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  1. #1
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    Default Troubleshooting Cat Stove - pls help

    Disappointing performance with fancy feast stove (just the can and holes) this past weekend in 40F weather, minimal wind (about 0-3 mph). Setup is:

    - stove insulated from cold ground via wood, and a foil covered foam disc under it.
    - allowed bloom time 30-60 sec depending on which "trial"
    - with and without Al flashing windscreen. Seemed to be oxygen starved with it (in the AM, but not previous night). Windscreen elevated about 1/4" off surface with binder clips, to allow for airflow. Screen open about 1" on handle side of pot; otherwise was about 1/4" to 1/2" clearance around the pot circumference
    - water may have been close to ambient temperature, as it was sitting out overnight as the temp dropped to upper 30s by dawn
    - pot used was IMUSA 0.7 qt (660 ml) aluminum mug, approx 3.75" diameter. Fancy feast can is 2.25" diameter
    - denatured alcohol used (from Lowes)

    the water did warm, but never got to rolling boil or even simmer. I recently started using Al pots to help with heat transfer (vs. stainless) but this cold weather performance was really disappointing. I did notice the handle warming more if I let it hover over the can, instead of resting it on there ... indicating better heat transfer.

    I like the pots I have, but they may be relatively narrow for their capacity: 3.25", 3.75", 4.25", for 710ml, 660ml, and 1.4L, respectively. Is it possible I have the wrong kind of alcohol stove for pots of these diameters? For the pots I have, Would a "top burner" or stand help? If the windscreen is always going to be open on one side due to handle, is elevating it for airflow unnecessary?
    Only rolling boil I got was previous night when it was probably in the mid 40s. Picture attached showing flames relative to pot. Flames (when they finally showed up) were mostly blue, but the occasional yellow flame appeared.

    IMG_3929s.JPG
    Last edited by Time Zone; 02-17-2020 at 10:28.

  2. #2
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    Not a stove or cookware expert. My experience only.

    I use the fancy feast stove. Just the can with paper punch holes. In temps below 50 I use an aluminum disk that is a little bigger than the stove and a 4" tall wind screen, that can be adjusted to hug my pot (gsi 1qt kettel 6" base) or out to leave an inch all the way around.

    I get the disk and stove in a stable location. Add fuel (sometimes Heat sometime de-alk) put maybe half teaspoon of fuel on the disk light both stove and disk. My kettle and windscreen are at hand. My wind screen will be somewhat loose around everything. I slowly lower the kettle down to the stove and boil water.
    I learned here to put a little fuel in the disk here years ago. It helps heat the fuel faster, allowing it to "bloom" faster. I have used this method for years in temp's in the teens all over GA,NC and VA.

    Note: I do have more holes in my can than the stove in the pic. Just an observation.

    Anyway, that's what I do. ymmv
    Last edited by V Eight; 02-17-2020 at 11:07. Reason: Add I
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  3. #3
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    Thanks, V Eight ... I wonder if the difference in our experiences is more in the priming or the fact that you're using a 6" pot.

    6" is quite a bit wider than my pots, which, shape-wise, could be considered just mugs of varying capacity. The Fancy Feast stove covers only about 14% of the bottom surface of your pot. It covers 36% of the one I used the other night.

    Below what temps do you prime your alcohol stove? Or do you always do it? A few weeks ago I bought a couple mini fruit pies at WM to harvest their aluminum pans for priming my alcohol stove. I didn't bring one this past weekend, thinking that I shouldn't need it for the ~ 40 degrees expected. Maybe I do?

  4. #4
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    http://www.woodgaz-stove.com/modifie...yte-burner.php

    i like this stove with narrow pot . I use the other side for Esbit.

    thom

  5. #5
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    You are not alone in your frustration. After many attempts with several different alcohol stoves, pots (the wider, shallower "grease pot" was the best), windscreens, etc., I still had issues getting water to actual boil. Fish eyes was often the best I could get, and often not even that in cold and/or breezy conditions. Just couldn't rely on it. So, I did what most people do when they try and try again without success - I gave up. My final solution: isobutane. Light stove. Boil water. Every time.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cheyou View Post
    http://www.woodgaz-stove.com/modifie...yte-burner.php

    i like this stove with narrow pot . I use the other side for Esbit.



    thom
    After many attempts at making my own stove... which was admittedly was entertaining, I broke down and bought at Zelph stove as well. I have the Fancee Feast one. it puts the flame upward where it's not wasted.

    My paper punch/cat food can models all spread the flames way too wide, and it seemed pointless to buy a larger/wider pot than I wanted, just to make my crappy stove work a bit more effeciently.

  7. #7

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    I found the best way to use an alky stove in cold weather is to make a pot stand out of a Dinty Moore beef stew can. Punch or drill a bunch of holes near the top and half way down the side of the can. The set the stove in the can, surrounded by fiberglass insulation. You can prime the stove by pouring a little fuel into the fiberglass. I've tested this setup to sub zero temps.

    I use the classic two wall soda pop can type stove, which I feel works better then the simple fancy feast type.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  8. #8
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    I'm guessing you can't really efficiently use a cat food can stove with a separate pot stand since the alcohol won't pressurize?

    Just came across this video which covered a couple things I experienced - cold pot kill syndrome and condensation. Plus it emphasizes priming. Again, I didn't know 40F was low enough to require that. But maybe it is!



    But a few more failures and I may follow 4eyedbuzzard and just stick with canisters that have a good mixture. The larger 220g Coleman canister they sell at Walmart also performed poorly as it chilled during use. I'm guessing too much butane in the mix there. It may start vaporizing around 31F but I suspect it can start performing poorly before that - like upper 30s. At home I have a 110g Snow Peak and that seems like a better mix. I'll save the Coleman for summertime.

  9. #9

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    You can get a lot of good information from You Tube.Check out Hiram Cook and Sean Emery.Also many other good alcohol stoves vids out there.You might be better served by a Caldera Cone from Trail Designs.The cone holds onto the pot,no gaps,and it does have greater efficiency.You can make your own,which I did,but in my case it would be cheaper to buy one due to the cost of tools and materials required and the learning curve involved etc.It always helps if you start with warm fuel.I sleep with mine in a ziplock bag in my jacket pocket with a bit of paper in it just in case there's any leaks.

  10. #10

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    FWIW,I bot some 36 guage aluminum crafting foil from Amazon-10 foot 12 inch roll for $11 bucks.It was easy to cut with scissors and work with the hands and makes a substantial enough wind screen.You can fold the ends of your screen back to interlock on each other or just use a heavy duty paper clip.Make the screen as high as your pot's top and cut a slot out for your handles.That protects from wind and makes the heat go up the sides more rather than get blown away in the wind.Note:it won't carry in your pot that way so you might want to wrap it on something like a water bottle.The foil makes a great primer pan too.

    I do like my BRS 3000 one ounce titanium burner matched with a 100 gram cannister because of its btu output and speed but I always get ribbing and veiled complaints from others about how LOUD it is.The downside to propane is that you never know exactly how much fuel is left until you weigh it.Then there is the issue of whether or not to refill the tank which I am really not keen on doing.So if you carry an additional tank when one has only a few boils left in it you are paying a 100 gram penalty for using gas.From my experience with a Snow Peak 600 titanium pot I estimate 10 grams of gas for a boil.

    Having both systems available is a big plus because during drought conditions alcohol burners might be prohibited due to the risk of forest fire.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    You are not alone in your frustration. After many attempts with several different alcohol stoves, pots (the wider, shallower "grease pot" was the best), windscreens, etc., I still had issues getting water to actual boil. Fish eyes was often the best I could get, and often not even that in cold and/or breezy conditions. Just couldn't rely on it. So, I did what most people do when they try and try again without success - I gave up. My final solution: isobutane. Light stove. Boil water. Every time.
    Perfectly stated, to which I can only add there are few things more frustrating dealing with a cranky stove system on a dark, cold, rainy evening that won't light or cannot get a meal prepared. My experience with the frustration of this is akin to being a lawyer with no one to blame. It was interesting for a while, fun and adventurous for a shorter time. Many meals died trying to bring the dream to fruition likely due to my own ineptitude (removing cap, placing over heart), before I came to the conclusion cat food cans were not for me, even if I removed the ingredients first.

  12. #12

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    Make your yourself this type of fancy feast stove. The inner part is a Budweiser aluminum bottle and the outer part is a fancy feast can. The wicking is fiberglass cloth. Easy to make (or buy one from Zelph) and arguably the best and simplest alcohol stove to use. Make a windscreen out of an aluminum stove liner. It will work with your IMUSA 0.7L cup just fine.

    oven liner.jpeg
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  13. #13
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    I use a Firebox Nano as backup. If it’s warm enough I can set the alcohol stove inside the nano or I can used some twigs if it’s too cold or I run out of fuel to cook over a fire. I got the metal case too, it’s a bit heavy but let’s me make a leave no trace fire.

  14. #14
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    I've found there's a huge difference in boiling times by simply raising or lowering the pot, i.e. adjusting the distance from burner to pot bottom by using different pot stands. That might not work with your particular stove, which looks like the pot is just set on the stove.

    I did have lots of fun experimenting with alcohol stoves (who doesn't like playing with fire?), but like others, I've also found I prefer the simplicity, reliability, and heat output of a good canister stove.

  15. #15
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    Dead on, Deadeye. Who doesn't like playing with fire? ha ha. And yes, I noticed that too about raising or lowering the pot. In fact, with a handled Al pot, the handle sort of acts like a temperature gauge for the contents inside - I could feel it warm up as I raised it off the cat stove. The reason of course was that the stove warmed up and put out more heat, and wasn't being cooled by the heat-sink effect of the Al pot with 2 cups of cold water. That in turn let it warm up the water, and I could feel it warm through the handle. But ... I don't have a pot stand and I liked the cat stove because it didn't require one. So now I know that priming may help that.

    Boy did I go down the rabbit hole watching videos of water boiling! Esp. Hiram's. I enjoy making stoves and plan to make a couple more variants. My first will probably be something like the double-walled Fancee Feest, which has the tomato paste can inside and some wicking material. I suspect that the steel inner can will help mitigate the heat sink effect of a cold pot of water that otherwise sat directly atop my hole-punched cat food can. I also like how the double-walled cat stove addresses the issue of side jets with the "ring of fire" coming straight up from the wick.

    I'll probably also make something like the x-lite, just because it looks so tiny and cool, though clearly a side-burner I've also given some though to the traditional soda can stove or penny stove. But that would need a stand.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    ... I did what most people do when they try and try again without success - I gave up. My final solution: isobutane. Light stove. Boil water. Every time.
    Quote Originally Posted by Traveler View Post
    Perfectly stated,... It was interesting for a while, fun and adventurous for a shorter time. Many meals died trying to bring the dream to fruition likely due to my own ineptitude (removing cap, placing over heart), before I came to the conclusion cat food cans were not for me, even if I removed the ingredients first.
    Quote Originally Posted by Time Zone View Post
    Dead on, Deadeye. Who doesn't like playing with fire?... Boy did I go down the rabbit hole watching videos of water boiling! Esp. Hiram's. I enjoy making stoves and plan to make a couple more variants.
    Just a side note. Even though I gave up trying to get one to work reliably enough, I'm not completely done playing with them from time to time. There is a certain allure about them. Maybe someday I'll get one to work well enough FOR ME. Like Time Zone said, "Who doesn't like playing with fire?" Make a stove, add a pot, measuring cup and tablespoon, thermometer, stopwatch, a quart of denatured and you've got entertainment covered on a rainy weekend.

  17. #17
    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    I do have a couple of alcohol stove set-ups that work great, both homemade and store-bought, and I switch around some. I'd likely stick with alcohol more if the denatured stuff didn't smell so bad!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Time Zone View Post
    Dead on, Deadeye. Who doesn't like playing with fire? ha ha. And yes, I noticed that too about raising or lowering the pot. In fact, with a handled Al pot, the handle sort of acts like a temperature gauge for the contents inside - I could feel it warm up as I raised it off the cat stove. The reason of course was that the stove warmed up and put out more heat, and wasn't being cooled by the heat-sink effect of the Al pot with 2 cups of cold water. That in turn let it warm up the water, and I could feel it warm through the handle. But ... I don't have a pot stand and I liked the cat stove because it didn't require one. So now I know that priming may help that.

    Boy did I go down the rabbit hole watching videos of water boiling! Esp. Hiram's. I enjoy making stoves and plan to make a couple more variants. My first will probably be something like the double-walled Fancee Feest, which has the tomato paste can inside and some wicking material. I suspect that the steel inner can will help mitigate the heat sink effect of a cold pot of water that otherwise sat directly atop my hole-punched cat food can. I also like how the double-walled cat stove addresses the issue of side jets with the "ring of fire" coming straight up from the wick.

    I'll probably also make something like the x-lite, just because it looks so tiny and cool, though clearly a side-burner I've also given some though to the traditional soda can stove or penny stove. But that would need a stand.
    If you make a stove using a 3.5 oz. Tomato paste can and a fancy feast can. Drill 2 small holes at the bottom of the tomato paste can and 1 small at the top. Use carbon felt between the 2 cans not fiberglass, fiberglass will melt. This stove is multi purpose 1-3+ ozs of heat allows for longer boiling up 45 minutes, simmering, melting snow etc. Has its own pot stand just need wind screen.

  19. #19
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    Part of the problem is the fuel is cold, and holds the cold through thermal mass and evaporative cooling. The fuel is 'protecting itself' from the heat much like a ablative heat shield on a spacecraft reentering the atmosphere as fuel evaporates and that forms a protective and insulated layer limiting runaway evaporation. This is good when you use the stove in the conditions that it was designed around, however outside those temperature ranges it works against you.

    In that you are just getting less fuel to evaporate to burn till the fuel warms up, but with that stove the fire is outside the stove, so much of that heat (radiation and convection) doesn't heat the fuel, which is usually a feature, not a bug.

    So the fuel must be warmed up, or the stove modified to work better in the cold. Suggestions: Perhaps priming it by letting it burn openly at first, or hovering the pot above the fire instead of placing the pot down on top, letting it center burn for a while before placing the pot down and then using the ports. Another suggestion would be placing it in a shallow dish and putting fuel in that dish to ignite first may help. Perhaps a copper strip could be used as some use with a canister stove where part of the strip would go under the can and then bend up through the flame at one port.

  20. #20

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    After all this stove gear discussion I have decided to go with a Caldera Cone for my perfect (for me) pot which is the Snow Peak 600.It comes with their 12-10 stove but I will likely use my Starlyte Stove which is number one on my favorites list followed closely by Zelph's FF stove.I won't know if the FF is compatible with the cone until it arrives of course.

    I second Starchild's comments on fuel temps and primer pans.I like to prime an alkie stove a little for sure.
    For me the big advantage to the Caldera Cone is not just the efficiency but the stability of the pot as you can rest assured it's not going to slide off the stove and dump your hot water or meal all over the place.Ditto the Starlyte or Trail Designs Kojin Stove,you can spill them even if they get knocked over and they can be snuffed out and capped off which saves a little fuel.

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