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Friday, October 31, 2014

The Kovea Supalite (KB-0707) Gas Stove

People often ask me what stove(s) I like or recommend.  When it comes to the upright canister gas stove category (where the burner screws directly onto the canister), I like the Kovea Supalite.

The Kovea Supalite canister gas stove, screwed into a canister.
Let's go through some of the features of the stove.

Compactness
First it's a nicely compact stove.  Here's the stove in the palm of my hand.
The Kovea Supalite in my hand
Just how compact is it?  Well, let's compare it to what may be the most well known stove of this class in the US, the MSR Pocket Rocket.  I'm choosing the Pocket Rocket simply because the stove is so well known.
Kovea Supalite (left); MSR Pocket Rocket (right)
Notice that the MSR Pocket Rocket is quite a bit taller than the Kovea Supalite.  Notice also that the valve handle on the Pocket Rocket folds up but still sticks out a bit.  The Supalite's valve handle folds up around the base.
The Supalite's valve handle folds back around the stove's base.
The Supalite also lies far flatter than the Pocket Rocket.  Note in the photo below how the Pocket Rocket juts up quite a bit higher than the Supalite.
The Supalite packs flatter than the Pocket Rocket.
Now, why might compactness matter?  Well, a lot of people like to pack their stove inside their pot or mug.  The trend these days is to go fairly fast and light.  A lot of people are going with fairly small pots.  A big stove just isn't going to fit in a small pot.  To illustrate this, I grabbed a 250 ml/8 oz titanium Sierra Cup and our two stoves.  Notice that the Pocket Rocket can't fit in the cup, no matter how it is oriented.
A Pocket Rocket cannot be made to fit in a 250 ml/8 oz Sierra Cup.
By contrast, not only does the Supalite fit, it lies flat in the bottom of the cup.  In my book, that's compact.
The Kovea Supalite lies flat in the bottom of a 250 ml/8 oz Sierra Cup.
Pot Stability
"That's all well and fine," you may be thinking, "but a smaller stove is going to have smaller pot supports, my pot's not going to be stable, and my dinner is going to wind up on the ground."  Not so!

Let's compare the pot supports of the two.  If the two stoves are held together with the pot supports touching one another, we see that the span of the pot supports is essentially the same.  The Supalite's pot supports might be just ever so slightly larger in their span, but not to a degree that is significant.
The pot supports of a Pocket Rocket and a Supalite, juxtaposed.
In other words, even though the Supalite is far more compact, it's pot supports are just as wide.  Not only that, but in actual use, I found that the design of the Supalite's supports actually gave it better pot stability compared to the Pocket Rocket.  Note:   The ends of the Supalite's pot supports fold outward.  When screwing on a canister, the pot supports can flip back closed, which is a bit of a nuisance.  I found it easiest to screw on the canister first and then to fully deploy the pot supports.

Here's a photo of the Supalite in use with a 2.1 liter pot.  Now, a 2.1 liter pot is a fairly large pot, but I found no issues with stability.
A Kovea Supalite in use with a 2.1 liter pot.  No stability issues.
In fact, it was so stable I let my five year old daughter help me cook with this set up.  Now, that's stable!
A five year old child cooking with a 2.1 liter pot on a Kovea Supalite stove.
Cooking Ability
Speaking of cooking, how well does the Supalite do?  Well, in order to answer that question, let's look at the flame pattern.  Notice in the photo below that the Supalite's flame is directed outward.  If you're familiar at all with the Pocket Rocket, you know that it's flame is directed upward.
The flame on a Kovea Supalite stove radiates out away from the burner head.
Why might the orientation of the flame matter?  Well, a flame that points outward is more dispersed which minimizes hot spots and lends itself to better cooking.  A flame that points upwards frequently causes hot spots where food tends to burn onto the pot.  In my use of the Supalite, I found that I had very good flame control and that the stove simmered well without hot spots -- and no burnt food.

Now, does the more dispersed flame reduce the power of the stove?  In my testing, I found no indication of a loss of power.  I was able to produce a very vigorous rolling boil.
A vigorous boil from a Kovea Supalite.
Boil Time
Now, some people are going to ask, "well, how long did it take to boil?"  Those who have followed Adventures in Stoving for any length of time know that I don't really think that boil times are a good measure by which to judge a stove.  For one, how much gas are you burning through if you're doing speed boils?  If you've got a "gas guzzler" of a stove, is that what you really want?  Remember, you have to carry all your fuel and you want the fuel to last for an entire trip.  I encourage people to look for stoves that are efficient not hyper fast.  As long as the boil is with in a reasonable time period, I'm satisfied.  I mean, really.  I've hiked multiple hours to get to camp and I'm going to obsess over which stove is 30 seconds faster to boil?  I'm just not.  I cannot for the life of my understand why so much marketing spin is directed towards which stove boils the fastest -- as if that really mattered.

So, with respect to the Supalite (as well as most any other stove), I'm not going to quote boil times. If there's a problem, I'll mention it.  In my testing with the Supalite, there were no such problems.  It was clear that the Supalite was no slouch in terms of putting out the heat.  Boiling occurred in a reasonable time and the stove had reasonable power.

The Supalite certainly did an excellent job on my noodles, and that to me is far more important than any boil time.
Lunch is served!
Kovea, the Company
Regarding Kovea, I've half jokingly referred to Kovea as the "best known stove company that you've never heard of."  Kovea has traditionally made stoves for other companies.  If you've used other upright canister stoves from companies like Markhill, Vaude, MSR, and Snow Peak, there's a good chance that the stove was actually made by Kovea and then sold under another brand name.

The Kovea Supalite vs. The Snow Peak LiteMax
If you look closely at the Kovea Supalite, you can't help but see that it's very nearly the same stove as the Snow Peak LiteMax.  Snow Peak is a Japanese company, but look closely at the box, and you'll see that the LiteMax is made in Korea.  Yes, both stoves are made by Kovea.  They're very nearly the same stove, but there are a few minor cosmetic differences.   In the case of the Supalite vs. the LiteMax (essentially the same stove), the one that says "Kovea" on the side is typically $10 cheaper than the one that says "Snow Peak".  The same stove for $10 less?  Works for me.   Do note that the Snow Peak LiteMax has more of the base machined off and weighs 54 g.  If 6 g in weight savings is worth $10 to you, then you might want to go with the version stamped "Snow Peak."

The Supalite's Weight
There are a couple of different variants out there of the Supalite.  The version I have weighs 56 g/1.98 oz.  The version currently sold in the US weighs 60 g/2.12 oz.  The stove I have has some of the base machined off.  That's the only difference.  It appears that the 56 g version is the "domestic" version for sale within Korea.  The 60 g version is the "export grade" version for export to the US.  If you get a Supalite from an authorized retailer in the US, you should get the 60 g version.  If you get a 56 g version, say through eBay, you're getting a "bootleg" copy that someone is selling directly from Korea on the sly.  You should be aware if you get a "bootleg" copy, you lose any warranty from Kovea.  If you want the Kovea warranty, you need to buy the 60g version through authorized channels.  Note that the version I have is the 56 g version.  I got mine before Kovea started officially selling their stoves in the US.

Other Names/Other Stoves
The Supalite is sometimes advertised as the "Camp 56", typically on eBay.  The Camp 56 and the Supalite are one and the same stove (KB-0707).  The Camp 56 is the "bootleg" version not intended for the US market and carries no warranty from Kovea.

Kovea also makes the "Titanium" stove (KB-0101) which looks very much like the Supalite except that it has a piezoelectric ignition.  The Titanium is actually a different stove (there's more to it than just the addition of a piezoelectric ignition).  I haven't reviewed the Titanium stove, but piezoelectric ignition does not have a good reputation for reliability.  Personally, I'd probably stick with the "plain" (no piezo) Supalite.

Availability
So far, I've only seen the Supalite available on Amazon (authorized version) and eBay (typically unauthorized).  However, if you have read my review of the Kovea Spider there are several Kovea retailers listed (toward the bottom of the review).  You could contact those retailers and see if you can get the Supalite through them.

Summary
The Supalite (KB-0707) upright canister gas stove from Kovea:

What's Good about it
  • Compact
  • Light
  • Excellent pot stability
  • The flames from the burner head angle outward which helps prevent "hot spotting"
  • Well made, well designed
  • Very reasonably priced for an ultralight, titanium stove (note that the base and threads are aluminum)
What's bad about it
  • The pot supports can flip back closed while screwing the burner on to a canister (this is more of a nuisance than a true problem and can be avoided by screwing on the stove first and then deploying the pot supports).
The Supalite (KB-0707) upright canister gas stove from Kovea:  Highly recommended.

As always, I thank you for joining me.

HJ

Disclosures
The Kovea Supalite was provided to me at no charge for the purposes of this review.  I am under no obligation to review this or any other stove.  I am not compensated for my reviews in any fashion other than in some cases I am permitted to keep the item reviewed.  Given that I have well over a 100 backpacking stoves, a free stove frankly isn't going to buy anyone a good review.  Stove companies must measure up if they want a decent review here.  I am an amatuer stove blogger; I make my living elsewhere, in the IT field.  I fit blogging in as time permits.  Inasmuch as my income is derived elsewhere, monetary issues do not influence the reviews on this blog.  Yes, I do have advertisements on the blog.  I typically derive about $1.00 USD per day from the advertisements (last I checked).  This is a mere pittance and does not influence my reviews in the slightest.  Revenue from the advertisements goes toward hosting fees, stove fuel, and the like.  The blog is self supporting in that sense, and my wife is quite happy that I'm not using the family's income to run the blog, particularly given how tough the economy is these days.

6 comments:

  1. New to camping and was looking at getting liquid, but I think I'll do that if I get to be more serious about it. For the money, this seems great, and is one of the best canisters I've seen reviewed. Thanks!

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Alex, and, frankly, I think canister gas is a better match for most backpackers than white gas these days.

      HJ

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  2. Saw this stove listed over at massdrop so figured I would search for info on it... looking at adventuresinstoving was, of course, my first place to look!

    Thanks for the note on this versus the SP MaxLite, which is what I have, and was wondering how it compared.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, John,

      They're basically the same stove, both made by Kovea, which also makes the GigaPower, Pocket Rocket, and MicroRocket, to name a few.

      HJ

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  3. Just like John above, this stove came up as a deal on MassDrop again and I knew I had to check only your site for great info. Thank you always for the indepth reviews.

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    Replies
    1. Hi, JDB,

      Glad someone appreciates the reviews. I saw that deal on Mass Drop. It looks like a steal of a price ($35 I think).

      HJ

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