What's the "holy grail" of canister gas for cold weather backpacking? 100% propane. Propane is the best. Plain butane won't vaporize below 31F/-0.5C. Even isobutane just sits there and looks at you below 11F/-12C. But propane? Propane vaporizes all the way down to -44F/-42C
What's that you say? Propane is only available in those big heavy steel cylinders that are 16.4oz/465g net
weight? And the total weight is even more than that? And you're not about to carry that on your back?
Hey, I'm with you. Don't blame you a bit. Those big green steel cylinders are just impractical for backpacking. Too bulky, too heavy, and the stoves that go with them aren't any better. But what if there were a better way?
Introducing the Bernzomatic Power Cell.
|A Bernzomatic Power Cell|
Take a close look at that label
|A Bernzomatic Power Cell is 100% propane|
But will it work with backpacking stoves? Let's have a look.
|The connector on a Bernzomatic Power Cell is a standard 7/16 UNEF threaded connector|
That's a standard 7/16 UNEF threaded connector, the same one used by backpacking stoves. Let's try it out.
|A Snow Peak GS-100 stove on a Bernzomatic Power Cell|
Well, I'll be danged. Sure enough, it works. But now you've got an upright type canister stove mounted on a long, slender bottle. No way is that going to be stable. We're back to impractical again. What to do?
Well, what if you could separate the burner from the bottle? You can -- if you have something like a Brunton Stove Stand.
|A GS-100 stove connected to a Bernzomatic Power Cell via a Brunton Stove Stand|
Well, that's an improvement, but that canister is still a little on the tippy side. Can't we just lay it down?
|A Bernzomatic Power Cell laying on its side.|
As a matter of fact, we can. And, in case you can't see it in the above photo, that stove is on and in use.
: When you lay this canister on its side or turn the canister upside down, you are feeding liquid
propane into your stove. Burning liquid propane can be extremely
To play it safe, you should follow the manufacturer's recommendations. The manufacturer recommends that the canister always be used in the upright position. See the full warning at the bottom of this post before
you try laying the canister on its side or turning the canister upside down.
|A close up of the flame of a GS-100 stove running on 100% propane from a Bernzomatic Power Cell|
Now, I started with a completely full canister, so by putting the canister on its side, I should be getting liquid feed, the kind of feed you'd want to use in cold weather. But, just to be sure, I leaned the canister up against the hillside.
|A Bernzomatic Power Cell, completely inverted|
And how does it work when completely inverted? Just fine thanks.
|A GS-100 stove running on liquid propane from a Bernzomatic Power Cell|
The really interesting thing about these tests I ran with 100% propane is that I made absolutely no modifications to the stove or stove stand in any way, shape, or form. In other words, I was able to run the stove on liquid propane (which is what you get when you invert the canister) without
adding any pre-heating device. I ran my tests in weather that was about 50F/10C air temperature. In colder weather, a device to conduct heat from the flame to vaporize the fuel before it reaches the burner head may be needed. At the temperatures I was operating in, the normal properties of propane were sufficient to vaporize the fuel. I experienced no flaring.
I did allow the stove to warm up before inverting the canister.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, practical
propane for backpacking, the holy grail of cold weather canister stoves. You saw it here first, on Adventures in Stoving.
OK, but now the bad news. These are hard
to find. They are out there, and they do exist, but they aren't widely available. But they're very worthwhile if you can find some. It appears that Bernzomatic may no longer be making these, so once the existing supply is gone, that may be it. Grab 'em while you can!
UPDATE 12 Jan 2012
: A thoughtful reader wrote Bernzomatic. Bernzomatic has indeed discontinued the PowerCell (PC8). The only such canisters available are the ones currently on shelves. Once those are gone, no more will be available.
Any use of a fuel or a stove in a manner not recommended by the manufacturer may be dangerous or even deadly. You may also void any warranty and/or nullify any legal protections you might otherwise have. The preceding blog post shows techniques that are inherently dangerous
. Inverting the canister is against
the manufacturer's recommendation. Burning liquid propane can be extremely
dangerous. If you invert (turn upside down) the canister or lay the canister on its side, you will
get liquid propane. Screw up here, and you may be cooking a lot more than your dinner, get it?
The author mentions these techniques solely because he believes that they might be of interest, but the author does not
warrant in any way that these techniques are safe. Indeed, these techniques are not safe
and are by their very nature dangerous. Use of these techniques may lead to property damage, great bodily harm, or even death. The author does not recommend the techniques shown in this blog post.
If you decide to use the dangerous techniques shown in this blog, that is your decision, and you must accept that you
have deliberately chosen to engage in a dangerous activity.
Net weight: 226g/8oz of liquefied propane.
Gross weight: 365g/12.87oz (about 3/4lbs in other words)
Empty weight: 139g/4.90oz
Connector type: Standard 7/16 UNEF threaded with a female Lindal type valve.
Stove stand: 142g/5.00oz