A discussion of camping & stoves broke out on two different threads, here:
Mostly stimulated by two things. My “cleaning and sorting” old gear, and a question about “What would you do in an event like the 6 months power outage in Puerto Rico?”
Well, as the East Coast is getting their 4th or so Snow Bomb Nor’Easter, and the West Coast is either under persistent rains (near the coast / central valley) or snow dump by feet (Sierra Nevada), and the UK & EU are having exceptional storms & snow too, it’s likely timely to think about your “Preparedness” stuff for lighting, cooking, and heat.
In this thread I’m going to raise a particular point about cost of fuel. Feel free to bring up other points.
So I ordered a very tiny ( 25 grams wt.) stove that sits on the small Butane or Butane / Propane mix canisters. The fuel comes in various size canisters, from 100 gram to 200 gram to 250 to 500 gram. (As a kilogram is about 2.2. pounds, a 500 gram cartridge has 1.1 pounds in it, so “about a pound”) Nice when you must pack things 10 miles before morning coffee. Not so nice if stuck in your house for a month waiting for snow to clear and electricity to return.
The stove is supposed to arrive in the next 8 hours, so an update when it gets here and I run a test or two.
I did not order any fuel with the stove since Amazon sells the fru-fru brands at about $20 / cartridge and Walmart has the 250 gram one for $5.47 and the 500 gram for $10.00 “out the door” including California 9% sales tax. 1/2 price sounds better to me… So I went to the local Walmart. They were sold out of the 250 gram ones (Coleman brand, made in France). I bought one of the 500 gram despite wanting the smaller lighter one. It’s OK, I’ll get smaller later for my bug-out / get-home bag. This one will be used in testing, playing, whatever.
But this caused me to think about something I’d not said on the other threads. The issue of fuel cost. Yes, you get folks saying “white gas is cheaper”. But folks avoid putting a number on it. I’m going to use some “rough estimates” to put a number on it. Your local values will be different, and the actual constants for things like BTU / lb ought to be used ( I’ve done it before); but at the magnitudes involved don’t change much.
Locally, regular unleaded gasoline is running $3.20 / gallon. Out of State it can get lower (down to $2 / gallon in Texas some times). That’s your baseline low cost fuel.
White Gas costs more, but it depends on the volume and how bought. $20 / gallon for the rip-off places. $10 at some better ones. Down to $5 / gallon can sometimes. Better fuel than unleaded gasoline, but best bought after some shopping.
Propane torch canisters were going for $6 at Walmart. They hold about a pound. There’s roughly 6.xx lbs / gallon of gasoline and most hydrocarbons are about the same BTU / lb. So using that to convert, we’ve got about $36 / gallon of gasoline equivalent.
(Folks who are afflicted with Metric Only mental straight jackets can just ignore the units and jump to the comparison ratios; or convert the units. Joules / kg don’t cut it for me. I’ve done it in chem class, but it just doesn’t connect to my intuitive grasper…)
Now that butane canister: At $10 “out the door” and also “about a pound”, that’s about $60 / GGE (Gallon of Gasoline Equivalent) or up to $120 / GGE for higher priced outlets.
Now clearly you are paying for the packaging and convenience. I’m willing to pay $5 for a steel sealed canister that can live in my backpack for years and work on demand, no leaks. I’m not willing to pay $60 / gallon for general cooking fuel used on a regular basis at home. Use case matters.
Now a new stove to use that $60 / gallon fuel costs about $10 (low end) and up to about $100 (very high end) at Amazon. At the $10 price, you can see that a couple of uses of a lower cost fuel pays for a new stove. Thus some of us accumulate various stoves as prices and use cases shift. I’m likely going to order 2 more stoves “just because”. Another one that uses those expensive canisters (but has a built in peizo igniter so no worries about wet matches in my “bug out” bag) and a little bit of cut sheet stainless steel that folds up into a miniature wood stove. The wood stove uses “found fuel” or charcoal briquettes. At $10 for the bare stove or $20 with an optional “alcohol burner”, it can pay for itself with just one or two rounds of using it (avoiding one $10 fuel canister…). Charcoal in big bags is one of the cheapest fuels available and this thing runs on one or two briquettes, so very cheap. (I’ll leave it for others to compute that one).
FWIW, it’s been a while since I bought a gallon of alcohol. It ranges from $2.85 locally for E85 (don’t know if it would be too hazardous in an alcohol stove, but easy to separate the alcohol – just add a bit of water) to about $5 / gallon at the race track to about $10-20 / gallon in cans at the hardware store (“shellac thinner”). Clearly too it’s a lot cheaper than the butane canisters, though more expensive than gasoline. Still, a single gallon pays for the stove.
Then there is Kerosene. Going for $5/gallon at the pump. I paid something like $10/gallon for a plastic jug at a Walmart in Arizona. More expensive than gasoline, but a bit safer and easier to store / transport. You can get it down about $3 / gallon at airports (jet fuel) but it can have a lot of airport tax in it.
Now look at those $/gallon ranges.
That explains a whole lot about why folks put up with the “pump to make it go” stoves that burn kerosene, white gas, or unleaded gasoline (and clean the jets more often). IF you use them regularly, the cost savings is VERY significant.
At the other extreme, a stove that will MAYBE be used once to test it, then stored in an emergency bag for a decade, has little fuel cost to worry about and you will NOT be buying a gallon of fuel anyway. So popping $5 to $10 for a fuel cartridge that is light weight (and that you will be moving around for a decade…) is quite a good deal. It’s the very light weight and reliability (non-leaking sealed can) that you are buying.
Then for folks living “off the grid” and using several gallons of fuel a year (or month…) the only real solutions are kerosene, gasoline, or bulk deliveries of LPG (liquefied petroleum gas – mostly propane but in fact a mix of some butane and occasionally bits of other gasses). Fuel cost dominates mostly, but also convenience, safety, and local availability matter too. Some placed don’t have bulk propane delivery. Kerosene stores better and is much safer than gasoline; though a bit harder to make the stoves work (preheating and such) yet they work longer than gasoline without clogging. Gasoline ubiquitous and cheap while working very well. Most folks use White Gas so they get the clog free use of kerosene unless there’s a need to run unleaded in an emergency. Swapping cost for near zero maintenance.
Now, in a “6 months no power” situation, a little Coleman 533 Dual Fuel single burner stove that runs on White Gas / Coleman fuel OR unleaded gasoline is just dandy. Especially for folks without stored fuel where they might need to siphon it from a car or run to the local (or remote…) gas station with a couple of gallon can. Few stations sell kerosene.
This is why I have one of them.
IF you store some fuel, kerosene lasts much longer in storage and is safer (very low volatiles). It works well in a stove that’s mostly just some large wicks and a burner head. Cheap, but large. For a long time for the family I had one of them and a 5 gallon can of kerosene stored outside the house. Now that we’re down to “just the two of us”, I don’t really need that much anymore, so generally looking to use up the kerosene and pack the kit for storage. (Easy for me to use up 5 gallons of kerosene as it runs really well in my Diesel car ;-)
At this point, for just 2 of us, keeping a gallon of gasoline is easier than dealing with the storage of a big can of kerosene and fussing with kerosene stove starting.
In prior years, the use of kerosene or gasoline “Coleman” lanterns was the standard in base camp / emergency lighting via fuels. Now, with the advent of LED camp lights, it really is silly to burn fuel for light. A large Maglight flashlight can run for a one to two hundred hours of great white light. A couple of sets of batteries and you have weeks of practical use.
However… the fuel based lanterns put out a LOT of heat. About a kW. There’s even a company that builds a stove surface on top of one as a stove with free light. I think of mine as a small space heater with free light. If you live in horribly cold country, a “real” kerosene heater puts out a whole lot more heat, but for folks needing just one room kept just a bit above freezing in modest climates, you will find it a nice option.
The fuel cost often dominates the decision as to what stove or light is best for a given use case.
Yet at other times, particulars of the storage or weight of the fuel dominate the decision.
Notice that in neither case does “cost of the stove” matter much. There are many different stoves at many different price points for any given fuel type. Weight and reliability being large factors in the cost of the stove, fuel type only a little in that liquid fuels need a pump while pressurized gas just needs a valve.
So folks tend to buy stoves for a use case, and when the use case changes (weight, storage, quantity of fuel used per year, size of cooking to be done) buy a different stove and a different fuel.
And that is why I have a big old heavy clunky boring Coleman unleaded gasoline stove for the house / quake kit; but have a few light camping / backpacking stoves for various “getting home” and “bug out” bags and car bags for spouse et. al. Some stoves are just a lot easier to use for a novice.
Now, in the case of a 6 month Aw Shit with little hope of resupply of fuel, you need more ability to use “found fuel”, and that largely is going to be wood and plant products. For that, I generally expect to use a simple small sheet metal BBQ, or my Pile Of Bricks stove. But for folks not interested in using those kinds of things, there are very small wood burning backpacking stoves. Very cheap on fuel, using just a few small sticks / meal (link in prior postings above). This can also mean very little weight to carry in a “bug out bag” and it can serve as a “back up” to your fuel driven stoves if you should run out of fuel or the fuel leaks oway. For $10 to $15 for the stove and about 7 ounces of weight, a big gain for nearly no input.
Now a clairvoyant might know which of these use cases they will experience, in advance, and only buy what’s needed for that case, but for the rest of us, we have to guess and hope. Yet at some points in life, we can know what things we re not going to confront. I know, for example, that I’m never again going to voluntarily hike 10 miles into the wilderness and spend a weekend in the rain without a tent. (Did that once, never again…) Similarly, I’m not going to be driving over mountains in bad conditions unprepared, nor going “coast to coast” with near no extra money on back roads in bad conditions. Now I’m more interested in high speed getting there on major interstates with lots of facilities using reliable cars. Similarly again, I’m no longer responsible for a couple of kids (they have grown up) nor will I be daily 50 to 100 miles from home during all work days and many weekends, needing a major “get home” bag post quake.
The point? You need to look at your circumstances to decide what you need and why. For me, I now need a “Home for spouse and me” kit, and a “get me home from nearby” most of the time kit in the car. Only occasionally will I be 100 miles from home, and alone. So a lighter “get me home” backpack, and a “toss in the car for trips only” bag or box. The rest is already at home. As none of it will really be used much, the actual fuel costs are irrelevant. In a major disaster, I’m ready at home with gasoline Coleman stove and “found fuel” POB stove already.
The rest of “whatever” I’ve accumulated can now be packed and stored or given “to the kids”. I still ought to have one stove the spouse can use without much experience, just in case I’m far far away when the next quake or other problem hits, but it doesn’t need to support a whole family for a month.
While typing this, the Amazon delivery came. I’ve unboxed the stove. It’s about the size of my thumb when folded and comes in a tiny cloth bag on a card / plastic bubble over. It was initially a bit hard to open (the legs have bumps on them to friction fit against the mount and they ‘catch’ at first. With use that ought to loosen a bit.
Opened, it is sized just about right for a Sierra Club cup or similar “billy”. Length of my little finger from pot support leg tip to tip, or 2 3/4 inches / 6.7 cm tip to tip. Draw an equilateral triangle 6.7 cm on a side, that’s your support surface. 3.75 cm inside end to inside end for the minimal cup size it will support.
I’m going to spend a little while making a cup of coffee on it and be back to post results here:
Screws on the tank easily (make sure you turn the valve off first). Lights easily with a match. Nice strong blue flame.
Put a full sized tea kettle on it with 8 ounces of water (from the cold tap about 56 F) and balanced OK if carefully.
About 1.5 minutes later, it was whistling. I *think* it was about 1 minute to the start of the boil with plenty of steam but not yet whistling. Hard to say as I was using a digital clock to time it and no second hand.
Now this was without being full on.
I adjusted the flame to high-not-full so the flames would “only” reach to the outer rim of the tea kettle.
The flame gets some slightly yellow streaks where it passes the pot support legs. They glowed nearly orange in the fire, but cooled to black where they touched the pot. This thing could melt aluminum if it dries out… I’m glad it’s titanium! I’m also thinking a 4 inch diameter titanium cup (or similar) is in my future…
I have no idea how many “one minute burns” are in a single tank of fuel, but it will be a lot.
Flame regulation is good and smooth. Sometime later I’ll try a frying pan (small!) and a pot at simmer.
Only “issue” I can see is that it’s possible the stove stem / adjuster could get hot, especially if enclosed in a wind screen. Given how small the stove is, you hand WILL be close to the flames when adjusting the burn rate. I didn’t have any issue on a counter at waist height, but on the ground it could be harder. Then again, get it right when you first put the pot on it, and you won’t need to adjust much ;-)
Well, I’m very pleased with this First Fire.
From the card it was packed on:
Material: Titanium Magnalium Copper Net Weight: 25 grams Unfolded Size: 3.22 x 2.37 inches Folded Size: 1.46 x 2.05 inches Combustion Power: 1940 W Gas Consumption: 140 g/hr Boil 1 L Water Need 2 Minutes 58 seconds
So at 140 g/hr a 250 g tank ought to give 1.78 hours of burn which ought to heat 107 cups of water to the simmer / boil. Used to make “freeze dried reheat” meals, that’s a lot of meals. Even allowing for some “sellers puff”, you are looking at something like a couple of weeks of meals or coffee / soup with modest care.