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Friday, September 7, 2012

What's the Best Gas Stove?

Recently, I got asked "what's the best gas stove?"  In my ever-so-helpful way, I replied "it depends."  :) 

While that might seem a bit evasive, it really isn't -- it really does depend on what you, the user, want to do with the stove and under what conditions.

In an effort to better answer my friend's questions, I put together the following concerning the question of the best canister gas stove:
  • For colder weather (from about 50F/10C down to about 0F/-18C), the MSR WindPro (187g/6.6oz; $100) is a good choice. Since the WindPro is a) a remote canister stove and b) has a generator (pre-heat loop), it can be run with the canister upside down. Because it can run with the canister upside down, a WindPro can run in temperatures about 20F lower than typical canister stoves. The WindPro is also, as the name indicates, much easier (and safer!) to shield from wind and handles big pots well. The down side is that the WindPro is more expensive, heavier, and bulkier than other stoves. I myself probably wouldn't buy a WindPro unless I were intending to do some colder trips, doing gourmet cooking, or cooking for larger groups (3 or more). The Primus Express Spider (198g/7oz, $70) is a similar stove with similar characteristics. The Kovea Spider (KB-1109) is a lighter version (168g/6oz; $52.90) of this class of stoves and shows great promise.  However, the Kovea Spider to my knowledge is not available in the US; you might be able to get a Kovea Spider on eBay.  Yes, the Kovea Spider is a little lighter than other stoves in this category, but the real story here is that the Kovea Spider is particularly compact.  The Kovea Spider is my favorite stove of 2012.  Look for a review here of the Kovea Spider soon. 
    The new Kovea Spider (KB-1109)

    My review of the original WindPro is available here on Adventures in Stoving; the only real difference between the original Windpro and the new (2012) Windpro II is that the Windpro II has a rotating coupler at the valve which makes it easier to invert the canister.
    An MSR WindPro
    I have not yet reviewed the Primus Express Spider.
  • For lightweight, the Snow Peak LiteMax (54g/1.9oz, $60) is a favorite of mine. The new MSR MicroRocket (73g/2.6 oz, $60) is also good and is quite compact. There are lighter gas stoves out there, like the Fire Maple FMS-116T (48g/1.7oz, $50).  The FMS-116T is a good stove and is currently the world's lightest production canister stove, but I find the FMS-116T to be a bit bulky for what it is. Note that the FMS 116T is typically sold as the Monatauk Gnat or the Olicamp Kinetic Ultra outside China.  The down side to these lightweight stoves is that a) they have limited pot stability if you're using a bigger pot, b) they have no wind resistance, and c) it's not safe to use a windscreen with them unless you really know what you're doing and are very careful. I've got an article on windscreens at Seattle Backpackers Magazine as well as a blog post on windscreens if you're interested. A word of warning: Do NOT ever let the gas canister of your stove get hot when using a windscreen on a canister stove.  Overheating the gas canister could lead to a potentially deadly explosion.   I have not yet reviewed the Snow Peak LiteMax.  My review of the MSR MicroRocket is available at Seattle Backpackers Magazine.  I have not yet reviewed the FMS-116T.  
    An MSR Micro Rocket
  • For convenience, the Jetboil can't be beat. Just clip the pot to the stove, screw on the gas, press the auto ignitor, and go.  Not only is it convenient, but the Jetboil has some built in wind resistance, and the Jetboil is also really efficient.  Your gas goes a looong way, but don't expect that efficiency to result in any weight savings.  You'd have to be on a fairly long trip before the weight of the fuel saved by using a Jetboil would be greater than the weight of the stove itself.   The downside to the Jetboil as you may have already guessed is that the Jetboil is heavy when compared to other upright canister stoves. The new Jetboil Sol (312g/11oz, $120) is a significant improvement over the first generation Jetboils in terms of both weight and bulk, but I would not recommend the Ti version of the Sol which only saves about one ounce in weight yet costs $50 more. The Ti version of the Sol has an aluminum heat exchanger with which there have been some melting problems reported. I wrote a review of the Jetboil Sol for Seattle Backpackers Magazine if you're interested.  
    The new Jetboil Sol
  • For "bombproofness", the MSR Reactor (496g/17.5oz, $160) can't be beat. If I were on a windswept plateau at 13,000 feet in a howling wind, I can't think of a stove I'd rather have. Not only is it highly wind resistant, it's also blazing hot, making it an excellent snow melter. The downsides of the Reactor are a) high fuel consumption (if run on high), b) poor simmer control, c) high cost, d) weight, and e) bulk. However, if you intend to go into extreme conditions, the Reactor is worth it. The Reactor is very popular with moutaineers who tend to melt a lot of snow and go into extreme conditions.  My review of the Reactor is available here on Adventures in Stoving.  
    The MSR Reactor
  • For value, I really like the Snow Peak GigaPower GS-100 (92g/3.25oz, $40). For $40.00 bucks, it's tough to beat unless you want to buy something direct from overseas. Yes, there are other stoves that you can buy for $40.00 or even less, but not of this quality. The GigaPower GS-100 is just an all around excellent design. Many consider the GigaPower GS-100 to be the "gold standard" of small, lightweight canister stoves, yet it is only $40.00. Any time a new canister stove comes my way, the first stove I compare it to is a GigaPower. The GigaPower is compact yet very sturdy and has excellent pot stability for its class. The GigaPower is my benchmark for lightweight canister stoves.  I have not yet reviewed the Snow Peak GigaPower, but I have previously recommended it as a good "value for the dollar" stove here on Adventures in Stoving. 
    The Snow Peak GigaPower, an excellent stove and an excellent value
I thank you for joining me for another Adventure in Stoving,

HJ

Note:  Prices are shown in US dollars and were current as of the date of publication and reflect MSRP.  Prices may vary by retailer.

13 comments:

  1. Don't forget the Fire Maple 117T and 118(T) these appear to be the lightest remote canister stoves and the 118(T) is invertable.
    http://bushwalk.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=10569

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    1. The FMS 117T and 118 are very interesting stoves, aren't they? And Mark's combining of the two is sheer brilliance. However, I personally haven't tested either stove. I don't feel comfortable recommending a stove that I have yet to test and use myself. Also, I've read reports that the 118 stove may have a flaring problem, which makes me all the more hesitant to recommend it.

      In general there is a trend toward lighter remote canister stoves with inverted canister capability, a very good thing to my way of thinking. Fire Maple may not be there right now, but they're the one to watch. A few more tweaks to their 117/118 line, and I think they'll really have a stove that will beat the rest.

      HJ

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  2. So, if you could only have one stove...? "Best gas stove," a difficult topic even when broken down by intention and environment. Nice to have someone like you to do all the work and give a summary. Thanks
    By the way I ended up looking into and buying the Snow Peak white gas stove after your mentioning of it on a previous post. I really like it. My new "go-to," stove.

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    1. "If I could only have one stove?" Well, there's a blog post all in and of itself. The short answer is: Probably not wood (too many fire restrictions for one thing). Probably not alcohol or ESBIT (too slow for groups of three or more).

      Which leaves either canister gas or liquid petroleum fuel. If I were a dedicated 4 season hiker, then I'd have to go with a white gas or kero stove. If I were an extended three season hiker, then I'd go with a remote canister stove capable of running with an inverted canister like some of the ones mentioned above, for example the Kovea Spider. If I were just a fair weather hiker, then I'd probably go with a simple lightweight upright canister stove, maybe something like the Snow Peak LightMax.

      HJ

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  3. I've been using the Kovea Spider for a few months now. I love the stove. I don't see it on their ebay site (http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?_nkw=kovea&rt=nc) yet though.

    If interested, here is the preliminary review I did on mine when I got it: http://woodtrekker.blogspot.com/2012/07/kovea-spider-stove-review.html I'll see how it holds up to the cold this winter.

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    1. Ross,

      Nice write up. Kovea also sent me a Kovea Spider (KB-1109). I think it's really nice stove. I'd also like to see some of the Fire Maple stoves in this class.

      HJ

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  4. Hi there. What's the lightest stove you recommend for just boiling water and melting snow at 0 degF ? Still the windpro?

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    1. Chris,

      The Windpro is a great stove and is widely available in the US. The Kovea Spider (KB-1109) is about an ounce lighter (and far more compact), but it is not available in the US that I know of. There is also the FMS-118 which comes in at about 5 ounces. However, I have not been able to get my hands on an FMS-118 yet, so I can't really speak to it quality or lack thereof. There have been some reports of flaring with the FMS-118.

      The Kovea Spider is an excellent stove if you can find one, otherwise I would recommend the Windpro II.

      HJ

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    2. Thanks Jim! :)
      If ya find a place that sells the kb-1109 please let me know.

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  5. Jim,
    The Primus Express Spider deserves a review, since it has been out for some time, and it is from the grand old firm. The only negative features I've noticed are the small diameter burner and the vertical orientation of the fuel feed knob.

    Perhaps the small burner size was chosen to reduce weight and size, and to encourage lower fuel consumption. When turned up high, it's like a blowtorch and concentrates too much heat in the center of the pot, in my view.

    The knob being vertical and rather tall makes inverting the canister a bit awkward.

    The external fuel supply makes the stove a bit tippy without a pot full of water to hold it down, but this problem is no doubt common to any stove of this type.

    John

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    1. John,

      Yes, that would be a worthy stove to review. Most of the stoves that come into my hands are loans or provided by the stove companies. Alas, I can not independently afford to purchase every stove myself. I don't have any contacts with Primus, although I might explore getting those contacts.

      I like the Kovea Spider (which is in the same class) that Express Spider isn't on my highest priority list. :)

      The next stove I really want to review is the new Jetboil Joule. :)

      HJ

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