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Bear Canister Bias

Thru-Fishing the JMT

5 x 8 Poncho as Shelter and Raingear

Esbit Stove Height vs Efficiency

Stoveweight vs Time Over 14 Days

Stoveweight vs Time Over 28 Days

Repairing Gear on the Trail

Washing Down Gear

Common Choices for Alcohol Fueled Stoves

Flying With Fuels

Resupply Options for Long Distance Hikers

MSR Pocket Rocket Tests

Pack Light Eat Right

Debunking Cookware Myths

For a Few Calories More: the Good, Bad, and Ugly of Trail Foods

Water Purification for Long Distance Hikers

Debunking Cookware Myths

I'm a born skeptic.  When I read people making claims on internet message boards regarding the performance or failure of their gear, I duplicate the experiment to either confirm or refute their results.  This article reports on an experiment I ran to determine if people's claims that there is a significant difference between boil times and fuel consumption for the three common cookware materials get the steaming pile award.

Pots tested: 

  • MSR Titan kettle  (titanium)
  • MSR Stowaway (stainless steel)
  • Camping Gaz (Bluet) aluminum
  • generic stainless steel 2 L pot

Experimental:  A large basin of water was set out and allowed to equilibrate with room temperature (72 degrees Fahrenheit).  Two cups of water were transferred to each of the pots using a cooking grade measuring cup.  The boiling point at my altitude was determined to be 212 degrees F.  A Primus Alpine Titanium canister stove was used to heat the water to boiling as determined by the temperature probe (see sidebar for details of temperature data collection).  The probe was suspended in the center of each pot so that the sensor was about one centimeter below the surface of the water.  The weight of the canister after heating the water to a boil was subtracted from the weight of the canister before to determine the mass of fuel used.  The time to reach a 212 degree boil was recorded in seconds.   In each case the initial starting temperature of the water was 72 degrees F and final was 212 degrees F.

Results:

material fuel weight consumed time to reach a full, rolling boil (212 degrees F)
MSR Stowaway stainless steel 0.3 oz 2 min 38 seconds
Generic  stainless steel 0.3 oz 2 min 22 seconds
Bluet aluminum 0.3 oz 2 min 33 seconds
MSR Titan titanium 0.3 oz 2 min 34 seconds

Conclusion:  Even though aluminum, stainless steel, and titanium have different heat transfer properties, no significant differences were observed for boiling times and fuel consumption between the different materials for the pots tested and stove used.  Unsubstantiated claims to the contrary receive (fanfare & cheering) the steaming pile award.

Weight, cost, and design should be at the forefront of your cookware research.  Another equally important conclusion you should consider is that well-meaning people often spread misinformation on internet message boards with regard to the performance or drawbacks of gear.  

 

Notes
This experiment was conducted to give you some objective information regarding boil times and fuel consumption for some common camping cookware. The cookware tested were all pots I owned, so some pots on the market were not tested. I believe that this article can help you determine what is not important when researching your cookware purchase.

Please note that this test uses stove with a high heat output. I would expect that stoves with similar outputs would produce similar results; however, low power alcohol and esbit stoves may produce different results. Further testing is needed to determine if the heat transfer characteristics are significant with a lower powered stove.
 
AYCE says
A Basic Stamp Microcontroller was configured with an ADC0831 to convert analog to digital data from an LM34DZ temperature probe. My laptop was relayed this info through a standard RS232 serial connection.

stamp_setup.jpg (8502 bytes)

The LM34DZ is an interesting IC. You supply it with regulated 5 V DC and it outputs a voltage equal to the temperature in Fahrenheit. For example, a reading of .35 V means that the temperature is 35*F. A multimeter could be used to determine the temperature instead of the Basic Stamp. Or, you could just use a thermometer with a range of liquid water. I would like to thank P.H. Anderson from Morgan State University for his excellent PIC and Basic Stamp tutorials.