Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Setting up your camp kitchen part 3. Selecting a camp stove,

So you want to actually cook, not just grill or stick hot dogs on a stick over a camp fire for a weekend of camping. You are going to need a stove for that.

You have decided you are going ot do out of the car camping. So ultra light single burner butane stoves probably aren't for you either...

Nope, you need a good 2 burner camp stove. But there are so many options out there. Let's compare the main types side by side and give you the options, and a bit of a story behind why we prefer one over the other.

When it comes to full size camp stoves, 2 burner jobs, there are 2 main types. Liquid fuel, and propane. Yes there are other compressed gas types but propane and liquid fuel are the MAIN types you are going to run into here..

Each type of stove has its advantages, and disadvantages, let's run down the list...

Advantages.

Liquid Fuel:

  1. Reliability.
  2. Environmentally friendly fuel consumption.
  3. No waste cartridges.
  4. If using unleaded gasoline, fuel is available pretty much everywhere 
  5. Parts readily available to repair if needed. Little down time.
  6. Performance does not reduce in cold weather. 
  7. Impress your family, friends, and fellow campers with an almost steam punk sort of retro tech.
  8. Fuel readily available if using unleaded gasoline, when travelling outside of the continental U.S. You might not be able to source up, or carry your own propane accross the borders... 
Propane:
  1. Lower initial cost.
  2. Easier to use / more intuitive use.
  3. More compact overall dimensions for similar cooking capacities.
  4. Greater number of options of manufacturers and models. Including some Stainless Steel models.
Disadvantages:

Liquid Fuel:
  1. Higher initial cost. As of March 8 2017, on amazon.com, the Coleman Guide series dual fuel stove currently retails at Amazon for $89.36 The Coleman "Classic" 2 burner propane stove retails for $42.95, so the liquid fuel model retails for just over double the propane appliance cost.
  2. Coleman branded Fuel, as it is called, can be hard to come by in gallon cans at certain giant international retailers, and the cost is typically. There is another national brand they seem to carry called Crown Camp Fuel in the gallon cans. I can not attest to the quality of Crown, but have used Walmart's own house branded Ozark Trail Camp Fuel for years. (No longer available). I suspect that is / was Crown in a different can.
  3. More complex fueling / lighting procedure. Not a big deal once you get used to it, but if all you ever used camp appliance wise is propane / butane appliances, liquid fuel is going to come as a shock.
  4. Fuel spills into clothing leave a stink, and can irritate skin. PLUS if you spill camp fuel on yourself, you will want to steer clear of the camp fire!
Propane:
  1. Lower reliability. I have had to replace pressure regulators on one camp stove 3 times in 2 years due to leaks.
  2. Sensitive to canister pressure, many stoves will only work with 1lb canisters, using them with a tee off of a 20lb tank for example can damage your regulator (the first one that broke!).
  3. The seals tend to dry out, and unlike liquid fuel stove seals don't respond well to soaking in vegetable oil. 
  4. 1lb propane canisters, even when no more fuel is escaping, contain enough potential energy to explode violently if heated. Many jurisdictions consider them hazardous waste making them difficult to dispose of properly.
  5. Propane functions off of the pressure difference between the tank and the outside air. At lower elevations and at sub freezing temps, the pressure differential can be zero, meaning the propane will stay in the cylinder. A liquid fuel stove would simply require a few more strokes of the pump to generate that pressure difference. 
  6. Considerably higher total cost of fuel when used semi, to frequently. A gallon of camp fuel, typically is equivalent to if I recall correctly 8.5 1lb propane cylinders. 
There is some debate among owners, and Coleman themselves states that their fuel only lasts a maximum of 7 years in proper storage, but to be honest. I think their numbers might be conservative as there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that people are using 20 + year old Coleman fuel and similar white gas fuels with no ill effect on their appliances.

Long story short, use your own decision making power. For me, the lower total cost of ownership, combined with fuel availability internationally in the form of regular unleaded if need be, and the easy as pie reliability of a dual fuel / liquid fuel stove vastly outweighs the ease of use, and lower initial cost of propane appliances. Your needs and desires may vary. 

Not saying we don't own a propane stove. We do, but it is used for very limited applications where a liquid fuel stove won't be appropriate. I.E. the propnae stove is a Brinkmann stainless steel stove, that is great for beach cookouts where sand, salt, and wet air are the order of the day. but aside from that, it's liquid fuel for us all the way!