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Thread: Stoves

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    Default Stoves

    Opinions on 2 different types of stoves for thru hiking the Appalachian Trail.

    Caldera cone system with liquid fuel like denatured alcohol/Heat versus a canister system.

    How easy is it to find canisters along the trail? Iíve done research and it seems pretty easy to find liquid for penny can type stoves.

    Any advice given towards either or both system types is welcomed!

    Thank you


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    I rarely carry a stove any more, but it is pretty darn easy to find fuel along the AT, whether gas canister or other.
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    about 2 years ago I converted to alc stove and I will never go back to canister system again

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    double post

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    It comes down to personal preference. On a long distance hike weight savings is probably slightly in favor of canisters, shorter hikes likely favor alcohol. Finding either fuel on the AT is not an issue. A hot meal is always a nice thing, and even if you donít carry a stove, is not too far away on the AT. My personal preference (with slight bias) isa Trail Design Sidewinder Ti Tri with Inferno insert and a Zelph Starlyte burner. This gives one the option to cook with a wood fire if needed and an esbit option as well. Esbit is harder to find than the other 2 fuels you mentioned.

    There have been multiple other long threads on the same topic here at White Blaze. Itís one of the topics near the top of the list that has been beaten to death here in IMHO.

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    No issue finding fuel, there is a issue in the need to find fuel. A small canister can last for weeks, Alchy fuel is usually refilled far more more often, thus another town chore to do.

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    If you don't mind carrying half to 2/3rd empty ones, many hiker boxes have cannisters for free.

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    IMHO

    If you are comfortable with shaking a canister and knowing how much is left, and know if you can make it to resupply on the fuel in it, and plan to use the small canisters, and rarely if ever will be carrying a large size or 2 canisters at the same time, go with the canister stove. You will get the greatest bang for the buck (weight and connivence wise) .

    If you don't like the shake test (or other method to determine the amount of fuel remaining in a canister), will be carrying more then one small canister or the larger size, will be disposing/hiker boxing canisters with lots of fuel in it to buy a new one, then go alcohol, you will not reap the benefit of a canister.

    With Alcohol fuel everything should work out to a equation, one should know how much they need for so many meals/days. It turns art into science, for those who prefer to be exact. And for those people who like to be exact they can realize some good weight savings on a thru. Though if you are more inclined into art then exact measurements you will most likely carry extra alcohol and another thing to consider is that if you buy a bottle of HEET, will you carry the whole thing (ending weight savings of the alchy stove - this is the equivalent of carrying more then one small canister at a time)?

    As for convenience, to me canisters can't be beat - so much less fiddle factor. That is said by a hiker who loves to set it up the night before so while still in the sleeping bag I can turn on the gas, press the ignitor and hove hot water to make instant coffee with before the brain wakes up..

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchild View Post
    . . . As for convenience, to me canisters can't be beat - so much less fiddle factor. That is said by a hiker who loves to set it up the night before so while still in the sleeping bag I can turn on the gas, press the ignitor and hove hot water to make instant coffee with before the brain wakes up..
    This pretty much sums it up. If you want to fiddle with your cooking, go for alcohol. It's a lot of fun and highly effective. If you want simpler and safer, stick with canister. I like'm both. I end up using canister most of the time because lazy/easy/no-thought-required wins out most of the time.
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    Yeah, when it comes to convenience, canister stove can't be beat.
    But even if you choose canister, there's still lots of choices to make. Do you go minimulist with something of the style of MSR Pocket Rocket, where the pot precariously sits on top? Do you go with a heavier setup like Jetboil, where the pot attaches to the stove, and the pot has a heat exchanger for fuel saving? (If you only boil water for dinner, a standard canister can last two weeks in a Jetboil).

    BTW: When I did a JMT thru, I enjoyed what today would be the Jetboil MicroMo, which the stove claims to be usable below freezing (most canister stoves have issues as temperatures approach freezing, and likely no canister stove will likely work if temps drop to 20).

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    . . . (most canister stoves have issues as temperatures approach freezing, and likely no canister stove will likely work if temps drop to 20).
    I regularly use my canister stoves down to sub-zero Fahrenheit without issue using the "Moulder Strip".
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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    ... I enjoyed what today would be the Jetboil MicroMo, which the stove claims to be usable below freezing (most canister stoves have issues as temperatures approach freezing, and likely no canister stove will likely work if temps drop to 20).
    I use a Jetboil (Sol Ti) in 10F temperatures and was able to boil water for me and others. But yes cold weather is a consideration and it took longer but not that much longer. A bit lower then that and it may not have worked. IIRC Jetboil is rated to 20F

  13. #13

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    One thing to point out is in typical AT conditions its not a major crisis if you run out of fuel a day out of town. There is always the caveman method which is find a few dry twigs and light a fire to supplement fuel use. Sure there are a few very limited areas (I think CT) where you legally cannot do it but for the vast majority of the AT its an option. Once you realize this you can run a cannister or bottle of alcohol a lot closer to empty. Obviously wood fires have their limitations if everyone did them but I feel its a dying art that's worth keeping the skills for. Even in the rain in New England, there is frequently white birches and firs, grab a few sheets of loose white birch bark and even if its damp it will light up and burn. Looks under any small fir tree and you will find dead dry twigs. They may be damp on the outside but usually dry on the inside. Find a sheltered spot, and its highly likely that you can get a smoky fire going quickly especially if you have practiced it. One hint is if you are headed to a campsite where you may need to start a fire is grab some materials and keep them dry a few hundred feet before the campsite as folks tend to "browse" the woods near the campsite for fire building materials.

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    For me, most of the fiddling with alcohol systems came with the years I spent evolving my system to work the way I wanted it to. My objective was to be able to boil water with a set up and boil time that was almost as easy and foolproof as a canister and I'm pretty much there. Alcohol stoves have a steep learning curve compared to canisters, but a lot of that effort takes place before the hike.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchild View Post
    I use a Jetboil (Sol Ti) in 10F temperatures and was able to boil water for me and others. But yes cold weather is a consideration and it took longer but not that much longer. A bit lower then that and it may not have worked. IIRC Jetboil is rated to 20F
    I've personally experienced issues trying to use something like the pocket rocket with temperatures in the 30's. Since then have always taken my old white gas stove on weekend trips where I expected cold weather.

    I haven't tried using any canister stove in below freezing temperatures, but from what I've read, I'm under the impression that it becomes a chore to try to use it at such extreme temperatures... things like keeping the canister under your jacket to keep it warm, placing the canister on an insulated pad to prevent cold ground from chilling the fuel, etc.

    Basically, I'm under the impression that canister stoves loose their 'convenience' factor once temps get to about freezing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    I've personally experienced issues trying to use something like the pocket rocket with temperatures in the 30's. Since then have always taken my old white gas stove on weekend trips where I expected cold weather.

    I haven't tried using any canister stove in below freezing temperatures, but from what I've read, I'm under the impression that it becomes a chore to try to use it at such extreme temperatures... things like keeping the canister under your jacket to keep it warm, placing the canister on an insulated pad to prevent cold ground from chilling the fuel, etc.

    Basically, I'm under the impression that canister stoves loose their 'convenience' factor once temps get to about freezing.
    I do agree with this, I just lucked out in my thru and it worked, but not something I would plan to go out with knowing the low temps expected.

    But to add some stoves have a temperature compensating regulator including my above mentioned Jetboil which is rated to the 20f mark. It sounds like your pocket rocket didnít have that so yeah 30f limit sounds about right.

    Also the fuel blend(brand) and how full the canister is matters at cold temperatures. Snow Peak contains one of the best blends, MSR and. Jetboil also pretty good, Coleman is one of the worst IIRC. Near full canisters help out a lot here too and at low temperatures you will be burning off much of the isobutane which is the good low temperature gas and left with more of the harder to use propane.


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  17. #17

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    I used Esbit in a Caldera Cone system on a 3-week AT section hike and was very happy with it. I mailed myself resupply packages to pick up every 4-5 days and included the Esbit in these packages. No worries to find fuel as a result. Just another option you may want to consider.
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    Quote Originally Posted by QiWiz View Post
    I used Esbit in a Caldera Cone system on a 3-week AT section hike and was very happy with it. I mailed myself resupply packages to pick up every 4-5 days and included the Esbit in these packages...
    From what I've read online, to legally mail Esbit, there are certain postal regulation you need to follow.
    Don't know if the data is still valid, but here's a web site that has posted information regarding the shipping of camping fuels.
    If the web site's info is valid, the key thing to know is that Esbit should NOT be shipped in priority mail. In needs to be shipped via ground with ORM-D labels.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starchild View Post
    IMHO

    If you are comfortable with shaking a canister and knowing how much is left, and know if you can make it to resupply on the fuel in it, and plan to use the small canisters, and rarely if ever will be carrying a large size or 2 canisters at the same time, go with the canister stove. You will get the greatest bang for the buck (weight and connivence wise) .

    If you don't like the shake test (or other method to determine the amount of fuel remaining in a canister), will be carrying more then one small canister or the larger size, will be disposing/hiker boxing canisters with lots of fuel in it to buy a new one, then go alcohol, you will not reap the benefit of a canister.

    With Alcohol fuel everything should work out to a equation, one should know how much they need for so many meals/days. It turns art into science, for those who prefer to be exact. And for those people who like to be exact they can realize some good weight savings on a thru. Though if you are more inclined into art then exact measurements you will most likely carry extra alcohol and another thing to consider is that if you buy a bottle of HEET, will you carry the whole thing (ending weight savings of the alchy stove - this is the equivalent of carrying more then one small canister at a time)?

    As for convenience, to me canisters can't be beat - so much less fiddle factor. That is said by a hiker who loves to set it up the night before so while still in the sleeping bag I can turn on the gas, press the ignitor and hove hot water to make instant coffee with before the brain wakes up..

    My alcohol fuel bottle (Jim Beam, 375 ML bottle) is marked in ounces on one side to buy fuel and "burns" on the other to judge how many days are left. Buying fuel was always a priority and I usually carried too much, only ran short once.
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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    I've personally experienced issues trying to use something like the pocket rocket with temperatures in the 30's. Since then have always taken my old white gas stove on weekend trips where I expected cold weather. . .
    Quote Originally Posted by Starchild View Post
    I do agree with this, I just lucked out in my thru and it worked, but not something I would plan to go out with knowing the low temps expected. . .
    Maybe I'm just neive, but I'm at a loss as to why there are people here that are are still talking about and concerned with using canisters below freezing. For $2 worth of supplies and a few minutes of effort, you can make pretty much any canister stove work, without issue to temperatures below zero!! We've been doing this for several years now!

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