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From the workshop: review of backpacking stoves

As passionate adventurers and outdoor chefs, we are above average interested in stoves and we have obtained quite a collection throughout the years. We have used all of our stoves several times and have a few hypotheses regarding performance, e.g. that gas is more efficient than alcohol and that the dimensions of the stove will have an impact on how quickly water will boil. But we did not have any accurate information of how well the various setups performed compared to each other.


We surfed the interweb to see if anyone had tested this before. Not surprisingly there are already a number of reviews of stoves out there. This one by Ian McEleney & Jessica Haist is quite good, but still we had some more questions we wanted answered. So, as a contribution to the community and to get to know our equipment better we decided to test the performance of our stoves in a more or less scientific manner. The test mainly measures efficiency, i.e. how much time it took to bring water to boil, but we have also looked at features such as weight and dimensions, type of fuel, ease of use, versatility and weather sensitivity. Based on all of these criteria we have given our verdict to the various setups.

Tools of the trade - a curated selection

Summary of the results

The most efficient stove in the test was MSR pocket rocket 2, which had a boil time of astonishing 2 min 33 sec. In comparison, the slowest burner Vargo Triad used 9 min 32 sec. The general trend is, not surprisingly, that the fuel type plays a crucial role and that gas is a lot faster than alcohol. That is unless its too cold, in which case alcohol seems more efficient, unless you buy special gas for use during sub zero temperatures.


The table shows the results for all stoves, sorted after boil time. See further down the article for details about each stove.

Stove

Our rating

System weight

Time to boil

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

74g

2 min, 33 sec

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

466g

2 min, 45 sec

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

518g / 354g

4 min, 24 sec / 9 min, 10 sec

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

137g

7 min, 42 sec

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

174g

9 min, 24 sec

⭐ ⭐ ⭐

159g

9 min, 32 sec

Some of the alcohol stoves put to good use.


About the test

We wanted the test to be as accurate as possible to ensure trustworthy results. Hence, we had prepared a test journal in advance. It should however be noted that this test hardly lives up to the standards of scientific experiments, so our results should be taken with a small grain of salt.


The main objective of the test was to measure how long time each setup uses to bring 500g of water to boil. We used a kitchen weight with accuracy 0.1 g to ensure that we used the same amount of water for all tests. The temperature was tracked using a digital thermometer with accuracy 0.5 degrees.

In addition we also looked at features such as weight and dimensions, type of fuel, ease of use, versatility and weather sensitivity. Based on all of these criteria we have given our verdict to the various setups. The symbols below illustrates the features that have been evaluated:

  • Summary and verdict: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ (1-5) A summary of the burner and our verdict, cordially expressed as 1-5 stars. 1 is not super good, while 5 is a strong recommendation to buy

  • Weight and dimensions: The net weight, including required parts, and dimensions of the burner when folded

  • Time to boil: The amount of time to boil 500g of water

  • 🌡️Temperature range: The initial temperature when the test started and the final temperature when the test ended, always in °C

  • Type of fuel: Type of fuel required, e.g. gas, alcohol or multifuel

The experiment was conducted in Oslo, Norway, on a sunny, crisp Autumn day with nice, stable weather conditions. The temperature was approximately 10° Celsius and the wind was calm. All tests were carried out in the shade, to minimize heating from the sun.


There were some discrepancies in regards to water temperature. Initial water temperature spanned from 10 - 14°C. Our evaluation is that these variations are so low that they have not influenced the boil time too much. In one case the water did not reach more than 98°C and we waited some time for the water to reach 99°C. Because of the waiting, the elapsed time might be a bit unfair for this burner (the Trangia alcohol stove). There were also some minor discrepancies in air temperature that might have influenced the boil time, but we assume that for the purpose of this test these factors are negligible.


The test was fully funded by Blu Acciaio and friends.


Detailed review of the stoves


MSR Pocket Rocket 2

Summary and verdict: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 👍 Super light

👍 Simmer control enables smooth and easy control over the flame

👍 Versatile, use pots or pans of choice


👎 Performance is severely impacted by even the smallest of wind gusts

👎 Prone to tip over if using large pots or pans


The MSR Pocket Rocket 2 is a minimalistic super light and super small burner. It comes in a small encasing, containing only the burner. This is not a complete system, so you need to provide your own cookware. The pot supports are wide enough to handle both larger and smaller pots and pans. We are holding back on one star since performance is severely impacted by even the smallest of wind gusts. If you be one of those ultralight rovers, and mostly cook in surroundings where there is little wind, this little rocket might just be your ticket to ride.


Weight and dimensions: Complete system weight: 74g. Width: 43mm, height: 78mm.


Time to boil: 2 min, 33 sec


🌡️Temperature range: 11°C / 99°C


Type of fuel: Gas


Jetboil MiniMo

Summary and verdict: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 👍 Simmer control enables smooth and easy control over the flame

👍 Versatile, use the pot or pan of choice (assuming you buy the cooking adapter)

👍 Stabilizers to provide support for larger pans or pots


👎 Not the lightest of setups

👎 Somewhat susceptible to wind gusts


The Jetboil MiniMo is a complete system, primarily aimed at boiling water. It has some kind of heat exchange system which makes it very efficient. Jetboil also sells an adapter, that lets you use any pots or pans you may have. Unless your preferred cuisine is tea, soup and pasta, this adapter is an absolute must for this system. The MiniMo is a real workhorse that always provides and most certainly deserves five stars, at least.


Weight and dimensions: Complete system weight 466g (burner: 129g, kettle: 230g, stabilizer: 26g, pan adapter: 34g, kettle protector: 47g). Width: 120mm, height: 140mm.


Time to boil: 2 min, 45 sec

🌡️Temperature range: 10°C / 99°C


Type of fuel: Gas


Trangia 25 Ultralight

Summary and verdict: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 👍 Can be used with either gas, multifuel or alcohol stoves (from Trangia)

👍 Impervious to wind gusts

👍 Very stable setup


👎 The gas stove is a bit heavy

👎 Only compatible with pans and pots from Trangia


The Trangia 25 is a complete system, that can be used either with gas, multifuel or alcohol stoves from Trangia. The system comes in different sizes and with different coating on the pots and pans. In our experience this system is extremely durable. The alcohol stove is perhaps the only part part prone to being worn out, but this can easily be replaced for just a few dollars. The system is not as efficient as some other complete systems, but still, for late autumn and winter adventures, this is our definitive champion.


Weight and dimensions: Gas stove Complete system weight 518g (burner: 250g, windshield: 172g, stabilizer: 96g). Width: 175mm, height: 100mm.


Alcohol stove

Complete system weight 354g (burner: 86g, windshield: 172g, stabilizer: 96g). Width: 175mm, height: 100mm.


Time to boil: Gas stove

4 min, 24 sec


Alcohol stove

9 min, 10 sec


🌡️Temperature range: Gas stove

11°C / 99°C


Alcohol stove

11°C / 98°C


Type of fuel: Gas, multifuel, alcohol


Toaks Mini Titanium

Summary and verdict: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

👍 Super light

👍 Novel design

👍 Impressive performance, considering the size and fuel type


👎 Surprisingly noisy for an alcohol stove

👎 Windshield and pot supporters are not included, but absolutely necessary


The Toaks Mini is made of titanium and is extremely light. The burner itself weighs only 20g. Its designed after the same principle as other alcohol stoves, with a reservoir at the bottom and vents at the top to burn the gas that forms as the alcohol heats. Somehow Toaks has managed to make this little feisty stove very efficient. Its far better performing than other alcohol stoves we have seen. The main drawback is that its absolutely reliant on a windshield, which is not included. On the plus side, it works well with most stock windshields, assuming they can also function as pot supporters. Shown below with the Vargo windshield.


Weight and dimensions: Complete system weight 137g (burner: 20g, windshield: 117g). Width: 130mm, height: 10mm.


Time to boil: 7 min, 42 sec


🌡️Temperature range: 10°C / 99°C


Type of fuel: Alcohol


Lixada Titanium

Summary and verdict: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 👍 Compatible with the Trangia system

👍 Light

👍 Double set of vents


👎 Disappointing performance

👎 Included pot supporters not really working


By the looks of it, Lixada alcohol stove seems to be quite inspired by Trangias timeless alcohol stove, but with a few upgrades. For one, its made of titanium, making it almost 30g lighter. It also sports a second set of vents. It does however not seem like these vents improve performance, as the boil time for the Lixada and Trangia are practically the same. The included pot supporters could have been a nifty feature. Unfortunately they do not provide enough stability, and in any case a windshield is needed. Shown below with the Vargo windshield.


Weight and dimensions: Complete system weight 174g (burner: 38g, windshield: 117g, pot supporters: 19g). Width: 130mm, height: 10mm.


Time to boil: 9 min, 24 sec


🌡️Temperature range: 10°C / 99°C


Type of fuel: Alcohol


Vargo Triad

Summary and verdict: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

👍 Ridiculously small

👍 Integrates perfectly with Vargo windshield

👍 Work with both alcohol and fuel tabs/gel


👎 Easily flooded

👎 Difficult to get started


The Vargo Triad is possibly the smallest multifuel stove we have ever seen. It can be used as an alcohol stove, but flipped upside down, it can also be used to burn fuel tabs or fuel gel. The stove itself is super tiny, which makes for a very limited capacity for alcohol. As a result, it is easily overfilled, causing it not to startup properly and not heat up enough for the alcohol to be transformed to gas. A pro tip we see others recommend is to prime the stove with a bottle cap of alcohol. In any case, if you are using this stove, you should definitely also get the Vargo Hexagon windshield. Not only does it integrate perfectly with the Triad, it also doubles as a small wood stove.


Weight and dimensions: Complete system weight 159g (burner: 22g, windshield: 117g, stabilizer: 20g). Width: 130mm, height: 10mm.


Time to boil: 9 min, 32 sec


🌡️Temperature range: 14°C / 99°C


Type of fuel: Alcohol, fuel tabs, fuel gel


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