This is a multi-part series about my trail-tested backpacking stove systems. Start reading with the Introduction, or view all posts in the series.
While preparing for a backpacking trip in the Colorado Rockies this coming weekend (early-November), I had to consider the appropriateness of my ultralight alcohol stove and my powerful remote canister stove systems. I concluded that both would be functional, but that with an extra $50 purchase I could have a perfectly optimized kit.
This “Fast & Light” setup is suitable for solo backpackers and couples who are:
- Willing to carry an extra 5-ish ounces (140 grams) for a stove system with fast boil times, an intuitive operation, and good fuel efficiency;
- Able to reliably find replacement fuel canisters, which are sold primarily at specialty outdoor retail stores; and,
- Not deterred by the relatively high fuel expense, relative to alcohol and liquid fuel (e.g. white gas).
For some backpackers, Fast & Light will be perfect year-round, or at least outside of the winter months. But for me, I take it along only on solo trips in the shoulder seasons when large volumes of hot water will be desired, to help keep me comfortable despite brisk daytime conditions, long nights, sub-freezing overnight lows, and perhaps only low or moderate physical exertion. Imagine making each day a hot breakfast and morning coffee, mid-day coffee or tea, hot dinner, and hot nighttime tea.
For such extensive cooking I could use my alcohol stove. But its slow boil times would frustrate me, and its low fuel efficiency would partially offset its feathery base weight. Alternatively, I could use my remote canister stove. It would be faster and more fuel efficient, but unnecessarily heavy and overkill (because I wouldn’t fully utilize its sturdiness or its cold-weather performance).
This setup has sufficient firepower to melt snow, but I would not make a habit of it. Other stoves are better suited for this application, notably my winter backpacking stove system.
Gear List: Upright Canister Backpacking Stove System for Soloists & Couples
My complete kit is below. It need not be replicated exactly, but it’s a good starting point.
Save weight by using the 3.9-oz fuel canister (3.5 oz empty, 1.6-oz reduction) and a plastic or metal mug (or none at all, up to a 3.3-oz reduction). And drop the cost by purchasing a $2 Starbucks mug, and a stove and pot made of heavier aluminum and/or steel, not titanium.
- Critical: A must-have, no exceptions
- Suggested: A valuable addition, few reasons not to bring
- Optional: Not critical, but worth consideration
- Contingent: Depends on trip objectives, conditions, and/or other selections
- Unnecessary: Unlikely to need and/or can be improvised
Tweaks for a two-person fast & light backpacking stove
To use this setup as a two-person stove, make these changes.
- Use a larger pot, at least a 1.3L if not a 2L. Note my discussion below about heavy pots and stove strength.
- Bring an eating container (my recommendation: a 1L grease pot for $10), plus an extra hot drink container and utensil.
Discussion and alternatives
The stove is the most interesting item in this kit, but let me quickly address some of the other categories.
My pot is the most expensive item in this kit, at $60. The reason: I have used the Evernew Titanium Ultralight 900 ml for over a decade (I’m on my third, I think), and I already own it.
As a durable but less expensive option, consider:
- Olicamp LT 1L ($20, 6.4 oz)
- GSI Outdoors Halulite Boiler 1.1L ($30, 8.6 oz with stuff sack)
A wide-and-short pot like the Evernew will be more fuel-efficient than a deep pot, although it’s not a deal-breaker like it can be for the Super Cat Stove. The ability to “nest” a canister into the pot is not an advantage, IMO, as it simply transfers dirt into the pot. Instead, fill the pot with extra food, and let the canister float inside your pack.
Hot drink container
When I pack this stove, the conditions are often such that I enjoy a hot drink to go. With its screw-top lid, the Nalgene allows this. Also, with its wide-mouth opening, pouring hot liquids into it is relatively easy and safe.
If you don’t need a hot drink to go, then use a $2 reusable plastic cup from Startucks or spend substantially more on the Snow Peak Double Wall 450 or similar.
Ultralight stove models
The SupaLite and Snow Peak LiteMax are both made by Kovea and are nearly identical. The biggest difference is that the SupaLite retails for $50; the Litemax, for $60. A penny saved is a penny earned.
The Supalite should not be paired with large pots. I will primarily use it with the 900 ml Evernew, and on occasion maybe a two-liter MSR. But if I were regularly using a 2L+ pot, I would use a stove like the MSR Pocket Rocket or Snow Peak Gigapower (or Gigapower Auto) that is more sturdily designed, in terms of its materials and architecture. I could easily argue that the Supalite/Litemax is “stupid light” because of this issue.
I was indifferent to this feature, which adds weight and expense, and which is redundant with the Bic lighter that I always carry on backpacking trips (for fire-starting, if for no other reason).
The Soto OD-1R Micro interested me because it is the lightest regulated stove and therefore will perform better in cold temperatures than non-regulated upright canister stoves. But I concluded that this feature was unimportant to me: I plan to use the Supalite to heat up a maximum of 1.5 liters of water at a time in temperatures ranging from 10’s to 50’s. That will take less than 10 minutes.
For cold ambient temperatures to have a significant effect on the stove performance, the stove run time would have to be longer. In very cold temperatures, I can bring the canister up to body temperature by keeping it in my jacket or sleeping bag prior to use.
Combined stove/windscreen/pot systems like the Jetboil Flash PCS and MSR Reactor are extremely convenient, fast, and fuel efficient. However:
- Independent components are more versatile, because they can mixed-and-matched;
- A stove was less expensive than an entire system (because I already own multiple pots); and,
- The superior fuel efficiency of integrated stoves does not offset the higher base weight unless the stove is used extensively, like on long trips and by large groups. Even then, it’s a marginal difference. The true advantage of an integrated stove is its convenience.
Pros & cons versus my other stove systems
Versus alcohol stoves
The Dirtbag and Cadillac are lighter, with most of the weight-savings being due to the stove and the fuel bottle/canister. Both burn alcohol, which is more widely available than gas canisters but has less firepower.
So, if you are willing to carry a few extra ounces in exchange for faster boiling times, and if you can reliably purchase replacement canisters, then opt for Fast & Light. If you prioritize weight above speed, and/or if replacement canisters will be difficult to find, then go with alcohol.
Versus a remote canister stove
Hot & Heavy is more suitable for larger pots (e.g. one- or two-gallon sized): its design is more stable and its pot supports are stronger. In contrast, upright stoves are scarily top-heavy if paired with large pots, and ultralight upright stoves like the Kovea Supalite may not have the long-term strength to support the weight. Finally, Hot & Heavy shares the same core components as my winter backpacking stove.
So, stick with a remote canister stove if you want:
- A single stove that can be used for 3-season group backpacking and for winter backpacking as a soloist or with 2-3 other people; and/or,
- To use one- or two-gallon pots, which are too heavy and tip-prone for upright canister stoves.
Questions or feedback? Please leave a comment.
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Tags: Backpacking Stove System Gear Lists
Looks like a great system and very similar to one that I use. All weights are in ounces, fuel bottle not included as the size varies depending on the trip.
Cook Pot Toaks Ti 750ml 3.46
Stove BRS 3000T 0.95
Windscreen DIY 0.49
Insulated mug Twist Lock 2 cup w/cozy 2
Spoon Toaks TI long 0.7
Lighter Mini Bic & Matches 0.5
Stuff Sack Sea2Summit Ultra Sil 2.5L 0.4
Rag Microfiber cloth 0.25
What do you use for a windscreen?
A small piece of aluminum that hangs off the bottom of the pot that covers about 75% of the circumference. It’s a design that I’m still not 100% sure on yet, so far it seems to help as that BRS is a bit susceptible to wind. The windscreen hangs down to just below the burner head.
I don’t seem to have as much of a wind issue with my Litemax though, which was the stove I was using prior to the BRS. The fiddle factor to save 1/2 an ounce is still up in the air as far as if it’s worth it. But at the cost of the BRS I just had to have one to try out.
Andrew, I use a disposable oven liner, like this: https://www.amazon.com/Foil-Oven-Liner-18-5-15-5/dp/B00FP07TI6/ref=sr_1_4?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1477954228&sr=1-4&keywords=aluminum+oven+liners
I cut it and roll it with a rolling pin to flatten it. Then I fold the edges and roll them so it’s not sharp. It measures about 9″x14″. I have it folded in thirds and it fits inside my freezer bag cozy. And it weighs 23 grams. It fits around my stove and pot and leaves one side open, so the canister doesn’t overheat. And I find that it helps boil faster because it directs the heat up the side of the pot.
I use my BRS without a windscreen and manage to keep it out of the wind and running efficiently by choosing a protected place to cook. A protected spot behind a rock or log is nearly ubiquitous in backcountry settings, and pretty much required for any type of stove short of a Coleman two-burner.
Upright canister stoves are very susceptible to wind. Without a windscreen, how do you shield the stove in windy conditions?
In the photos you have the pot handles removed. I do the same in warm conditions but given that you’re pouring large amounts of boiling water into a nalgene, is that a bit “stupid light”?
1. I take great pains to avoid windy campsites. In the event that it cannot be avoided, or I care not to avoid it, I can bring the stove inside my shelter (which, importantly, I would keep well ventilated) or I can shield it with my backpack or rocks.
2. Above the water line, the titanium cools quickly once the stove is extinguished, and I can grasp it without burning my fingers. A 900 ml pot does not weigh much when three-fourths full, 1.5 pounds or so. If someone is worried about this, then bring a pot lifter or leave the pot handles on. (My handles are long gone.)
For 1/4 the price at the cost of two more ounces this has been a great stove for me:
I also went for this pot set which again is cheaper but heavier and has more than some would want to carry along. I personally like having the little “tea pot” along with a traditional pot so I can have extra water while I’m eating my meal.
Going uber light has it’s place but I think most people are willing to carry extra ounces for a bit of ease and comfort.
In addition to being 1/4 the price, that remote canister stove gives you much more stability than an upright. That’s what I love about the Windpro — I never worry about putting a huge pot atop it. The Windpro has the option of a liquid feed, however, which makes it a viable winter stove. This Dpower stove would not be.
Hilariously, the top link now sends you to anti-snore strips.
Looking at some of Andrew’s latest posts about stoves and came back to this one today and I laughed at the same thing. Here is an updated link:
I’d say just search for Dpower stove for future reference.
Great perspective Andrew.
On a lark this past summer I tried a miniature version of the upright canister stove, $13 shipped direct from China. https://backpackinglight.com/brs-3000t-review-caffin/
It works fine with my Evernew pot for morning hot water chores. It is stupid small, light, and seems pretty efficient. After weeks of use I have no complaints.
This is very similar to what I took for my last few trips with my wife. I have the evernew pot and Soto OD1R. I haven’t needed a hot water container. Also, the stove and a small fuel canister (upside down) stow nicely inside the pot and last 5+ days for us. It’s compact, fast to boil, flexible – individually swapable components , and much lighter than the jetboil and msr options.
On my last two shoulder season trips (Beartooths with lows of 25F, Banff with lows of 15F), I brought both the “Cadillac” and a system similar to the one you describe here to compare performance. The only significant difference is that I used a remote canister stove weighing .75 oz more than the Supalite.
In the Beartooths we had wind gusts up to 100mph and despite being in a sheltered campsite and using my pack and rocks, borrowing the windscreen from the Cadillac made a big difference. I felt that the extra 1.4 oz was worth it, even had I not brought the alcohol stove. I felt it was a tossup between the two systems otherwise.
In Banff, the alcohol stove was frustratingly slow. Somewhere between 25F and 15F, the canister solution won out.
Hi Andrew. Do you ever notice gas leaking out of the canister when attaching your stove? I’ve had this issue with my SnowPeak Litemax stove recently. Any help and advice is appreciated. Happy Halloween! Thanks.
That is normal. The male piece on the stove penetrates the canister before the threads are air-tight. It’s like filling up a bicycle tire with Schrader valves.
At less than an ounce and only about $14, the BRS 3000t has caused me to give up on alcohol stoves completely. It’s a game changer for me on solo trips. I still marvel at how effective and light the tiny BRS is when cooking for one person. Pot support isn’t great for larger pots, but I’ve had no problem with small pots.
For larger pots or on Boy Scout outings, I am very impressed with the DPower remote canister. In my opinion, it is perfect for scouts cooking in patrols. It weighs about the same as a Gigapower but is much more stable. The price is very cheap and it has held up extremely well given the abuse that scouts can put on gear. It has excellent simmer control which allows for more elaborate meals than just “boiling water”. Bang for the buck, its hard to beat.
Good recommendations, thanks!
After switching from a Snow Peak Gigapower to a Caldera Cone in 2008, I have never been able to figure out a situation where an integrated stove (like a jetboil) made sense even on an 11 day trip in 2015, the Caldera Cone was still lighter. My dad is going with me back to Alaska for 11 or 12 days next summer and if we boil water for oatmeal in the morning and dinner at night, one of the lightest jetboils does come out lighter, but not by a ton. It doesn’t work out with a heavier jetboil or MSR Reactor/Windboiler (which seam like better stoves otherwise).
For trips a week or less, I never could make the numbers work, unless you boil tons of water, which I don’t.
You are not looking at it from the right perspective. It’s not about weight-savings. It’s about convenience. Canister stoves are generally very user-friendly, and integrate stoves take it to the next level with an even easier assembly (screw two pieces together, that’s it) and with extremely fast boil times.
To nest all my solo cook kit together with the 900 mL Evernew pot, I purchased a Pioneer Woman 13 fl. oz. round container as a cup. It weighs 1.5 oz. without the lid. Approx. $3 from W.Mart. It comes in green and blue colors. Small Snow peak Giga power 110g canister, turning upside down, will drop into this cup nicely. To offset the small canister capacity, I built a homemade cozy to cover the pot’s exterior. Reflectix cozy weights 0.8 oz. I sewed my cozy, rather using sticky tape to save a few tenth of an ounce. I found using sticky tape has a tendency to peel in the field.
Pioneer Woman cup with no lid, Snow Peak Giga power 110g canister, Supalite stove, BIC lighter and shorten spoon can all fit into the 900 mL Evernew pot to minimize volume. Then, I enclose my pot with a homemade cozy.
I just want to share this tip with the forum.
I’d love to use the Supalite or even a Gigapower. However, wind is almost always a problem for me in the Sierras. Since I usually backpackin groups of 2-3, need wind protection, and need stability, a remote canister (MSR Windpro II) works best for me.
What is your opinion of the heat-echanger equiped pots (http://www.campsaver.com/olicamp-xts-pot-cookware-pots)? Fot a bit of extra weight, you can extend your fuel and shorten your heat times considerably. I think break-even for pot weight to fuel weight savings is four man-days during summer temps. Probably shorter with colder air temps.
I know of such pots but I have not used one. As you said, it’s a tradeoff between base weight and fuel efficiency. Not sure where the break-even point is. But sometimes that does not matter — if the stove becomes more usable in, say, windy conditions, you might overlook easily the difference of an ounce.
I like the Nalgene flask over the widemouth because it fits better in pockets. Ditch the sleeve and shot cap and add a fun foam cozy and you’re good to go. Pots with a spout pour okay as is. For cold hands or non-spouted, a Coglan’s funnel is helpful. In action: http://i.imgur.com/vOFyQzx.jpg?1
I am a big fan of your Cadillac set up! My current UL stove set up is just a Snowpeak 700ml cup/pot with the Snowpeak litemax canister stove and a piece of foil as a windscreen. This set up is basically only good for heating water for freeze-dried meals, not so much for actual cooking. I have been inspired by your food and stove posts and I am seriously considering the Cadillac as my next stove system.
My question – The cost of the Cadillac is cost prohibitive to me. As much as I would like the Caldera Ti-Tri, the aluminum Caldera Cone seems more financially viable. Can you speak to the durability of the Caldera Cone? Will it last a couple years? Is there a chance it could collapse under the weight of the pot? I am worried that it will be flimsy or dent very easily. I typically go on 2 or 3 weekend type backpacks a year, with a longer 1 to 3 week trip every other year. Is this a situation where the extra $45 is really really worth it?
Buying an $80 metal cone is a hard sell to my (pregnant) wife….
I think you’d be okay with the aluminum version. It is not as durable, and it is not as packable as the Ti version. But if you take care of it, it will take care of you. For the ultimate answer, I would simply call Trail Designs — one of the owners will probably answer the phone. Please tell them I sent you along.
I have had the same Aluminum Caldera Cone since 2008 and it has been used extensively. It looks pretty rough but is still functional. My 12-10 stove is the original too and it looks worse and the epoxy between the inner and outer can has come loose (so it rattles a bit) but I have noticed no loss in efficiency or functionality. The newer cones have a titanium re-inforcement on the dove-tail but I have had no problems with mine without.
I can’t imagine it collapsing with a full pot, though my most used one is for a 550ml pot, though I do have one for a 900ml pot
Unless you really want to burn wood – buy the aluminum one – for most users the Ti version is a waste.
Andrew, have you considered using the HDPE 16oz Nalgene? Pros seem to be that it’s slightly lighter, has better impact resistance, but seems to hold smells more than the regular plastic, which isn’t an issue if it’s a dedicated coffee mug/hot water bottle.
I have some of those bottles. You could definitely swap one in this case, and save a little bit of weight and a few dollars.
Putting them in the dishwasher solves the smell issue. Several times a year I put my peanut sauce recipe in these bottles, and they’re as good as new after one cycle in the dishwasher.
I also noticed what appears to be an reusable coffee filter in the picture up top. Can you speak to how this has worked for you, and how it works in conjunction with the 16oz Nalgene?
I believe that a wide-mouth is just wide enough for that coffee filter, and if you pour slowly you’ll be okay.
But the filter is better used with a wide mug, or a second pot. That photo was taken a few years ago, but if I recall correctly I think I would heat up the water and grounds in my pot, then filter out the grounds over my buddy’s pot. We’d heat up the coffee again if necessary, then we’d decant the coffee into our respective mugs/bottles.
For the 2 person setup, do you cook both meals at once in the Evernew and than portion out half into the grease pot? Also, any issues with the grease pot being too hot to eat from?
Seems like a great system for my wife and I!
Yes, it’s better for at least one person to have a dedicated eating container. I’d recommend something inexpensive and durable, maybe collapsible.
With hot food inside, the Grease Pot is no hotter than the original pot. But I normally use the pot lid or a stuff sack to buffer my hand from the bottom.
Two more questions…does that grease pot you recommend nest inside the 1.3 L Evernew. Also, do you find having a lid for the eating container to be crucial?
The grease pot looks like it would work, but based on the height of the Evernew, not sure it would nest which would be a bummer.
Not sure if it nests inside. It’d be close.
No, you don’t need a lid for the eating container.
Thanks Andrew, I got a few different options (will return all but one) and will report back for other readers on what I find fits best!
We use the caldera tri-ti with a 1300ml pot for two, 99% of the time we used the ordinary alcohol stove supplied (NOT the Starlyte). What we found with the amount of alcohol required to boil that amount of water was that the stove had to be overfilled above the ideal amount and didn’t bloom quite right. We switched to the Toaks titanium stove with the same amount of fuel and because it was closer to the optimal amount of alcohol it bloomed properly and reliably every time. It boiled the water about 20% faster – the difference was astonishing.
Andrew: Have you tried using the 8-oz lg. fuel canister on longer trips? I purchased the 900ml Evernew pot recently and it doesn’t appear that the large can will store in it. I don’t have the large canister atm to test it.
I realize this is an older article, but another justification for the “fast & light” setup vs alcohol stoves is compliance with land management fire restrictions.
My interpretation (and others) of e.g. https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd927950.pdf is that alcohol stoves are not allowed.
Funny you mention this. Just this week I’ve been having conversations with the wildfire prevention specialist and a wilderness ranger for a national forest in California. I contacted them because I was trying to understand the rationale for their list of permitted stoves, and also to advocate for inclusion of alcohol stoves.
The takeaway from that conversation is that you USFS does not really understand the nuances of the stoves on the market. For example, it was not known that some types of alcohol stoves have an absorbent fiber to prevent spillage and can be snuffed out with a cap. In these respects, these types of alcohol stoves are exactly like a petroleum jelly or sternocan. So the advertised policy of permitting petroleum jelly stoves but not specifically permitting alcohol stoves is inconsistent.
I plan to continue pushing this matter. Maybe we will see USFS get on board with alcohol stoves, like how Yosemite and Sequoia Kings are.