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Thursday, November 27, 2014

MSR Windboiler – Hanging Kit II

Finally, I've been able to procure the hanging kit for my Windboiler.  Apparently they're in short supply.  If you will remember my previous post, MSR Windboiler – Hanging Kit I, I pressed the Reactor's hanging kit into service.  It worked, but MSR doesn't recommend this inasmuch as the Windboiler may invert due to its higher center of gravity.

MSR Windboiler Posts
Now, I've got the proper kit.

To me, the outstanding feature of this kit is that does NOT have to be disassembled each time you put away the stove.  Now, that's nice.  When you pack up the stove, you simply wind the cables around the burner...
The hanging kit, wound around the Windboiler's burner.
...and put the whole of it into the pot.
The Windboiler's burner and hanging kit, stored in the pot.
And yes the canister stand fits in there too if you'll be doing a "mixed" trip where sometimes you'll be using the hanging kit and sometimes you'll be doing the more standard arrangement of cooking on the ground.
The MSR Windboiler's burner, hanging kit, and canister stand all fit into the pot along with a 110g canister.
The hanging kit attaches to the burner by means of spring clips that are inserted into the large air inlets on the windscreen.
The spring clip attachment of the Windboiler's hanging kit.
Simply squeeze and insert.  Best to do it at home or base camp I think.  Fiddling with it while wearing mittens isn't going to be fun.  But remember that you can simply leave the hanging kit attached at all times, so you shouldn't have to be assembling it with mittens on in the field.
Squeeze the spring clip and insert it into the air inlet on the windscreen
Now, it's important to position the clip properly otherwise the pot and stove might shift suddenly.  With boiling water, sudden shifts are just not what you want.  The clip should lie flat against the windscreen when properly positioned.  Take a look at the below photo.  The clip on the left is incorrectly positioned.  Note how it does NOT lie flat against the windscreen.  It must be rotated 180° so that it will properly align.  The clip on the right is properly positioned.  Note that it lies flat.
The Windboiler hanging kit's clips should lie flat against the windscreen.
The clip on the left is incorrectly aligned.  Rotate it 180°.
The clip on the right is properly aligned.  Note that it lies flat.
Once you've got the clips properly inserted and aligned, hang it, put on the pot, and move the slider down the cables until it is snug.
The slider on an MSR Windboiler hanging kit.
The slider is the double angled metal tube that you see the cables going through in the above photo.
When everything is properly set up, it should look about like the the photo below.  Note that the slider has been moved down towards the pot until it is reasonably snug.  The kit is very well designed, and I don't think you'll have any trouble with things suddenly inverting.
The Windboiler all set up in its hanging kit
The entire kit weighs about an ounce (29 g), including the case although why you'd bring the case is beyond me.  I'd just leave it assembled and not have to hassle with it each and every time I set up the stove.  As usual, I'll list the individual component weights in the appendix.

That's it.  The MSR Windboiler's hanging kit.  Very nice.

HJ

Appendix – Component Weights

Hanging Kit
Component Grams Ounces
Case 16 0.6
Cables 13 0.5
Total 29 1.0
The above weights are the weights I measured in grams on my scale.  The ounces column is a derived figure.  Some rounding error may occur.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

MSR Windboiler – Coffee Press

A coffee press is available as an optional extra for the new MSR Windboiler.  The coffee press is fairly simple, consisting of a filter and plunger.  The entire assembly weighs just a bit over an ounce (36 g).  I'll list the individual component weights in the Appendix, below.

The plunger fits through the standard hole in the center of the Windboiler's lid.
The Windboiler's coffee press consists of a filter (held in my mitten) and a plunger which fits through the hole in the lid.
The plunger disassembles into two pieces for easy packing.
To pack, simply unscrew the two components of the plunger, and stow inside the pot next to the burner.
I notice that the lower section of the plunger tends to roll away easily.  We wouldn't want that in the backcountry, now would we?  A simple rubber band prevents roll away.
Banding together the two sections of the plunger prevents the lower section from rolling away.
Interestingly, MSR has put a little slot in the handle of the upper section of the plunger.  The lower section fits conveniently into the slot.  This may be enough to secure the lower section, but I've lost too many small bits in tall grass, so I'll go with the greater security of a rubber band.
The tip of the lower section of the plunger fits into the slot in the handle of the upper section.
Once you've threaded the plunger through the hole in the lid and attached the filter, simply place the filter into the pot (as shown below) and affix the lid to the pot.
Fit the filter into the pot as shown and close the lid.
In a few minutes, depress the plunger, and you'll have your favorite warm beverage.  The filter holds the coffee grounds or tea leaves in place.  The pot holds heat well, and the beverage comes out piping hot.  Note that the cup is a bit hot on the hand.  A simple bandana wrap or similar takes care of that.  Speaking of hot, recall that the pot lid fits equally well on the cup.  For those who tend to sip more slowly, the lid will help retain heat.
The cup gets rather hot on the bare hand.  A bandana serves as an insulator.
There's always going to be a few stray bits that escape the filter, but I found that the filter worked quite well.
Inevitably, a few small particles will get past the filter.  The amount isn't bad with the Windboiler's coffee press.
When you're done and ready to pack up, simply place the stove components inside the pot, just as you normally would, and slide the disassembled plunger in next to the burner.  I stress "next to" here because the plunger will fit inside the upside down burner.  It's just that it's a pain to get it back out again.
The MSR Windboiler, packed normally, with the coffee press' plunger stowed next to the burner.  Everything fits nicely.
Then, slide the filter over the bottom of the pot; it's a perfect fit.
The filter fits tightly over the heat exchanger assembly on the bottom of the pot.
Lastly, simply slide the cup over the bottom of the pot just as you normally would.  The coffee press essentially takes up no extra room in your pack.  Brilliant!
The cup fits neatly over the coffee filter.  What a wonderful design!
One comment here:  MSR has done an outstanding job on the product design.  Everything fits together just so.  Everything is well thought out.  Everything works well for its intended purpose.  MSR has obviously paid great attention to detail with the Windboiler, not just with the coffee press but with the entire system, and it shows.  Bravo, MSR.

I thank you for joining me,

HJ

MSR Windboiler Posts
Appendix – Component Weights

Coffee Press
Component Grams Ounces
Plunger 8 0.3
Filter 28 1.0
Total 36 1.3

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

MSR Windboiler – Wind Testing

UPDATE 26 Nov 2014:  I've added a table of comparative weights and prices among the current Jetboil and MSR 1.0 liter (or less) capacity integrated canister stove offerings.  See Appendix II.
I've also added a more in depth discussion of how many boils you'd lose out on using a Jetboil vs. a Windboiler.  See Appendix I.  There's also a discussion of when and why fuel efficiency matters in the main body of the post.

UPDATE 27 Nov 2014:  I've added some videos in Appendix III that show the lighting of the stove in windy conditions.  Definitely more difficult than in still air, but doable.  I had far more trouble lighting the Jetboil.

What is the big advantage that the Windboiler claims over other integrated canister stoves?  Well, wind proofness.  I mean, if the Windboiler can't handle wind, then it's just a prettied up Jetboil, right?  Either the Windboiler does well in wind or there isn't an overriding reason to buy one.

I thought I'd put it to the test.
Testing the MSR Windboiler near San Gorgonio Pass.  Note that you cannot actually see the flame, only an orange glow.
I tried a series of four types of tests:
  • Still Air
  • Light wind
  • Moderate wind
  • Heavy wind
A summary of my test results by test type is below.  The basic result of the testing was that the Windboiler handled wind better, sometimes dramatically, than a Jetboil Sol.  See the comparative videos, below.

Test Results by Type
Still Air.  In still or nearly still air, the Jetboil Sol was clearly faster than the Windboiler, sometimes by as much as 30 seconds faster.  The Jetboil however used more fuel.  My conclusion is that in still air the Jetboil saves time but the Windboiler saves fuel.  You would have to choose which attribute is the most important to you.

Light wind.  In light wind, the Jetboil was still faster, but by a narrower margin.  The Jetboil's fuel usage went up slightly.  The Windboiler's fuel consumption did not noticeably change.

Moderate wind.  In moderate wind, the Jetboil and the Windboiler were essentially equal in terms of time to boil.  The Jetboil's fuel consumption went up even more.  The Windboiler's fuel consumption went up slightly but the change was small.

Heavy wind.  Here's where I was shocked.  I expected that the Jetboil would be slower than the Windboiler, but instead the Jetboil would not boil at all.  In heavier winds, the Jetboil would just blow out, and I never got the water to boil.  On the other hand, the wind had no discernible effect on the effectiveness of the Windboiler.  Let me repeat that:  No discernible effect.  Needless to say, I was impressed.  I discontinued the comparison tests since I could get no meaningful boil times or fuel consumption figures from the Jetboil.

The day I did my testing , there were 35 mph/56 kph gusts predicted by the US National Weather Service.  Below are two videos, showing how the two stoves did.

Jetboil Sol in heavy winds.


MSR Windboiler in heavy winds.


Now, of course you're not always going to be out in such dramatic conditions.  But no matter what, you're always losing heat with a Jetboil.  It's just a matter of degree.  Yes, you can shield it some, but you'll always be wasting some fuel just because of the burner's open design.  The Windboiler is fundamentally more windproof.  The Windboiler is fundamentally more fuel efficient.

I'll put some numbers below in Appendix I that try to estimate just how much you'd be giving up using a Jetboil vs. a Windboiler in terms of number of boils lost.

Wind Resistance – Does It Matter?
Well, it depends.  If you're a low altitude backpacker, you probably can shelter your stove behind a log or rock, and wind resistance will matter less.  Note that I say, "less," not, "it won't matter at all".  You're always going to be saving fuel with a Windboiler even in still air.  See also the next section on fuel efficiency.  I do note however that a Jetboil Flash has an MSRP of $100 USD whereas an MSR Windboiler has an MSRP of $130.  If all you do is low elevation trips and you avoid high winds, the Jetboil Flash might be a good choice.  There is also a Jetboil Zip available for an MSRP of $80 USD.  The Zip is only 0.8 L (whereas the Windboiler and the Flash are 1.0 L each), so it's not completely comparable to the Windboiler, but it's worth mentioning.  Jetboil is discontinuing its Sol line of stoves; I therefore do not mention the Sol stoves here.  Neither do I mention the original Jetboil PCS which was discontinued some time ago.  See also Appendix II which contains a comparative table of weights and prices.

Now if you're an alpinist/mountaineer, a "big wall" climber, a backpacker given to spending the night at high elevation, or anyone who may find a sheltered spot difficult to come by, wind resistance might mean the difference between a nice hot meal – and eating uncooked freeze dried food, straight out of the bag.  If you rely on your stove for snow melting, you could wind up a whole lot worse.  If you can't get drinking water, you greatly increase your chance of getting hypothermia, and hypothermia leads quickly to death.  Hypothermia is simply not worth risking, period.

In high winds, even behind a rock or log, it's difficult to truly shelter a stove.  Anyone potentially facing high winds would be well advised to pick a Windboiler over a Jetboil.

Fuel Efficiency – Does It Matter?
Well, again, it depends.  If you're only going out for a few days, no high winds are predicted, and you always bring a fresh canister, then perhaps not.  Personally, I like getting as much as I can out of my canisters, but for a short trip with a fresh canister, it's not going to make much difference whether you use a Jetboil or a Windboiler in terms of fuel used.  Only if high winds are predicted would I get worried about which stove would be the right one to bring.

Well, then, when does it matter?
1.  Weight.  When you have to bring an extra canister (or move up to a bigger canister).  An extra canister, even the smallest size, weighs about 7.4 oz/211 g.  That's nearly ½ pound.  In terms of saving weight, always avoid taking an extra canister or moving up to the next sized canister.  Look at the chart in Appendix I on how many boils you'd be giving up by using a Jetboil.  If losing those boils forces you to carry another canister, then it clearly would be lighter overall to carry a Windboiler.  Efficiency alone usually will not make up the difference for a heavier stove.  Only when you can avoid stepping up to the next sized canister or bringing an additional canister can a more efficient stove save you weight.
2.  Predictability.  Got fuel?  You sure you've planned your week long trip correctly?  Hopefully, you've planned with a margin for error, but if you run into inclement weather, particularly high winds, your fuel estimates may be way off.  The Windboiler is almost unaffected by wind.  You can make fuel estimates well in advance and rely on them.  Fluctuations in weather will not have you eating cold meals on your last couple of days out on the trail.

So there's my take on the wind resistance of the Windboiler.

I thank you for joining me,

HJ

MSR Windboiler Posts
Appendix I – Boils Lost with a Jetboil (vs. a Windboiler)

OK, so if you use a Jetboil instead of a Windboiler, how many boils are you losing out on?  In other words, how many additional boils can you get out of a Windboiler than a Jetboil for the same amount of gas?

Let's try to put some numbers to it.  Assume, for example, that you get a difference of 1 gram of fuel per 500 ml boil and that you boil water twice a day.  Over a week long trip, the Jetboil would require 14g more fuel than a Windboiler.  An integrated canister stove can normally boil 500 ml with something around 6g of fuel.  Thus, if over a week you use 14g more with a Jetboil, then you'd be "losing" a bit more than two boils as compared to a Windboiler.

I've mapped out a chart below, showing how much more fuel a Jetboil would use depending on how much difference there is in terms of fuel consumption per 500 ml boil.
Difference per boil (grams) 0.25 0.50 0.75 1.00 1.25 1.50 1.75 2.00 2.25 2.50 2.75 3.00 3.25 3.50 3.75 4.00
Boils per day (500 ml each) 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2 2
# of days 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
Total difference (grams) 3.5 7.0 10.5 14.0 17.5 21.0 24.5 28.0 31.5 35.0 38.5 42.0 45.5 49.0 52.5 56.0
Fuel grams per boil 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6 6
Boils "lost"  1 1 2 2 3 4 4 5 5 6 6 7 8 8 9 9

So, how much difference per boil can I expect?  My numbers should not be considered exhaustive, but in still air, the Jetboil required something on the order of 0.25 to 0.5 g more fuel per boil.  In light winds, the Jetboil required something on the order 0.5  to 0.75 g more fuel per boil.  In moderate winds, the Jetboil's fuel consumption rose considerably, requiring about 1.0 to 1.25 g more per boil; I noticed in particular that gusts really affected the Jetboil's flame.  I don't have an estimate for heavy winds because the Jetboil would not bring water to a boil.  Clearly though, the stronger the winds, the more fuel the Windboiler will save as compared to a Jetboil.

Now, do my figures make sense for you?  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  Maybe you boil more water per boil.  Maybe you boil more often per day.  Maybe you're taking a shorter trip.  If you'd like a copy of my Excel spreadsheet so you can try your own numbers, you're welcome to it.  Just write me at Hikin [dot] Jim [at] gmail [dot] com and ask me for one.  Please be specific as to what you're asking for; I get a lot of requests.

Disclaimer:  My numbers should not be considered authoritative.  These are ballpark estimates only.  The only way to get exhaustive numbers would be to take multiple Jetboils and multiple Windboilers, burn through multiple canisters per stove in carefully controlled conditions, and average the numbers after all tests were complete.  I simply have not got the resources to do such testing, and I fully acknowledge that fact.

Appendix II – Comparative Table of Weights and Prices
Stove  Capacity (liters) Weight (g) Weight (oz) Retail Price
Jetboil Zip  0.8 345 12.2 $80.00
Jetboil Flash 1.0 400 14.1 $100.00
Jetboil MiniMo 1.0 415 14.6 $130.00
MSR Reactor  1.0 417 14.7 $190.00
MSR Windboiler 1.0 432 15.2 $130.00

Weights are the manufacturer's stated weights in grams.  The weight of individual stoves will vary.  Ounces are a calculated figure based on a conversion factor of 28.3495.  Stoves are sorted in order of weight with the lightest stove first.  Note that all of the 1.0 L capacity stoves are within about an ounce of each other in terms of weight.  The spread is 32 grams from the lightest 1.0 L stove to the heaviest.
Size comparisons.
L to R:  MSR Reactor (1.0 L), MSR Windboiler (1.0 L), Original Jetboil PCS (1.0 L), Jetboil Al Sol (0.8 L).

Appendix III  – Lighting the Stove in Windy Conditions
I've gotten a lot of questions about how easy (or not) the Windboiler is to light in windy conditions.  Here are two videos of me lighting the stove with a fire steel in the same spot as the videos in the main part off this post were made.  These two videos were shot just before the other videos. It was definitely more difficult to light than in still air, but I had no trouble lighting the stove or keeping it lit long enough to get the pot on.  In still air, I can light the stove typically on the first strike.  In windy conditions, I found that it might take several strikes.  The type of fire steel that you're using may affect your results.  In these videos, I am using a Scout firesteel from Light My Fire.




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Jetboil Joule – Preview

I've been loaned a Jetboil Joule for the purposes of conducting a review.  I haven't started the review process just yet (I'm still working on the new MSR Windboiler), but I thought I'd post some photos and make a few remarks.

The Jetboil Joule is a powerhouse of a stove, designed for snow melting and cold weather.  It's an inverted canister stove which gives it a 20 Fahrenheit degree cold weather advantage over regular upright canister stoves. If you're not familiar with how and why an inverted canister stove confers a cold weather advantage on the user, please read my article in Seattle Backpackers Magazine, Stoves for Cold Weather II.

The Jetboil Line Up
So, first, how does the Jetboil Joule compare size wise to other Jetboils?
Jetboil stoves L to R:   Joule, Sumo, PCS (the original Jetboil), and Sol
The Joule is quite frankly massive.  It's a much bigger backpacking stove set up than any I can think of except perhaps a two burner rig such as the Coleman Xpedition, but even the Coleman Xpedition doesn't take up as much space in one's pack.

It's fairly heavy too at 28 oz/790 g.  That's over three quarters of a kilogram, which is fairly heavy for a stove, even an integrated stove system like the Joule.

But that weight and size may well be worth it if you've got some serious snow melting to do.  It's very clearly targeting mountaineers and serious cold weather travelers.

The Competition
How does the Joule compare to the competition?  Well, the only other integrated canister stove system that has comparable capacity is the 2.5 L version of the MSR Reactor.
The Jetboil Joule, left, and the 2.5 L MSR Reactor, right.
Also of note is the height of the stove when set up.  Here is the Joule, again alongside the 2.5 L MSR Reactor.
The Jetboil Joule, left, and the 2.5 L MSR Reactor, right.
The Jetboil Joule is as you can see, a fairly tall set up.  I will address system stability in my review.

Well, that's all for today; just a quick preview of the Jetboil Joule.  More to follow.

HJ



Thursday, November 13, 2014

Lighting the Windboiler

The new Windboiler stove from MSR does not come with a built-in piezoelectric ignition.  It works fine to light the stove with a match or butane lighter, but it's always nice to know what your options are.  So, I thought I'd try a couple of quick lighting experiments.

UPDATE 27 November 2014:  I've added two videos that demonstrate lighting the Windboiler with a firesteel in windy conditions.  See my Wind Testing post.

1.  Firesteel
First, I tried a firesteel.
A firesteel from Light My Fire
If you're not familiar with a firesteel, they're a fairly simple means of lighting things.  You take the steel striker, which is the silvery object on the left in my hand in the above photo, and scrape it rapidly and with force along the firesteel which is the object with the red base in my hand.  A shower of sparks results.  Now, sparks will light some things but not others.  For example, good luck lighting just a stick alone with a firesteel.  But try a firesteel on something fluffy and airy like a spread out cotton ball or dryer lint, and it will work just fine.

OK, so what about lighting stoves?  Well, it works well on some, but it's a bit harder on others.  The trick usually is to strike from directly above.  I tried it on the new Windboiler, and...
The rim around the Windboiler's burner and the wide head are ideal for lighting with a firesteel.
And it's perfect.  I mean it works really, really well.  It can be a trick to light some stoves with a firesteel, but the Windboiler makes it look easy.  The rim around the Windboiler appears to contain and concentrate the heavier-than-air fuel gasses.  The burner head of the Windboiler is nice and wide and catches all the sparks.  I tried lighting the Windboiler several times with a couple of different firesteels, and I got the stove to light on the first try every time.   That's pretty good; many stoves take multiple tries before they'll light with a firesteel.  Basically, a firesteel is eminently practical with a Windboiler.

The MSR Windboiler in operation
2.  Hand held Piezoelectric
Next, I thought I'd try a handheld piezoelectric ignition.
Hand held piezoelectric ignitions from Kovea (top) and MSR (bottom)
I tried varying the gas flow and placing the igniters in different places on the burner head, all to no avail.  Bottom line:  It just didn't work.


So, nothing earth shattering here, but it's nice to know what your options are.  I know many people like having a firesteel along, so it's nice to know that a fire steel works really, really well on a Windboiler.  The peizo bit?  It's just a "nice to know".

There you have it.  All in a day's work here at Adventures in Stoving.

Thank you for joining me,

HJ

MSR Windboiler Posts