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  1. #1
    Registered User Different Socks's Avatar
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    Default Gas stoves vs alcohol stoves

    I recently had a friend demo a "penny stove" for me. I was so impressed with it that he gave me his for my birthday. I have since tested it once and used it on 3 separate dayhikes, but I am no longer impressed with its performance. While it is a great stove, it seems to be lacking in ways that I need on the trail.
    I have used an MSR Whisperlite on 90% of my backpacking adventures. Despite the minuscule weight of the penny stove, I still feel I am leaning toward carrying my MSR.
    I seems there are legions of fans for both kinds of stoves. So what I wanna know is are you a tried and true gas user or converted alcy user and why?

  2. #2
    Trail miscreant Bearpaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Different Socks View Post
    So what I wanna know is are you a tried and true gas user or converted alcy user and why?
    Neither. I prefer cannister stoves (MSR Pocket Rocket or Snow Peak Giga Peak) for ease of use and simmer capability OR esbit (light weight and no fuel measuring).

    I only use white gas in winter cold well below freezing when cannisters become fussy.
    If people spent less time being offended and more time actually living, we'd all be a whole lot happier!

  3. #3
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    GAS STOVE TILL I DIE! Alcohol stoves are to slow for me. I am tired at the end of the day and I want to eat. I dont want to have to wait 45 minutes for some water to boil. If you like the MSR whisperlite you should try the MSR simmerlite. You can open up a whole new way of cooking in the backcountry because you can simmer with it. I use it during the winter and jetboil in the summer. My vote GAS! yes I do have it.

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    Same SVEA white gas stove for forty years. No reason to change now.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  5. #5
    Registered User Doctari's Avatar
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    I'm an alcohol stove user.
    I use a super cat stove.
    I like it for the light weight & speed, yes speed. I have "raced" a number of gasoline stoves & won handily nearly every time. Yes, in a race where we are both set up & ready to go, the gasoline stove can "Kick my tush" but from in the pack to boiling water, well, I usually am eating by the time the gasoline stove is just finishing priming.
    I am beaten by a Jet Boil everytime tho. SO, may consider going to one of those eventually.
    Curse you Perry the Platypus!

  6. #6
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    Alcohol stoves can vary a lot in performance and behaviour, so having tried one it does not really tell you how "alcohol stoves" work.
    You can have one that boils a quart in under 5 minutes or one that takes 15 but using about half as much fuel. Somewhere in between those two "extremes" the Caldera Cone will boil one quart in about six-seven minutes and keep the boil for one to three minutes (depending on water/air temperature) . The CC is a system, wind shield/stand/heat exchanger and dedicated burner. However it is mostly suited to the boil only type cooking.
    The same stove (say a standard Pepsi) will vary greatly on how it behaves according to the stand and wind shield used.
    Most don't perform well in the wind (the CC and Trangias do) and generally althogh they do work below freezing they are not efficient in those conditions. Some do use them because of safety concerns , wanting to avoid flare-ups or having had maintenance problems .

    A rough indication is that it takes twice the amount of alcohol (in weight) to boil the same amount of water you do with gas. However with gas you need to consider the weight of the canister, particularly when you have a used one and are out for one or two days.
    In the end it depends on the type of cooking you do, how long you are on the trail for and the expected temperature .
    A tea light stove is very light and very economical with fuel ( and cheap to make...) but is not going to melt snow.

    Franco

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by snowhoe View Post
    GAS STOVE TILL I DIE! Alcohol stoves are to slow for me. I am tired at the end of the day and I want to eat. I dont want to have to wait 45 minutes for some water to boil. If you like the MSR whisperlite you should try the MSR simmerlite. You can open up a whole new way of cooking in the backcountry because you can simmer with it. I use it during the winter and jetboil in the summer. My vote GAS! yes I do have it.
    Total agreement here. I started with the Svea 123 and then went to the Whisperlite and now I'm using the Simmerlite. All Hail the White Gas Stove! A 22 oz gas bottle lasts me about 12 days in the summer and about 7 in the winter, but altogether I carry around 32 ozs just in case.

    Quote Originally Posted by Doctari View Post
    I'm an alcohol stove user.
    I use a super cat stove.
    I like it for the light weight & speed, yes speed. I have "raced" a number of gasoline stoves & won handily nearly every time. Yes, in a race where we are both set up & ready to go, the gasoline stove can "Kick my tush" but from in the pack to boiling water, well, I usually am eating by the time the gasoline stove is just finishing priming.
    I am beaten by a Jet Boil everytime tho. SO, may consider going to one of those eventually.
    I never considered cooking a meal to be about speed or if the Jet Boil could "beat" my time, whatever. Canister stoves might be okay for a summer weekend trip, but who wants to go out for 12 days and carry several empty canisters? Plus, there's winter . . .

  8. #8
    Registered User shelterbuilder's Avatar
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    I have an alcohol stove and have used it for a couple of short trips, but was never really impressed by its performance. White gas stoves, on the other hand...OH, YEAH! Wintertime, windy days...you name it, they run. I still have my Optimus 99 that I got in the early 70's - it still kicks butt.

    I recently bought a cannister stove - we'll see how that works.
    Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass - it's about learning how to dance in the rain!

  9. #9
    Springer-->Stony Brook Road VT MedicineMan's Avatar
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    Default like a lot of old timers here

    I used the whitegas stoves for decades, then several alc. stoves for the last 5 years but on the last 3 trips I've used a canister. Just wanting to try something different.
    The canister stove I chose was a Crux and it fits into the bottom of the cannister which saves space. 3 min's to boil 2 cups of water at 6250 feet last weekend was a nice plus.
    I don't know if I'll use a cannister for long; just depends on mood. I might even carry the Svea and the JanD2 just for old times sake next time.
    Start out slow, then slow down.

  10. #10
    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
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    Long solo trips:
    No stove

    Shorter solo trips and/or I just want a meal:
    Alcohol stove

    Have a trip partner for the weekend:
    Canister (Coleman F-1)

    When I did winter camping in the Rockies and New England (and melting lots of snow):
    White Gas

    When car camping and I want to make some yummy stew:
    Coleman dual burner



    When car camping solo (truck camping, really) and I just want hot water for my coffee and oatmeal for the early AM start at the trailhead:
    mini-propane burner stove. It is ALWAYS in my truck. And I can find fuel ANYWHERE.My first backpacking stove!


    Hut trips (Ski in to 11k feet or so. Haul all the yummy food):
    I have a whole freakin' kitchen. Wood burning stove/oven, propane burners. Most of you have seen my roast pork and french toast photos. Here's a hut trip where I made a homemade ragu a couple of years back or so:




    So in the end... IT ALL DEPENDS!!!!!!!!
    Paul "Mags" Magnanti
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    IMHO there isn't a clear winner. Each has pluses and minuses. But for me I like the simple elegance and quiet of alcohol stoves. Can't stand the jet noise created by some other stoves. Plus alcohol stoves are easy to make and experiment with, adding
    an extra dimension of interest.

    A great resource is ZenStoves. http://zenstoves.net/

  12. #12
    Registered User freakflyer9999's Avatar
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    I bought an alcohol stove several months ago, but hadn't actually tested it until today. Right before my trip to Colorado.
    http://www.ultralightdesigns.com/pro...g/sputnik.html

    I didn't realize it until after I lit it, but the manufacturer forget to put the holes in it for the flames. For a moment I thought it was going to explode.

    Once I got the holes drilled in the right spots, I tested it again. It worked great. Boiled about a cup of water in 2-3 mins and continued to burn for another 3-4 mins on the .75 oz of alcohol that I put in.

    I read earlier today that there is a break even point on the total package weight of alcohol stove with fuel vs a canister stove with fuel. The article stated that the canister stove is more efficient and burns less fuel over the long haul than an alcohol or solid fuel stove.
    http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-...ght/00034.html

    Since I'm only planning on being in the backcountry for 5 or 6 days I'm going to give the alcohol stove a try this time. With a 16 oz of fuel in a flask and the stove with a Heineken cook pot it weighs about 20 oz. I'm probably carrying twice the amount of fuel I need too.

  13. #13
    Registered User Different Socks's Avatar
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    Thanks for all of your replies!

    The reason I asked is because I know that alky stoves first came about b/c hikers wanted a lighter alternative. Maybe it's b/c I've been hiking so long, but I just can't seem to get into the "ultralight" groove of backpacking like so many others have.

    When I did the PCT, I was baking pizzas, cookies, cake, brownies, banana bread, muffins, and alot more. I don't see myself being able to do that on any kind of alky stove. So for now I'll use the penny stove on short overnights, weekends, and dayhikes.

  14. #14
    Registered User Reid's Avatar
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    I take the alcohol stove as a backup or when I want to cook multiple things at the same time. Just as you said just there, people have turned to the alcohol stove for it's weight. I can't tell if it's function over form or if it's form over function with alky stoves. There are many arguments for the alky stoves and they all make sense but for some reason I don't like em.

  15. #15
    Registered User bulldog49's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bearpaw View Post
    Neither. I prefer cannister stoves (MSR Pocket Rocket or Snow Peak Giga Peak) for ease of use and simmer capability OR esbit (light weight and no fuel measuring).

    I only use white gas in winter cold well below freezing when cannisters become fussy.
    Same for me. Cannister stoves are the way to go. I've seen too many people eating cold dinners because they could not get their alcohol stove to work.
    "If you don't know where you're going...any road will get you there."
    "He who's not busy living is busy dying"

  16. #16
    Registered User dla's Avatar
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    Maybe all you gas stove users should form a support group.

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    In this latest incarnation (this particular thread), I don't recall anyone yet pointing out that how many meals a day you cook and how many people you cook for is a factor. Since I cook just one meal a day and generally only for myself, the lower efficiency of alcohol as a fuel is less of a factor ... i.e, I carry at most an ounce of fuel per day, so for me this generally more than offsets the weight of cannisters (and a whisper "lite" is way too heavy for any but really cold or high elevation situations).

    I personally don't care too much about cook time, partly because I just heat (not boil) my already treated water, and partly because I multi-task --- get water heating and do other in-camp stuff while I wait.

    An alcohol stove can also be the cheapest approach --- in addition to a +1 for the zenstoves link already given above, I'd point you to http://www.andrewskurka.com/advice/t...feaststove.php for easy-to-follow instructions to make a stove out of a catfood can that weighs 0.2 oz and works well. I tried making a pepsi can stove some years ago, and I found it much easier to make a well-functioning stove from these instructions, about a 1/2 hour.

    I'm not sure if anyone yet mentioned the availability-of-fuel issue, which is the reason that more thru-hikers use alcohol stoves (at least on the PCT last year ...) than other options.

    I've been attracted to the newer wood burning stoves, but the simplicity and low overall weight of an alcy stove is just flat hard to beat based on my own particular priorities.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by dla View Post
    Maybe all you gas stove users should form a support group.
    We could call it "I got gas"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    Total agreement here. . . Plus, there's winter . . .
    Pay no attention to this man. He welds shoulder straps and a waist belt onto a dumpster and calls it a "backpack."

    All kidding around aside, I'm gonna second Mags. What works for you is "best." "Best" can change, depending on what, how much and where you're planning on cooking.

  20. #20
    Getting out as much as I can..which is never enough. :) Mags's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrianLe View Post
    In this latest incarnation (this particular thread), I don't recall anyone yet pointing out that how many meals a day you cook and how many people you cook for is a factor.

    I should just post this link on every stove thread.. I don't think meals per day..I just think meals overall.

    http://www.pmags.com/joomla/index.ph...omparison.html

    Of course the cheapest stove is NO stove at all.
    Last edited by Mags; 07-10-2009 at 15:18.
    Paul "Mags" Magnanti
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    The true harvest of my life is intangible...a little stardust caught,a portion of the rainbow I have clutched -Thoreau

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