/ GROUP TEST: Gas Stove Systems

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Stoves montage In this group test we look at four all-in-one tower-style canister stove systems, the Alpkit Brukit; Jetboil Flash; Primus Lite+ and MSR Reactor. Which wins the battle of the boilers?

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HeMa 17 Jul 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Nice rewiew, will have to read it with proper thought. 

However, hanging kit is not niche at all. Infact it’s rather handy If you are camping with small kids. They don’t burn them selves nor will the stove topple over (handy even without kids).

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TobyA 17 Jul 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Great review and great photos, although was the "boiling the crap out of some water" photo caption intentional? I think from a physics point of view, filtering is the answer for getting crap out of water! Boiling it just kills the bugs but will leave the fibrous parts of the crap to give that little je ne sais quoi to your evening coffee!

It sounds like Primus have improved their design considerably over their early solo tower stove I reviewed almost a decade ago now! I couldn't separate the pot from the stove on that one without burning my fingers, which I think counts as a design fail.

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Frank R. 17 Jul 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Not entirely understand why the Windburner was not included in the comparison - it's a bit less pricey and more comparable to the other tested stoves (integrated pot cozy, less of a water-boiling only machine, slightly more efficient), while having the same "impervious to gale force winds" burner like the Reactor

With all the pots that have a recommended max capacity (1l for the 1.7l Reactor, 0.5l for the 1l Reactor etc.), it's still possible to boil nearly full, but especially with the Reactor and it's super fast boil times, you have to be very very careful to watch the stove and turn it off (and get the pot off, because the radiant burner still puts out enough heat to keep the water slightly boiling even after shutoff) immediately once it reaches rolling boil. Obviously not recommended by the manufacturer, since it could boil over pretty easily, and if it did, the hot water over the burner might possibly trigger the thermal shutdown mechanism (and perhaps even burst your canister, which would not be pleasant at all).

Otherwise, the Reactor and Windburner really win it in my opinion anywhere in the real conditions if there is any wind at all. Just spark it with a fire steel and it boils, no matter the weather

Another nice feature of the MSR burners is the regulator and associated wider burner jet, which seems to be made for low pressure and then regulated back - from my informal usage I get a better performance out of it even with low pressure canisters (nearly empty or cold) than e.g. the chinese jetboil knockoff (the Alpkit).

If they ever made a version of the radiant burner with a pre-heat tube for use with inverted canisters in the cold, it would be one heck of a machine!

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Basemetal 17 Jul 2019

I'm shocked by the latest Jetboil price! My PCS was £46 in 2008 (and the piezo is still going strong, as well as being replaceable).

Bought for winter use the killer application for the JB for me has always been how safe and comfortable it is to use hand-held, either in a tent or under a bothy bag, and the keys to this are the bayonet connection between stove and pot, pot insulation and lid, enclosed burner, and piezo ignition. The short boil times mean youre not holding it for long either. There isn't another stove system I'd use like this, though I admit I do have a few stoves for other situations.

Post edited at 18:42
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angry pirate 17 Jul 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

One big advantage I've found with the Brukit as opposed to the smaller Jetboil stoves is that the cup fits a 250 sized canister which makes it great for longer trips. I use mine on D of E expeds too and being able to use the same gas as the trangias saves a lot of bother.

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Frank R. 17 Jul 2019
In reply to angry pirate:

Does it really? I have the original chinese knockoff (all of these are made by Fire Maple, named FMS-X1, mine was imported by another brand than Alpkit though), and the 250g canisters don't fit, the lid would have to be a cm higher. Perhaps it is different with the Alpkit one, though, the chinese factory could have made a slightly customised batch for each importer...

Post edited at 23:48
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In reply to Frank R.:

> If they ever made a version of the radiant burner with a pre-heat tube for use with inverted canisters in the cold, it would be one heck of a machine!

This!!!

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galpinos 18 Jul 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Did MSR explain why they submitted the Reactor for this test not the Windburner or was it your (UKC's) choice?

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In reply to galpinos:

We asked for the fastest/most powerful model from each brand

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TobyA 18 Jul 2019
In reply to galpinos:

From a brief shufty at the MSR website, what's actually the difference between the Windburner and the Reactor systems? It says the Windburners use the same technology as the Reactors - so I'm missing what the the USPs of the different systems are.

I remember several years ago email warnings going around I think that started with Lyndsay Griffin and an Alpine Club trip, about them getting carbon monoxide poisoning using a Reactor at high-ish altitude. Does anyone know if any conclusions were drawn as to this being something specific about the Reactor technology or whether it was just the same CO danger that all stoves can have?

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charlie.wilkinson 18 Jul 2019
In reply to TobyA:

The Windburner is more similar to the other stoves in the review. It has a pot cosy with handle, plastic cup, lid with strainer holes (also fits the cup) and comes with a canister stand. 

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galpinos 18 Jul 2019
In reply to TobyA:

> From a brief shufty at the MSR website, what's actually the difference between the Windburner and the Reactor systems? It says the Windburners use the same technology as the Reactors - so I'm missing what the the USPs of the different systems are.

You are right, it's so unclear MSR had to write an article!

https://www.msrgear.com/blog/windboiler-vs-reactor-whats-difference/

The windburner seems more equivalent to the other stoves in the test and is a bit cheaper than the reactor.

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galpinos 18 Jul 2019
In reply to Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com:

Cheers Dan. Seems a shame that MSR didn't send the Windburner as it is the equivalent model to the others in the test.

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Frank R. 18 Jul 2019
In reply to TobyA:

At least few papers on porous medium combustion / porous radiant burners mention that CO and NOx levels are smallest in the optimal burning regime (when combustion happens inside the mesh of the porous medium), and are actually smaller than conventional burners, as the PRBs can run more lean. At least from that I would say it's not the technology per se. Although all obviously depends on the fuel-air ratio and other things. On the other hand, any pot with heat exchanger fins will probably have more emissions than a conventional setup. But again, that's just theoretical. Some mentions of higher CO levels with the Reactor were for a prototype model with worst case combustion test, mentioned here as a cause for production delay after testing back in 2007:

https://outdoorindustry.org/press-release/cascade-designs-delays-its-msr-reactor-stove-system-release/

There are surprisingly few studies on the CO emissions inside tents though. From a theoretical point of view, PRBs could have a more complete combustion in the optimal regime (no visible flame). But any stove inside a tightly closed space might pose a danger. The obvious advantage of a double walled pot system is that you could run it outside the tent even in suboptimal weather...

As for the difference between the two, Reactor is slightly more powerful and more suitable for rapid heating of water or melting snow (no cooking, the output always seems like either 0 or 11...). And its pot just rests (although somewhat securely) on the raised burner lid, unlike most Windburner pots that bayonet onto the burner unit like Jetboils.

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julsie74 18 Jul 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

I don't know where the prices are from but a Jetboil flash doesn't cost 200 quid !

https://www.outside.co.uk/brands/e-k/jetboil/jetboil-flash-cooking-system.html

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snoop6060 18 Jul 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Can you post a single link that is selling a jetboil flash for 200 quid? I mean mine was about £60 price matched at go outdoors. It looks exactly the same. But i guess this new one is special.

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snoop6060 18 Jul 2019
In reply to julsie74:

If its £120 at outside its probably £80 everywhere else

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OldManOfTheHills 18 Jul 2019
In reply to TobyA:

A member of our club was rendered unconscious and very nearly died due to using a jet boil in a tent in hostile conditions.  I believe the issue is that the flame enclosures of such technology can have restricted air/oxygen unlike open structures and thus burning can generate carbon monoxide not carbon dioxide; this effect might well be worse at higher altitudes when oxygen is less. I don't think its specific to any make.  These items can only be safely used outdoors or in well ventilated spaces

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Hardonicus 18 Jul 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Technical question - Do faster boiling times equate to more efficiency and less gas usage as inferred by the article? Could they actually just indicate higher flow rates, bigger burner etc.?

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Basemetal 18 Jul 2019
In reply to Hardonicus:

They are usually lowish power stoves, eg the Jetboil is 1400W compared to, say, an Optimus Crux at 3000W. My experience is they sip gas and try to maximise use of the heat produced.  So efficiency, rather than brute power.

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Hardonicus 18 Jul 2019
In reply to Basemetal:

I was thinking more about the comparison between the stoves in the article. It makes sense, as you say, that a lower wattage coupled with insulated pot/heat exchanger is going to be more efficient in terms of loss to the environment.

However boiling times are always touted as the key parameter. More interesting in the real world would be the amount of water boiled per gram of gas. The latter is not necessarily indicated by the former.

Post edited at 16:25
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MartinR 18 Jul 2019
In reply to julsie74:

> I don't know where the prices are from but a Jetboil flash doesn't cost 200 quid !

I was a bit surprised at the price too.  It's £108 at GoOutdoors, and you can get another 15% off that with MTA/DofE/Scouts etc discounts.

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angry pirate 18 Jul 2019
In reply to Frank R.:

It could be an issue with the make of canister. I think I experienced a similar problem when I bought mine and the reply from Alpkit was something along the lines of the seam at the base of the canister being thicker in some brands compared to others. I switched to the Primus red canisters on their recommendation and they fit perfectly. 

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Frank R. 18 Jul 2019
In reply to angry pirate:

Could be, although I thought most of today's canisters are made by one single South Korean company anyway... I think Fire Maple even redesigned the lid to make it higher in their newer version of the stove (hard plastic lid, not rubber one like the old). On my old one, I could make it fit with some fiddling around, but then it sometimes stuck inside the burner bayonet nibs

Post edited at 19:44
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Frank R. 18 Jul 2019
In reply to Hardonicus:

Roughly, just from some home testing and (admittedly not the best) memory, I think it was around 8-10g per liter of water with most integrated stoves, Reactor and Fire Maple both (I will try to find out my notes later). Which could change a lot depending on the wind and conditions (where even some integrated ones could fail to reach boil in high wind, unlike the Reactor or Windburner). Since I am not much keen on lugging a kitchen scale in my backpack, this is just from memory and informal testing indoors At least most manufacturers even include the grams per liter figure, and some tests can be found online IIRC. With the dead weight of the canisters over alternate fuels and added heatsink weight on the pot, the gram savings of fuel usually cancel out even with a more efficient stove over a worse one in mild conditions, although it can be much more convenient (and a faster morning coffee is a win win any time!)

Post edited at 20:04
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Frank R. 18 Jul 2019
In reply to OldManOfTheHills:

Hope he's recovered, CO can be quite insidious. I guess any sort of cooling of the flame front (like from the heat sink) can induce less complete combustion and more CO emissions, thus the stern warnings on all of them. But any stove would be dangerous in an enclosed space, and even reduced mental capacity from even slight CO poisoning could be hazardous on the mountains in other ways. Not that we never ever cook in our tents...

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Basemetal 18 Jul 2019
In reply to Hardonicus: 

> However boiling times are always touted as the key parameter. More interesting in the real world would be the amount of water boiled per gram of gas.

True, but so many parameters. Not least the gas mix. Burning butane provides more energy per gram than propane (all other things being equal and it being warm enough for butane); the differential rate of usage of the constituent gases in a  mixed canister  means typically 99% of any initial propane in a mix is used up by 50% canister capacity; altitude (helps!) -even Butane boils at -12C at 4000m; ambient temp to start with; and even rate of heating has an effect on fuel efficiency (tho which way round can depend on stove design).

On rate of heating, I've noticed with a Jetboil that full bore seems the most efficient. I was curious about this and tried using a heat exchanger pot (alpkit Brukit pot) on a meths burner and found it took longer than a near identical plain pot to boil water. My suspicion is that there's a lot of metal that can act as a radiator as easily as it can act as a heat exchanger and in some conditions can cost you  energy. Probably not so well suited to low input (like simmer, ...or meths).

Over ten years I've come to reckon on about 14 brews from a 100g cartridge. I weigh the carts after use (and write on the cart with a sharpie so I know which are good for an overnight) and have had some pints of bovril that only cost about 4 grams of fuel.

My biggest tip for gas saving is to choose drinks that don't need to boil...and don't heat them enough to have to wait for them to cool down again to drink!   

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In reply to snoop6060:

That's the price they gave us. I'll ask again

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Siward 19 Jul 2019
In reply to Basemetal:

What, no tea!

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In reply to snoop6060:

It was worth you raising the price. Turns out we'd been given the wrong figure: it's £119.99 not £199.99... big difference! 

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Basemetal 19 Jul 2019
In reply to Siward:

There's always "instant tea" if you're really trying to make a 100g canister work for two on a multi day route... :X

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brynski 21 Jul 2019
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Interesting review. I had to comment, as my experiences over the last 10 years with a reactor and 1.7l pot differ only in one key respect. I have always found it really easy to get the stove to simmer at very low settings. The flame sort of pulses at this point, and it can blow out if you get a bit too low, but it makes it very manageable to simmer saucy meals, and even porridge without burning. The heat distributing design of the fluted base means that there are no crazy hot spots, and as long as you stir frequently (long wooden spoon is the business), things don't get stuck. I have even cooked rice using the total absorption method, without any burning, just turn the heat off before it sticks and keep pot warm in clothing for another 5 mins or so. Its amazing in the wind, very frugal on gas and nice and quiet. The handle can fall apart if you over load it, but I think they changed that years ago. I'm wondering if they have changed the way the gas flow is regulated in the newer stoves? If the stove only boiled water at max heat, it would fundamentally change everything for me. Seems like a backward design step. Any ideas? I would replace it like for like in a heartbeat but now not so sure!

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In reply to brynski:

That's interesting. I don't know if the fundamental design has changed at all, but I've not been convinced by it on low output, especially compared to the Lite+ and Brukit, both of which work well in this regard. But perhaps I mistook 'pulsing' with 'not really working/wanting to fizzle out'...

If you have to stir a lot to avoid crisping everything, then does that count as successful simmering? Would you have to stir more with the Reactor than some other stoves? From my experience I suspect the answer would be yes, but perhaps I ought to have done a stirring frequency test in this review.

I'd be keen to hear others' thoughts on that in case I've been overly harsh 

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Frank R. 30 Jul 2019
In reply to brynski:

In reply to Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com:

Although I do believe Brynski, for the record, I couldn't get Reactor to simmer very much (at least with the 1.7l pot). I think it might be doable, very carefuly, but probably depends on the pot, and possibly much more finer finger control than I have (control is especially difficult, since you can't see the flames much without taking the pot off, and the controls are very finicky at the low range). I just tend to run it at full, which is fine by me - I know exactly that I get 1l boiled water for ~10g of gas, no matter much whatever the conditions, the wind, the temperature... I even ran it with almost completely empty cartridge, and with such low pressure, the time to boil increased only by 1min and the amount of gas used stayed the same, even for the very last boil. If I wanted fine simmer control, I wouldn't have bought the Reactor, even if going by the name (have a look what "simmer" got us in Chernobyl...).

Post edited at 19:03
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In reply to Frank R.:

Yes, my experience too - thanks for that feedback

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