Testing Gasoline Backcountry Stoves

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 9, 2006      
Backcountry skiing stove test
Working with one of the stoves.

Time for the yearly school science fair. You brainstorm with your 15-year-old son, what project would be appropriate this year? How about something easy, like growing potato sprouts with different nutrients, or finding out if girls and boys have different resting pulse rates? Nope, any “science” project is worthless if it doesn’t involve one of the big three: power, fire or noise.

Thus, this year’s project was to test a variety of liquid gas burning backcountry cookstoves. In the garage. Next to dad’s ski quiver. At least the Jeep was parked outside (and I moved the new Atomic Kongurs into the office.)

The experiment turned out to be fairly involved and a good exercise in scientific inquiry. The fuel was metered out in precise quantity, water was brought to given temperature, then remaining fuel was measured. Three trials were run. Five stoves were tested: Brunton, Coleman, Whisperlite, XGK, and ancient Svea. According to research, hypothesis held that the Whisperlite would win, but the XGK came out on top. Good job Louie, now we know which stove we’ll be carrying on those spring ski traverses!

While finishing up the display last night, conversation turned to past projects. We all agreed our biggest success was a pyrotechnic model simulating the sacking and burning of an ancient city. This was built (outdoors) using matches and gunpowder, and ignited in the school playground. Awe is my best description of the class reaction to this.

It runs in the family. Show-and-tell at my 1950s grade school in Dallas Texas was always a boor (how many teddy bear names can you learn?) — that is, until my turn came. I was about 9-years-old. My dad had taken me on a photography trip, covering a live rattlesnake hunt. I brought back a few live ones to play around with at home, fat mean Texas rattlers that would bite anything that moved. One day I loaded the serpents up in an aquarium and hauled them off to school. That morning it was mayhem in the classroom as I showed my mates how you could tap on the aquarium, and a big snake would strike at your hand with a loud thump, leaving a smear of venom on the glass. Of course it didn’t take long for word to spread that we had live rattlesnakes in the classroom. What happened after that is a blur: the school evacuation, my parents having to come get the snakes. In all, excellent! My only regret was not getting to throw a teddy bear in with the rattlers as an “experiment.”

Science fair display - testing backcountry stoves
The completed science fair display — flame on!


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2 Responses to “Testing Gasoline Backcountry Stoves”

  1. Mark Worley January 10th, 2006 8:51 pm

    That XGK has always intrigued me. I think MSR really lightened it up, yet it still is a tough one. By the way, synthetics melt easier than natural fibers. Perhaps stove testing should involve cotton/wool outerwear??


  2. Carl P January 11th, 2006 5:52 pm

    My boss always raves about the old Optimus bc stoves. Did Louie have a chance to see how this old technology stacks up to the new go lite items? What have you heard about the light weight one time use “stoves” that are on the market? Have you seen these? Have you used them before?

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