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Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Kovea Spider (KB-1109) Remote Canister Stove

What's this?  A package?  For me?  Why how nice.  You shouldn't have.  I mean really... but I'm so glad you did.
The Kovea Spider's package
And look!  It's the new Kovea Spider, a remote canister stove that is capable of running with the canister inverted (if you're not familiar with the cold weather advantages of running with the canister inverted, you might want to check out my article on Seattle Backpacker's Magazine, Stoves for Cold Weather II).

UPDATE 10 Mar 2013:  I've added a cooking report for the Kovea Spider.

Why I've been lusting after one of these ever since I saw it in the Kovea catalog.  Aye, and she's a nice one.
The Kovea Spider
Look how compact that is!  Yes!  What a sweet little stove.  Now, I own a number of stoves that are capable of running on a remote gas canister (Rapidfire, Windpro, Omnifuel, OmniLite Ti, Whisperlite Universal, etc.), but every one of those stoves is essentially a big, white gasoline type stove converted to run on canister gas.  None of them are particularly light or compact.  The lightest remote canister stove that I've got is the Windpro II at 187g/6.6oz.  The Kovea Spider weighs in at 168g/5.9oz which while almost 3/4oz lighter isn't really all that much of a weight savings to be perfectly frank.
A Kovea Spider (right) next to a Monatauk Gnat (left)

But weight's not the whole story, now is it?  Packability ranks very high on my list thank you very much.  I like to be able to put my stove and a canister of gas inside my pot.  It is here, in the packability department that the Kovea Spider shines.  I tried my Kovea Spider in my 780ml Snow Peak Ti pot.  It fit great, along with a 110g Snow Peak canister of gas.  Note:  The 780ml Snow Peak pot has a frying pan lid.  Not all 780ml pots will work.
A Kovea Spider fits easily along with a 110g canister of gas inside a 780ml Snow Peak Ti pot.
I was also able to fit the Kovea Spider into my 850ml Titan kettle, again with a 110g Snow Peak canister of gas.  It's a bit tighter fit even though the Titan kettle has a larger capacity due to the kettle's proportions, but I was able to get it to fit and to close the lid.  Now that's pretty sweet.
The Kovea Spider will fit into an MSR Titan kettle along with a 110g Snow Peak canister of gas.
By comparison, while I can fit the Windpro II into either a Snow Peak 780 or the Titan Kettle, I can't even begin to fit a canister of gas inside when there's a stove in there.
An MSR Windpro II (left) in a 780ml Snow Peak pot.
A Kovea Spider (right) in an 850ml MSR Titan kettle.  With the Spider, there's room for a 110g gas canister!

Now don't get me wrong, I like the Windpro II; it's a good stove.  It's just that I've been wanting something lighter and more packable for some time.  For groups of 3+, I might still choose the Windpro II, but for smaller parties, say from 1 to 3 people, I think the Kovea Spider will do very nicely.

Here's a video where I compare the packability of the Kovea Spider with that of an MSR Windpro II.  In the video, I state that the Windpro II weighs 8 ounces, which is NOT correct.  I must have been thinking about the stuff sack and windscreen or something.  The correct weights are 168g/5.9oz for the Spider and 187g/6.6oz for the Windpro II.


Well, that's very nice that it's a bit lighter and a whole lot more packable, how about the stove itself?

Ah, good question.  And in answer, let me say that I'm suitably impressed by Kovea's workmanship.
The Kovea Spider is very well made
I like the overall build quality and fit.  There are some nice touches like the fold out wire flame control.
The Kovea Spider has a fold out flame adjuster.  Works great with mittens.
Some of the cheap stoves coming out of China have a small knob here which is much harder to work when wearing mittens.  I've also seen the knobs on cheap stoves jam -- and unscrew right off the end of the spindle.

The stove comes with a pre-heat loop, so that you can gain about a 20 Fahrenheit degree (about 10 Celsius degrees) cold weather advantage over conventional upright gas stoves by running with the canister upside down, which causes the stove to be fed liquified gas.
The pre heat loop on a Kovea Spider
Here again is why I prefer an experienced and accomplished stove maker like Kovea over some of the cheap stoves coming out of China.  In inverted canister operation, some Chinese stoves have had particles break off from their hoses (improper materials were used) and still others had a "stutter" caused by liquid fuel reaching the burner even though the stove had a pre-heat loop (bad design).  At least with inverted canister operation, Chinese stoves don't appear to be quite up with their European, Japanese, Korean, and American designed counterparts.

The burner head of the Kovea Spider is small, but this should be nothing new for those who have been using light weight conventional (upright) gas stoves.
The burner head of the Kovea Spider
Now, take a look at the photo below.  Notice the downward pointing arrow on the leg/pot support?  The legs of the stove snap into place with a very positive lock.  No flopping around here.  To release the leg, simply push down as the arrow indicates, and rotate the stove's leg inward for packing.  Nice touch.
The legs of the Kovea Spider click into place for use. 
The legs are then pushed down as indicated by the arrow to release the lock and fold for stowage
In terms of flame characteristics, I found that I could go all the way from a low simmer.
A Kovea Spider simmering
To a very full blast.
A Kovea Spider on high flame.
The Kovea Spider has plenty of power and easily brings water to a full roiling boil.  Notice also, in the photo above, that the flame angles outward from the burner head.  Even though the burner head is relatively small, the flame is well distributed, and you don't get as much hot spotting as you might from other similarly sized burner heads.
A vigorous boil
With a rotating coupler, the Kovea Spider is easy to use in either normal canister or inverted canister mode.
A Kovea Spider with the canister inverted
And of course, since it's a remote canister stove, you can use a full 360 degree windscreen without fear of overheating the canister.
A Kovea Spider in use with a full 360 degree windscreen.  No problem; works great.

In terms of pot sizes, the legs can support a wide variety of pots.  The smallest diameter pot I tried was an MSR Titan kettle, but a smaller pot would be no problem.  However, if you want to fit both the stove and a canister of gas in your pot, you can't go smaller than a Titan kettle.
A Titan kettle on a Kovea Spider
The largest pot I tried on my Kovea Spider was a 1300ml Evernew Ultralight Ti pot.  It worked great, and there's no reason why you couldn't use an even larger pot.
An Evernew 1300ml pot on a Kovea Spider.  Very stable.

The stove comes with a detached piezoelectric ignition.
The Kovea Spider comes with a separate piezoelectric ignition
The ignition is nice, but since I carry a butane lighter on every trip already, I found myself sometimes leaving the piezo ignition at home.  Interestingly, the Kovea lighter appears to be identical in every way to the MSR lighter sold with the MSR MicroRocket, except for the color and brand name.
The Kovea and MSR piezoelectric ignitions appear to be identical

The Kovea Spider is easily my favorite gas stove to have come out in 2012.
Testing the Kovea Spider on the PCT this past summer with my daughter.

Summary
The Spider (KB-1109) remote canister gas stove from Kovea
What's Good about it
  • Compact!
  • Relatively light
  • Capable of inverted canister use for cold weather
  • Compatible with a full 360 degree windscreen
  • The flames from the burner head angle outward which helps prevent "hot spotting"
  • Well made; well designed
  • Very affordable.
What's bad about it
  • At 168g/5.9oz, it's still a little heavy for what it is.  More on that in my concluding remarks.
The Spider (KB-1109) remote canister gas stove from Kovea:  Highly recommended.


Concluding Remarks
I mentioned that I thought the stove was a bit heavy for what it is.  Now, don't take that out of context.  This is a very nice stove and has definitely made it into my "go to" gear bag.  But I think more progress can be made here in future generations of the stove.  The stove should be at least one ounce lighter than it is now and preferably two.  To you Kovea, I throw down the proverbial gauntlet.  If you don't do it, the Chinese will.  I'd like to see you succeed because I know you will make a far better stove.  I sincerely hope that you will take up this challenge.  I want the stove that you will build!

Lastly, the Kovea brand is not available through conventional channels in the United States, but I do see the Kovea Spider being sold on eBay.  The price I see listed is $52.90, which is roughly half of similar stoves from American producers.  The Kovea Spider is not only a darned good stove, it's a darned good deal.  It's my favorite inverted canister stove and my first recommendation to anyone looking for either a remote canister or inverted canister stove.  In case you haven't already figured it out, I really like this stove.

UPDATE 30 March 2013:  The Kovea Spider is now available through a US retailer, The Gear House, in Virginia.  Note:  I haven't ever purchased anything from the Gear House.  This is just for your information.

Thank you for joining me on another Adventure in Stoving,

HJ

Appendix I, Radii of Stoves Featured in this Post

StoveRadius (cm)Radius (In.)
Monatauk Gnat5.52.2
Kovea Spider6.52.6
MSR Windpro II7.22.8
Keep in mind of course that an upright canister stove's burner sits up much higher than that of remote canister stoves like the Spider or Windpro II. Generally, pots are more stable on a remote canister stove if the pot supports are equal in length to an upright canister stove's. If the pot supports are longer, the remote canister stove has an even greater advantage in terms of stability.

Appendix II, Additional Video
I shot a video with my new camera.  I'm still learning the ins and outs of my new camera, so I managed to cut off the video before I was done.  Since it's cut off, I won't put this video in the body of the review, but even though it's cut off, the video should still give you some idea of what the stove is like.

33 comments:

  1. Thanks for that - been considering a remote canister system to replace my PocketRocket...

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    1. You're welcome, and this is a good one. There is a Chinese made stove, the Volcano, that is about 3/4 ounce lighter, but the quality just isn't there from what I can see.

      HJ

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  2. Hey Jim,Thanx alot for the XLNT review & your Photo-Zen is still the optimal best!

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    1. Hi, Rick,

      You're welcome. I got a new camera for Christmas, and I'm having fun with it.

      HJ

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  3. i currently use the Optimus Vega for remote canister ... i really like the pot support on it and the little built in legs for liquid feed mode

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    1. Hi, Jordan,

      The little legs on the Vega are definitely a nice idea, and the Vega is in the same general class as the Spider. The thing I like about the Spider is that it is so packable. When I tried to fit a gas canister and the Vega into a Titan kettle, I couldn't do it, but I could with the Spider.

      Would I buy a Spider if I already had a Vega? Probably not. Looks like it should work well for you. I am very pleased to see so many new stoves of this type (remote canister) coming out.

      HJ

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  4. Great write up. I like the stove a lot.

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    1. Hi, Ross,

      Isn't it a great little stove? I'm really liking how much stove they've packed into something so small.

      HJ

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  5. I just ordered a Kovea Camp 5 off eBay (the Spider was not available). At the same time I ordered the Kovea LPG adapter. Now I am wondering if I can use the adapter to operate the Camp 5 stove using propane? I probably should have asked this before I ordered the stuff, but I didn't think of it then.

    Ralph McCall

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    1. Ralph,

      Yes, you should be able to operate your Camp 5 off of 100% propane using the Kovea LPG adapter, JUST BE CAREFUL. The vapor pressure is higher with propane, so your stove may be "jumpy." That is, a small turn of the valve may allow higher increments in the flame than you're used to. Be careful with it until you get used to it. And remember, there's no law that says you have to turn it up to 100% full flame.

      HJ

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  6. Hey Jim!
    Thanks for another great review.

    I've got Kovea Spider since October '12 and i should say it is very nice stove to cook meals and boil water. I used my MSR Titan kettle with it too.

    Couple months ago I wrote a review of this stove. The review is in Russian, but there is a boiling test and some photos, that are understandable in any language.
    http://propohody.com/kovea-spider-review/

    Good luck with your new camera:)
    Anton

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    1. Hi, Anton,

      I saw your review. You have a lot of good photos in that review. Thanks for bringing it up here so that my readers will have a chance to view it if they like.

      HJ

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  7. Hi Jim,

    Thanks for this great review. This sounds like just the stove I've been looking for. So based on your recommendation, I bought one on eBay. Now my Primus Spider is up for sale.

    I see you like to cook while out packing. Here are two alternative food suggestions. Instead of regular pasta or rice, try angel hair pasta and Basmati rice. Both of these products are very fine and cook much faster than the standard. Angel hair pasta will be ready in about 3 minutes, and Basmati rice cooks in 15 minutes or less.

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    1. Hello, White Pine.

      What a great name, by the way. We have three members of the white pine family here in California: Pinus monticola, Pinus Lambertiana, and Pinus Flexilis. Flexilis is a high altitude, extreme climate pine and is a favorite photographic subject of mine.

      I've been super happy with my Kovea Spider. No complaints whatever. I hope your experience will be the same, but if it's not, then please re-visit this post and let us all know. (Actually, if your experience is good, say that too) :)

      I'll have to try your recommendations as to Basmati rice and Angel hair. Thank you for that.

      HJ

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  8. Just received my Spider in the mail today (3/29/13) and can't wait till tomorrow night to test it out, hopefully on the summit of Baldy. Will let you know the results.

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    1. Hi, Hillbasher,

      Nice to have met you and your son out on the trail that one time near Dawson Saddle.

      That's cool that you picked up a Kovea Spider. I really like the stove and think it's got a lot of versatility. I'll be interested to hear how you like it.

      HJ

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    2. Love the stove beyond expectations. Well built, light enough for my uses, like the ability to invert the canister when temps drop, and the control of the flame is better than any stove I have ever used. Cooked up bacon and eggs in its first test and could not have been happier with the results. I rave about this stove to anyone that will listen, and recommend it to all. Am glad to see that it is now available here in the good old U.S. of A., and at not much more than I paid to get it straight from the manufacturer. I am glad to have found your review of it here on your blog, and keep up the excellent work you do for everyone with your reviews. Bill

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    3. Hi, Bill,

      Wow! Great. That's great to hear that it's working for you. I have to say that I really like this stove and that everyone I've talked to so far does too. Sounds like you're getting really great results.

      HJ

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  9. Hi Jim, thanks for the review. Looks like an awesome little stove. Speaking of little; what's the height of the stove? Can't seem to find it anywhere on the interwebs. I'd like to buy a Vango windscreen (6.3 inch) for it and was wondering if that would suffice? Any help would be appreciated.

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  10. The highest point of the pot support is 8.5 cm/3.35" above the ground.

    HJ

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  11. http://www.amazon.com/Kovea-Spider-Stove-Small-Silver/dp/B00CFPIPKA

    These are on Amazon now. You don't have to buy off Ebay.

    I was going to get a Windpro 2, but from the videos I've seen this stove does everything I want for $45-$50 less (without plastic feet to keep track of) so I'm going to try the Kovea Spider instead. Thanks for the review.

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    1. They're also now available at Camp Saver and The Gear House as I recall, and possibly others.

      The Windpro II doesn't have plastic feet unless you mean the inverted canister stand. The inverted canister stand isn't in my opinion very useful for smaller canisters, but if you're using a 220g or 450g canister, they're very worthwhile. The canister stand only works with the WindPro. It cannot be used with the Spider or other stoves.

      HJ

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    2. I was talking about the stand. I see your point about the bigger canisters.

      Thanks again for the reviews and videos. I have a Spider on order. For what we do it should work out well and it came in at a good price.

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    3. The stand is convenient, but you can get good results by leaning the bigger canisters up against your pack or a shoe or something.

      The Spider has worked really well for me. I've taken it on multiple trips this summer. I've done some fun stuff like a fritatta on it.

      HJ

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  12. Just running the idea by you of connecting a remote canister stove like the Kovea Spider to the Primus Omnifuel pump and running it on Coleman fuel. Obviously jet size will not be optimal, but I use the same 0.45mm jet on my Omnifuel for both gas and white spirit. Have you tried this yet? Can't find it covered in any of your blogs. What do you think?

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    1. Sorry, I am using the 0.37mm jet for both gas and gasoline/white spirit/coleman fuel.
      (Nominal jet sizes/uses: 0.45mm gas, 0.37 gasoline, 0.28 kerosene)

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    2. It will probably work, but it probably will not be optimal. Notice on your omnifuel the progression of the jet sizes. The fuels with a lower vaporization point have a larger jet size. This is to increase the amount of fuel with respect to the amount of air in the mix. If you were to run white spirit through a 0.45 mm jet, you'd have too much fuel in your fuel-to-air mixture, and you'd get inefficient burning. On the other hand, if you put canister gas through a 0.28 mm jet, you'd probably only limit power since too much air (at least on stoves) does not tend to lead to inefficient burning.

      Running a Kovea Spider on white spirit would be similar to running an Omnifuel with the 0.45mm jet on white spirit. What you might want to try is running your Omnifuel with the 0.45mm jet on white spirit and see how that works. I suspect it will work OK but have some yellow flames and inefficient burning. If the Omnifuel with 0.45 mm jet works well with white spirit, then maybe I would think about running it through a Kovea Spider.

      One caution: The Omnifuel comes with the means to clean the jet. The Kovea Spider does not. Inefficient burning will typically cause more frequent jet blockages. I would not take the Kovea Spider to a remote location unless I were confident I could clear a jet blockage.

      HJ

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  13. Hi Jim,

    Just wanted to let people to know I've tried ordering a Spider from Amazon on two separate occasions now.

    Both times, Amazon shipped the stove in a box designed for shipping thin/flat DVDs! The ends of the box were folded and tucked in, sort of like a burrito wrap. Needless to say, the packaging offered no protection for the stove and in both shipments, the Spider was crushed and the steel legs were bent.

    I'm going to return the damaged stove that just arrived today (both were shipped from Amazon's Las Vegas Fulfillment Center). Hopefully, I'll be able to order one from one of the other sources mentioned here.

    p.s. Comparing the Spider to my Windpro and the Optimus Vega, I think the Spider's one weak spot is the three steel rod legs are much more easily bent than the flat metal legs on the Windpro and Vega. Of course, the tradeoff is the Spider is half the cost.

    Thanks for a great review.

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    1. It would be interesting to see how well the legs of a Vega or a WindPro would do under similar circumstances. I think the fault lies with Amazon. I think the legs of the Spider are more than adequate to handle actual use (as opposed to shipping/packing errors).

      I'm glad you liked the review overall. It remains one of my favorite gas stoves, in part because it's so compact.

      HJ

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  14. Hi Jim.

    I sent you an email yesterday about the issues I'm having with my Kovea Spider that I just received. In particular sputtering with the canister inverted, which can be heard whether the stove is lit or not so its obviously an issue with how the gas is getting throughs. I thought it would be good to have the conversation here in case anyone else experiences similar problems.

    Cheers
    Aidan

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    1. Aidan,

      Pulsing or sputtering on an inverted canister stove when the stove is lit is a fairly common phenomenon, but sputtering even though the stove is not lit? As I think about it, it's probably that the fuel, when the canister is inverted, is changing from gas to liquid behind the jet area, creating a back pressure which creates a pulsing as the pressure releases through the constriction of the jet, builds up again, and so on. I wouldn't read too much into what the stove does when it is not lit. Absent the heat from the flame, the stove will behave differently from how it was designed to operate.

      By why the sputtering when it is lit? Probably your preheat loop (generator) is a little out of spec. Typically, if the preheat loop is a little too wide, then a core of un-vaporized fuel can proceed all the way to the jet where, when it does finally vaporize, a back pressure is created. How serious is this situation? (Is it serious?) Probably it is not serious so long as there is no flaring (bright yellow flames). If yellow flames were to occur, you would want to exchange your stove as defective. The flame should remain blue throughout. A little pulsing won't hurt although it might be annoying.

      Note: I'm saying all this without yet having reviewed the attachment (presumably with audio) that you sent me. But in general, pulsing isn't a major worry so long as the flame remains blue.

      I'll review the attachment you sent when I get a chance later on this evening.

      HJ

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  15. Hi Jim

    Perhaps this is an odd question, but how easy is it to remove the pot holder legs on the Spider? I am thinking of modifying a Spider to act as the burner for my old Trangia-type alcohol stove. This would mean removing the legs and adding an adaptor (I have a design in mind) whenever I want to use the Trangia, and re-installing the legs whenever I want to use the Spider in its conventional form. Do you think this will be possible. Thanks.
    PS: This is a very useful site - much appreciated.

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