How to Bring the Heat This Winter

By: Sam Reiser

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A stove is an essential item on any winter trip, whether it’s a hike up the local vista or pushing far into the backcountry. But not all stoves work with the same efficiency and effectiveness, nor do they use the same fuels. Understanding the differences between stoves and how their strengths suit particular trips will make all the difference when you’re out in the wilderness. To help simplify this, I’ve compiled a list of several different stoves and types of stoves and the conditions in which they excel.

Canister Systems

Fuel canisters stove systems are a great choice for most activities; they are compact, more lightweight, and easy to operate, regardless of your expertise. However, there are several things that should be taken into consideration. They decrease in performance in the cold and high altitude, they are expensive, and fuel canisters cannot be reused or refilled.

Companies such as Mountain Safety Research have developed ways to get around the decrease in performance. They have incorporated pressure regulators into some of their stoves allowing for consistent performance in those brisk, high altitude environments. Below are two canister stoves to use on those bone-chilling days to warm up:

  1. Mountain Safety Research’s Reactor Stove was built for the mountains. With an incorporated windshield, this stove will keep water boiling despite the gale, just as long as the pot doesn’t tip over. Designed for snow melting and boiling efficiencies when there is no room for error, this stove is perfect for whipping up hot drinks and freeze-dried meals. However, if you’re looking for something with a little more precise temperature control, this stove does not simmer very well.

  2. The Windburner Stove is the baby brother of the Reactor. This stove still features wind-deflecting capabilities and pressure-regulated gas release, except it comes in a much more ‘family’ friendly package. It can be used to simmer sauces and prepare slightly more complicated meals. It will also boil within minutes, and the integrated insulated sleeve keeps food warm while protecting your hands.

Liquid Fuel Systems

Because it does not rely on the burning of gaseous fumes in order to cook your meals, liquid fuel excels in the cold weather. Liquid is fed directly into the stove, meaning it can perform at the same consistency throughout its use, regardless of altitude or temperature. Liquid stoves are also refillable, eliminating the need to throw away canisters and increasing sustainability. This also means that you can take the exact amount of fuel needed for a specific trip for all those gram counters looking to keep their pack weight to a minimum. Here are two great examples of liquid fuel stoves to help you tackle those winter chills:

  1. The WhisperLite Universal Stove from Mountain Safety Research is one of the most reliable stoves on the market. It isn’t the lightest nor is it the most fuel efficient, but it’ll never let you down. With a compact design and MSR’s Shaker Jet technology, this stove allows for simple storage and can easily be maintained out in the field. The WhisperLite stove was built with durability in mind and crafted with a body of stainless steel and brass. For those of us who rely on versatility, this stove can also be adapted to take canisters whenever the conditions arise. The WhisperLite is perfect addition to any expedition, regardless of how intense and unexpected the territory may be.

  2. If you’re looking for a culinary monster, you should lean towards MSR’s Dragonfly Stove. This stove has a larger and sturdier base that’s capable of supporting larger pots for adventures that are packed with miles and travel companions. With the potential to cook a variety of dishes, it is an ideal candidate for long expeditions where consuming a variety of food is important. The dual valve is a versatile feature that enables you to lightly simmer delicate sauces but also boil snow in a jiffy. When weight isn’t your main concern and a reliable, do-it-all stove is just what you want, the Dragonfly is the stove for you.

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