The How Zone


Backpack Stove Comparison

Update 3/8/04:

After posting the Jetboil article someone asked if I had performed tests to measure its efficiency. Other than boiling water as a demonstration for friends and making tea and ramen noodles, all I'd really done was time how long it took to boil. It sounded like an interesting project and while I'm at it why not compare a few brands of stoves?

Here's a Japanese translation of the test pages, courtesy of Mr. Hajime Kawasaki. Thanks Hajime!

Test Rig

So I conducted a series of tests with a Jetboil and two types of fuel: Jetfuel and MSR. Using a digital thermometer from work I measured the time it took to reach a boil.

I weighed the fuel canister before and after each boil and tracked how much fuel was used. The boil times looked impressive enough, especially compared to my old stoves, and the fuel use seemed miniscule.

Not being familiar with canister stoves I read a few stove reviews and visited a few manufacturer sites thinking I could compare the Jetboil results to other canister stoves. Wrong.

The more I read the more I realized that I'd entered into one of those "subjective" realms of reality, right up there with comparing mattresses, computer processors, and defining "good music." I'm not sure if anyone uses a standard test to evaluate backpacking stoves.

I decided that the best thing to do was perform a controlled test of my own. This ensures that the same test criteria, measuring tools, and environment are used on each stove. Here's a few of the variables to take into account:

And so on. Actually these are the very things you deal with while trying to use a stove on a backpacking trip, the difference being that during the trip it's not a subjective analysis like:

The reduced temperature combined with wind and a cold, plus an almost empty fuel tank appears to be contributing to a slower than expected heat transfer rate.

Instead it's more like:

This piece of crap stove, why doesn't it ever work when I need it!?

Backpack Stoves

I borrowed a couple of canister stoves (MSR Pocket Rocket and Snow Peak GigaPower) from friends, got some new fuel canisters, and borrowed a precision scale. Initially I was going to include my Whisper and Feather stoves, but after a day of testing the other stoves I, frankly, didn't want to mess with pump stoves.

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