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Kitchen: Stoves

Stoves

There are some that feel that stoveless is the way to go. Three Points of the Compass cannot think of much more soul destroying than being without the ability to make some form of hot food or a cuppa, especially on a wet dank day, or following that most arduous of hikes. Mostly this transmits to the ability to heat an amount of water to boiling, or near boiling, most of the time, with a simmer facility being an add-on appreciated luxury. After that, but still in the mix, is the ability to warm hands (or even feet), dry clothing and the pure morale boosting ability of flickering or roaring fire.

On a day walk in winter, a flask may suffice. That limits the amount of time halting and enables me to simply get on with enjoying a hot drink. But even for a day walk of any decent length or in poor conditions, or for anything of longer duration, then I feel some form of stove should make its way into the pack.

Most hikers have a mostly unreasonable bias to fuel type. There are those that swear by the cleanliness and convenience of gas, the ubiquity of alcohol stoves, the tiny size of solid fuel, the ruggedness of… it goes on. Every fuel type has its advantages and disadvantages- ease of availability, weight and bulk, cost, convenience, effectiveness in cold conditions, the list goes on. I will just rattle through a few of those stoves that I have tried over the decades with some brief comment on each. I will add a little on my meths stoves another day.

Gas

Primus Gravity 3278

My Primus Gravity 3278 stove was taken on car camping trips, a couple of cycling jaunts and a lone canoe trip, mostly in on our family camping jaunts. It boasts an impressive 10500 BTU. This is a slightly more spindly, less robust product than the Primus Omnifuel shown below. Factors that are reflected in its lower weight of 261g. This despite it also having a preheat coil, four wide pot supports and a piezo ignition. The latter is as useless as all of these eventually are, every piezo ignition I have ever had has eventually failed.

The stove has a good fine control knob and the legs can be pinned down to the ground if desired, though it is a very stable affair that will handle large and heavy pots. The legs on this stove fold up and it is a less bulky affair than the Primus Omnifuel, however you could never says it packs small. This stove always worked faultlessly for me and I have never felt the need to dispose of it despite it rarely seeing the light of day in recent years. There was/is also a Primus Gravity MF version that can burn multi-fuels, not the model shown here. Again, there are newer variants available today.

Primus Gravity 3278
Primus Gravity 3278

Jetboil Flash and MSR Windburner.

Both of these are integrated, all-in-one designs, everything packing away inside their respective pot. While ruthlessly quick at boiling water, attempt to do any cooking in these and you will come unstuck, which is more than can be said for the food burnt on to the inside of the pot.

The Jetboil is good but the MSR is, quite simply, an amazing piece of kit. It is probably the most efficient gas stove out there at present. It will bring half a litre of water to the boil on just 7-8g of fuel in just about any strength of wind. For that you need to actually get it lit first, which is no great hardship despite it having no piezo igniter fitted. Also, it is most efficient when using the actual integrated pot. MSR released the Windburner as a remote canister stove Instead of buying one of those, I looked at how my Windburner canister top stove performed when using the pot stand that is supplied with the Jetboil.

Jetboil Flash and MSR Windburner
The pot stand that is supplied with the Jetboil Flash slots in perfectly to the ring surrounding the radiant burner of the MSR Windburner
The pot stand that is supplied with the Jetboil Flash slots in perfectly to the ring surrounding the radiant burner of the MSR Windburner

I won’t bother giving all the weights for the respective kits as that is out there on the web and no-one takes every component. The burner head of the MSR alone weighs 200g, so no lightweight, put the folding Jetboil pot stand with that and it totals 237g. At the very least, I added a pot (and probably a lid) and a fuel canister (and probably a canister stand due to itsa top heavy design). That said, I can still make a lighter set up with a lighter titanium pot or pan than when using the MSR Windburner pot.

The combination of the MSR Windburner and the Jetboil pot stand work well together. There is sufficient room between the pot stand and the radiant burner head to prevent dangerous stifling and overheating. Obviously it is less efficient in wind than when the integral MSR pot is fitted, but this set up permits me to obtain a simmer, something impossible when used with the 1lt MSR pot that slots directly to the burner.

I also tried it out with my old 128g MSR Titan Kettle. This is a classic little titanium pot with a tight fitting lid. It comes with a pouring spout which I don’t reckon to be the most efficient. One advantage of this pot is that the MSR Windburner stove will fit inside (with lid closed) for storage and transport. However the Jetboil pot stand will not fit in also. The pot is 118mm wide and some of the heat from the stove is disappearing up the sides when in use.

The 140mm wide 900ml titanium pan from Evernew that I used for the previous few years is a better option on the Windburner/Jetboil pot-stand combination, allowing less heat to slip up the sides, however the stove head will not nest inside the pan.

Evernew 900ml pan resting on Jetboil pot stand
Evernew 900ml pan resting on Jetboil pot stand

MSR Pocket Rocket II

MSR Pocket Rocket 2

MSR know their stuff when it comes to making good stoves. It is no surprise that I have one of their Pocket Rocket stoves. I held off for many years from buying the original Pocket Rocket. Not due to any particular aversion, it was just that I was undecided as to whether to buy the MSR Micro Rocket instead. I dithered so long, that in the interim, MSR took the best features of each of their canister top stoves, combined them, and released the Pocket Rocket II.

I purchased my Pocket Rocket II in 2016 so had little opportunity to use before my five month 2000 mile hike in 2018 as I was relying on my various meths/alcohol stoves for my backpacking trips. That said, I still managed to put it to use on a small number of occasions and got on well with it. For someone who appreciated the unhurried silent manner of a meths stove, the apparent frantic haste that  a canister stove such as this presented meant a complete rethink on my setting up process. Normally, I arrive at camp, drop the pack, select and clear my pitch, tent up. Then put a boil on to quietly do its thing to one side while I sort out sleeping mat and extract my quilt to allow it to decompress and pull the trail shoes off and let the feet breathe a little. By the time that is done, I have water reaching a boil ready for a hot drink. With a canister stove, it deserves and requires undivided attention.

The 75g Pocket Rocket II comes with a handy little plastic holder with flip top lid, sized just right for the stove and provides great protection from knocks etc while in transit. However this holder alone weighs an additional 31g and reduces the practicality of packing the stove inside many pots or pans. Instead, I either wrapped the stove in a small cloth, Lightload towel etc. or inside a little home made 1g tyvek baggie.

Pocket Rocket at an evening camp in Ardnamurchan
Pocket Rocket II at an evening camp in Ardnamurchan, Scotland, 2018

BRS 3000-T

While the Pocket Rocket II is a pretty small piece of kit, I snapped up one of the Chinese made BRS 3000T stoves when I heard of them just to try one out. I could afford to take a punt on one of these as it cost me less than a tenner on eBay. This is truly tiny stove measuring around 35mm x 50mm when folded or some 63mm x 90mm maximum width when unfolded, including the protruding wire valve control. I doubt that it is actually possible to get much smaller or much lighter than this and still be a functional item.

The BRS 3000-T is advertised as being made of titanium, but there are other metals in its construction as well. The design is such that it weighs just 25g and it comes with a little nylon carrying pouch that adds a further 2g.

BRS 3000-T
BRS 3000-T

BRS 3000-T with Primus windshield
The BRS 3000-T stove does not perform well in even light wind. It pairs well with the 68g Primus windscreen but requires quite a narrow pot to prevent dangerous overheating of the cartridge. This windscreen inverts when not in use and nests around a 240g/250g gas cartridge

The stove is perfect for carrying inside a titanium mug along with a small gas cartridge for midday hot drinks or food on day hikes. That said the pot supports on this ‘Bumblebee’ stove are pretty narrow and I have to take care to ensure my pots sit on it square. I am not over keen on using this stove with my wider pans. While the largest pot I regularly use is just under a litre, I wouldn’t like to use anything larger, or more accurately, heavier on the pot supports. I have been loathe to use it on most longer, multi-day hikes but I am well aware that many hikers have used one of these stoves for months on end with no problems other than struggling to work with it in windier conditions. Some users have also experienced problems with the pot supports bending. Mine hasn’t shown any sign of that to date however.

I think the BRS 3000-T offers around 9200 BTU, it is advertised as giving out 2700W but works better and less frantically with less flame spilling up the sides of pots if not on full, which does, of course, mean a little longer to boil. But speed isn’t everything, hence my affection for meths/alcohol stoves over the years. It is just that with drier summers recently and occasional fire bans, meths stoves have been progressivly less favoured.

There are alternatives- The BRS 3000-T is almost certainly modelled on the the 45g titanium Fire Maple Hornet. This is a stove that also has its fans, or one of the badge engineered copies such as the Alpkit Kraku, Robens Fire Midge or Olicamp Ion. You pays your money and makes your choice, they are all the same stove, which is no bad thing. But I don’t own any of those stoves. I see no reason to buy another stove when I can use the excellent Pocket Rocket II or another that I already own.

Others

Primus Omnifuel 3289

Primus Omnifuel 3289 in use with gas canister. Note that jets had to be changed for use with liquid fuels and the fuel bottle and pump are not shown in this image
Primus Omnifuel 3289 in use with gas canister. Note that jets had to be changed for use with liquid fuels and the fuel bottle and pump then required are not shown in this image

This beast of a stove was taken on many car camping trip over the years as my family grew up but has never accompanied me on any more than the odd day hike and hardly used at all for the past decade.

The Primus Omnifuel (8000 BTU) is now a classic, an almost bomb proof, well made stove that can also be disassembled in the field if necessary to service or repair. While it is actually a multi-fuel stove, capable of running on petrol, paraffin or even diesel, I have tended to use Coleman Fuel (White Gas) which is a very pure 100% liquid petroleum naphtha. You get less soot with this fuel and jets do not clog up. If not Coleman Fuel, then I have run it on canister gas, with which it works very well. It is a very stable, low to the ground stove with three wide pot supports. It is possible to get a fine simmer or roaring flame with the control knob, it sounds like a rocket taking off when fully on. This type of stove should NEVER be used inside a tent as the fireball occasionally produced can be ‘interesting’. There are newer, more compact versions of this stove available now but mine works fine. Or worked fine, it is a few years since I pulled it out of store to use ‘in anger’. While I have no idea what the new versions weigh, mine weighs a whopping 352g. It is a terrific stove, just not for lightweight hiking.

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