Frank Groffie's miscellany

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Camp stove collection

Outdoorsy stuff

After completing my DIY stripped-down two-burner camp stove, I realized I'd inadvertently assembled an eclectic collection of camp stoves. We've done an enormous amount of camping over the years; from 2001 to 2006, we camped practically every summer weekend at a leased private campsite beside a creek in the Diablo Range 50 minutes from home. The stoves are presented below in order from most to least frequently used.

DIY woodburning backpack stove
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After a lot of workbench prototyping, in about 2011, I finally settled on this design for a woodburner stove. It's described in detail on the DIY woodburning backpack stove page. We've used this particular stove a lot on remote fishing excursions in the previous few years. We also used earlier DIY incarnations before 2011: rectangular steel and aluminum versions in the 1990s and round and early hexagonal versions in the 2000s. Since this photo was taken, the upper body (stainless steel) has taken on a pleasing gun-metal patina from the heat.


Coleman 425B camp stove
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This Coleman 425B, a classic car-camping stove, dates to 1962. I got it at a garage sale around 2002. It's been a workhorse for us many, many times in campgrounds and at base camps on wilderness fishing excursions. The tank gets switched between this stove and the robust retro backpack stove, shown below.



Svea 123 backpack stove
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I obtained this Svea 123 when I was about 11. I think this particular one left the factory in about 1970. I've used it a fair amount over the years. The model was introduced in 1955, although it was derived from the Campus 3 model (by the same maker) in the 1930s, and the basic design concept dates back to the late 19th century. It's a self-pressurizing design: I believe that tank pressure (due to heating) provides the main force driving liquid fuel up into the vaporizer, and a wick extending from the vaporizer down into tank serves primarily as a conduit in lieu of a tube. Made in Sweden out of solid brass. Fuel capacity of 4 oz. Integral windscreen. Comes with a separate cleaning needle for driving soot out of its tiny jet. There was once a small aluminum cup/pot that fit over the top, but I never had much use for it and consequently lost it.


DIY wax-powered backpack stove
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I developed this stove in 2011 simply as a challenge, and I/we have used it a few times. It's described in detail on the DIY wax-powered backpack stove page. Unfortunately, on a recent very cold morning (30 ºF) at 9,800 ft elevation, it was very difficult to light; in fact, I gave up on it and built a campfire to cook my haul of trout. In early 2017, I therefore made three cold-weather improvements: (1) the wick was greatly enlarged, (2) a 1½-inch strip of fiberglass insulation was wrapped around the base (not shown), and (3) I filled a tiny plastic squirter bottle with 1 ounce of a 50-50 blend of charcoal lighter fluid and Coleman fuel to take along and provide a priming fluid.

DIY robust retro backpack stove
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I built this stove from a discarded burner from a 1985(?) Coleman base-camp stove and other materials. The fuel tank is from my 1962 Coleman 425B, and I simply switch the tank from one device to the other. The stove is described in detail on the DIY robust retro backpack stove page. Fuel is white gas. The stove disassembles into its three major components, and the stainless-steel windscreen folds down to one-third its unfurled size.



Propane camp stove
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Evidently, the glued-on label fell off this stove at some time. A little online research revealed that it is an American Camper 1080, specifically, the early, pre-1995 version. I suspect that it dates to about 1980. Fuel is propane. By detaching and inverting the grill and placing it underneath, folding in the legs, and detaching the fuel tube, its size shrinks by maybe a third for stowage. It fell into my hands in 2006. I recall using it once, at a rest stop on Interstate 80 in the Sierra Nevada in about 2007; it performed fine.  


Coleman Apex II backpack stove
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This Coleman Apex II is a typical turn-of-the-21st-century remote-tank liquid-fueled backpack stove. It was designed to run on white gas and gasoline. I bought it in 2003 or 2004 because it was marked down to $55 and I thought Joey might make use of it. He tried taking it on his 3-month jaunt on Kauai in 2015, but they wouldn't allow it in his luggage, and he handed it back off to us at the airport. We've never used it, yet.

I've skimmed the online reviews, which I'll summarize as follows. Likes: good simmering, consequent good fuel economy, good stability afforded by the "lunar lander" legs. Dislikes: Eventual leaks at the hose ends (fixed using automobile fuel line and traditional hose clamps), flimsy sheet metal and connection.


DIY stripped-down two-burner camp stove
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In late 2016, I constructed this base-camp stove with little effort from an assemblage of discarded components. It's described in detail on the DIY stripped-down two-burner camp stove page. I intended it for car-camping when the car is a tiny one (a Karmann Ghia) and space and weight are at a premium.


Esbit stove, a backpack featherweight
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This stove consists of three pieces of aluminum riveted together so that the outer pieces fold open as shown here and fold inward for compact stowage. Fuel tablets are placed on the central piece and are then lit. This fuel typically consists of hexamine, or hexamethylenetetramine, commonly sold under the trade name Esbit. This fuel has an energy density of 13,300 Btu/lb, which is a respectable figure between the 11,570 Btu/lb of ethanol and the 18,200 Btu/lb of white gas. This particular item is stamped "J.W.Speaker Corp. Pat. Milwaukee USA" on the bottom and with the Boy Scouts insignia on both side pieces. Interestingly, J.W. Speaker Corp. is still operating, in Milwaukee, although they now make only lighting systems for cars, motorcycles, and boats. There are a plethora of versions of this stove, both commercial and DIY. This particular item, I believe, was manufactured around 1970. It fell into my hands around 1995; I've never used it.


Summary table
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Type,
 model


Fuel

Weight,
dry

Boil time, 1 liter

Frequency of use

Year and place of manufacture


Comments

Backpack stoves

 DIY woodburner

Wood

1.1 lb

6.3 min*

Very often

2011, USA

Very stable, no limit on fuel

 Svea 123

White gas

1.2 lb

6.4 min

Often

1970, Sweden

A classic

 DIY wax-powered

Wax

0.9 lb

8.5 min

Occasional

2011, USA

2017: improved for cold temps.

 DIY robust retro

White gas

2.9 lb

3.3 min

Occasional

2012, USA

Used only for car-camping so far

 Esbit

Hexamine

0.1 lb

15 min

Never

1970, USA

Weak

 Coleman Apex II

White gas

1.1 lb

3.5 min

Never

2003, USA

Haven't yet seen a need to use

Car-camping stoves

 Coleman 425B

White gas

11.4 lb

3.3 min

Very often

1962, USA

A classic

 American Camper 1080

Propane

5.3 lb

TBD

Seldom

1980, Asia?

I'm just not a fan of propane

 DIY two-burner

White gas

5.8 lb

4.6 min

Never

2016, USA

Too new to have been used yet

* Boil time starting at match light. Boil time is 3.7 min. if pot is set on at maximum stove output. Estimate or guess. I'll publish a figure someday; same goes for "TBD". ∆ Improvements made for cold temperatures (2017): larger wick, insulation, use of priming fluid. Designed and built by the author. Approximate year of manufacture.


Three camp stoves I no longer possess
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Modern Coleman camp stove. For several years, we owned and often used a modern Coleman stove like this. It dated to about 1985. Sometime around 2001, a threaded connection on the fuel tubing broke. I don't recall what broke exactly or whether it was due to corrosion or mishandling, but I deemed it fatal. I tossed the box and tank but kept the burners and grill, which eventually found their way into two of the project stoves shown above.


     


Coleman Peak 1. For a few years, I owned a Peak 1 backpack stove. This stove had a pump and the handy dual-position light-run switch like on Coleman's big car-camping stoves. I recall using it twice, in 2006: once on a winter climb of Mt. Shasta, where it performed somewhat sporadically, and again with a group of four on a wilderness fishing expedition, where it performed OK. It was powerful, especially in cold ambient temperatures, as are all white-gas stoves, and it simmered beautifully. I finally tore it down to learn what its problem was: a rusted, and thus broken, needle in the generator. I couldn't think of a way to perform such a delicate repair. It was also heavy, due to its steel tank, but I was a bit sad to toss away this otherwise worthy machine.


Bluet. The only butane stove I ever owned was a Bleuet backpack stove, made in France and dating to around 1970. A proprietary butane cartridge was installed by pressing it up into the base, where a needle sat waiting to pierce the top, and then swinging the bars underneath to clamp in the cartridge. A rubber O-ring around the needle provides a seal ... until the O-ring degrades (hardens) with age, leaving you with butane hissing into the atmosphere. That, the fact that you can't remove a cartridge until it's empty, the scarcity of cartridges, and the poor stability may be the main reasons this stove design was never generally considered a good one. I suppose I might have been able to install a fresh O-ring, but I don't think it occurred to me. Also, one of the legs had melted. I don't recall ever using this stove on any of my fishing trips, and I didn't feel bad tossing it away.

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