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Backpacker Magazine – September 2009

Gear School: Liquid Fuel Stoves

These workhorse cookers are ideal for long expeditions, cold weather, and foreign adventures.

by: Kristin Hostetter, Illustration by Don Foley

PAGE 1 2 3

Consider these options as you shop:

  • White-gas stoves run on the purest, most refined fuel (also called naphtha). White gas burns cleaner and hotter than other liquid fuels, and is widely available in the United States. (It's often sold in gallon jugs by Coleman, MSR, and Primus. Tip: Don't overfill the fuel bottle–leave gas about a finger length short of the top.) Typical stove cost: $80 to $110. Examples: MSR WhisperLite, Brunton Bantam
  • Multifuel stoves come with interchangeable jets that burn not only white gas, but also kerosene, jet fuel, or even diesel (great if you're traveling abroad, where white gas isn't always available). Burn white gas whenever possible; other fuels have slower boil times and require more maintenance to clear soot buildup. Typical cost: $150 to $200. Examples: MSR XGK-EX, Coleman Denali
  • Hybrid stoves allow you to burn canister or liquid fuel for supreme versatility, but they're pricy. Typical cost: $200 and up. Examples: Primus OmniFuel, Brunton Vapor AF, Coleman FyreStorm TI


  • Prime To preheat the stove (required for almost all models), release a small puddle of fuel into the priming cup or pad. (Don't overfill it, or you'll get a fireball.) Once lit, that flame heats the liquid fuel in the generator tube, transforming it to vapor. As the flame begins to burn down, pulse (open and close) the control valve to ignite the stove. Don't rush it and over-flood the generator tube, or you'll get a big yellow flame instead of the hot blue one you want.
  • Simmer The key: Don't over-pressurize the bottle. Before igniting, pump the plunger 10 to 15 times, rather than the standard 20 to 30. When cooking, be patient with adjustments: Expect a delay when you turn down the flame. When you find your stove's perfect simmering point, mark the control valve and its housing with a Sharpie, advises Drew Keegan, director of product management at MSR. Even easier: Choose a stove with a separate flame adjustor valve that metes out vapor instead of fuel, like the MSR DragonFly or the Optimus Nova.


  • Regularly clean carbon residue from the fuel line. Here's how: Loosen the cable from the fuel line and push it in and out using five-inch strokes, then remove it and wipe with a rag. (For heavy buildup, lightly rub with sandpaper, then wipe clean.) For a full cleaning (once per season, or whenever the stove acts balky), remove the jet and cable, then attach the fuel line to the pump. Pressurize the bottle with 15 strokes and open the control valve to let about four spoonfuls of fuel run through the stove (catch it with a container like a pie plate). This flushes out soot particles. Reassemble the stove, using a bit of lubricant (WD-40 or any mineral-based oil) on the end of the cable.
  • Clean the jet. On some models, a quick shake will activate an internal cleaning needle; on others, disassemble the stove and clean it using the provided tool or a needle threader from a sewing kit.
  • Regularly check that O-rings aren't cracked or nicked. Pack replacements and change them out if they're damaged to prevent leaks.
  • Inspect the pump cup frequently and lubricate it with mineral-based oil or saliva. The cup acts as a gasket to create a seal within the pump–and if the leather dries and cracks, the bottle won't pressurize.

PAGE 1 2 3

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Trekking in Nepal
Mar 01, 2013

Acute Trek Pvt Ltd an indoor outdoor trekking and tours operative takes you that further way to guarantee you has an unforgettable adventure that you have been dream of. Whether you are looking for a quiet gateway, a memorable outing with a family or an exciting nature adventure. We offer you with the best progressive information and itinerary leading focused and modified as per your requirements. Acute trek is an attempt to encourage Nepal to the exterior world while striving to defend an aged tradition as well as conserve the surroundings for generation to come.

Sep 19, 2012

air pressure does not drop with temperature but the gas pressure inside the tank drops since the liquid gas does not evaporate anymore or at least less.
Check your physics text book

Cal 20 Sailor
Sep 18, 2012

To the Toms: The Svea 123 is Old School, man, and for those of us with watches taped to our noses, it takes WAAAYYYY to long (6-8 minutes!) to boil a quart of water! That's like ETERNITY, especially when you're all in a hurry in the backcountry rat-race... And the fact that the design hasn't changed at all in decades just 'cause it's reliable proves how undesirable it is: Gotta keep up with the times and get rid of the old and go with the new and "improved." Besides, consumerism is what keeps us all employed.

ted Liversidge
Sep 18, 2012

I've had a whisperlite, I've used for a lot years of and as a member of a search and rescue team have used it under all kinds of conditions. When I spent a month on a walk about in NZ, I had no problem finding fuels that worked well (some did soot up my pot up a tad). One point, if you fly, your fuel bottle can not smell of fuel when opened. I always put a little cooking oil in the empty bottle and coat the inside. My bottles have aways passed inspection at airports. To clean, add a little fuel, shake and dump.

Aug 28, 2012

i love my denali but to correct the article the denali does burn canister fuel too and i have never changed my jets i burn what is available and this stove has kept me safe from hypothermia on a trip before so not only do i enjoy the denali but i owe fingers and toes to it too

Laguna Hiker
Aug 28, 2012

I just took an MSR pocket rocket on a Sierras backpacking trip at camp altitudes of 10K to 13K feet. One canister was good for five nights and days for two people, and the stove performed well at altitude and cold. My water was boiling while my buddy was still priming his white-gas stove.

Leo in St. Louis
Aug 28, 2012

The article mentions the multifuel stove having interchangeable jets for the different fuels. Don't know about the others, but my MSR international burns all its fuels through the same jet.

Abbi Jordan
Apr 17, 2012

Twice on separate visits over the last two weeks Ive seen someone pull a fire blanket on a flaring liquid fuel stove in Pelion hut. We dont spend a lot of time around the huts so im wondering how often this happens.
<a href="">Camp Stove</a>

Abbi Jordan
Apr 17, 2012

Twice on separate visits over the last two weeks Ive seen someone pull a fire blanket on a flaring liquid fuel stove in Pelion hut. We dont spend a lot of time around the huts so im wondering how often this happens.<a href="">Camp Stove</a>

Abbi Jordan
Apr 17, 2012

Twice on separate visits over the last two weeks Ive seen someone pull a fire blanket on a flaring liquid fuel stove in Pelion hut. We dont spend a lot of time around the huts so im wondering how often this happens.<a href="">Camp Stove</a>

Jan 16, 2012

Jet fuel? Where would you buy jet fuel?

Jul 26, 2011

I've been using the MSR pocket rocket exclusively for probably 12-15 years ( right after they came out) I know all the short comings that people talk about but if one is careful those can be overcome. Yes it is wobbly, I've used it mostly for snow camping at around 8600'. If you keep the canister warm it puts out a good flame and by the time you've preheated your liquid fuel stove I'm having breakfast. The Rocket replaces my Wisperlite and a Coleman peak one, burned great but a little heavy. The other down side of the peak one was it's tendency to light the operator on fire on an alarmingly regular basis.

Still hang onto the wisperlite but always take one of my Pocket Rockets. Just wish the canisters were more environmentally friendly.

Eugene Groshong
Jul 26, 2011

The article didn't answer the question posed by the lead in: "Do I need a liquid fuel stove?"

Feb 23, 2010

I've used a several brands of stoves and so far my fav is the Primus (Himalaya) Multi Fuel - it's an old but reliable design. It offers finesse and rock n roll flames for all types of cooking style and most of all at a non-premium price.

Feb 17, 2010

In regards to a liquid fuel stove on an airline...
Get yourself an MSR WhisperLite internationale!!! Same as the normal WhisperLite but burns almost anything! Then, just find some Kerosene or Gasoline when you arrive at your destination. I've lived in Uganda for the last year and trek plenty! My MSR destroys all the other guy's canister stoves!!

Tom Mc Kay
Feb 16, 2010

I have had a SVEA Stove and SIGG Cookset for at least 40 years now (It must be a Tom thing!) - It goes thru years of disuse but starts right up every time I need it. The priming cup is trickey business - so I always carry an eye dropper (same one I got in 1969) and never start or use the stove inside a tent (as careful as I am I usually manage to set something on fire during the starting process). I drewal over MSR Dragonflys and MSR Whisperlites and would love to find a cooking set like the SIGG made of high quality Stainless Steel. I would prefer to buy high quality goods made in USA.

Ron King
Nov 22, 2009

The MSR Dragonfly is the best stove available. It can simmer easily, which means that you can do more than just boil water. It's fuel efficient too. It will hold pots and pans without accidentally dumping them and that's especially helpful when using the stove on uneven surfaces. Highly recommended!

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