Friday, January 28, 2011

Stove of the Week: Coleman Xpedition

Well, here's something I'd like to try:  A "Stove of the Week" post.  I doubt I'll be able to post a stove every week (but I'll try), but I collect stoves, I've got quite a number of interesting stoves, and I'd love to share them with you.  I take them out quite frequently in the winter, but when the temperatures climb, less frequently so.

Related posts:
For starters, here is the Coleman Xpedition two burner backpacking stove.  Yes, you read that correctly, a two burner backpacking stove.  Not many of those out there!

The stove is shown here on the ruins of Echo Mountain House a hotel built in the late 1800's atop Echo Mountain (3207'/977m).

Now the stove has something of a story.  First it came to me by way of a friend in England.  Ian sent it to me simply because he knew of my affection for and interest in this type of stove.  He asked for nothing in return.  I thank you very much, Ian, and I apologize that it's taken me this long to get it fettled (repaired) and posted. 

In terms of fettling, the "X" stoves that Coleman produced do have an achilles heel:  their connector.  I own half a dozen of the three types of "X" stoves (the Xtreme, Xpert, and Xpedition).  I've seen multiple problems with their connector (the point at which the Powermax canister attaches to the stove).

Basically, the canister has a hex shaped protrusion on it.  The hex is placed into the connector pictured above and rotated 1/6th turn to the right.  As the hex rotates, it causes the inner cam in the photo above to rotate with it while the outer "finger plate" (Coleman's term for it) stays stationary.  The protrusions on the inner cam force the "fingers" on the finger plate to expand and a small ridge on each finger is forced into a grove on the inside rim of the canister's valve assembly.  The fingers when forced by the cam into the grove hold the canister in place such that the lindal valve is depressed, opening the valve and allowing the gas to flow.  If you look closely at this photo, you can see the grove on the inside rim of the canister's valve assembly.

In theory.  In practice, however, the inner cam just wasn't rotating.  Instead, the canister's hex was rotating within the cam, stripping the plastic of the cam.  If you look closely at the photo of the cam, two photos back, you can see some wear where I've stripped the cam.  

"Well," thought I in all my full brilliance,  "the fingers must be too tight, and they're not allowing the cam to rotate properly.  I'll loosen them up a bit."  Crack.  One of the fingers broke off.  Oh, great.  

Well, no problem, I'll just order one from Coleman.  Nope.  Coleman no longer carries either the cam or the fingerplate.  Stumped, I laid the stove aside for a while.

Some time later, I was tipped off that Campmor.com carries "trail maintenance kits" for the Coleman "X" stoves.  The best deal is the Xpedition trail maintenance kit:  it has more parts (and for a lower price) than the other kits.  All of the kits are interchangeable even though some of the kits are labeled for one of the three "X" stoves or another.  A bit expensive to buy an entire kit for just the finger plate, but having no other alternative, I bought a couple.

Here in this photo, you can see the difference between a nice, new cam and a worn cam.

But no dice.  The derned thing still won't turn.   I tried oil.  I tried swapping parts out for new parts.  I tried powdered graphite.  Nothing I tried worked.  The cam just wouldn't turn.  I admit that at this point I just about binned the danged thing.  

Now, fast forward some months.  New Year's day 2011 is fast approaching.  Now, we've something of a local tradition hereabouts, it's called the Rose Parade, which is a nationally televised event.  As part of that parade, the US Air Force usually does a relatively low altitude fly by over the parade route.  Lately, it's been the B-2 Stealth Bomber.  Fascinating!  There's a mountain that has a commanding view of the parade route.  The last several years, quite a crowd has gathered upon the mountain top so as to have quite the view of the B-2 as it flies by.  It's become an event in its own right, with people bringing stoves, cooking, and having quite the festive occasion.  Well, if one wants to cook for a crowd AND one has to carry the stove up a mountainside, what better stove than a two burner Coleman Xpedition stove?  It's relatively light, yet it has not one but two powerful burners.  I thought, what could it hurt to pull the Xpedition off the shelf and have one more go at fettling?  

Now, take one more look at that last photo.  Note that the protrusions on the cams have sharp, hard right angled edges on them.  What if I beveled them a bit?  I got out a file.  I don't know how well this will show in a photo, but here's a cam after I've beveled the leading edges of the protrusions.

Now, have I just wasted my time yet again?  
NO BY GOLLY I HAVE NOT!!!         

Phew!  That's the best looking flame I've seen in a long time.  The worst part of it of course is after months of time spent and untold frustration, it only took me a few minutes to bevel the edges and have the stove up and running.   It's a fairly simple fettle -- once it occurs to you to try it.  Don't become a stovie if you're not prepared to have a good laugh at yourself once in a while.      

Well, then fettle done, off we go early the next morning.  We've got to make it to the mountain top and be in position before 0800 when the fly by occurs.  I'm carrying about 30 pounds of gear (about 13.5 kg); this will be no fast trek.  My friend calls.  He's running late.   Ack!  Off we go in a bit of a race against time!

It's a fairly cold morning by California standards; there's frost on the ground, indicating that the over night low has been below 32 F (0 C).

The San Gabriel Valley of California, pre-dawn.

Here's another view of the greater Los Angeles area from further up the trail a bit later that morning.  If you look closely at the uppermost of the two blimps, you can see the rose colored light of dawn.  Downtown Los Angeles can be seen at the lower right.

Finally, we're in position, and it's nearly 0800.  We've made it in time.  And there it is!  The stealth bomber!

Unfortunately, I couldn't get him in frame when I maximized the zoom level (he was moving too fast), so that's not the best photo in the world, but I assure you it was quite exciting in person.

Here's my set up on the mountain top after the crowds have departed.  I made hot water for instant oatmeal and instant cocoa for folks.  The Xpedition did an admirable job of it.

The pots are 0.9 L and 1.5 L Primus LiTech kettles.  Very convenient to pour from.  By having two burners and two kettles, I could serve with one while heating more with the other, allowing me to provide hot water to a fair number of people.

The canteen seen at left is an orginal Swiss military one produced by Sigg.  Sigg recently issued a retro version made of steel with a screw top.  I saw one go recently for about $75.00 on eBay!    I bought the original version for $7.13 total, and mine is lighter aluminum.  I think I'll stick with my version although a cork stopper is not as secure as a screw top, and I worry I may get water spilled on my pack some day.  I carry it strictly for the cool factor.     

The windscreen you seen in the photo is the concatenation of one and a half Olicamp windscreens.  One and a half windscreens makes an almost perfect fit for the Xpedition.

Here's the view from the top.  The signs you see are historical interpretive signs explaining the various features of the site.  The blue you see on the far horizon is the mighty Pacific Ocean.

And now that the crowds have gone, it's my turn to enjoy a cuppa.

And if you look behind me, you can see why so many people have chosen to live in California:  It's January, but it's a beautiful day.  It's cold, there was frost still in the shady spots, but out in the sun a light down jacket like the one you see me wearing was all I needed.  Not too bad for January.

Well, I thank you for joining me on my New Year's Day trip up Echo Mountain.  I hope you've enjoyed the trip -- and the stove.



  1. So, after reading your story am i right in assuming that you didnt need the maintenance kit after all?

    I love this stove, i've had mine for years and recently convinved my sister to buy one and her brand new one has the same problem as yours. It wont hold a powermax can but strangely it will hold the adapter which allows you to use the more common crew-in type gas cannisters.

    She cant return it as we are in the UK and that stove has been discontinued here now :(. I want to help her coz she spent her hard earned money on it on my reccomendation.

    Even the maintenance kits are not supplied over here to my knowledge. I've contacted coleman support but no answer as of yet.

    my email address is blufoot@blufoot.com if you have any further info about dismantling the valve, that would be a great help.


  2. I didn't absolutely need the parts kit. However, while I had everything apart, I replaced the "fingerplate."

    If your stove isn't gripping the canister correctly, you might want to try the fix I describe in this post (http://adventuresinstoving.blogspot.com/2011/01/stove-of-week-coleman-xpedition.html) where I beveled the leading edges of the cam.

    If you do need parts, the maintenance kits were still available on Coleman's US site the last time I checked.

    Coleman, by the way, has discontinued the Powermax (sometimes just called "Max" depending on where you live) canisters. If you see some in stores, you might buy them so as to ensure your fuel supply.


  3. Do you know if these stoves themselves have been discontinued? I've had two which was great for when I went camping with my daughter but had to sell them both during difficult times. I would love to have another one.

  4. Yes, the Coleman Xpedition has been discontinued. They are still available, sometimes new, sometimes used, on eBay.



My apologies to real people, but due to Spammers I have to moderate comments. I'll get to this as rapidly as possible but do understand that I like to hike and there's no internet in the wilderness. Take care and stove on!