Collecting Stoves

I started backpacking decades ago; therefore I have gone through several stoves and have seen backpacking stoves evolve. Because I don’t like throwing functional things away, I  quite a collection of stoves.

My first backpacking stove was a Primus Ranger, similar to the Grasshopper that used a removable butane fuel cartridge. I used that stove in some pretty cold conditions but the pot support wasn’t very stable and pots could be easily knocked off. Nor did it come with a windscreen and I didn’t know much about windscreens back then. I don’t know what ever happened to that stove. It is not part of my collection.

During a few warmer weather trips in my early days of backpacking, which were also my minimalist days, I carried and used an old Boy Scout folding aluminum heat tab stove. I used it only to boil water for tea and to rehydrate freeze dried meals, using an old Maxwell House International Coffee tin to hold water for boiling. I once made the mistake of loaning that stove to someone for a canoeing trip. The person’s canoe flipped, and he lost my stove as well as a cook set I had loaned him.

The Optimus 8R with a detachable mini pump was my first liquid fuel stove. Though a bit heavy by today’s standards, it nests inside a 2 liter Sigg pot. I used a 2 liter bottle of Coleman white gas for long trips involving a lot of stove use, a ½ liter bottle for short trips when I did not expect to make much use of the stove, and a 1 liter bottle for those in between trips.

When I started doing more winter backpacking, I upgraded from the Optimus 8R to the Optimus 111B. The 111B has a larger fuel tank than the 8R plus a built in pump. Maybe it is my imagination, but the 111B, while larger and heavier than the 8R, seems to crank out more heat and thus melt snow and boil water faster than the 8R. On group trips of six or more people, I often used both the 8R and the 111B so that we could boil water and cook/fry food at the same time.

Even though I do not use them much anymore, both the 8R and the 111B are workhorses. They served me well for about twenty years in some pretty rough conditions. They are my oldest stoves, but I have kept them them because when their brass is cleaned up and shiny, they are almost works of art. Maybe someday they can be placed in a museum.

When I started doing more summer car camping at the beach rather than all season backpacking, I picked up a Gaz Twister on sale. A fuel canister stove, it was less prone to flare ups and didn’t need to be occasionally pressurized like the 8R and 111B. I also had a couple Gaz lanterns that would attach to the same canisters. I used those lanterns in the late evenings for light. The stove, lanterns, and canisters were a little bulky, but hey, I was car camping.

After my car camping days ended, I started hiking and backpacking again. I still used the Gaz Twister with the smallest fuel canister available. The canister nests inside a small pot, and the stove fits inside the top of the stuff sack with the pot.

The MSR Whisperlite International and PocketRocket

Now that it is almost impossible to find Gaz fuel canisters in the U.S., I recently purchased a MSR Whisperlite International and a MSR PocketRocket. I use the PocketRocket on shorter trips in warmer weather and the Whisperlite for longer trips and in cold weather. When I take the Whisperlite I use an 11oz bottle of MSR SuperFuel for shorter trips and a 20oz bottle for longer trips.  I carry the Whisperlite inside an MSR Alpine Stowaway 1.6 Liter Pot which I use for boiling water. I carry a MSR fuel canister for the PocketRocket in a metal cup I also use for boiling water and eating out of.

I have played around making my own alcohol stoves out of Coke cans and have tried them around the house but have not yet taken one with me to use as my primary stove for heating water. I am still experimenting with finding a good pot support for the alcohol stove, so if you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Although I have never taken it camping, my stove collection includes an antique/vintage/rare British manufactured Stesco Hikers Stove. This white gas burning stove is indeed a work of art and an engineering marvel. It has no moving parts other than the screw on lead lined cap and removable pot supports, which means the flame is not adjustable. A cork placed through the burner coil seals in the gas when not in use. I was fortunate that a colleague gave it to me after he retired and was cleaning out the garage in preparation for a move.

Yes, I have more backpacking stoves than I will ever need, no matter what The Trek, but each one seems to fill a niche. Each one also reminds me of memorable trips, including backpacking trips to Dolly Sods, the White Mountains, the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, and on the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

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Comments 1

  • George Turner : Jan 13th

    I’m right there with you. I used a Brasslite alcohol stove on my first section last spring. It flipped on me a couple of time and didn’t quite get things hot enough a few others. In the fall, I used my Whisperlite. When a SOBO stared at it and declared he’d never seen one, I resolved to replace it. I bought a Jetboil Flash to finish up the AT this spring


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