Burn up

I played with three meths stoves this evening and ran up a comparison of boil times and fuel usage. The stoves in question were the Pack A Feather XL, the White Box Stove and the Evernew Ti Burner combined with the DX stand. Here are the numbers:

The numbers correspond to 500ml water brought to a rolling boil under perfect, wind still conditions at an ambient temperature of 22°C (in other words, in my kitchen). The pot used an Alpkit MyTiPot. A glance at the table reveals some measurable differences in fuel usage and boil time. Whether these differences are significant depends, I would guess, at least to some degree on perspective. Personally, within limits, I don't consider boil times to be important. In fact if the ninety seconds difference shown above is enough to spoil your evening then you should probably consider getting another hobby. For me it just amounts to ninety seconds more of watching the dancing blue flame work its magic whilst I sit in anticipation of a hot food and a brew. Boil times would have to be double those figures before I started getting twitchy. On the other hand I do think the fuel consumption figures reveal an important difference. Thirty percent more fuel used can potentially, depending on trip duration and stove usage, have a noticeable effect on pack weight.

I should stress that, although I've kept everything as constant as possible, the relative inaccuracy of my kitchen scales and the subjectivity associated with deciding when a rolling boil has been reached mean that data can only be considered approximate. In reality I'd have to do many more repeats before I was confident in the numbers and even then only consider them valid in direct comparison. In the field fuel consumption will almost certainly be higher. Nevertheless the exercise has given me a first impression of the new Ti burner and a rough basis for comparison with stoves I'm more familiar with. Here are my first thoughts.

White Box Stove

This remains my all time favourite little spirit burner. I like its simplicity, I like the fact that its made from another mans rubbish and I´m blown away by its performance. Its all up weight with wind break and heat shield is 63g but it punches harder than its weight. Its not the most stable of stoves but with care it will cope with a largish pan such as the MyTiPot. It's wide neck makes it easy to light: drop in a spark and away it goes, and although you need to let in bloom before dropping a pan on top it's just a matter of 40 seconds to a minute extra. Its main draw back to my mind is that, whilst pack size and weight lend it to solo use, being a side burner it throws out such a wide flame that it's better suited to a larger pot than a mug. Other negatives are that I would not be inclined to use it in a shelter and when it's running there's no putting it out. On balance though, the pluses win the day here, and this is the stove I'll always reach for first.

PackaFeather XL

This little stove, a welcome windfall, makes me smile. It's typifies everything I love about US cottage industry products. One glance and you can see it's been put together from bits of old junk and hardware store widgets. That's not to say that it's not well crafted. It is. WHR himself would be very proud. It makes me smile even more when I light it though. It works improbably well and shows just how simple a meths stove can be and still get away with it: an open topped fuel cup placed inside an inverted cup with a hole in the top is apparently all you really need. That point hasn't held the PackaFeather people back though. They've done their best to make it extra complicated. It's the only meths stove I know that is adjustable. Twiddle the knurled knobbly thing on the end of the sticky out cable and the flame, after a moments contemplation, waxes an wanes in accordance. A meths stove with moving parts! Who'd have thought it? In use it's a far more civilised affair than the white box. It throws up a single narrow flame and burns sedately without fuss. The handful of times I've used it I've been taken by surprise by just how effective it is. I light it up, again simply achieved by dropping a spark into the meths pan, and then invariable wonder if this thing will ever bring water to a boil. The burn time is the longest of the bunch but I'm willing to bet that it's about as fuel efficient as a meths stove can get. It's wide and stable too and I would say it's the only meths burner in my possession, other than a fully enclosed Trangia, that I'd use in a shelter. Other plus points? Well it's just 37g (without wind shield) and you can both simmer and douse the flame and that's got to help with fuel consumption. It looks a little quirky but it functions just fine. It's my second favourite meths burner right now. Did I already say it makes me smile?

Evernew Ti Meths Burner and DX Stand

This is my newest toy. Out of the box it looks like the Rolls Royce of meths stoves. Beautifully finished, light gauge, titanium with a fashionable matt finish. You're hard earned cash gets you four parts: a base ring in which burner, the second bit, sits, a pot stand that slides snugly over the top of the base and a power plate/fire grate. Titanium is hard stuff to work and fabricate with but it all looks very convincing and, although it looks like a lot of metal the all-up weight, burner and all, is just 93g by my scales. I have to say though, that in use, I'm less convinced. Throw in a spark and it gets going straight away but, with this stove, going involves spewing flame out of every one of the beautifully punched little perforations in the pot stand. I was surprised by how wide a flame this thing throws, the burner is so trangia-like I'd expected a similar burn but it seems to be in a constant state of flare. I'm used to meths burners with more finesse. You can't argue with its effectiveness though, it heats the pan, boils the contents in double quick time and incinerates everything else in its path to boot. The stand glows cherry red is use. Watch your fingers! Just for fun I tried it with the power plate too. The effect was impressive. The stand glowed even brighter and the boil time went down some more. Lighting is simple without the power plate, again drop a spark from the top and you're away, but put the power plate in place and it's a different story. Evernew recommend lighting the stove through a side port in the pot stand but it's hard to imagine how you would do this without a long match or a splint. You'd certainly have to be pretty nifty with a flint and steel to lob a spark with just the right trajectory into the meths pan.

Of course the strength of this stove is that you can also burn wood in it. That's something I'm yet to try. I'm also intrigued to see how the burner works outside of the stand. In principal it it can be used like a white box with a pot placed straight on top of it. At 35g, especially if it combines well with a narrow pot or mug, it'll make a useful addition to my arsenal. There'll be another chapter to this story yet.


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