Modern technology trickles down to many areas and the outdoor industry is no exception. New stoves for backpacking, providing lightweight forays into the wild, are efficient, compact and use butane canisters as the fuel source. Using these self-contained units allows for near foolproof cooking in the backcountry and almost no risk of fuel spillage or leaking. There are some special aspects to consider when taking a butane stove into the backcountry.
Personal Cooking Systems
Jetboil makes its proprietary PCS, or Personal Cooking System. A butane canister nests into a specially designed pot/kettle used for cooking food, boiling water and brewing hot beverages. The total weight on this self-contained unit is 15 oz., according to the Jetboil website and, because it is self-contained, makes it easier to avoid losing parts and pieces. The PCS will boil a liter of water in two minutes. One Jetboil butane canister will provide enough fuel to boil 12 liters.
MSR, out of Washington state, produces several different butane stoves. The MSR Pocket Rocket is one of the lightest butane stoves available, weighing a svelte 3 oz. without canister. The unit packs into a small triangle-shaped plastic canister for transport and is reliable in winds and wet weather. The Pocket Rocket will boil a liter of water under 3 1/2 minutes, according to the MSR website. The cooking surface uses a striated surface designed to keep pots or pans from slipping. The wind shield helps prevent unwanted winds from putting out the burner flame.
Cooking with Butane
When you cook with butane, be careful to avoid burning or fast boils leading to scorched and burnt food and pans, which will cause frustration when trying to wash them. Butane stoves are difficult to moderate burns. They tend to burn either incredibly hot or near flame out for the simmer mode. Butane will burn differently in low temperatures and higher altitudes than traditional white fuel stoves. Watch for icy condensation on the canisters during cooking times in cold temperatures and at high altitude. The stove is safe when doing this but your cooking times will increase, as will time needed to boil water. Colder temperatures and high altitudes also means more fuel will burn in less time. Bring extra canisters to calibrate for these changes when cooking in cold weather or at high altitudes.
Article Written By Eric Cedric
A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.