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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Review – The Kovea Booster+1 Dual Fuel Backpacking Stove.

The Booster+1 from Kovea is a dual fuel backpacking stove designed to work on either canister gas or white gasoline (e.g. MSR Super Fuel, Coleman Fuel, Crown Camp Fuel, etc.).
The Booster+1 dual fuel stove from Kovea.
Multi fuel or dual fuel?
Kovea refers to the Booster+1 as a "multi" fuel stove, but to my mind it should work well with at least three fuels in order to get the "multi fuel" designation.  Now, you may read reviews elsewhere that the stove can run on unleaded automotive gasoline, diesel, kerosene, etc.  I would be very skeptical of such claims.  It can be run on some of those fuels, but the chances of it really running well are low (based on experience), and the chances of clogging the stove are high.

Alternative Fuels
If you're in an area where canister gas and white gasoline are simply unavailable, choose kerosene (1-K grade) if it is available or if you're near an airport Jet A1 or Jet A will work.  Leaded aviation gasoline (for propeller driven planes) and unleaded automotive gasoline should be avoided because of the tendency for the additives in the fuel to clog the stove.  So also diesel should generally be avoided, but special diesel #1 can be used in a pinch; just be sure it's the special #1 and not the normal diesel #2.

If you're interested in "alternative" fuels for the Booster+1, I have investigated the use of kerosene here:  The Kovea Booster+1 – Multi Fuel or Just Dual Fuel?  No matter what, don't expect even the best kerosene to work as well as white gasoline, and you will need special techniques.  See the above link.
The Kovea Booster+1 running on kerosene.  You can make do with kerosene in a pinch.
See the above link for tips and appropriate technique.

Beware of Imitations!
I've seen stoves that look similar to a real Booster+1, stoves that even come in a box with the same color scheme and say "Booster" on the side.  Beware of cheap clones.  Such clones are not up to mainstream manufacturing and safety standards and have been banned by several countries.  Check your source carefully and examine photos closely.  My recommendation is that you buy from an authorized dealer so that you a) know that you're getting the real thing and b) have a warranty.  Stoves bought on e-Bay, even if authentic, do not have a warranty.  Only stoves bought from an authorized dealer have a warranty.  I know that Campsaver.com carries the Booster+1, and I believe that Mass Drop occasionally offers the Booster+1 in it's "drops" (group sales), but check around.  I'm sure there are other legitimate outlets for the stove.  If you see it on e-Bay or Alibaba, it's not an authorized outlet, and you may not even be getting the real thing.

Boxed Set
The Booster+1 comes in a nice boxed set.  There are two versions, one with a fuel bottle included, and one without.  Make sure you know which one you are getting.  You will need a fuel bottle if you plan to use white gasoline.  If you only plan to use canister gas, then you're all set, and you don't need to buy a fuel bottle.  Either set includes a windscreen.
A Kovea Booster+1 boxed set.  This is the version that does not include a fuel bottle.

Standard Fuel Bottles
The good news about the fuel bottle, is that Kovea uses "standard" threads.  That is, Kovea uses the same threads as Sigg, MSR, Primus, Optimus, Snow Peak, etc. use in their fuel bottles.  So, if you already have one of those brands, you should be able to use the fuel bottle you already have.  HOWEVER, check to see if everything works before you head out on the trail.  One time I had a Primus bottle whose threads were the same size as all of my other fuel bottles, but my MSR pump couldn't be screwed into that particular bottle.  The threads on that particular bottle started too far down the neck of the bottle, and the threaded portion of my MSR pump couldn't quite attach to them.

Also, make sure the fuel bottle you intend to use is long enough to accommodate the Kovea pump.  As I say, hook everything up at home before you head out on the trail.
A Kovea fuel bottle, left. An MSR fuel bottle, right.
The Kovea fuel bottle is an excellent fuel bottle, but Kovea liquid fueled stoves can use any standard threaded fuel bottle.

What's in the Box?
Inside the box is a nice zippered nylon case.  Inside the case is the stove.  One can also place the supplied maintenance tool inside the case, but there is not room for the pump.  However, I don't get too excited about this.  Just keep the pump in the bottle.  The fuel bottle will protect the threads an underside of the pump, and the pump will take up far less space.  When the bottle is empty, don't screw down the pump tightly so that you don't wear out the gasket.

The zippered nylon case of the Kovea Booster+1 has room for the stove, maintenance tool, and the spares kit.
There isn't enough room for the pump, but who cares?  Just keep the pump on the fuel bottle.
Speaking of the pump, I regard the Kovea pump as a high quality fuel pump.  The fuel pump has some nice features like a knob that is turned so that one can screw on the connector.  See my review of the Kovea Hydra for details of this feature and further commentary on the pump.  Since the Booster+1's pump is the same pump as the Kovea Hydra, I will not repeat all of my earlier review here.
The high quality Kovea fuel pump.
As I mentioned, the Booster+1 comes with a spares kit which includes things like "O" rings, a spare jet, lubricant, and a spare pump cup.
The spares kit of the Booster+1
It's a nice little kit, and along with the maintenance tool, should be able to handle routine maintenance as well as trouble shooting in the field.
The maintenance tool for the Kovea Booster+1.
Note the wire "pricker" for cleaning the jet at the end of the tool.
The maintenance tool is a little on the heavy side in my opinion, but it certainly will get the job done.  It would be nice to see a few grams shaved off – so long as it didn't diminish the effectiveness of the tool.
The Kovea Booster+1 duel fuel backpacking stove (in folded configuration).

The Stove Review
The stove itself can only be described as beefy.  I mean this thing is strong.  This might be a great stove for scouts and for, say, college outdoor clubs and the like where gear tends to take a beating.  The legs are very strong steel.  The pot supports have a very wide span and will accommodate heavy pots for large groups or for snow melting.  There is little I would worry about failing on this stove; it is strong.  However, there's always a trade off on such things.  Yes, the stove is extremely strong, but it is therefore consequently also fairly heavy, weighing in at 310 g/11 oz for the stove, 116 g/4 oz for the pump, and 43 g/1.5 oz for the tool.  You don't absolutely have to carry the tool, and many people will just throw the stove in their pot (and leave the case at home), so let's say the minimum weight is 426 g/15 oz for just the stove and pump.  Of course you'll need a bottle, but the size and brand you carry will vary, so I'm not going to try to estimate the weight here.

The fuel line of the Booster+1 sticks out, rigidly, at a bit of an odd angle.
There is one thing here that I find slightly irritating.  It's minor, but the fuel line sticks out at a kind of funny angle, and, since the fuel line here is rigid, the stove winds up taking more space than it really needs to.  It's a fairly large stove.  I don't think it will be able to fit into a pot of less than about 1 liter in size.

However, that's not to say that there aren't some smart features here.  For example, there's a bend in the fuel line such that one can clean the jet without disassembling anything.
There's a nicely designed bend in the fuel line so that one can access the jet easily.
The Booster+1 attaches to both it's fuel pump and to a canister of gas by means of a standard 7/16ths UNEF threaded connector.
The Booster+1 uses a standard threaded connector to attach to a) its fuel pump or b) standard threaded canisters.
The Booster+1 is compatible therefore with standard threaded brands of canisters, for example, MSR, Jetboil, Coleman, Primus, Optimus, Brunton, Snow Peak, etc.
The connector of a Booster+1 attached to an MSR brand canister

Cold Weather Canister Gas Operation
Note that in the photo above, I am running the stove with the canister upside down.  Not all stoves can handle this kind of operation, but those stoves that can operate this way gain a roughly 20 Fahrenheit degree (10 Celsius degrees) advantage over stoves in cold weather.  See my article Gas Stoves in Cold Weather – Regulator Valves and Inverted Canisters for further information on cold weather and canister gas.

The fuel line is nice and flexible, and it's long enough that you can stand the bottle up as you pump, letting gravity help you with your work.  I find this to be a huge plus.
The fuel line is nice and flexible which allows one to stand the bottle upright while pumping.
Note that I use alcohol for priming which burns much cleaner than white gasoline and is less prone to fireballing.
The fuel bottle in the photo is a Sigg brand bottle. The Booster+1 is compatible with standard Sigg type threads.
At the base of each leg, there is a nice non-slip rubber pad.  I found the Booster+1 to be extremely stable.  Extremely.
The Booster+1 is well thought out with nice features like this non-slip rubber pad on the end of each leg.
The Booster+1 vs. the Hydra
Here is a photo of the Kovea Booster+1 alongside another stove I recently reviewed, the Kovea Hydra.
The Kovea Booster+1, left, and the Kovea Hydra, right.
Whereas the Kovea Hydra is a study in compactness, the Kovea Booster+1 is not.  The Booster+1 is a much larger, beefier stove.  Indeed, if one were to compare the two stoves, one might describe them as opposites.
Stove Weight Bulk Strength Noise Maintenance Wind Resistance
Booster+1 Heavier Bulkier Very strong Loud Easy High
Hydra Lighter Compact Adequate with care Particularly quiet A bit trickier Low*
*It is important to use a properly sized windscreen with the Kovea Hydra.  See my review of the Hydra

Again, though, the Booster+1 is built like a tank and will take a lot of abuse.

Here's a photo of a 2.6 L pot on the Booster+1.  Note that the pot supports extend beyond the edges of the pot even though this is a fairly big pot.  The Booster+1 can take some pretty big pots.
A 2.6 liter pot on the Kovea Booster+1.
Note how the pot supports still have more length on the beyond the edges of the pot.
One can put some pretty big cookware on a Booster+1.

Snow Melting
In terms of power, the stove has plenty.  I found it to be a good snow melter on liquid fuel.  The Booster+1 is rated at 9600 BTU/hr on white gasoline.

Melting snow on a Kovea Booster+1.

Uh, but of course in snow, you'll want to use some kind of base lest your stove sink into the snow – and your dinner into the same.

The Booster+1 needs to be used with some kind of pad or platform when in snow (just about all stoves do).

OK, hopefully the preceding text and photos will give you a good sense of the stove.  By all means feel free to ask questions and make comments in the comments section, below.

I thank you for joining me,

HJ

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Kovea Booster+1 – Multi Fuel or Just Dual Fuel?

The Kovea Booster+1 stove is advertised as running on white gasoline (e.g. Coleman Fuel) and canister gas only – but I keep hearing that it can be run on other fuels like kerosene. I've even read reviews to that effect.
The Kovea Booster+1 Dual Fuel Stove
So, I thought I'd try it.

I took my Booster+1 out the last three weekends and ran it on kerosene. Here's a video of one of my tests:































As I think you can see from the video, the Booster+1 can run on kerosene, but not as well as with fuels for which it was designed.  However, it's good to know that, in a pinch, one can run on kerosene.  To do so, one should be aware of a few things such as:

Priming
As with most liquid petroleum based fueled stoves, one must "prime" the stove, that is, one must burn something in the burner of the stove to preheat the "generator" before running the stove.  The generator is that portion of the fuel line that passes through the flame of the stove. The heat of the stove causes the fuel, as it passes through the generator, to turn from liquid into a vapor.  It is the vapor that is burned.  If the fuel enters the burner still in liquid form, you'll get a big sooty mess.

With white gasoline type stoves, one can prime with the stove's regular fuel.  White gasoline, when used for priming, does leave a bit of soot, but it's not too bad.  Kerosene is another story.  Kerosene is a big sooty mess to prime with.  One really needs to bring a little squeeze bottle of alcohol for priming.  One can use pretty much any clean burning alcohol for priming including ethyl alcohol, methyl alcohol (methanol), or denatured alcohol.  Do not use isopropyl alcohol such as HEET brand sold in the red container (yellow container is fine) or the alcohol sold in drug stores as "rubbing" alcohol.  One doesn't need a lot of alcohol for priming, maybe 5ml (for white gas) to 10 ml (for kerosene) per prime.  Priming with alcohol is actually a good practice even with white gas since alcohol is so clean burning and is easier to control in terms of amount dispensed.  If you've ever allowed too much fuel to flow into the priming area of a stove, you'll know exactly what I mean by that last remark.

Get your stove good and hot before opening up the valve to let kerosene flow through to the burner.

Moderation
Once your stove is good and hot, you can open up the valve, gradually, and let kerosene start to flow to the burner.  Be ready to quickly turn off the flow if large yellow flames spring up.

Even when fully hot, one has to run the stove at a moderate level.  If one opens up the valve too far with kerosene, one will start to see little droplets of un-vaporized (i.e. liquid) fuel shooting out of the jet.  There just isn't enough thermal feedback in the stove to vaporize large amounts of kerosene.  One has to keep the stove turned down a bit for good operation.

Conclusion?
The Booster+1 is really a white gasoline and canister gas stove – but, with proper technique, kerosene can be made to work in a pinch. One must however have some kind of priming fuel in order to properly prime the stove.

Thanks for joining me,

HJ