Friday, September 21, 2012

A New Blog

I've got a new blog.  Odd as it may seem, sometimes I actually go hiking.  Yes, it's true.  I don't just sit around and play with stoves all day.  If you're interested in a trip report from my recent ascent of Bighorn Mtn (10,997'/3352m) and The Dragon's Head (10,866'/3312m), take a look at my new blog:  Hikin' Jim.

The Dragon's Head

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,


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