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Stove Guide

Boil Time
Burn Time

     Four-Season.  Although more expensive than others, four-season stoves tend to be the most robust and versatile.   Traditional four-season models typically burn white gas, and they burn at white-hot intensity, too.  They can cook a meal or boil water quickly and reliably in the worst conditions.  Multifuel models also run on kerosene and/or unleaded gasoline when white gas is unavailble.  Many four-season stoves depend on priming to start and constant presurization to keep burning.  That's why most have a pump mechanism that acts like a miniature bellow.  Other four-season models are designed to run not only in cold weather, but also in high-altitude conditions.  These high-altitude stoves are super light and very convenient.  Many come with built-in windscreens and sometimes a pot.
     Three-Season.  A solid choice for most of the year, these stoves are relatively simple to operate.  Because they cook at a lower temperature, three-season stoves have a bit more finesse than their four-season counterparts.  Three-season stoves aren't so hot in colder climates, however.   These stoves most often rely on butane or propane, fuels which are more likely to stay in liquid form in cold weather (they don't vaporize).

     Unleaded Gasoline.  This fuel is not engineered to work with stoves, it is formulated for maximum efficiency in your automobile.  Even if you use low-octane auto gas, be ready for powerful smoke and fumes to overwelm the hearty aroma of a hot meal.  When it's time to do the dishes, count on spending awile cleaning soot off both your stove and cookware.  That said, unleaded gasoline is widely available, making it a workable substitute in remote places where highly refined gas isn't available.  Never cook with unleaded fuel in an enclosed space because the fumes are toxic.
     White Gas.  Because it's highly refined, white gas is clean-burning; none of the belching smoke and fumes you'll find with other petroleum-based gases exists here.  If you're counting onces, white gas is nice, since it store in extremely light, reusable canisters.  Although a white gas stove can bring water to a boil in record time regardless of the weather, it does require priming.  White gas is easy to locate in North America but may be a problem to find elsewhere.
     Kerosene.  Like unleaded gasoline, kerosene is cheap and plentiful, making it a great fallback fuel when nothing else is available.   Kerosene puts out plenty of smoke and fumes, but at least it burns hot.  If you have a choice, stay away from diesel kerosene, which is laced with all sorts of nasty additives.  Refined K-1 is a better option.
      Alcohol.  Denatured alcohol has the reputation of being hard to find, especially outside of North America.  Although alcohol is a cleaner fuel than any petroleum-based fuel, it doesn't give as much energy as pertoleum-based fuels.  Besides that, it's pricey; you need to carry twice as much alcohol based fuel to produce the same amount of heat that petroleum-based fuels provide.   On the plus side, stoves that run on alcohol are pretty safe in the close confines of a snowcave or tent vestibule, and they have fewer parts that require cleaning or replacing.  They also run well in high altitudes and cold weather, but not as well in windy situations.
     Blended Fuel Canisters (Butane/Propane).   These canisters provide reliable fire-power that's easy to control.  They're also the ultimate in plug-n-play.  Simply pop them on and twist the valve.   Blended fuel performs admirably at high altitudes but not in cold weather.
     Butane Canisters.  Pure butane doesn't burn as hot or as fast as other canister-contained fuels, but it does offer convenient, dependable heat in moderate conditions.  Ease of use and good flame control are pluses that have made butane popular, especially in Europe.
     Isobutane Canisters.  A good choice for moderate weather, isobutane canisters burn fairly quietly.  Alas, they're a little expensive and hard to find in out-of-the-way places.  Also, isobutane doesn't burn as hot as other canister fuels, such as propane.
     Propane Canisters.  It doesn't take much effort to light propane or keep it burning, which makes it a great choice for the coldest camping trips.  Unfortunately, pure propane must be stored in heavy steel containers.   If you're on foot, propane is definitely a pain to haul.  On the other hand, it's inexpensive and reliable, making it a good choice if you're traveling by raft, canoe, sled, or camper.
    Wood/Solid Fuel.  Stove fuel doesn't get any more traditional or inexpensive than wood.  Our ancestors swore by it and with good reason: Once it gets going, it burns nice and hot. Weight-conscience hikers will appreciate not having to pack canisters of fuel, too. Wood burning camp stoves do require more soot removal from cookware, and the heat they put out is largely a function of the kind of wood you are burning. Small, dry chunks of hardwood burn hotter and smoke less than soft wood, but are not always easy to find. Also, fire regulations in many national parks and wilderness ares make wood burning problematic.

Boil Time:
     Bear in mind these numbers, which show how many minutes and seconds it takes to boil a quart of room temperature water, are provided by manufactures and reflect optimum conditons at sea level.  How fast your model will make cocoa depends not only on the environmental conditions at the moment, but also on how well you know your stove and how clean you keep it.  A pot with a tight lid will always boil faster; a windscreen will improve boiling times even more.

Burn Time:
     These figures, also provided by the manufacturer, represent how long the stove will run at full power on a full fuel canister.  If you see a 240/16 rating, for instance, that means the stove will run at the highest flame setting for 240 minutes (4 hours) on 16 ounces of fuel (like oz. per hours).