White Gas Stove
For hikers, the white gas stove is the most common type of cooking appliance used.
Anatomy of the Stove
This ultralight cooking appliance is comprised of:
- a bottle to hold fuel with a top which screws off to be replaced by
- a pump which creates pressure inside the bottle and then
- a burner connected to the bottle by a fuel line.
- A knob adjusts fuel flow to the burner.
The Process of Lighting
Probably the most annoying and dangerous part of a liquid fuel stove is the process of lighting.
- Initially, the cap of the bottle is removed and the pump in screwed into place.
- The pump is then “primed” by pumping it until a resistance is felt, pressurizing the bottle.
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- After priming, the fuel flow valve is opened to allow a small amount of fuel to flow into a tiny cup below the burner.
- The fuel in this cup is ignited (carefully if you value your eyebrows) and allowed to burn to heat up the fuel line above it. This begins the vaporization process which will continue the entire time the burner is functioning.
- Once the fuel in the cup has burned several seconds, slowly open valve to light the burner.
If you have performed this correctly, you now have a nice blue ring of fuel burning above your burner.
Type of Fuel Available
White gas stoves are most closely identified with the obvious, white gas (also called
Coleman fuel). However, many are designed to use a wide variety of fuel such as kerosene, or even unleaded fuel right from your car’s gasoline tank. Contrary to popular opinion, unleaded gasoline and white gas are NOT the same thing. White gas is a more refined version of the stuff you put into your automobile tank. While some stoves are specifically designed to handle the less refined unleaded fuel, burning it in a stove not so designed will eventually gum up the jets.
Simmer? Wide Open? Somewhere In the Middle?
Some of these nifty burners operate only wide open, others have a simmer option. In my experience, simmering can be adequately accomplished with a white gas stove, is not a hallmark of their operation. Compressed gas stoves are better for simmering.
- The use of a variety of fuel is advantageous when traveling abroad where fuel varieties are uncertain.
- No compressed fuel container to carry out.
- Easy to tell how much fuel is remaining in the container (as opposed to the compressed containers which you really can’t accurately determine).
- Some have a burner small enough to fit in your pocket.
- Works well at high elevations and very cold temperatures do not adversely affect efficiency.
- Some don’t like that the fuel is liquid and therefore can spill, leaving you without fuel—care is required.
- Somewhat awkward to light (think fireball and no eyebrows).
- Louder operation when burning than other types.
- Burners require maintenance to keep jets unclogged (some are self-cleaning requiring only to turn upside down and gently shake).
- Some people find them difficult to prime/light.
There are valid reasons why so many hikers use a white gas stove. It is dependable and reliable in a wide variety of circumstances. If you haven’t tried one yet, borrow one from a friend and try it out. You might well become a convert. As always, don’t wait until a cold, rainy end of day-one on the trail to light it for the first time. Your driveway, a few days before your hike is a better time and place.
Return from White Gas Stove to Backpacking Stove
Return from White Gas Stove to Ultimate Ultralight Backpacking.