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White gas vs. propane/butane
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kimmyt


May 13, 2005, 6:23 AM
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White gas vs. propane/butane
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I'm looking at buying a little single-burner gas stove for weekend camping trips. I recently got a handy-dandy coffee percolater and need something to make my morning fix on!

The problem is, I don't know much about stoves, other than that you turn a nozzle and light a match and they (hopefully) flare up. I was going to go to REI last night and use my 20% off and get some advice, but plans changed and now I want to order online, which means that I don't get the opinions of the salesmen there.

So anyway, basically my question is this: what are the differences between stoves that burn propane/butane and those that burn white gas? Which are better, and why?

Also, recommendations would be appreciated. I don't want anything super-lightweight, and don't really want to spend more than fifty or sixty bucks.

Thanks!

K.


jeffd


May 13, 2005, 6:44 AM
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unless you going to be in frezzing conditions i would go with the propane or butane stove. i have a snow peak it works great.


Partner taualum23


May 13, 2005, 6:53 AM
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Plagarized from REI:
It's a pretty good basic guide. I use propane/butane for everything but ugly winter conditions or more than 4 days out.

How to Choose a Backpacking Stove

You've hiked all day, snacking on energy bars and peanuts. Now as you shed your pack and finally take a rest, you're ready for a nice, hot meal! Whether you whip up a three-course meal or simply boil water for your freeze-dried entree, you're going to need a reliable backpacking stove. Understanding a bit about stove sizes, features and the fuels they burn will help you choose the best one for your needs.



Determine the kinds of trips you'll be taking and places that you'll be traveling most often.
Choose the lightest, most compact stove that will still meet your needs.
Decide which fuel will work the best for your trip. Factors include cost, burn time and avaialability.
Consider the stove's handling characteristics and ease of use.


What Kind of Trip are you Planning?

To find the right backpacking stove, focus on two things—the kinds of trips you want to take and the kinds of meals you want to enjoy.

Try to figure out how many people you'll be cooking for (which will affect how big a stove you'll need), what kinds of temperatures you'll be cooking in (which may affect the kinds of fuels you burn) and how complex your meals will be (which will affect how adjustable your stove will have to be).

Select the Right Size

Backpacking stoves come in a variety of sizes—from lightweight micro-stoves that fit in your pocket to two-burner platforms that barely fit in your trunk. In general, stick with the lightest, most compact model you can find, unless your plans include short trips, big meals and large groups of people.

To save space and weight in your pack, look for stoves that:

Can be disconnected from their fuel supply—Many stoves can be unhooked from external fuel bottles for easier storage in your backpack and less chance of breakage.
Fold up or collapse—The legs, base supports and pot holder arms of many backpacking stoves can be collapsed or folded for easier packing.
Fit inside of cookware—Some stoves are designed to fit inside of popular cook sets. This can be a great space-saver. (Be sure to bring a plastic bag to put your stove in so no fuel spills onto your pots and pans.)
Consider Fuel Options

Before you look at specific stove models, take a few minutes to decide which type (or types) of fuel will work best for you. This will help you narrow down your options:

Butane, Propane or Isobutane Blend Canisters

Positives
Convenient, clean-burning and easy to light. Burn hot immediately and do not require priming. Can be adjusted easily for simmering. Can't spill.
Negatives
More expensive than other fuel types. You must carry and dispose of the fuel canisters, and most are non-recyclable. Performance may decrease in temperatures below freezing, however blended alternatives - butane/propane and isobutane - work better than straight butane in cold conditions. Pure propane works well down to 0°F. Butane will not work below 32°F.
Overall Review
Great for warm- to moderate-weather campers who want easy adjustability, few hassles and who don't mind carrying a little extra weight in their packs.

Kerosene


Positives
Inexpensive, easy to find (throughout the world), high heat output, spilled fuel does not ignite easily.
Negatives
Somewhat messy (burns dirty, smelly). Priming is required (easier if a different priming fuel is used), tends to gum up stove parts. Spilled fuel evaporates slowly.
Overall Review
A cheap, versatile fuel choice, especially for backpackers who plan on traveling outside of the United States (where white gas and butane blends may not be readily available). Not as clean or easy to deal with as butane or white gas.

White Gas

Positives
Inexpensive, easy to find throughout the United States. Clean, easy to light, spilled fuel evaporates quickly.
Negatives
Volatile (spilled fuel can ignite quickly), priming is required (fuel from the stove can be used). Can be hard to find outside of the United States.
Overall Review
A great overall performer, perfect for travel throughout North America in just about any weather conditions. Reliable, inexpensive and efficient.

Denatured Alcohol

Positives
A renewable fuel resource, low volatility. Burns almost silently. Alcohol-burning stoves tend to have fewer moving parts than other types, lowering the chance of breakdown.
Negatives
Lower heat output, so cooking takes longer and requires more fuel. Fuel can be hard to find outside of the U.S. and Canada.
Overall Review
A viable, environmentally-friendly option for travel in the U.S. and Canada, especially if you crave peace, quiet and a slow pace on your backpacking trips.

Unleaded Gas

Positives
Very inexpensive, easy to find throughout the world.
Negatives
Burns dirty/sooty, can lead to frequent stove clogs. Extremely volatile.
Overall Review
Usually used as a last resort only. Price and availability make it an attractive option for backpackers traveling in extremely remote areas. NOTE: Never use oxygenated gasoline in your backpacking stove. Sold in many parts of the U.S. in the winter months, its additives can destroy rubber stove parts and seals.


Multi-Fuel Stoves

Many of the backpacking stoves that REI carries are designed to burn more than one type of fuel. They tend to cost more than single-fuel models, and they can be more difficult to maintain. But if your plans involve visits to a wide range of destinations, the added flexibility will be worth the extra cost.

Look for a Stove Design that Works for You

Backpacking stoves come in all kinds of shapes, sizes and designs. Once you've decided on a general size and fuel type, take a look at your options and ask yourself (or your REI salesperson):

How easy is the stove to set up? Does it require assembly every time it's used? If so, is the assembly easy or complex?
Is the stove sturdy? Is it stable on uneven ground? How hard is it to balance a pot on top?
If a gas canister is used, is it easy to attach and remove? Can it be detached before it's completely empty?
How easy is the stove to light? Does it require priming? Can it be primed with fuel from the stove itself?
How easy is the stove to control? Can the heat output be adjusted easily? Will the stove simmer?
How easy is the stove to maintain in the field? Can I handle basic maintenance myself?

Consider Performance

Finally, once you've narrowed down your stove choice to a handful of specific models, consider their overall performance. A good way to do this is with REI's in-store printed comparison chart or stove test centers. Consider variables like:
Average boiling time - Measures how hot the stove burns.
Water boiled per pint of fuel - Measures how efficient the stove is. It's like comparing cars based on how many miles-to-the-gallon they get.
Burn time at maximum flame - Measures how long the stove will burn on a given supply of fuel before it has to be refilled.

Hints for improving your stove's performance:
Use a lid when cooking.
Use a windscreen.
Use a heat-exchanger on trips of more than a few days (to improve fuel economy).
Use alcohol for priming (this will help keep your stove soot-free).
Learn how to clean and maintain your stove properly.
Use a coffee filter to filter all of your liquid fuel before use.
Use the sun or body heat to melt snow (rather than your stove).


kimmyt


May 13, 2005, 8:36 AM
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Haha. How did I miss that?? Thanks, man.

K.


dingus


May 13, 2005, 8:50 AM
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For weekend warrior work, I strongly recommend going with a lightweight propane/butane stove and forget about it, unless as stated, you will be in freezing conditions a lot.

White gas stoves are a pain in the ass. They are finicky and prone to clogging. And you need to be a volkswagon mechanic to keep them running for more than a season or two.

There is no reason to get a heavy stove these days imo. There are numerous light ones and they perform quite well. Why tote more than you need?

I've been though many stoves and I have sworn off white gas stoves unless there is a specific need for one. With a light weight propane stove, you unpack it, screw on the fuel, turn the valve and push the button, viola. You'll be sipping yer brew while your mate bangs his MSR against a rock, globs of burning white gas flying everywhere. (true story)

DMT


modman


May 13, 2005, 8:52 AM
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I swore by a white gas stove for years until I did a side to side comparison some years ago.

At high altitude/cold weather and more moderate conditions I found the butane stove to be far superior in conveniance weight and cleanliness.

Since I bought my butane stove I haven't used the white gas at all.


Partner macherry


May 13, 2005, 9:00 AM
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kimmy, for my weekend camping trips.........the drive to the campground variety, no hiking in etc., i went to my local hardware store and bought a coleman camper single burner propane stove. it was cheap and does the trick. Uses the canisters for fuel, don't have to mess around with refilling fuel bottles.


granite_grrl


May 13, 2005, 9:19 AM
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Went on a road trip last year, a guy from Nova Scotia tagged along with me with his Primus stove requiring those propane-butane canisters. Didn't bring any with him though, thought he'd get them along the way.

1st stop - Concord, MA. Camping store out of stock.
2nd stop - Chattanooga, TN. Camping store out of stock.
3rd stop - El Paso, TX. No camping stores to even be out of stock.

Guy ended up using my MSR white gas stove, or bumming the stoves off others for the first few weeks. Think he eventually broke down and ended up with an el-cheapo propane single burner stove from Wal-Mart.


cactusjack


May 13, 2005, 9:47 AM
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I have a small car, so packing small is always an issue. I have an MSR WISPER LIGHT INT, had it for about 8 years, love it. Kicks but, the Dragon Fly is way better, or the ultra high end : at REI:
Brunton Optimus Nova Multi-Fuel Stove
$130.00 Item 668818

This is what I'm dying to get. White gas is cheap, and every where. You can always take a backpacking stove car camping but not the other way around.

But I must say the dual burner colemans that fold up into the metal suite case, kick but for car camping if you got the room, Go to WALMART for that, $60 and you have the top of the line car camping stove.


gat


May 13, 2005, 9:59 AM
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In reply to:
Went on a road trip last year, a guy from Nova Scotia tagged along with me with his Primus stove requiring those propane-butane canisters. Didn't bring any with him though, thought he'd get them along the way.

1st stop - Concord, MA. Camping store out of stock.
2nd stop - Chattanooga, TN. Camping store out of stock.
3rd stop - El Paso, TX. No camping stores to even be out of stock.

Guy ended up using my MSR white gas stove, or bumming the stoves off others for the first few weeks. Think he eventually broke down and ended up with an el-cheapo propane single burner stove from Wal-Mart.

Excellent point! If you go this route, be sure to pick up more canisters than you need when they are in stock. Take what you need, leave the rest at home. I never let my stock run out. As soon as I realize the next trip will cause me to crack the last canister I go out and buy a couple more.

It's not as difficult with the double burner coleman, those canisters can be picked up at a lot more places than the primus variety.

For what it's worth, I agree with the above posters. I have the MSR whisper lite, a tiny primus stove that runs of the propane/butane mix and a double burner coleman. I haven't used the whisper lite since I bought the primus. It's fun to heckle my buddy as he tries to stabalize the flame on his whisper lite. Meanwhile my water has since boiled and I'm eating.


kimmyt


May 13, 2005, 10:01 AM
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In reply to:
I have a small car, so packing small is always an issue. I have an MSR WISPER LIGHT INT, had it for about 8 years, love it. Kicks but, the Dragon Fly is way better, or the ultra high end : at REI:
Brunton Optimus Nova Multi-Fuel Stove
$130.00 Item 668818

This is what I'm dying to get. White gas is cheap, and every where. You can always take a backpacking stove car camping but not the other way around.

But I must say the dual burner colemans that fold up into the metal suite case, kick but for car camping if you got the room, Go to WALMART for that, $60 and you have the top of the line car camping stove.

Actually I have one of those. My climbing partner had an extra she wanted to get rid of and she sold it to me for $15. I just am looking for something little so on weekends when I'm at the Gunks I can fix myself breakfast quickly. Most of the time up there I eat out anyway, but coffee and water for oatmeal might be nice once in a while.

Thanks for your input, guys. Looks like there'll still be a decision to make since everyone is pretty much split down the middle. I like the cheapness of white gas, but I don't like that you have to prime the stove or whatever, so I might just go with the propane disposable cannisters. Probably go with a cheap Coleman version, as I have things I'd much rather spend $130 on than a stove right now.

Thanks again!

K.


twdirty


May 13, 2005, 10:17 AM
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I have used both propane/butane and white gas stoves, but now only uses white gas because there is less waste involved but here's some of the differences I kept in mind while making the decision:

-You always know how much white gas you have
-propane/butane canisters are lighter and smaller
-you have to keep throwing out your uses butane canisters
-you have to buy butane more often
-butane/propane canisters are generally more expensive than white gas
-you can usually fix a broken white gas stove in the backcountry
-white gas stove seem to be less likely to tip over

MSR makes the best white gas and most affordable butane/propane.
With that in mind, if small and light is your bag, snow peak makes the smallest lightest butane/propane stove on the market but for a heftier price.


Partner tattooed_climber


May 13, 2005, 4:19 PM
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it depends on temp and altitude...

i have both a whisperlite internationale and a pocket rocket


Partner tattooed_climber


May 13, 2005, 4:21 PM
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In reply to:
-you have to keep throwing out your uses butane canisters

they can be recycled..


MEC does it...


altelis


May 13, 2005, 5:05 PM
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i swear up and down by my whisperlite int....it is, for my uses (which include cold, EXTENDED backcountry use, etc) ideal....HOWEVER

i graduate this year, and embarking on at least 1/2 a year of climbing/skiing bumming. i'm looking to settle in some places, not others, but the idea of having a butane/propane stove sometimes gets me to drool. yea, for my extended backcountry forays the msr is the way to go....but if you have access to space (for extra butane/propane cylinders) the non-white gas is the way to go. MUCH faster to set up/boil with....so if you are just looking for ease of use and speed for boiling water and inexpensive, go this route...

the one thing that really keeps me from putting my msr away for all but the backcountry is that, well, i like to cook well. i make a lot of different meals. yea, sometimes mac and cheese or instant oat meal is a needed dish (budget and/or time constrictions)....but i've found trying to cook meals like pizza, fried rice, cinnamon rolls, etc. can be hard on a propane stove....imo at least....but then again the only propane/butane stove i have a lot of experience with is the pocket rocket....a huge amount of heat blasted in a tiny area-really not meant for much besides boiling water....

i would say, from what you are looking to do, avoid the white gas...too much hassles that won't be outweighed by your particular uses (though, try lugging all those cylinders for a 3 week backpack, or fixing your propane stove day 15 into the backcountry....you'll be sad :cry: )


cactusjack


May 15, 2005, 7:52 AM
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If you want something ultra small but resonable price, that uses canisters, check out the snow peak

Snow Peak Giga Power Stove with Piezo
$49.95

http://www.rei.com/online/store/ProductDisplay?productId=870048&storeId=8000&catalogId=40000008000&langId=-1&color=&img=/media/643058Lrg.jpg&view=large


ben87


May 16, 2005, 5:43 PM
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I've always thought the Whisperlite (a white gas stove) was one of the best. It's simple, durable, burns hot, and it's easy to disassemble and repair. If you're trying to go ultra-light it's probably not the right choice though.

for me the two biggest downsides of butane/propane stoves are the poor performance at low temps and the waste/annoyance of throwing away empty cannisters.

If you know you'll want to use your stove on trips abroad think about availability of fuel - I think they make a whisperlite that optionally burns kerosine, which is very widely available. Some stoves have more ability to simmer and make careful adjustments to temp - the whisperlite doesn't do that very well.

But you've probably already been to the store anyway, so this advice might not be worth much...

-Ben


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