Canister vs white - gas in winter

Teori Praktik; English I've used a top mounted canister gas stove for several winters, down to minus 18-20 C. It has worked fine. However, for really deep cold, say below minus 25 C or so, it is undisputed that white gas or kerosene rules. Or is it?
By Jörgen Johansson
My question is simply; do I really need something else than a gas canister stove even for deep and bitter cold?
So I thought I'd simply list some of the pros and cons, for these types of stoves as I see them. It will be a combination of my own experiences and what I've read and heard. I will then lean back and wait for the response from people reading what I've written. Maybe then I can write a second article on this subject where I formulate some of the opinions and experiences that will have surfaced after this process.
I will look at a number of factors that I think are important for any stove in deep cold and then give my verdict on what I think performs best. The ground rules are, as mentioned, deep cold and two fairly similar stoves. Both have a burner on legs and a hose connecting the burner to the fuel container. The containers are filled with butane/propane mixes or white gas or petrol. No topmounted gas canisters.
Examples of the canister stoves could be Primus Spider or MSR Wind pro. White gas could be Optimus Nova+ or Markill Pheonix. Of course the pots and windscreens should be identical and therefore of no importance to this comparison. And since I from my own experiences consider a canister stove to be quite practical down to minus 18-20 C, please remember that we are talking about temperatures below that.

The factors I feel to be relevant for my own way of operating in the winter are the following. Feel free to comment on my selection:
-Weight
-Ease of use (lighting up, shutting down etc)
-Usability in tent/foretent
-Works well even in extreme cold
-Fuel consumption/weight
-Mechanical reliability

Factors like availability of fuel in all corners of the world as well as price I will keep out of this discussion. Let's just assume that for this particular trip in deep cold both fuels are just as available and that differences in price is of no importance since we have unlimited funds. At least when it comes to backpacking gear. At least according to our spouses....

Looking at the above factors and trying to appoint a winner for each factor when choosing between canister gas and white gas I come up with the following:

-Weight = canister
-Ease of use = canister
-Usability in tent = canister
-Works well in extreme cold = white gas
-Fuel consumption = canister
-Mechanical reliability = canister

So far it seems ridiculously simple. The canister stove wins on all counts excepting one. However, let's not make the common mistake of thinking that all the above factors have equal importance.
Since we are talking about extreme cold this factor is obviously more important than for instance weight. If a stove doesn't melt your water and cook your food in extreme cold it's obviously useless and the fact that it's ligth doesn't really matter. In fact, all the above factors except reliability in extreme cold is of course the reason for many people to use canister stoves when it's not that cold.
However, if a canister stove could be considered to be reliable, if not super, in extreme cold, then all the other factors would give the canister stove a landslide victory. And to me it seems that it does. That is, work, if not optimally, in deep cold.
In order for a canister stove to work reliably in deep cold there are as far as I can see two tricks that does the trick:
-You should do your best to keep the canister warmer than the surrounding air
-You should turn it upside down while using it

Since both these are easily accomplished it seems to me that the canister stove wins hands down even in deep cold. But I could be wrong. Please give me your take on this.

Comments in English below, comments in Swedish at this link at Utsidan.se.

6 comments:

Thunder In The Night said...

Looking forward to seeing this comparison but as Roger has already suggested in your most recent post, I think the inverted remote gas stove will win. Good job too because they're so much lighter!

Is the Primus ExpressSpider out yet?

Jörgen Johansson said...

According to Primus the Spider will hit the stores in March.

Gaute said...

As I understand the physics a gas canister will stop emitting gas at tempratures below -25 C... Not ambient temprature but actually temperature of canister and the gas within. And you mention several tricks for keeping the canister warmer...
I know my white gas stove will melt 6 liters of water from snow in an hour. So my question is how long will it take to melt 6 liters of water with gas in the winter? It would be interesting to see how long it takes to melt the same amount of water with gas and white gas at different tempratures... Say at for instance -10 C, -20 C and -30 C.

Jörgen Johansson said...

Gaute,
That's how I understand the physics as well, the exact temperature depending a bit on the actual mixture. But as I understand it you don't really have to worry about that when you invert the canister, since it then is liquid gas running through the hose, and gasification happens at the burner/preheat tube. This meaning it will continue to work at temperatures far below normal gasification.

Roger Caffin has compared his white gas stove with his gas canister stove for winter trips and written about this at Backpackingligth.com. He uses less fuel with canister gas.

6 liters is a fair amount, I never melt snow for more than 1,5-2 l at the time. Maybe you have dogs or travelling in a big group?

Carefree said...

For up to 4 days: one can keep it simple... I usually go on some short solo tours in the Sarek in Winter. As I want to enjoy myself, mostly in March - so below - 30 C is very rare. Had white gas stoves before, don't like them, noisy, troublesome etc. So I took my old trangia with me (yes, you are hearing right: röd sprit! / alcohol!)and: wow! With the very small and very light attachment for winter it works incredible smooth. Just light it with 1 match, sit back and enjoy the sunrise (or sunset) - in complete carefree silence. As the alcohol heats itself up while burning, it does take exactly as long as in summer to boil water. True: you need more alcohol for melting snow, but for 3 - 4 days thats negligible. And absolutly NO worries about o-ring-seals, keeping the canister warm etc. etc. Greatly underestimated things, these old trangias.

Huynh Minh said...
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