Stove Configurations

It's a bit hard to talk in general terms about stoves for all fuels, so we will focus on the more common bushwalking stoves: petrol, kero and gas, but we will also mention metho, solid fuel and even wood.

It's a bit hard to talk in general terms about stoves for all fuels, so we will focus on the more common bushwalking stoves: petrol, kero and gas, but we will also mention metho, solid fuel and even wood.

It is possible to lump most stoves, especially those burning petrol, kero and gas, into two general classes: those with an integral tank and those with a hose to a remote tank. Does it matter, and is there any real difference? There are indeed several differences. The first is one of mechanical stability, although some will argue about this. When the stove burner is detached and low to the ground it is usually more stable - especially with a large pot of stew being stirred on top. When the fuel tank is attached underneath the stew is way up in the air. However, some argue that the large fuel tank at the bottom makes a more stable base. It depends: I use both.

Another difference is how close the fuel is to the heat. This can matter! One time we had an integral tank petrol stove (Optimus 8R) on Goon Moor in SW Tassie and we were cooking a lot of pancakes on it with a large frying pan. The weather outside was 'poor', even for that place. We were inside the tent, and after the N'th pancake (N being a large number) the tank got too hot. Heat reflection off the large frying pan was most the likely cause. Anyhow, the safety valve on the petrol tank released the excess pressure. A fine idea, except that the petrol vapour coming out of the vent was aimed at the operator's arm and quickly lit. A long flame resulted, inside the tent. The stove went flying out through the (fortunately open) door into the rain and wet bog outside without igniting the tent. Not funny at all, really. On a couple of occasions in the more recent past I have suddenly realised that my gas stove was getting just a bit too excited: again radiation was hitting the attached tank, which had reached 'very hot'. I now use a radiation shield on it: this is described later. The moral is to be careful.

On the other hand, warming up the fuel tank just a little bit can help the stove run. This applies especially to gas cartridges containing the butane/propane mix, so often a thermal balance is required. Even some of the experimental metho stoves (or Pepsi can stoves) have been known to get a bit excited, according to their inventors.

Most mainline commercial stoves have support arms to hold the pot. These can be round wire or flat sheet metal. A boiling pot vibrates, and can vibrate right off a smooth round wire support: I have seen it happen. The owner was quite surprised, and had to wait a while for his cup of tea. When you select a stove look carefully at the supports: are they smooth? If they are you can roughen them up with a chisel or a hacksaw, just enough to stop the pot from doing an ice-skating act. However, some of the cottage-industry metho stoves do not have pot supports, so you get to create your own. I would recommend some caution here: experience is needed.

Some stoves come with a built-in internal reflector or 'radiation shield' between the flame and the fuel tank, while some of the smaller folding stoves don't. The folding stoves are small and light, but that radiation shield is really vital for safety. It is not what so many call it, a 'windshield'; it's a radiation shield. Both this and the previous point are covered again later.