Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Why a Liquid Fueled Stove?

Gas stoves are super convenient.  Why would anyone want to use a liquid fueled stove?  I mean aren't liquid fueled stoves dinosaurs?  Isn't it just weird old-timers who still use them?

Well, hardly.  Petroleum based liquid fueled stoves still rule the day when it's seriously cold.  There are gas stoves that will work in really cold weather (particularly if you do things to warm the canister), but in general 0F/-18C is sort of my dividing line between appropriate use of a winter capable gas stove vs. a liquid fueled stove.  Note that I said "winter capable."  By that I mean a remote canister stove capable of inverted canister operation.  Don't try to take an ordinary upright canister stove down to 0F/-18C!

OK, so extreme cold is when you need a liquid fueled stove, but are there other reasons to go with liquid fuel?  Sure there are.  Here are just a few:
  • Motor touring. Liquid fuel is pretty popular with long distance motorcyclists for example. They can just pull a little unleaded out of their motorcycle's tanks and run their stove.
  • International travel. Kerosene is the international stove fuel and is generally available world wide.  Gas canisters aren't as widely available, and the canisters available in a given area may not be the canisters your stove uses.  Other liquid fuels like "Av gas" (aviation gasoline) and unleaded automotive gasoline are also available in many areas
  • "Sustainability." Canisters take a lot to manufacture and are single use. Even if you recycle them, there's still a much greater impact than buying a liquid fuel bottle that will last a lifetime (or more)
  • KISS (keep it simple, sweetheart). If don't want to have "gear proliferation" and want one stove for all four seasons, liquid fuel is the way to go.
  • High volume use. Liquid fuel is still the cheapest fuel. For people that use their stoves a lot, it's a good option. A four ounce canister of gas costs about $5.00. The equivalent amount of white gasoline? About $0.30.
  • Nostalgia.  Seriously!  I've still got my uncle's 1962 Primus 71 stove.  It's all brass, and it's highly cool.  I'm not going to stop using that or my ultra-cool Svea 123 just because gas is a bit more convenient!  Get real!
No matter what stove you use, remember to enjoy yourself and be safe.

Happy hiking,



  1. I'm probably one of those weird old-timers,but truth be known, my dragon-fly is just plain fun.Not to mention all the rest of the classics.

  2. Here, here. I still have the old two burner Thermos 8423 that my family bought in the late 60's (early 70's?). Give it up? Certainly not! It's way too vintage cool.


  3. Jim, excellent stuff on your site. Thank you.
    Regarding upright canister use at 0F, I just got off the North Slope in Alaska on a hunting trip and I brought my Reactor and two canisters to swap them as they got cold. I ended up using them successfully at 0F, but had to change them and warm them in my jacket or sleeping bag about every 10 minutes. It was both convenient in the philosophy of a canister stove (light, simple), but very inconvenient having to swap and warm canisters so frequently. However, it did work and I melted snow for three people for 3 days, 3 nights! Next time I'll bring my remote adapter to flip the canister. I wish I would have remembered it for this trip!!!

  4. Josh,

    Be really careful if you "flip" the canister on a gas stove. NOT ALL STOVES CAN HANDLE IT, even if you bring a remote stand (like the Brunton brand one for example). You might check my Seattle Backpacker's Magazine article on how to tell which stoves can handle it (see link below). I'd hate to see you screw up a nice stove like the Reactor -- or worse, have an accident.




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!