A quick test of gas use for lightweight backpacking

I have recently been considering what cooker I am going to use when I undertake the TGO Challenge next May. For my recent overnight lightweight backpacking trips I have taken to using solid fuel tablets with the Esbit titanium stove [pictured]. It is very light, weighing in at just 13g, and the solid fuel tablets that you require for an overnight trip are light too. However, for a longer trip the amount of solid fuel you require becomes rather heavy and you are better off with another fuel (I have not worked out at what point yet, i.e. how many days) and so you are looking at either an alcohol or gas stove.

I took the opportunity last weekend to record the amount of gas I used with my little gas cooker (a Coleman F1) so that I could roughly calculate how much gas I would require for the TGO Challenge next year, which is 13 or 14 days backpacking – should I decide to use a gas on the Challenge that is.

Over a 24 hour period I had a few cups of tea and a dehydrated dinner and breakfast. I weighed the gas cartridge before and after, and this represents the gas used for one day:

Two cups of tea: 300ml each = 600ml
One cup of tea: 200ml
Dinner: 400ml
Breakfast: 200ml

Gas cartridge weight, before and after: 174g – 152g = 22g of gas used.

Therefore, assuming the amount of water boiled above is representative of a typical day then a 250g gas cartridge would last me approximately 11 days, which means I would have to obtain more gas along the way.

I plan to do some more tests to verify (or disprove) my calculations, and I will work out how much solid fuel I would need as a comparison. I’ll post the results here at some point.

7 thoughts on “A quick test of gas use for lightweight backpacking

  1. I suggest you take a look at the Jetboil Sol, my experience in Lapland during summer and on more recent trips that you will only use 10 gms of gas per litre of water boiled. (see http://www.nielsenbrownoutdoors.com/2011/08/gear-reflections-lapland-2011.html ) Which makes gas much more economical than most if not all canister mounted stoves. There is no doubt though that Esbit is the weight saver, but gas is faster especially after those long hard days, that is why on a long trip I prefer gas. YMMV

  2. For the last five Challenges I have used the same little stove – a titanium Markill which I think is no longer made – bought from Bob over at backpackinglight.co.uk

    I always start out with a 250g tin and very year I bought a mini-tin at either Braemar or Ballater but never had to use it.

    The convenience and cleanliness of gas is worth it in my book. But each to their own.

  3. Hey pal, don’t forget that the pressure drops as you deplete the gas in the cartridge. Especially so when cold. Mind you, you can always get it back up to pressure with a little heat from your lighter.

    Nb. Health and safety brigade wouldn’t endorse it, naturally. ;-)

    • ive done that a few times ,lighter warming up gas can.but never dared put it in print.well done for putting it out there.may see you next yr as ive decided to enter and keep my fingers for next yrs TGO

  4. Just a thought about weight ….on the TGO

    I have used gas, but went to meths to save weight.

    I use an Evernew DX stand and burner. The meths I carry in 100ml plastic bottles. By posting out re-supplies of meths, I only carried 300 mls max.
    The bottles were cheap and throwaway stuff (buy in bulk off web).

    I tried a Caldera Cone, but, found it too bulky to carry in the plastic holder and fiddly to put together.

    OK meths is slower, but there is no fear of your gas stove malfuntioning – it’s happened to me! Or, of miscalculating … and running out of gas.
    I used to carry a spare – just in case – which is more weight.

    And …. in your Trailstar you have plenty of shelter from the wind. I never had any problems in heating water even in the middle of a raging storm.

    Another thought is that most gas stoves will need extra support as the centre of gravity – using a small canister – is quite high. For gas or meths I found 3 titanium pins useful.

  5. Thank you all for your comments, sorry to have taken a while to reply.

    @Roger – the Jetboil Sol looks quite interesting, I didn’t realise they made a titanium version and it seems quite light.

    @Alan – Gas is certainly convenient and clean. I read recently that it is inefficient to use a gas stove on full blast so on this weekend I kept the gas down quite low, and the water boiled quickly still and it was much quieter too :)

    @Carl – good point about the pressure. The actual days I worked out was 11.3 so I figured on 11 with a little spare capacity. Nice trick with the lighter.

    @Gordon – thanks for the meths info. Sending fuel in your parcels will certainly help to keep the weight down. The Evernew stuff looks good, the DX stand and the burner are really light. I have read that the burner is not very efficient with the meths and that other burners are better but I do not have any experience myself.

    As a backup to gas I have thought about making a little platform to go right on top of my F1 gas burner to be able to burn solid fuel that I could take as a backup and to stretched a 250g gas cartridge out a bit to make sure it lasts and to prevent the need to buy a 100g cart at Braemar.

  6. I will tell you the answer. I used esbit on last years Challenge. 13g tab will boil about 600ml in the hills. Forget the rubbish tests on blogs in a kitchen at home. Out in the damp, and cold and wind its another world.

    So you need a lot. A jet boil Sol Ti boils 500ml of water with about 6g of gas. Yes you pack the empty canister out. Big deal. Its tsill light. its also fast to boil and get a brew in you when your cold and tired. Its clean. Meths is ok but still not as light as gas over long times between resupply. See Phil Turners superb website http://lightweightoutdoors.com/?p=2193

    For me gas rules once more. Clean and fast. Light and just so easy to fire up that extra brew or hot water for noodles at lunch time. Unlike esbit as you have allowed for only 1400ml of water a day. Or meths which again allowing 30ml per 500ml boiled water can be so far out in the hills. Gas is the best. Get a jetbil Sol Ti and be happy with your stove day after day.

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