How to Use a Backpacking Stove: A Comprehensive Guide

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How to Use a Backpacking Stove A Comprehensive Guide
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Whether it’s to heat food or boil water, a backpacking stove is a handy tool when you’re outdoors. And whether you’ve already bought yours and have no idea how to use it or you’re deciding on which type to buy, this article will show you how to use a backpacking stove so you can get started or make an informed decision of what kind to get.

What are the Different Types of Backpacking Stoves?

Before we discuss how to use a backpacking stove, it’s only logical to get acquainted first with the different forms it comes.

  • Standard canister stove. This compact and lightweight cooking tool is very easy to use. Simply screwed onto the top of a self-sealing fuel canister that holds isobutene and propane gas in liquid form. When its knob is turned on, the gas vapors from the fuel canister go up and burn where they meet fire.

When the stove is detached from the fuel canister, the latter seals itself to protect from spills and leaks. Some canisters have a built-in pressure regulator for consistent heat.

There are two varieties or non-standard canister stoves. These are:

  • Integrated canister system. Just like the standard canister stove, this type of stove is screwed onto a fuel canister. The main difference is that this one comes with a thermos-like pot that you also lock into the stove. It’s primarily designed for fast water boiling.
  • Remote canister stove. This stove is a cross between a liquid fuel stove and a canister stove. Just like the liquid fuel stove, it’s set directly on the ground and is connected to the fuel bottle through a hose or fuel line. What makes it a canister stove is mainly the type of fuel used to run it.

In some models, the fuel canister can be used in an inverted position. And unlike the standard canister stove and integrated canister system, this one can safely use a windscreen around the stove.

  • Liquid fuel stove. It’s less compact and heavier than the canister stove, as well as more versatile and powerful. It performs well in cold weather and high elevations. And since they are low-lying, they are more stable.

It runs on white gas in a refillable fuel bottle. Besides white gas, unleaded auto gasoline, jet fuel, or diesel can also be used. Unleaded auto gas though from gas station pumps are not advisable since their additives can damage the stove.

A canister stove requires priming and periodic maintenance.

  • Alternative fuel stove. Stoves in this category are lightweight, making them perfect for long distance backpacking trips. Under this type are:
  • Wood-burning stove. Wood pellets or twigs and leaves you’d find in your trail—on a good weather—serve as fuel.
  • Denatured alcohol stove. As the name implies, this low-maintenance and cheap stove runs on alcohol. While alcohol does not burn as hot as a canister fuel or white gas does, it’s not as efficient as they are. A windscreen might be necessary as well when working with it.
  • Solid-fuel tablet stove. This light and compact, box-type stove uses Hexamine fuel tablets. It typically has a cover that opens from either side at a perpendicular angle, cleverly transforming into a pot stand and windscreen. The base is where you’d place the fuel tablet. While it’s easy to use, it’s not the fastest or the cleanest.

How to Use a Backpacking Stove According to Its Type

  • Standard canister stove: Simply attach it to a fuel canister, turn on the knob, and light a match by the burner. Because its arms are not long enough, you have to use small to medium-size pots. Make sure not to tip-over the canister. If that happens, the liquid fuel might reach the lit burner and cause a major flare-up.

You cannot use a windscreen around an on-canister stove as this may cause fuel explosion. When done, just turn the valve off and unscrew the stove from the self-sealing fuel canister. When your fuel canister has emptied, dispose of the canister responsibly.

  • Liquid fuel stove: Connect the stove, pump, and fuel bottle. When the connection is secure, and there are no leaks, position the bottle in a lying position and station it as far as possible from the stove. Make sure the pump control valve is off.

Then, start with the priming process. Unlike the canister stove, the liquid fuel stove requires priming, which turns liquid fuel into vapor. First, pressurize the bottle with 20 strokes or until you feel a firm resistance from the plunger. Make sure there’s no spilled fuel on the bottle, pump, hose, or burner.

Next, turn on the pump control valve to eject fuel around half a spoonful into the priming cup. Then, close the valve and light the fuel either from the priming cup or the burner head, depending on the priming system of your stove.

After which, allow fuel to burn until the flame reduces its size. Before the flames die, open the valve half a turn and wait for a steady blue flame to form. To increase fuel and heat, slowly adjust the half-opened valve. Then, you can start cooking. If the flame dies during the priming stage, wait for around five minutes to start again.

When done, turn off the pump control valve and wait for the stove to cool down. Then, disassemble. Never remove the fuel hose while the burner is ablaze.

  • Wood burning stove: Assemble the ventilation base and burning chamber. Put in your twigs in the chamber. Set the pan stand on top of the chamber. Then, add your tinder on top of the twigs and light it. When your twigs have caught fire and are well lit, you can start cooking.

You can also do the reverse by piling your fuel. You can start with lighting your tinder in the chamber, then slowly add the kindling, then the twigs.

  • Denatured alcohol stove: Simply pour the alcohol into the chamber. Light it with a match and wait for the flame to come out from the center and spread to the smaller holes on the sides. To turn it off, you either wait for it to burn itself out, or you cover it up to stifle the fire.
  • Solid fuel tablet stove: Raise the lid of the stove from each side. You can also tilt the sides in a little, instead of being straight up, to accommodate the base of your pot. Put one solid fuel tablet on the base of the stove and light it with a match. You can start cooking as soon as the tablet is covered by fire. To turn it off, you can stifle the fire or let the fuel burn out.

These are the different ways on how to use a backpacking stove. But the specific instructions that come with your choice of backpacking stove should override this guide, especially for liquid fuel stoves since there are many variations of these types.

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