Sunday, December 3, 2017

Deal Alert! (Soto WindMaster on sale)

The Soto WindMaster is on sale for $55 on Massdrop (a "group buy" site) – if just ten people sign up.  That's an outstanding deal for a stove that often retails for $20 more (i.e. $75 is normal).

Adventures in Stoving is typically about evaluating stoves, not about promoting sales, but a lot of people have expressed interest in the WindMaster, and this is as good of a deal as I've seen.

Please understand that I derive no percentage of the sales.  There are no "affiliate links" or anything like that.  This is just a good deal I noticed.


Note that if enough people were to sign up for Massdrop using that link (and actually buy something), I might get a free whatever.  What might I get?  Dunno.  It would be whatever Massdrop is using as a promotional item or incentive at the time.

If you've got a friend who's a member of Massdrop, by all means use their link to sign up but if not, please consider throwing it my way.  If Massdrop is giving away free promo stuff, somebody might as well get it, right?  :)
Cold weather testing the WindMaster.

The Stove
It's no secret that I consider the Soto WindMaster to be the best quality upright canister stove on the market today.  See my review of the Soto WindMaster.  It's wind resistant in a way other stoves of this class just aren't (well, except for its budget minded cousin, the Amicus), and it's a good balance of versatility, efficiency, and weight.  Not only that, it's just quality in every respect.

The Soto WindMaster
Rumor Control
There were rumors that Soto was going to discontinue distribution of the WindMaster in North America, but, no.  I spoke to the Soto rep, and Soto has no plans to discontinue the WindMaster.

Simul-testing the WindMaster against a "control" stove.
The WindMaster is at left.
No matter the conditions, the WindMaster always came out ahead – while using less fuel.

I hope this is helpful to someone, and I do hope you will forgive the commercial intrusion on this, a site focused on what we do in our lives outside of work (well, unless you're a guide or something).


Performance testing the Soto WindMaster against a "control" stove.
Note:  The individual in the photo is a highly trained stove professional.
Don't try this at home (seriously, go for a hike; you have a much better stove already in your kitchen at home).
Apologies for the waste generating food shown in the photo.  We got a free case because they were due to expire.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Kovea EZ Eco – "Canisterless" Canister Stove

Last year, I wrote a review of the EZ Eco version of Kovea's Alpine Pot.  At the time, the EZ Eco was having some "technical difficulty."  Kovea did not market the product at that time and went back to the drawing board to work out some of the kinks based on my feed back.

A few months ago, they sent me a re-worked version.  I have reviewed the stove, and there is now a New Review of the Kovea EZ Eco on SectionHiker.com.

The stove I used in my review was sort of a pre-production version, the version they started selling in Korea before they started selling them here in the US.  Just after I finished my review, I got a production US version, with the same markings and color as the version now commercially available in US.  Naturally, it had to come a week or two after I had already written and submitted my review, lol, but other than the color and some other cosmetic changes, the stove I reviewed is the same stove as is now for sale in the US. I will include a couple of photos here of the production version just so you can see what it looks like and exactly what you will get if you buy one.
What's in the box?
Top, L to R:  Stove bag, pot, and lid
Bottom, L to R:  Cup, burner, and instructions
Between the instructions and the lid, notice the adapter.  See review for details.

Here's a top down look at the whole assembly.
Note the rubber band like "straps" to retain the lid.

OK, not a whole lot to see here, so head on over to Section Hiker and have a look at the full review.

Thanks for joining me,


Monday, August 21, 2017

Interactive Canister Gas Estimation Spreadsheet

I've put together something that I hope will be useful.  It's an Excel spreadsheet that you can customize to fit your particular stove and your particular situation.  You can use Google Sheets if you don't have Excel on your device.

This spreadsheet should work for conventional stoves (e.g. Pocket Rocket, GigaPower, Crux, etc.) as well as high efficiency stoves (e.g. Jetboil).  The download link will be down at the bottom of this post, after the explanations

Headed out for a week? Nice!  Uh, how much fuel do you need?
Purple Lake, John Muir Wilderness, Sierra National Forest, Sierra Nevada, California.
Enter Your Numbers
So, it's relatively straightforward. You, based on your needs and your experience, enter four numbers into the spreadsheet as listed, below.  I'll go through some examples after the list to hopefully help you understand how this works.  It's pretty simple, really.
  1. The number of cups (about 250 ml per cup for those of you who prefer metric) of water you plan to boil per day, on average.
  2. The number of grams of fuel your particular stove burns to boil one cup of water.  If you don't know, I recommend that you use 4 g for conventional stoves and 3 g for high efficiency stoves (like a Jetboil) until you get a better idea of what your stove requires.  You might add a gram (i.e. 5 g and 4 g, respectively) for water temperatures around 5 C/40 F or lower.  Double the estimate (i.e. 8 g and 6 g) if you're melting snow.
  3. The length of your trip (number of days).
  4. Your margin for error.  This is sort of a "fudge factor".  You add a bit more extra gas in case it's windy or maybe you just underestimated how much water you'd need to boil.  As you gain more experience, you can dial this back.
Remember, all four of these numbers are under your total control.  You set the parameter, and the spreadsheet will tell you what size canister it thinks you should bring.  Note that I have the following canister sizes programmed into the spreadsheet:  100, 110, 220, 230, and 450 grams.
Isn't this a great spot?  Say, we did bring enough fuel to have dinner tonight, didn't we?
Duck Lake, John Muir Wilderness, Sierra National Forest, Sierra Nevada, California.
Example 1.
In this example, I'm going to go out for five days.  See the chart, below.  I'm going out with a partner.  Say, on average, that we both boil about five cups per day and that we have a conventional stove like, say, a Pocket Rocket.  We're going to enter all the numbers that describe our trip and our needs in the gray shaded cells.  The spreadsheet will then recommend in the yellow shaded cell what size of canister at a minimum that you should bring based on the parameters that you've entered.

Let's go through the example:
Line 1.  If we both boil 5 cups each, then we'd boil a total of 10 cups per day, on average.  Enter the number 10 on line one in column "B" in the gray, shaded area on line 1.

Line 2.  Since we have a conventional stove, we'll use "4" as the number of grams we expect to burn per cup on line 2.  Now, this assumes that you know the Basics of Stove Fuel Economy.  If you're not familiar with how to get good fuel economy with a backpacking stove, I suggest that you read through the Basics of Stove Fuel Economy.

Line 3.  Next, let's enter then number of days our trip will be.  I said five, but I'm going to enter just 4.5.  Why?  Well, I'm planning to exit on the last day well before supper time.  Really, the last day is only going to be a half day, so I'm adjusting the amount of fuel I think I'll need by dropping the length of the trip by 1/2 a day.

Line 4.  Do not touch line four.  Remember, only enter numbers into the gray shaded cells.

Line 5.  Now, Line 5 is your "fudge factor," your safety margin.  We are NOT going to estimate the number of grams we think we'll need and cut it off exactly there.  No, we're going to add just a bit more in case something goes wrong or we're off somewhere.  Now, if you really know your stove, your usage, and the Basics of Stove Fuel Economy, then have at it.  Cut the margin down to zero if you like.  It's your spreadsheet once you download it, but I'm going to recommend a 10% safety margin until you know differently.

Based on our estimate that we, on average, will boil 10 cups of water per day (line 1) and that with our conventional stove will need 4 g of fuel per cup boiled (line 2) and that our upcoming trip will be 4.5 days long (line 3) and that we want a 10% margin for error (line 5), the spreadsheet determines (line 6) that you need 198 g of fuel.  The spreadsheet then, in line 7, tells you what minimum canister size you should bring in order to have that 198 g of fuel.  In this case the spreadsheet recommends that you bring at least a 220 g sized fuel canister.

Now, notice line 8.  This is the amount of fuel we will have over our estimated need.  We need 198 g but our canister holds 220 g which means we have 22 g of fuel in excess of our estimated need.

The spreadsheet then tells you (line 9) about how many extra cups that excess fuel will give you if you need it.

Lastly, the spreadsheet tell you how many additional cups you could boil per day based on this excess fuel (line 10).

Why might you want to know how many additional cups per day you have the capability to boil?  Well, half way through our last trip, someone gave us some coffee they weren't going to use.  Suddenly, we had enough coffee to have not one but two cups of coffee each morning.  But do we have enough gas?  Hopefully, with line 10 of the spreadsheet, you'll know if you have the gas for that second cup of coffee.

Let's see, it's three more days until we re-supply.  You did bring enough gas for three more days, right?
The Silver Divide, John Muir Wilderness, Sierra National Forest, Sierra Nevada, California.
Example 2.
In this example, I'm going to go out for three days.  See the chart, below.  Again, I'm going out with a partner.  Again, let's say, on average, that we both boil about five cups per day, but this time we're going to be sharing a Jetboil type stove.

Let's go through the example:
Line 1.  If we boil 5 cups each per day, then we'd enter "10" on line one in column "B" in the gray, shaded area.

Line 2.  Since we have a Jetboil stove, we'll use "3" as the number of grams we expect to burn per cup, on line 2.

Line 3.  Next, let's assume our trip lasts a full three days.  Therefore, I enter "3" on line 3.

Line 4.  Do not touch line four.  Remember, only enter numbers into the gray shaded cells.

Line 5.  Let's just stick with 10% as our safety margin.

Now, on line 6, our baseline estimate + our margin for error comes to a total of 99 g.  The spreadsheet therefor in line 7 recommends that you buy a 100 g canister.  Is that cutting it too close?  Probably not.  Remember, that we've already got a 10% margin for error in there.  However, 110 g canisters are typically just as cheap as 100 g canisters.  I personally would just get the 110 g canister just so I have a slightly larger margin for error, but each to his or her own.

But notice line 8.  You only have 1 g in this example of "excess" fuel.  Just one gram.  In other words, if someone gives you coffee or something, you may not have the gas to boil water for it.  This is important!  I wouldn't want to eat a cold backpacking dinner in the evening because I had burned up all my fuel on a second cup of coffee in the morning.  If I don't have the gas to do something, then I want to know, in advance.  This estimation spreadsheet gives you an idea of how much slack you do – or do not – have.

Thanks for bearing with me through all the explanations.  I hope I was reasonably clear.  If it wasn't clear, please use the comments section, below, to ask questions.  There are no dumb questions.  If it's not clear, ask.

Now, the link.  You can download the Excel spreadsheet using Google Docs.  If you don't have Excel on your device, you can open the spreadsheet with the Google Sheets app.

Please let me know in the comments, below, if you have any problems with the link or the spreadsheet.

Thanks for joining me,

The author at Sallie Keys Lakes on the John Muir Trail.
You're danged right I had enough gas!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

What is a Light (or Ultralight) Canister Stove?

The words "light" and "ultralight" get thrown around like so much chump change.  Marketers play fast and loose with those terms hoping to score a few more gear sales.  Is there a way we can assign real meaning to these terms?
An FMS-116T "Gnat" stove weighs less than two ounces.
Actually, there is.  We can "grade on the curve."

What the heck do I mean by that?  Well, when I was in school, some instructors would look at the scores on their tests, expecting to see a "normal" (bell shaped) curve.  If the center of the curve didn't line up with "average" performance, they might adjust the test scores.  In other words, students were judged not just on their test scores alone but on how well they did in relation to the class as a whole.  This is referred to as "grading on the curve."

So also, we can judge canister stoves not just on their weight alone but also on how their weights compare to other stoves in their class.
Some stoves today weigh under one ounce, giving new meaning to the term "ultralight."
With that in mind, take a look at the below chart.  This chart applies to upright (top mounted) canister stoves only.  Obviously "integrated" canister stoves (like a Jetboil or Reactor) and remote canister stoves (like an MSR WindPro or Kovea Spider) have to have their own categories in order for those categories to be meaningful.
Upright Canister Gas Stove
Weight Classes
(Less Than or Equal To)
Moderate< 4< 113
Light< 3< 85
Ultralight (UL)< 2< 57
Super Ultralight (SUL)< 1< 28

Upright canister stoves today weigh as little as 25 grams – less than one ounce! There are five commercially available stoves that weigh less than two ounces.

Given the light weight of stoves available today, it's reasonable to insist on that a stove be truly light in order for it to belong to the class of "ultralight" and to be even more demanding of weight savings for a stove to earn the title "super ultralight."
We give meaning to terms like "light" and "ultralight" by categorizing stoves relative to one another.
Here then are four examples:
Top row, right:  MSR Pocket Rocket, 3.1 oz (Midweight) 
Top row, left:  MSR Pocket Rocket 2, 2.6 oz (Light)
Bottom Row, left:  FMS-116T ("Gnat"), 1.7 oz (Ultralight)
Bottom Row, right:  BRS-3000T, 0.9 oz, (Super Ultralight)
In summary, based on what is available today, real meaning can be given to terms like "light" and "ultralight" by looking at a given stove's weight in relation to other stoves.  Based on those relative weights, I have created the following upright canister stove weight classes:
  • SUL:  If an upright canister stove weighs less than or equal to an ounce (28 g), it's super ultralight.
  • UL:  If a stove weighs less than or equal to two ounces (57 g) but more than one ounce, then it's ultralight.
  • Light:  If a stove weighs less than or equal to three ounces (85 g) but more than two ounces, then it's light.  
  • Moderate:  If a stove weighs less than or equal to four ounces (113 g) but more than three ounces , then it's moderate.  
  • Heavy:  If it weighs more than a quarter pound (4 oz/113 g), then, by modern standards, it's heavy.  
The above is a reasonable categorization, given the state of the art and the stoves commonly available today.

Next time you read an ad or hear a salesman say that a three (or more) ounce stove is "ultralight," just nod your head and say "unh hunh, sure," and have yourself a little chuckle.  Now, you know better.

Thanks for joining me,


For Further Reading:
The Purpose of this Post:
As a brief post script, let me just reflect for a moment.  I wrote this post with two things in mind:
1.  To let people know, particularly those less familiar with backpacking stoves, what's out there.  There are stoves being marketed as "ultralight" that are above three ounces in weight.  That's actually on the heavy end of the scale.  It's not even light let alone ultralight.  If you're shopping for a stove and trying to get your base weight down, you need to know that you can do better.
2.  ALL WEIGHT CATEGORIES ARE ARBITRARY including those that talk about total base weight. I like weight categories insofar as they give me a goal that I can challenge myself with, but I don't like weight categories if they lead to one upmanship or a loss of focus on the true bottom line:  enjoyment.  Reduced gear weight should facilitate the enjoyment of one's hiking.  Increased enjoyment of hiking is the true bottom line, not some arbitrary weight class.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The 1.8 L MSR Windburner vs the 1.8 L Jetboil Sumo

Recently, I was asked what the weight "penalty" is in carrying the 1.8 L MSR Windburner vs. the 1.8 L Jetboil Sumo.  Excellent question.  I have both, so I pulled out my scale, and I created the below table of weights.

For full reviews of the Windburner, please see:
For a more comprehensive look at Integrated canister stoves, please see:
For a look at the entire realm of Canister Stoves, please see:
An MSR Windburner warming up.

Here's what I came up with:
MSR Windburner 1.8 L Jetboil Sumo 1.8 L
Grams Ounces Grams Ounces
Burner 200 7.0 150 5.3
Pot 227 8.0 196 6.9
Cozy 71 2.5 53 1.9
Lid 20 0.7 24 0.9
Bowl 54 1.9 47 1.7
Stand 20 0.7 26 0.9
TOTAL 592 20.8 496 17.6
Difference 96 3.2

Basically, at least on my scale, there's a 3.2 ounce difference when a Windburner is compared to the Jetboil Sumo.  OK, not so good.
A 1.8 L MSR Windburner, left.  A 1.8 L Jetboil Sumo, right.
But there is a trade off here.  The gain with the Windburner is wind proofness.  Jetboils just aren't very good in wind.  Take a good look at the two videos at this link:  Wind Testing – Windburner vs. Jetboil.
A Jetboil's heat exchanger is completely open to the wind.
A Windburner will act like nothing is happening in conditions that shut a Jetboil down.  Those three ounces get you a stove that will work in conditions in which a Jetboil won't.  I always bring a Windburner for desert hiking.  It's always freaking windy in the desert.  The Windburner works; the Jetboil doesn't; screw the 3.2 ounces.
A Jetboil's heat exchanger is open.  Wind can blow in one side and out the other.
A Windburner's heat exchanger is enclosed.  Air enters only through the burner and exits only through the vents.
There are some "side" benefits that you're getting with the Windburner:
  • A functional bowl of about 850 ml vs. a not terribly functional bowl of about 400 ml with the Sumo.  The Sumo's bowl has notches cut in the side (so it will clip on to the bottom of the pot).  Things spill out through those notches.
  • A snap tight lid that you can pour with using only one hand.
  • A handle that actually functions as a handle.  A Jetboil's "handle" really isn't.
The 1.8 L Windburner has a very useful 850 ml bowl.
You can kind of use the 1.8 L Jetboil's 400 ml pot protector as a bowl, but it's better left at home.
The above side benefits are all well and fine, but if you don't need the wind proofness, honestly, I think the weight of a Windburner is hard to justify.
MSR Windburner radiant burner, left.  Jetboil conventional burner, right.
The Windburner's burner is amazingly windproof, but it's heavy.
When it is windy, the Windburner is your best friend ever.  Even in moderate winds where people often will build rock walls or crawl behind some boulders to cook, yeah, those techniques work, but sometimes I'm just beat and don't want to screw with it.  A Windburner cooks.  Period.  No screwing around.  Wherever you plop your self down, that's where you cook.
Cooking after a late arrival in camp.
Sometimes, you just don't want to screw around.
So, there's a weight and features comparison between the two stoves.  I hope you found the post useful.


The MSR Windburner in a desert wash.