2017 JMT Prep and Stove Testing
I’m getting ready for this year’s version of the John Muir Trail, beginning in August.
The initial logistics are pretty intensive, but this being the third time around, it becomes easier and easier.
Phase I is deciding your dates, getting a permit and making all the necessary arrangements for getting from Virginia to California and to the trail head, and conversely, back home again.
Phase II is deciding upon a menu for 26 days of camping, not including re-supply time at Independence, Muir Trail Ranch (MTR), Reds, and Tuolume Meadows. Then obtaining all that food, packaging it all up, then mailing the packages, and in some cases the buckets, to the various pick up points. Oh yeah, don’t forget the sun block, TP, water purifier tablets, and surprise treats for yourself!
Phase III is figuring out what you are going to carry in your pack, to achieve one’s perfect balance of weight vs creature comforts. The incessant weighing and re-weighing of items and the summary court judgment on every single item, “Why do I need you?, What will you do for me? How much do you weigh? Are you worth it to carry on my back?!”
We’re going to focus on Phase III: what’s in your pack, and every backpacker’s favorite winter hobby of dreaming how to lighten the load. Today, that means stove testing for my upcoming hike.
I’ve been using a Jetboil (JB) for about 3 or 4 years, I knew it weighed a lot more, (4 x more than the smallest burner) but DAMN it boils fast! I mean really fast, but I never bothered to quantify it.
I have noticed a proliferation of these very tiny burners that weigh 1- 1.5 ounces and thought WOW! I would like to use that and save weight!
Well, much to my satisfaction, I have now quantified the data between several stoves and have reached a conclusion.
Goal: to find the best stove/pot/cup – AND FUEL CANISTER combination for a trip of at least 7 days, but not needing to exceed 7 days.
Best means lightest weight and enough fuel for at least 7 days.
Seven days means boiling (for the test) 2cups of water up to a maximum of 4 times in a 24hr period, for an expected burn schedule of; 1-2 cups for breakfast meal, 2 cups for 2 coffees, 2 cups for dinner package re-hydration, 1 cup for possible evening herbal tea, plus 1 cup extra.
Burns means bringing 2 cups of water to a boil.
- Burn time is not a factor because…well, there’s not much else to do in camp.
- Use of a fuel canister stove, with either small or large fuel cans, whichever provides the required number of burns.
- Canisters don’t need to last longer than 7 days because that’s the longest time between resupply.
- Minimum number of burns required is 28 (7 days of camping X 4 burns per day). This is the most important factor. (ok, this is an assumption and a requirement)
Note: while reviewing manufacturer data on various stoves and their boil times and fuel usage, the common test factor was the time to boil 1 liter of water, with the water at 68F or room temperature. I don’t think I’ve ever boiled more than 2 cups at a time and my “room” is the outdoors with the water (snowmelt) at least in the 40F range.
For my tests I used water stored outside with temperatures in the 40’s.
Note: For a weekend trip, the final best stove/fuel-can result is totally different because you may only need 4-8 burns.
Here are the tabular data, presented this way because the margins here are so narrow:
|STOVE||FUEL WEIGHT (GRAMS) BEFORE||AFTER||TIME TO BOIL||TIME (SEC)|
|JET BOIL TEST 2 NO CUP||194||189||1 MIN 40 SEC||100|
|JET BOIL W CUP||126||121||1 MIN 50 SEC||110|
|BURNER W CUP||121||112||4 MIN 43 SEC||293|
|SNOW PEAK BURNER W CUP||189||178||3 MIN 51 SEC||231|
|BURNER W SCREEN||112||101||3 MIN 10 SEC||190|
|POCKET ROCKET W CUP||208||194||2 MIN 14 SEC||134|
|STOVE||FUEL USED TO BRING 2 CUPS TO BOIL (GR)||(STOVE OR STOVE + CUP) UNIT WT||POTENTIAL BOILS (100 GR CANISTER)||UNIT WT STOVE+SM CAN|
|JET BOIL TEST 2 NO CUP||5||270||20||464|
|JET BOIL W CUP||5||337||20||531|
|BURNER W CUP||9||80||11||274|
|SNOW PEAK BURNER W CUP||11||112||9||306|
|BURNER W SCREEN||11||80||9||274|
|POCKET ROCKET W CUP||14||141||7||335|
|STOVE||FUEL USED TO BRING 2 CUPS TO BOIL (GR)||POTENTIAL BOILS (227 GR CANISTER)||UNIT WT STOVE+ LG CAN||(UNIT WT STOVE+ LG CAN) OZ|
|JET BOIL TEST 2 NO CUP||5||45||626||22|
|JET BOIL W CUP||5||45||693||24|
|BURNER W CUP||9||25||436||15|
|SNOW PEAK BURNER W CUP||11||21||468||17|
|BURNER W SCREEN||11||21||436||15|
|POCKET ROCKET W CUP||14||16||497||18|
AND THE WINNER IS….
The BURNER only gave me 25 burns VS 28 burn minimum and this is the limiting factor. It gave me only 25 burns, whereas the JB gives a predicted 45 burns (large 220 gram can), because my criteria was 4 2-cup burns per day, which I know in reality, might be a bit high.
The number of BURNS is derived from dividing the grams of fuel used to boil 2 cups of 45F water into the total number of grams of fuel per small and large canister. I conducted the test 3 times per stove and the results were pretty much the same for each test.
My hopeful expectation was that I could use the small burner with only 1 titanium 500ml cup which would double as both a pot AND a cup. However, this is going to be my new weekend combo!
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Great analysis! Just made me reconsider my choice for the JMT this summer. Could you clarify which specific stove models you tested for the Jetboil, Snow Peak and Pocket Rocket? Did you also test whether the pressure level within the canister impacted the fuel consumption. In other words, does the JetBoil use 5g of fuel whether the canister is mostly full or mostly empty? Thanks!
Hi Anne, I tested the Snowpeak Litemax, MSR Pocketrocket (just one model), Jetboil Sol (2011 model), and Titanium Ultralight & Portable Camping Gas Stove by OutSmart.
I tested at sea level. Thinking about altitude and my college chemistry class, as well as experience at both sea level and above 10,000′, logically, the gas expands at higher elevation (less outside pressure), which to me means it’s easier to get the gas (and burn) out of the can, so you could really empty the can.
As far as functionality, I’ve never noticed any difference whatsoever at 35′ or 11,000′.