Backpacking Stove Fuel Use

I used an MSR Whisperlite for boiling water on both backpacking and camping trips forever. Before we went to RMNP last summer, I pulled the stove out to test it, and there was a serious pump leak. No repair kits were available except via mail order, and they wouldn’t get here in time.

So I decided to take a Primus stove I had bought at WalMart for $20. It uses canister fuel that is a mix of butane and propane, and works to well below freezing (which I didn’t expect to get near). The stove worked fine, and I have taken it on several other trips since, most recently to the Grand Canyon.

Since you can’t take the canisters on an airplane (it’s understandable, the FAA wouldn’t be too crazy about compressed flammable gas in the cargo area), I bought an 8 oz canister when I got to Phoenix. When we got off the trail, I donated it to the Backcountry Center at Grand Canyon since I couldn’t take it back. At the time, I though that the canister seemed quite full still.

Before I bought it, I had a lot of thought about getting an 8 oz vs a 4 oz. I did some research and came to the realization that those canisters use quite a bit less fuel that I thought.

So I have four of the things at the house, with various amounts of gas. Last night and this morning, I did an experiment to see just how much fuel was used. I boiled five pots of water, each with five cups of water each. The canister with the burner weighed 420 grams. After the five runs, the rig weighed 370 grams.

So… each run used about 10 grams of fuel to go from tap temp to full boil. Very impressive.

The metal canister weight is reported online as around 130 grams. The burner is 200 grams. The 8-oz canisters have 220-230 grams of fuel. Less-than-impressive arithmetic yields about 20 full pots of water able to be boiled from one of those canisters.

I typically make a couple cups of tea or hot chocolate in the morning, and might use a bit more for oatmeal, so if I am with a partner who wants the same, that’s two runs in the morning. Two cups are typically needed for a two-person rehydrated meal in the evening, and maybe some more tea or coffee, so that’s another two or even three runs in the evening. So, four to five runs per day for two people means five or maybe six days per canister, or 10 to 12 days for a single person. That’s very impressive, especially given that the canister is $5.

A couple other interesting facts: The Whisperlite and empty fuel bottle is 350 grams. The Primus and empty canister is 330 grams.

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2 Responses to “Backpacking Stove Fuel Use”

  1. Backpacking Stove Fuel Use, Part 2 | Bill Hensley's Random Blog Says:

    […] After my Grand Canyon trip, I took a somewhat-controlled look at how much fuel is used for a typical alcohol stove. The post is here. […]

  2. Backpacking Grand Canyon National Park, 31 Jan -05 Feb 2016 | Bill Hensley's Random Blog Says:

    […] stove fuel.  We had to cook enough water for four breakfast meals and four dinner meals.  Given what we know about that, for our six guys, it’s 2 pots (10 cups) of water for breakfast, or about 8 overall, and […]

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