Thru-Hiker: Gear and Resources for Long Distance Hikers
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Kits Fabrics And Materials The Workshop: Make Your Own Gear Projects Articles for Lightweight and Long Distance Hikers

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

Stoveweight vs Time Over 14 Days

As part of Thru-Hiker's continuing evaluation of backpacking stoves and their objective performance, this study showsn the way that stove weight fluctuates over time on a 14 day fuel resupply.  

The top line graph shows the weight of the stove and remaining fuel day by day. The bar chart shows the cumulative weight of your stove and fuel as a function of time. It was determined by adding the base weight of the stove and remaining fuel for each day of the trip. It assumes that you use your stove once per day to heat two cups of water to a boil. The canister stove weights were determined from a new 3.5 oz canister.

You can see that the clear loser here is the whisperlite with a total weight carried over time of 281 oz / 28 days, which averages 20. oz per day. Though it is one of the most efficient of the stoves (.25 oz fuel/pint boiled), the fact that the stove, bottle, and pump weigh so much more than the other stoves really adds up over time. The double wall stove's relatively poor efficiency adds up over time, despite the fact that the weight of the stove itself is very small: 131 oz / 28 days = 9.4 oz/day average. The canister stove and cat stove are neck and neck, a testament to the efficiency of this homemade stove, at 7.8 oz/day and 7.4 oz/day respectively. The surprise winner here is the Esbit stove at 5.1 oz/day. It consumes the same mass of fuel as the most efficient of the stoves (canister and white gas- .25 oz/pint boiled) but only weighs 3 oz.

Most thru-hikers have the opportunity to pick up some more fuel every five days or so. It can be a pain to have to search down fuel at every town stop, though, so most carry enough fuel to last for a few stops. Nevertheless, hikers with a stong tolerance for having to track down fuel could save weight by using an alcohol stove or esbit tablets and only carrying enough to take them from town to town. The 3.5 oz canister used for this article is currently the smallest available, so further savings on weight using this stove could only be achieved by carrying a partially empty canister.

The Bottom Line: your choice of stove depends upon a few factors: how well you can put up with the "fiddle factor", fuel availability, the weather, and trip length. Of the three lightest options (Cat, Esbit, and Canister stoves), none perform particularly well in winter conditions. Even in temperatures around freezing, the Cat and Esbit stoves will not perform particularly well. In milder temperatures, however, the canister stove has the most hassle free operation. Esbit will be the most affected by windy conditions, and will cost the most to operate (about .25/day). The cat stove has least expensive and most environmentally friendly fuel. Personally, on a long distance hike I tire of having to fiddle with any piece of gear and tracking down fuel, and go with the trouble-free, fast cooking canister stove. Nevertheless, any one of these three stoves would be a good choice. The whisperlite, despite being a well made and solid performing stove, gets an enthusiastic thumbs down for weight conscious long distance hikers.


Stoveless Can Be Heavier
There are a lot of people that are of the mind that not carrying a stove saves weight. I don't disagree with the concept; however, many of the no-cook foods then carried by the stoveless hikers end up being so much heavier due to water content that their weight savings dissolve. If you're considering going stoveless, do the math beforehand to make sure that it actually is going to be lighter.