Stove Related Definitions

The following are definitions that I use throughout my blog posts concerning camping and backpacking stoves.

NOTE: If you have a stove related definition that you'd like to see here, please let me know.

Alcohol. In the context of stoves, alcohol refers to either ethyl alcohol (ethanol) or methyl alcohol (methanol). Isopropyl alcohol (isopropanal), i.e. "rubbing" alcohol, is generally a very poor choice for use as a stove fuel. The best alcohol stove fuels contain as close to 100% ethanol as possible. Alcohols with high ethanol content will burn the cleanest and have the highest caloric content. Ethanol is the type of alcohol that is contained in beer, wine, whiskey, etc.

Canister Gas. See gas.

Denatured Alcohol. "Denatured" alcohol is ethanol that has had it's nature (a "spirit" for drinking) by putting something poisonous in it. A common denatureant is methanol. Indeed, in many parts of the world, denatured alcohol is referred to as "meths" or "metho." In the US, there are no standards for denaturing alcohol. Indeed denatured alcohol in the US may be less than 50% ethanol AND may contain toxic substances like methyl ethyl ketone. Generally "green" (supposedly more environmentally friendly) alcohol has a higher ethanol content and is more suitable for use as a stove fuel. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD ONE *EVER* DRINK DENATURED ALCOHOL. Drinking denatured alcohol may result in severe neurological damage and may cause blindness or even death.

Gas. The word gas in this context means a petroleum based fuel that is a vapor at room temperature and pressure. Typically propane, butane, and isobutane, frequently in combination, are used as stove fuels. While these fuels are a gas at
room temperature and pressure, they turn into a liquid when compressed and stored at high pressure in a canister. Propane vaporizes at -44F/-42C, isobutane vaporizes at 11F/-12C, and butane vaporizes at 31F/-0.5C. With an upright stove or side mounted stove, you must keep your fuel temperature approx 10F/5C degrees above the vaporization point of component (butane, isobutane, or propane) of your fuel with the highest vaporization point in order for your stove to operate correctly. With a remote stove with a preheat mechanism (a generator), the heat of the flame vaporizes the gas; a such remote stove can operate in much lower temperatures than an upright stove.
See also:
Types of gas canisters and brands.
How gas works and winter choices.

Liquid Fuel. Generally, the term "liquid fuel" in the context of backpacking stoves refers to either "white" gasoline or kerosene. While alcohol is typically a liquid, alcohol's properties are sufficiently different such that alcohol is generally handled as a separate class of fuel.

"Remote" Stove. A remote stove is simply a stove whose burner is physically separated from the fuel source. The classic example is the MSR XGK. Prior to the introduction of the XGK line of line of stoves, stoves were generally "upright" type stoves were the burner was mounted on top of or directly next to fuel. Remote stoves are generally a) safer since the fuel is not in close proximity to the burner, b) more wind resistant since a full windscreen can be safely employed, and c) more stable since the burner is closer to the ground and therefore has a lower center of gravity. A remote stove that burns gas and has a preheat mechanism of some kind (i.e. a "generator") can be run in inverted mode (i.e. with the canister upside down). Running a gas stove in inverted mode allows one to use the heat of the flame to vaporize the liquified gas in the canister. Using the heat of the flame allows one to use a gas stove in temperatures far lower than the vaporization point of the fuel.

Side Mounted Stove. Some stoves, for example the Rando 360 (gas) or the Optimus 8R (liquid fuel) have the fuel source out to the side rather than directly under the burner. Generally side mounted stoves have similar characteristics to upright stoves. This design is no longer as common as it once was although there are still examples I've seen coming out of Asia.

Simmer. From Wikipedia: "Simmering is a food preparation technique in which foods are cooked in hot liquids kept at or just below the boiling point of water." In other words, in order to truly simmer, a stove has to be able to hold the temperature below a roiling boil. With many stoves, it's all but impossible to operate the stove without going into a full roiling boil.

"Upright" Stove. An upright stove is one where the burner sits upright, directly on top of the fuel source. Such stoves are sometimes referred to as "top mount" or "top mounted" stoves. Some examples would be the MSR Pocket Rocket (gas) or Coleman 400 (liquid fuel). If one uses a windscreen with an upright stove, one must be particularly careful. A windscreen can trap heat from the burner, causing the fuel to overheat. If the fuel reaches a critical point, an explosion could result. The chief benefit of the upright type of stove is that gas stoves of this type are typically inexpensive, light, and compact. The chief detractor of this type of stove is that the stoves typically are not very stable and don't handle wind well.

White Gasoline ("white gas" for short). Today, white gasoline in this context (backpacking stoves) refers to a gasoline type fuel used in stoves and other appliances such as lanterns. Originally, white gasoline was automotive gasoline without any additives. Note that "unleaded" gasoline is not gasoline without any additives. Unleaded gasoline does have additives; the additives just aren't lead. Some examples of white gas (in the modern sense of the term) would be Coleman brand fuel and MSR Superfuel. Coleman fuel, for example, isn't true white gasoline; Coleman fuel is a) less volatile than true white gasoline, and b) Coleman fuel has additives such as an anti-rust additive. True white gasoline can still be found in some regions, for example regions in the US with a high Amish population. "White gas" is a term mostly common in North America. Elsewhere it is called benzine (NOT benzene!), petrol, Shellite, etc. Any stove that burns gasoline type fuel will generally run best on white gas even if the stove is advertised as being able to run on unleaded gasoline, aviation gasoline, etc.


Definitions coming soon:
Inverted canister
Preheat Mechanism
Preheat Loop
Foreign Fuel Names
Solid Fuel