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Best stove for winter backpacking?

What’s the best stove for winter backpacking?  I have been looking at a jet boil, but would like an opinion before buying

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9 Replies

@akupka  Thanks for reaching out!

While there are many good stove options for winter backpacking, the best option for you is going to depend on several factors. Because you are considering a Jetboil, it is probably safe to assume that you are mainly looking to boil water for your meals and perhaps to melt snow for water. Canister stoves are great for those applications but can be very challenging if you want to sauté or simmer in your cooking.

The most important consideration for using a canister stove in winter is how low the temperatures are going to be. Because the gas in the canister is pressurized, the cold can severely impact its performance leading to longer boil times and even the stove going out while there is still gas in the canister. There are a few steps you can take to mitigate those issues, such as putting the gas canister inside your jacket (or sleeping bag) before using it to warm it up, or using a stove that allows you to invert the canister (allowing the heavier gas in the canister to be used).  A couple of examples of a canister stoves that allow you to invert the canister are the Jetboil Joule Stove and the MSR WhisperLite Universal Backpacking Stove.

Personally, I have used canister stoves in winter (temps down to +10°F) and at altitude (10,000+ feet, which can also adversely affect the pressure of a gas canister). There was a noticeable impact to the stove’s performance but it still got the job done. If the winter temperatures you will be backpacking in are at that level or warmer, you should be just fine with a Jetboil. Anything consistently colder than that I would recommend one of the inverted stoves mentioned above or a liquid fuel stove which allows you much more control over the pressure of the fuel getting to the stove.

Hope this helps, thank you!

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Hi @REI-JohnJ,

I completely understand inverting the cannister in winter.

That said, not all gas is created equal and in winter butane, which has a boiling point (which turns it into gas) of 32 degrees,

Propane is the best and Iso butane aka 2-methyl propane is 2nd best in cold temps.

REI only advertises the blend ration of MSR IsoPro and the blend rate of the others would be helpful. So you know of anyone who puts more propane in their cans? I hate to buy a new stove because of moderately cold temps.

 

Cheers,

Doug

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I regularly use a canister stove in "normal" temps, but for really cold weather I would turn to liquid fueled stoves.

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I was about to say the same thing as @hikermor - an alcohol stove may suit you best for colder temps. As @REI-JohnJ said, there will be various factors but from you told us, if you're merely boiling water AND doing so in the Winter, a good alcohol stove will not only function well in the cold but will be cheaper than a JetBoil.

A Jetboil, depending on the model, can be anywhere from $85- to over $100. The highly rated Trangia Spirit stove is only $20. Granted you will also need a pot. I have the GSI Halulite Boiler and that's only around $30. 

Also, if you do get an alcohol stove, I'd recommend a good windscreen as well

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“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.” (John Muir)

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Depending on temp, i'd use an alcohol stove... 

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Years ago, I was a volunteer on an NPS mountaineering patrol on Denali duration three weeks.  Most of th gear was supplied by the park, so we had useful items.  Our stove, which I think may have been an MSR brand, ran on kerosene.  Many parties did use white gas

Although this was the June patrol, a typical day was -20F, and much lower during storms.  We spent most of our time at the advance base camp, altitude 14,500' and ate regular hot meals.....

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I second what @REI-JohnJ said!

Just for the convenience, canister stoves have my vote. Most canisters have the propane/butane mix so they'll work in pretty cold temps, at least (for me) down to 10F, and if/when they start to sputter, like said above, you can warm them up before hand in your sleeping bag or under your jacket.

You can also balance a hand warmer on the can.  Also, pro tip, as your water warms and your stove sputters, you can pour a little of the warm water on the can and watch it come alive. (be careful). One of the cold weather issues is, even after the can is warmed up, it starts to cool off again while you cooking and can be frustrating.

Jet boils are without a doubt the fastest boilers out there. 

Some guide services, like on Mt Rainier, require white gas stoves to minimize failure at altitude and cold temps. but white gas stoves are heavy (I'm referring to the the fuel/fuel bottles) and you have to mess with small liquid gas leaks from time to time.  The advent of the canister stove has moved white gas to the 'back burner' so to speak.

There are some areas that ban the use of alcohol stoves, so that's a consideration. (California I think, not sure about the details or still in effect).

I pulled out my old original jet boil this week for a short backpacking trip, temps only low 30's and here's the result 😉

C0616_Moment.jpgC0617_Moment.jpgC0618_Moment.jpgC0619_Moment.jpgC0623_Moment.jpgC0624_Moment.jpg

 

REI Member Since 1979 YouTube.com/philreedshikes

That s a damn fine looking breakfast there @Philreedshikes ,

Cheese omelettes are one of my all-time favorites!

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
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Most advice out there is going to recommend the liquid stoves (alcohol and white gas) stoves for cold weather.

I have not had a chance to compare those different stoves as I have mostly used a White gas stove (except in the 70s when I used a Sterno folding stove and don't recall any cold weather trips with it).  I just wanted to note here that the liquid stoves also have a few quirks.  The liquid is not what burns.  It has to be converted to gas.  It is the gas that burns.  Which is why you have to prime a White gas stove (even in warmer temps).  it has to be warmed up enough to turn to gas.  Alcohol also has to be warm enough to turn to gas.  Of course, there are work arounds.  And I would expect that a few attempts will be made to reduce the cons on each type of stove.  Like @Philreedshikes said, I believe I have also read that there are bans on alcohol stoves in some places.  I have not used an alcohol stove as most of the time I was with Scouts on Scouting trips and Scouting does not allow alcohol stoves either.

Enjoy

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