it's what I usually do. I blow in my hands a lot :)

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02-08-2014, 20:51
I was out in January with my Pocket Rocket and a small canister and had no problem. I pack it in my pot with the rest of my "kitchen." In camp, after tents were up and fire was built, I put the fuel can in my puffy coat pocket while we hung out. When using it, I put it on a larger circle of cut up car window sun shade to insulate from the snow/ground. Worked to make dinner and later to boil water for my Nalgene and someone else's. I slept with it in my sleeping bag. It worked fine in the morning for me to make my coffee, then breakfast, and another person borrowed it for some stuff. I was surprised it lasted so long, it may not even be empty yet who knows. I don't know how cold it got, but it was 19 at about 8 p.m. I DID start with a brand new canister, I'm sure that helped.

02-08-2014, 22:07
Looks pretty frosty, but sure is pretty :)

So, did you buy microspikes or do you wish you took our advice?

Did you start out with a full canister? A little tea light candle under the canister would likely help a lot in those conditions. Just need to find something to prop up the canister and be solid enough not to tip over.

02-08-2014, 22:16
I was using a snow peak litemax stove w a half full jetboil canister. I tried putting in my pocket 15 min before use. Would light then peter out after a min or two. I actually tried to use at roan high knob shelter w no luck. Thank god for protein bars, pb, gorp. By time we hit to camp (dog and I) it was too cold to sit out and eat as it was around 8 by time we reached overmountain shelter. It took us around 11-12 hrs to hike the 15 miles to oms between a shot ankle and lots of ice it was a tough day...almost bailed at carter gap but stuck it out and loaded up vit I...

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02-08-2014, 22:24
As a canister gets used the temp rating actually gets higher, so when new you may be able to cook at 20F but near the end you may need 30F. This is due to the mixing of fuels and the uneven rate they come out, so near the end of canister life you are left with fuels that will require higher temperatures. Better to use full canisters in the winter and use the partials up in the summer.

As stated different brands are better with cold weather as well as different stoves, and high efficiency pots (ones with some sort of heat fins).

That said try to keep the canister as warm as practical, I slept with mine on my thru in the cold temps, and you should be fine down to 12F (the lowest temp I knew about).

Below I would say 10F without external heat (such as the tealight mentioned above), you should consider a different stove, usually white gas.

Sarcasm the elf
02-08-2014, 22:29
Looks pretty frosty, but sure is pretty :)

So, did you buy microspikes or do you wish you took our advice?

Did you start out with a full canister? A little tea light candle under the canister would likely help a lot in those conditions. Just need to find something to prop up the canister and be solid enough not to tip over.

You aren't suggesting to put a fuel canister into direct contact with an open flame, are you? That is a really good way of compromising the canister and causing a BLEVE (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_liquid_expanding_vapor_explosion), not a good idea.

Rocket Jones
02-08-2014, 22:34
Here's an idea to experiment with, I haven't tried it myself (doesn't often get cold enough here for it) - use a short, loose windscreen around the canister with two or three tea candles spaced around inside. Not close enough to overheat, but maybe enough heat generated to reflect a little and raise the microclimate around the canister a few degrees.

02-08-2014, 22:35
Looks pretty frosty, but sure is pretty :)

So, did you buy microspikes or do you wish you took our advice?

Did you start out with a full canister? A little tea light candle under the canister would likely help a lot in those conditions. Just need to find something to prop up the canister and be solid enough not to tip over.

I tried to order but couldn't get in time and rei was out of stock in se. I'm sure they would have helped for that 1.5 miles down to carver gap but the general rough terrain w or with out ice was tough on ankle. The climb out of carter was a narrow frozen mix of very uneven terrain that was brutal on ankle. I only fell once because of ice. Can't imagine how anyone would not use trekking poles! They saved my arse the entire trip. My cheap ass left w a half full canister as I didn't account for temps and pressure drops. I will not make that mistake again but it wasn't a huge deal as I was to cold to fool w cooking. As soon as tent was up me I was in my marmot helium15 deg bag. I will say I wasn't toasty at 14 deg even w 2 layers of thermals and montbell ul down parka. I was alittle chilly as the rest of my cloths were pilled over my pooch on his zlite pad. I'm sure the neoair xlite didn't help insulate much as I would have brought wife's zlite as well but it's put away in storage while we move. I got to try my new pat cap 4 expedition wt hoodie which is incredible. While hiking all I wore was it w a thin exofficio synthetic shirt over it and was comfortable down to low 20's w hoodie on.

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02-09-2014, 01:00
When its that cold, and you still want to use a canister stove, you may want to use an remote canister stove. The canister will need to be inverted

NEver used this, by there is a Chinese knock-off version that rec'd decent reviews on BPL Only about $17.

You'll need to order an inverted canister stand. MSR makes one. Sure local gear shop has a way of ordering it separately.

You can even make one of your own

I already have a white gas stove for winter backpacking and do not need yet another stove. :)

02-09-2014, 03:16
Take a few hand warmers along and place one under your canister while cooking and keep your hands warm when your done...

02-09-2014, 08:24
Take a few hand warmers along and place one under your canister while cooking and keep your hands warm when your done...

This sounds like a good idea..I don't feel comfortable having an open flame under my fuel canister to warm it.

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The Cleaner
02-09-2014, 09:06
Sounds like you need a white gas stove and a lower rated sleeping bag. Nothing like hiking all day only to have to get in tent & sleeping bag w/o any hot food.....

02-09-2014, 09:32
Wife will kill me if u buy any more gear...the bag is a great bag but w a 15 deg rating that doesn't mean warm at 15. I typically only get to winter hike 2 times per season I'll make due..maybe a new pair of capaline bottoms.. And try the hand warmers on the fuel canister.

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02-09-2014, 16:14
Humm, I've been using a Snowpeak Lite Max Ti stove and Snowpeak Gold or MSR cans quite regularly in 10* temps with no huge cooking problems(boiling about 1.5 cps of water). I do often have a decent amt of fuel in these cans when the temps get down that low. The only time I may have an issue is when the can gets near empty so maybe Starchild makes a good pt. I know that inverted canister deal Mags is talking about can help too in those temps. A 4 oz iso canister is normaly stored in the bottom of my Snowpeak Mini Solo pot with a small ditty rag on top in a mesh stuff sack and it's all typically stored somehere in center of my backpack so maybe that keeps the can warm. When I stop hiking and I unload my pack I'm typically eating too within 20 mins or so right after my sleeping bag/quilts are unpacked and lofted so the can maybe isn'tv so cold. I have dropped really cold cams(ice on the outside) into an inner jacket/vest pocket to warm them up a bit which sure helps firing up the barbie.

02-09-2014, 17:43
The boiling point of isobutane is around 10F, so in the teens there is very little pressure, as the liquid boils the canister gets colder quick and drops the temp to equal the boiling point. At that point the pressure in the canister is equal to atmospheric (stove no work). The temp drop due to the liquid boiling inside the canister is actually pretty radical once the gas starts flowing, so it does not take long for the temperature of the liquid gas to drop below 10F when it's cold outside.

They mix in propane to keep the pressure up, but once the canister is below 10F, you are burning propane almost exclusively. Once the propane is gone, you only have the pressure the isobutane will give you, and that is almost nothing when the temps are in the teens.

The fuller the canister is, and the less it has been used in cold temps, the more propane is still in the mix. A new canister starts out with about 20%. The more it has been used in cold temps the less propane is is left.

There are a few other things going on (Boyle's law, Dalton's law, etc.) but that is the gist of it, and why canister stoves are not the best for cold weather. You can make due by keeping the canisters warm and cooking quickly, but it is what it is.