Hiking Stove – Don’t Get Burned

Hiking StoveThe days of cooking a meal on the trail above a roaring wood bonfire have pretty much gone away.  This is because of the ethical concerns of eco-friendly hikers and also the introduction of efficient cooking stoves.  A hiker today should be able to find a hiking stove that will fit their needs no matter what type of adventure they are going on.

There are two hiking stove styles;  Liquid Fuel Stoves and Compressed Gas Stoves.  There are other types besides these two, these just happen to be chosen most often by hikers.  Each type has it’s own advantages and disadvantages.

Comparison (Now Things Are Really Heating Up):

  • Compressed Gas Stove: Also known as a canister stove, these are pressurized cartridges filled with butane/propane or isobutane.  They are extremely easy to use.  You simply attach a canister to the stove, turn a knob to start the flow of gas and light it.  Some come with a Piezo ignitor button, but it is recommended to carry matches even if it has one.

  • Advantages:
  • Both the stove and the fuel canisters are lighter than liquid fuel stoves
  • Better temperature control
  • Ease of use, ease of maintenance
  • No priming required
  • Clean burning, so less blackened pots
  • Disadvantages:
  • Does not work well in colder temperatures
  • It is not easy to tell how much fuel you have left in the canister
  • The canisters become a waste product that you have to carry with you until you can dispose of them properly
  • Fuel is more expensive
  • Easy to tip over
  • Replacement canisters can be hard to find in rural areas or not be available in foreign countries
  • May not burn as hot as liquid fuel stoves
  • Because the canister is pressurized, as the fuel is consumed, the pressure is reduced and can cause a drop in heat production
  • Variations/Options:

  • Remote Canister:  Some of these stoves have the canister attached directly to the stove.  Others have a fuel line that connects the canister to the stove unit.  A separate canister has a few advantages;  You can add a wind screen to the stove.  (Never add a windscreen to a one-piece design.)  Some models allow you to invert the canister.  This can help produce a stronger flame due to fuel being gravity fed.
  • Fuel Pressure Regulator:  This will help in producing an even flame throughout the life of the fuel in the canister.
  • Cooking Pot Stove:  This is a canister/stove/pot combination.  These stoves are specifically designed to work efficiently with the “Pot” (faster boil times and less problems from wind).  Unfortunately, your pot selection is limited to one.
  • Wide Base Kits:  These would help the stability of the hiking stove.
  • Liquid Fuel Stoves: This hiking stove is often called a White Gas stove, because of the main fuel type, although they can use multiple types of fuels.  The lighting process is a bit more cumbersome than the canister stove.  These stoves must be primed, a process of preheating the fuel line, thus helping to convert the fuel into vapor.

  • Advantages:
  • Fuel readily available (some models can burn multiple fuel types; white gas, kerosene, diesel, gasoline, etc)
  • Works well in cold weather
  • No extra waste like the canister stove
  • Can take the exact amount of fuel you need
  • Less likely to tip over, because of larger base
  • Can burn hotter than canister stoves
  • Disadvantages:
  • Fuel is in a resealable container, meaning that fuel can leak
  • Requires more maintenance and there are more parts that can wear out
  • Harder to light (priming required)
  • Heavier than a canister unit
  • Although cost of use is lower, initial cost can be more than a canister stove

What Type of Hiking Stove Person are You?:

  • Liquid Fuel Stove: Winter or colder hikes, larger groups, longer hikes, high elevation, hiking outside the U.S. (make sure that this is a multi-fuel stove)
  • Canister/Cartridge Stove: Summer hikes, Shorter hikes, hikes where you only need to boil water

Tips (A Watched Pot Doesn’t Boil):

Be aware that stoves vary in how hot the flame can get and also by how efficient it is.  These two items are measured by the “average boiling time” and “water boiled per unit of fuel”.

It is always wise to have spare parts to your hiking stove.  Also, you should always know how to disassemble and reassemble the stove.

Never ever cook inside a tent.  This warning is mainly because of carbon monoxide poisoning, not just the fire hazard.

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