CycloCamping Forum

Author Topic: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?  (Read 5631 times)

Stephane

  • Administrator
  • Explorer
  • *****
  • Posts: 111
    • View Profile
    • CycloCamping.com, SAVE on the BEST Bicycle Touring Equipment and Camping Gear
How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« on: January 04, 2010, 09:23:23 PM »
Every bicycle traveler has a special relationship with their stove J He or she chooses it carefully, sometimes brags about it, and takes good care of it, as it is the one thing that will bring warmth and sustenance at the end of a long day’s ride.  If you’re planning to go bike touring, you will need a stove-- but which one?

There are numerous types of stoves, but I will review only the ones I consider adapted for bicycle touring.  I will pass on the candle stove, wood stove, solar stove, electric stove, and the large family-sized 4-burner stove, as these are not suitable for cyclo-touring.

There are several points you should consider when choosing a stove (see below), but the most important one is choosing the type of fuel that you will use.  This narrows the choice down to 3 categories: liquid fuel stoves (white gas, petrol, kerosene, etc.), gas cartridge stoves (butane/ propane), and multi-fuel stoves (uses cartridges and various liquid fuels).  Liquid fuel and cartridge fuel each have distinct advantages and disadvantages.



GAS CARTRIDGES vs. LIQUID FUEL

Gas Cartridges (or LP Gas):



Most gas cartridges contain a mix of butane and propane.  The cartridges come in 3 different sizes adapted to backpacking and cyclotouring (4 oz., 8 oz., and 16 oz.). The puncture type cartridges are not suitable for bike touring, as they are made for a one-time attachment and must be used completely before removing.

Your stove should use the screw-thread cartridge. This is the most common type and is standardized worldwide, so any brand cartridge will fit on your stove.  These cartridges are re-sealable, making it easy to take everything apart after use, and store nice and compact.  There are 2 basic models: with and without line. The first one is heavier but allows you to use a windscreen, and is more stable. The second type has the burner directly screwed on top of the cartridge and is among the most compact stoves on the market.
 
Pros:
  • Very compact (especially the one without line)
  • Very light weight
  • Most efficient
  • Maintenance free
  • Burns cleanly with no residue
  • Relatively quiet
  • Odorless
  • No preheating required
  • The cartridges are available in western countries (can find in outdoor stores and often enough in large grocery store)
  • Very easy to operate
  • Provides the possibility of simmering

Cons:
  • The main problem is the poor availability of the gas cartridges which are impossible to find in many developing countries
  • Difficult to operate at subfreezing temperatures
  • Could be an environmental nightmare as you have to throw the cartridge away (I crossed Tibet carrying an empty cartridge for weeks!)
  • Much more expensive than petrol
  • More difficult to use at high altitude than liquid fuel stove


Liquid Fuel:


 
There are numerous types of liquid fuel to use in most backpacking type stoves.  Ranked best to worst: white gas, kerosene, petrol and, if suitable, alcohol, diesel and oil (check the stove instructions for compatibility).
 
Pros:
  • Petrol is available everywhere, even in the most secluded regions
  • Performance unaffected by cold
  • Petrol is a very cheap fuel
  • High heat output
  • Possibility to reduce the pressure for better efficiency at high altitude (see below “tips and tricks”)

Cons:
  • Needs impractical priming – or preheating (requires precaution – see below “how does a liquid fuel stove work?”)
  • Produces fumes and residue (blackens cookware)
  • Needs more maintenance, especially using petrol, or worse, kerosene (some stoves have the clean-by-simply-shaking feature)
  • Unpleasant odor
  • Only a few models allow you to simmer
  • Heavier and bulkier due to the pump system


How does a liquid fuel stove work?
What is priming/pre-heating?

 
A white gas stove has a refillable tank to hold the fuel and a pump to pressure the fuel into a fuel line and into the burner assembly. The fuel line needs to be preheated in order to vaporize the fuel so it will burn when coming out of the fuel jet at the burner assembly.

Stoves are designed so the fuel line passes directly through the flames emitted by the burner, so the fuel is continuously vaporized.  To preheat the stove you need to let some of the liquid fuel pour into the depression at the bottom of the burner, inflame it so it heats the fuel line. It creates a fairly large flame that could be scary for the novice.
 
 
FEATURES TO CONSIDER:
 
These are the features you should consider, but differences are quite minimal from one brand to the other (as long you don't choose a cheapo brand).
 
  • Weight: The weight is the #1 enemy of the bicycle tourer. You will need a compact and lightweight stove.  Thanks to their simple design, the lightest stoves are the ones using cartridges (usually a butane/propane mix) without a gas line (the cartridge is directly adapted onto the burner assembly).  In that category you will find some extremely compact and very light stoves.
  • Fuel efficiency: It is usually rated by how much time it takes to boil 1 liter of water.  Personally, I don’t care if my stove takes an extra minute or two to boil my water!
  • Multi-fuel:  These stoves allow you to use any kind of liquid fuel. The Primus OMNIFUEL even use LP gas cartridge, a perfect choice for world travelers!
  • Stability:  I would not choose a cheap stove for this reason:  poor stability=poor design. Having your meal go to the ants is not fun, and having a pot of boiling water end up in your lap could be a disaster.
  • You might find it useful to have the clean-by-simply-shaking feature.


THE TYPE OF STOVE DEPENDS ON YOUR TYPE OF PLAN:
 
Depending on what kind of bicycle journey you are planning, this is the type of stove I would suggest:
 
1) “I will rarely use my stove”:

If you are extremely cautious about the weight you carry, are not planning to cook much, or are planning to cook only in case of emergency, a simple, very light and very compact stove is what you need.  Some white gas stoves (and the Guinness Record Smallest Stove) fall into this category.  See liquid fuel vs. white gas. An excellent model is the Markill Peak ignition Titanium stove.


Peak ignition Titanium


If you need stoves that are even lighter and more compact (usually for emergency use or if you are very weight conscious), two other options are:
A stove consisting of a simple steel or titanium structure using solid non-toxic chemical fuel tablets or one using denaturated alcohol like the Evernew Titanium alcohol stove. The Vargo Titanium triad can actually use both.

Fuel tablets stove (Hexamine, Trioxane or Sterno®):
Note that alcohol stove have similar characteristics.
 
Pros:
  • It is the lightest system available
  • Quite efficient
  • Extremely compact

Cons:
  • Impossible to simmer
  • Produces unpleasant odor
  • Expensive fuel
  • Leaves a brown sticky residue on the cookware
  • Very limited availability (only in outdoor stores)



Vargo Titanium triad


Evernew Titanium alcohol


2) “I am planning a bicycle journey in a Western country”:  

If you are planning to camp often enough and use your stove frequently in Western countries, you will have the choice between a fuel stove, a white gas stove, or a stove that can use both because it is easier (although not always possible) to find white gas, which is the best fuel to use. See white gas vs. liquid fuel.
 
3) “I am planning a bicycle journey in a non-Western country”:

If you plan a bicycle trip around the word or a journey in a developing country, (even if you are not planning to cook much), do not choose a butane/propane type of stove. It will be very difficult (or often impossible) to find the right cartridge.  Because of this limitation, I would recommend either a multi-fuel stove or a liquid fuel stove.
 

CYCLOCAMPING FAVORITES:


Primus OMNIFUEL

I like multifuel stoves for the opportunity to use whatever is available. I own a Primus multifuel for the past 7 years and it still works like a charm. I am very pleased with it since it never failed to cook me a warm meal.  It uses any kind of fuel you can think of (except solid fuel, of course).  Since I bought it, several quality brand competitors have produced multi-fuel stoves that are just as good.
 

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR USING YOUR STOVE:
 
1) Clean the jet without the tool: At the burner assembly, the fuel comes out of a tiny hole called in the jet which can get obstructed.  The cleaning tool consists of a very thin wire encased in plastic.  It is likely that the wire may break and get lost.  You may not have realized it, but your brake and derailleur cables are made of the very same wire!  Just cut a piece of one thread of a cable and voila! You have your very own cleaning tool!
 
2) Primer "sponge" broken or lost: Some stoves come with a piece of material that will absorb the fuel you let go before priming.  Depending on the model you use, this piece of fabric may eventually break and so may the spare part.  A cheap way to replace it is to use a piece of thin fiberglass sheet cut at the same size.  It works just as well, does not burn, and will never break.
 
3) Running your gas cartridge stove in cold temperatures can be tricky. Propane burns much better in subfreezing temperatures than butane. If you don’t try to keep your cartridge warm while you cook, you will end up with only butane in your cartridge and won’t be able to use it.  Here are some tricks to keep it warm:
 
  • Hold it in your hand
  • Use chemical hand-warmers (while you cook and then use them for yourself!)
  • Dip the cartridge in warm water (or urine)
  • Keep it in your jacket to warm it up
  • Sleep with it in your sleeping bag so you can use it for breakfast
  • Place the cartridge close to the stove (be careful not to overheat the cartridge as it might explode).  Note:  Warning sign of overpressure:  cartridges are designed with a concave bottom that will pop outwards before complete cartridge rupture.

4) Use a windscreen to dramatically improve the efficiency of the flame, as well as decrease fuel consumption.
 
5) What liquid fuel should I use? In gas stations, especially in less developed countries, I always buy the most expensive fuel, hoping it is the cleanest one (I might be wrong!). I prefer unleaded over leaded, for obvious health reasons.  White gas is more difficult to find and is more expensive. However, it is cleaner, has less of an unpleasant odor, and produces less fumes, leaving less residue (so easier dish washing!).  Kerosene should be your last choice since it is the dirtiest and least efficient fuel.  Some stoves claim to work with everything: oil, diesel, etc. (I know someone who used vodka in his MSR XGK!), but those fuels are extremely inefficient and dirty.
 
6) Cooking in your tent:  Every instruction manual highly recommends against cooking in your tent. So do I!  I certainly would not recommend cooking inside the inner part of the tent, especially when using liquid fuel.  However, some tents have a large vestibule, and many bicycle tourers cook underneath of it. If you decide to do this (at your own risk), make sure you practice many times beforehand, and that you are very familiar with your stove.  It is highly recommended to cook near an opening of the tent so the toxic CO and CO2 gases can escape.  Be extremely careful with the priming of the liquid fuel stove (the flame is uncontrollable and can set the tent on fire).
 
7) Saving on weight by choosing a small fuel bottle size:  I would recommend you take a small fuel bottle size (1/3 or ½ - liter bottle) unless you are planning to bike through an extremely remote area, stay for a long period of time in an area with no gas station, or plan to use only white gas.  We started with a 1L bottle and found it was much bigger than what we needed, and we changed to a 1/3 liter.
 
8 ) Repair kit:  This can come in very handy.  Stoves usually come with a tool that will allow you to clean it and keep it running.  A repair kit is used to replace missing, worn, or broken parts, as well as maintain your stove. I would recommend taking one with you if you are going on an extended trip (several months or longer).
 
9) High altitude: By reducing the number of pumping strokes during priming, you will reduce pressure in the fuel line, allowing you to operate the stove more efficiently at high altitudes (the stove won’t function as well at high altitudes due to higher pressure and less oxygen).
 
10) “Simmering” with a liquid fuel stove:  A lot of liquid fuel stoves don’t allow you to simmer (some design fixed that problem).  Tip #9 can also be used when lower heat is needed for slow cooking.  If the heat is still too high, you can hold your pot or pan 2 or 3 inches higher (not real practical to simmer a stew, but can come in handy when your meal is starting to burn).

11) Use a puncture type canister with a screw-thread canister type stove: Vaude manufacture a convenient adapter allowing you to use puncture type canister with your screw-thread-cartridge stove. Very useful since the puncture type canister are easier to find, plus it is light and compact.

See the latest update of this article
« Last Edit: April 16, 2010, 10:48:47 PM by Stephane »
"Trust in Your Gear is Peace of Mind"

Save on Bicycle Touring Gear and Camping Equipment

stevetober

  • Couch Potato
  • Posts: 1
    • View Profile
Re: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2010, 12:07:29 PM »
Nice bit of research.  I am sold on the Trangia alcohol stove.  pots and burner all in one bundle....no noise....no mess if spilled....no smell....no toxic fumes....available in hardware stores or drug stores....no parts to clean, fix adjust....simmers very well.....
not a hot stove, but I set up my stove before putting up my tent and the water is boiling....
http://www.mark-ju.net/juliette/meths.htm    this link will tell you where to find alcohol in various countries and what it's called.

Stephane

  • Administrator
  • Explorer
  • *****
  • Posts: 111
    • View Profile
    • CycloCamping.com, SAVE on the BEST Bicycle Touring Equipment and Camping Gear
Re: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2010, 03:01:43 PM »
OK then... A lot of people have been mentioning the Tangria stoves, and everyone seems to like them, so CycloCamping has decided to start selling them! I will add them to www.cyclocamping.com and make sure to give some reviews once we have tried them... thks for the suggestion guys.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2010, 09:13:09 PM by Stephane »
"Trust in Your Gear is Peace of Mind"

Save on Bicycle Touring Gear and Camping Equipment

Ablejack

  • Wanderer
  • ***
  • Posts: 15
  • Buffalo Lazy Randonneur Club
    • View Profile
Re: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« Reply #3 on: January 12, 2010, 08:33:29 PM »
The Trangia is pretty cool and would be my choice for a Trans-Am ride.
Both times crossed NYS I used the MSR Dragonfly and had plenty of fuel for the whole trip in one bottle which rode in the down below cage.  (I also have the small bottle that usually goes on hiking trips.)  Fuel is handy for starting campfires.
I have a Pocket-Rocket canister which is handy as well. Quick, easy, and hot. Best for short trips IMO. But it's tough to know when you are about to run out of gas.
The Trangia is quiet, silent in fact, which is a nice under-rated feature. First one up can have coffee ready without waking the hung-over. Fuel is easy to get anywhere.  Does require a bit of patience and not for the camp gourmet. 
Another item I carry is a foldable grill top that slides into a pannier.  A campground with a fire ring becomes a nice grill for steak and vegetables. 
http://www.rei.com/product/401121  I end up using this more than anything else.

Arcticpunk

  • Scout
  • *
  • Posts: 3
    • View Profile
Re: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2010, 05:44:39 AM »
I did my winter tour with a Jetboil stove.  I love to eat and winter touring takes ALOT of calories.  The beauty of the Jetboil is its so DAMN fast!  I could have my morning oatmeal done before I'd finished my first cup of coffee.  The cooking vessel is very tough and since the entire stove, fuel, and accessories fits inside it never gets damaged.  I cooked all my meals on it and never used more than 2 cannisters of fuel per month.  The whole mess kit is a bit heavy, but if you like to cook and eat alot, its worth it to have a stove that is never finicky.

Ablejack

  • Wanderer
  • ***
  • Posts: 15
  • Buffalo Lazy Randonneur Club
    • View Profile
Re: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2010, 03:20:07 PM »
True, the Jetboil is fast.  MSR has developed a similar heat transfer cooking system as well.  I suppose it's fair to say that boiling speed is a drawback to the Trangia system.  It's not terrible but certainly not as quick getting food from the pannier to the belly as the Canister/heat transfer pot designs.  Another bonus of the Trangia is that it is nearly indestructible.  No moving parts to operate- which also means no adjustments for specialized cooking. Ostensibly (although I've had no problem) you could damage or melt the rubber gasket, but the stove will operate fine without it and that piece is cheap and easy to replace anyway.  A Trangia could likely survive (still safely cook) being run over by an automobile whereas most stoves might suffer in a pannier used as a seat. 
/ then again, a Campfire and a can of beans still works too! 

LHT

  • Wanderer
  • ***
  • Posts: 17
    • View Profile
Re: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2010, 05:46:10 AM »
For a quality built stove it's hard to beat MSR. I'd venture to say that most of the modern multi fuel stoves are a knock off or what MSR has been doing for years. I like the white gas stoves because they are easy to get fuel for and you don't add canisters to landfills when your empty.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2010, 05:52:09 AM by LHT »

travelinxs

  • Tourist
  • **
  • Posts: 5
    • View Profile
    • To Catch A Rainbow
Re: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2010, 03:37:22 PM »
Some great hints there Stephane, thanks! I need to replace my worn out wind shield for my MSR Dragonfly but they are really expensive for what they are. Im thinking there must be a simple way to make one. Any ideas anyone?

Stephane

  • Administrator
  • Explorer
  • *****
  • Posts: 111
    • View Profile
    • CycloCamping.com, SAVE on the BEST Bicycle Touring Equipment and Camping Gear
Re: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2010, 04:19:17 PM »
Thks for joining, travelinxs...

Yes, windscreens are quite expensive for what they are, I agree.

A good way to make a homemade windscreen for your stove is to use aluminium oven liners, ususally found next to those disposable aluminium pans that our moms use in their ovens when they bake (the liners are better than the pans because they are a bit thicker). Just cut a long rectangular piece so it will fit all around your stove, making sure to leave a 1/4- to 1/2-inch gap between the pot and the windsceen because you still need a bit of airflow.  You don't want to completely block the air (you need O2 to circulate for your stove to be efficient). The gap should not be too big, either, otherwise you will lose too much heat. Also, you might want to cut out a window or 2 at the bottom for the same reason. Some people punch holes all around it at the bottom. You can fold over the edges to make it stiffer and less sharp, and also so it won't fall apart as quickly. Also, just as with the MSR windscreen, you might want to cut a disk to use as a base for heat reflection.
Also, you can use paper clips to hold the windscreen closed around the stove.
Tip: when you cut your oven liner, add an extra inch or two in order to leave room for error.

I hope it helps...
« Last Edit: January 29, 2010, 08:17:43 PM by Stephane »
"Trust in Your Gear is Peace of Mind"

Save on Bicycle Touring Gear and Camping Equipment

travelinxs

  • Tourist
  • **
  • Posts: 5
    • View Profile
    • To Catch A Rainbow
Re: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2010, 04:42:11 PM »
Yea, thanks for that. Ill have a look around the shops and see what I can find. I still have the battered remains of my old wind shield to use as a template. Cheers.

LHT

  • Wanderer
  • ***
  • Posts: 17
    • View Profile
Re: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2010, 09:15:58 AM »
22 gage aluminum is an easy find at any Home Depot. It's used as flashing tin in the roofing area. You can make one out of this with no problem and a little ingenuity.

Collin

  • Scout
  • *
  • Posts: 3
    • View Profile
Re: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« Reply #11 on: February 03, 2010, 04:22:17 AM »
22 gage aluminum is an easy find at any Home Depot. It's used as flashing tin in the roofing area. You can make one out of this with no problem and a little ingenuity.

That's the way to do it, super cheap and just as good as the real wind shield. Or  what I've seen is some guy used aluminum foil and kept folding it and kind of "hammer" it together, it held well for a while at least.

xagoln

  • Couch Potato
  • Posts: 1
    • View Profile
Re: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« Reply #12 on: July 29, 2010, 12:35:27 AM »
Forget gas or alcohol burners - make yourself a folding rocket stove and use twigs and branches:

Simply print out the templates in the PDF plans at the below URL, sticky tape them to your metal of choice (stainless steel or an old oven tray is probably best for heat resistance), then cut around them with jigsaw, tin snips etc.

http://blog.loncletom.fr/ma-rando-rocket/

Since making this I never need to buy fuel, and normally don't even need to carry my fuel with me (although I keep a few small, dry sticks in case the wood is wet where I arrive).

Ablejack

  • Wanderer
  • ***
  • Posts: 15
  • Buffalo Lazy Randonneur Club
    • View Profile
Re: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2010, 01:51:44 PM »
This is a very good stove also. needs mentioning.
MSR Simmerlite Stove
« Last Edit: September 06, 2010, 02:00:12 PM by Stephane »

ardent.ryder

  • Scout
  • *
  • Posts: 4
  • Always close to home.
    • View Profile
    • Elan Designs
Re: How to choose the right stove for your bicycle journey?
« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2010, 04:54:31 PM »
I love my MSR Simmerlite and I love my Trangia System. I've also heard good things about the Primus Omnifuel. One drawback to the Trangia is if you travel to an area where you have to boil your water (7 min's minimum) or melt snow, you'd better have a lot of extra fuel on hand or else another way to purify it. I found that out the hard way on my last tour. The Simmerlite is quiet, reliable and easy to do maintenance on when you have to. Some people say it doesn't simmer very well but I found that by playing with your bottle pressure you can cook with quite low heat levels which is handy especially on those freeze-dried egg mixes!