Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => Gear Talk => Topic started by: shorecycler on December 14, 2010, 01:58:34 pm

 
Title: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: shorecycler on December 14, 2010, 01:58:34 pm
I have in mind to cook my meals most of the way along the TA trail when I converse it next summer considering I enjoy making a nice meal for myself and so my question would be-
1. What is a camping stove that you guys have had good success with (lightweight, ease of use, maximum efficiency)?
2. How common are fill stations where I can access a gas such as propane to power my burner?

Im making a trip to REI by Philly this upcoming week so I want to have a base for what to look at.
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: staehpj1 on December 14, 2010, 06:32:58 pm
I have in mind to cook my meals most of the way along the TA trail when I converse it next summer considering I enjoy making a nice meal for myself and so my question would be-
1. What is a camping stove that you guys have had good success with (lightweight, ease of use, maximum efficiency)?
2. How common are fill stations where I can access a gas such as propane to power my burner?

Im making a trip to REI by Philly this upcoming week so I want to have a base for what to look at.
We found isobutane canisters to be very hard to find across the middle of the country.  I was surprised that we had trouble on our tour in the Sierras too.  I think some of these are a butane propane mix.  It that what you mean?  If so I think you will be disappointed with availability.

If you mean the heavy steel canisters that hold a pound of propane.  You will find them just about anywhere in the US.  They are too heavy to suit me though.

If you go with a cartridge stove like the Pocket Rocket (great stove if fuel is available) I'd take a pop can stove too as a backup.  That has worked well for me.  The stove and pot stand combined weighs less than an ounce and uses the same windscreen and pot as the Pocket Rocket.  Google "pepsi can stove".

If I were doing the TA again I think I'd start with both stoves.  I might mail the Pocket Rocket home in the middle of the country if I didn't find fuel.  We had good luck finding isobutane fuel from Oregon to Pueblo CO and didn't see it again until Virginia.  There was one place in Carbondale IL that had it but they were closed when we rode by.
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: indyfabz on December 17, 2010, 02:31:06 pm
I use an MSR Dragonfly because I like to cook elaborate meals.  It has great flame control, a windscreen and is it's very stable.  It's also fully field maintainable.  Paired with a 22 oz. fuel bottle I can make morning coffee and cook two-pot meals for probably about 10 days and still have extra fuel for starting campfires.  The biggest "con" about the stove is that it's loud at full blast.  But because it is so powerful, it's rarely on full for all that long unless you are trying to boil very cold water.

Re: buying fuel, assuming you are burning "white gas" (MSR now calls it SuperFuel.  Coleman Fuel and Camp Fuel are other brands), over the years the quart size cans have become more available, but you might not be able to find them some places.  If that happens, you may be forced to buy a half gallon of Coleman Fuel.  That happened to me once.  I left the extra with the manager of a campground and asked her to give it to other cyclists who passed through.  One time I had an outfitter open a can of Coleman Fuel and charge me to fill my bottle.
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: CyclesafeSr on December 18, 2010, 10:15:47 am
Alcohol Stove: Fuel fairly obtainable, but takes ~2X longer to cook.  Cheapest.

Multifuel Stove: Fuel ubiquitous (gasoline), but ~2X+ heavier than alcohol stove. Use cleaner burning white gas if available.  Most expensive.

Cartridge Stove: Fuel availability problematic.  Cartridge disposal issue.  Cheaper.

Wood Stove: Best fuel availabity (when dry), light weight (standing grill, windscreen), probably no less efficient than an alcohol stove, almost free - not always permitted and can be a PITA.


My opinion:
< ~14 day tours - Take a cartridge stove with enough cartridges to see you through.  Haul back empties.
> ~14 day tours -  Alcohol stove if boiling <500mls of water; multifuel stove if boiling >500 mls.

In a perfect world the wood stove would be best, but alas. . . . .
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: paddleboy17 on December 21, 2010, 01:14:40 pm
I don't think you can make a blanket statement like this.

Quote
Alcohol Stove: Fuel fairly obtainable, but takes ~2X longer to cook.  Cheapest.

If your only goal is boil water, and you time that with a stopwatch, then yes alcohol heats more slowly than a white gas stove set to maximum BTUs.  If you desire a more sophisticated cuisine, then the heat output from an alcohol stove is just about perfect for cooking on.  If you could get a white gas stove to simmer low enough, it would not cook any faster than an alcohol stove. 

If I were touring anywhere in the US or Canada, I would just take an alcohol stove.  Fuel is easy to find (any gas station or hardware store), and alcohol stoves like the Trangia are really reliable.  In Mexico and Central America, I hear that alcohol is hard to find and what you really need is a stove that can burn unleaded gasoline, like an MSR Whisperlite.
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: rvklassen on December 22, 2010, 07:23:26 pm
I don't think you can make a blanket statement like this.
  Fuel is easy to find (any gas station or hardware store), and alcohol stoves like the Trangia are really reliable. 
Speaking of blanket statements...

Gas stations reliably carry "yellow heet" in the winter.   Friend of mine got caught in NE OH/SW NY with gas station proprietors that looked at him like he was from another season.  Marine stores are said to reliably carry it (boats can't burn propane except on a stove that hangs off the side/back, since propane is heavier than air), but not the one in Alexandria Bay NY. (or anyone else in Alex bay, so far as we could tell). They told us of a NAPA store 3 hours further down the road that did have it.
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: shorecycler on December 23, 2010, 08:12:35 pm
Im thinking of just making/experimenting with a coke can stove for the time being and see how i can make that work for me. If it works out well then I will just carry one of those with me for the trip considering its only an ounce of weight, easily replaced, and uses isopropyl as fuel. This is very easily accessible and the weight gained from the fuel is lost with the stove.

Have any of you guys out there used this approach to camp cooking?
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: FredHiltz on December 23, 2010, 09:14:25 pm
Yes. Get a lot of answers fast with a search for the many posts about them. Go back to the list of topics in the Gear forum and type "alcohol stove" with the quotation marks into the search line at the top. Please come back with any questions that remain.

Fred
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: popeyespal on December 23, 2010, 10:36:16 pm
After reading this post I did a little searching and found a ton of sites with instructions for a "penny stove"

looked around the house...gathered the stuff and built one in less than an hour. It cost me $0. All of the items were in my recycling bin.

grab some rubbing alcohol from the bathroom cabinet.

Cooked the rice I had with dinner on it.

I am taking this with on my trip. It weighs about 4 ounces.
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: shorecycler on December 23, 2010, 10:49:55 pm
It's just funny because I was totally willing to go out and buy an actual($$$) propane burning stove and this seems to be the lightest/easiest/most efficient way to cook food and boil water and it is made out of house hold items Replacement would be a breeze too if it came down to it on the road. I also like the fact that rubbing alcohol is almost everywhere from grocery stores to pharmacies to hardware stores. This will definitely be what I will be bringing with me on the road.
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: paddleboy17 on December 29, 2010, 09:48:00 am
I have not tried burning rubbing alcohol.  I am under the impression that it is inferior to wood or grain alcohol. 

Hardware stores carry denatured alcohol.  This is grain alcohol with just enough wood alcohol in it to be toxic.  It burns great.

I suppose in a pinch you could walk into a bar and get something...
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: CyclesafeSr on December 29, 2010, 10:31:39 am
Methyl alcohol (HEET, wood alcohol, etc).  Invisible flame (in daylight), no soot.  Auto supply and hardware stores.  If on 100% by-weight basis, 48% of combustion energy of white gas.

Isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol is sold in 30%, 70%, and occassionally 90% concentrations (in water).  The 30% doesn't ignite, and the 70% and 90% burn with a very sooty, almost invisible flame.  Markets, drug stores.  If on 100% by-weight basis, 64% of combustion energy of white gas.

Denatured alcohol (ethyl alcohol spiked to make it poisonous and thus untaxable).  Hardware stores.  If ethanol on a 100% by-weight basis (impossible unless distilled from a aromatic solvent azeotrope and protected from picking up moisture), 63% of combustion energy of white gas.  Everclear (what you'd buy in a bar) is about 95% ethyl alcohol and 5% water and is fully taxable - thus expensive.

I stand by my blanket assertion that it takes twice as long to cook anything with alcohol.  If simmering is important, you can get that with some of the white gas stoves like the MSR Dragonfly.  Most people mostly boil water and save sophisticated cuisine for eating at "restaurants".

Alcohol stoves are much cheaper and lighter and the fuel is fairly obtainable, but it takes 2X to boil water and you need to carry 2X+ more fuel weight .  It's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: staehpj1 on December 29, 2010, 10:36:33 am
I have not tried burning rubbing alcohol.  I am under the impression that it is inferior to wood or grain alcohol. 

Hardware stores carry denatured alcohol.  This is grain alcohol with just enough wood alcohol in it to be toxic.  It burns great.

I suppose in a pinch you could walk into a bar and get something...
From http://zenstoves.net/Stoves.htm
"If you want to use rubbing alcohol (cheapest easily available fuel on this list) for fuel, you may want to use an open flame stove instead of a jetted stove.  If you decided to use a jetted stove, you may need to use larger jets in your stove (#57 drill, pushpin size, ~1.4mm or larger) and try to empty as much left over liquid from your stove as you can after each use (as this will further hinder future fire ups) for it to operate."

This comment matches what I found with my own stoves, but I did not experiment with bigger jets.  Easy enough to just buy more suitable fuel like Heet (Yellow bottle NOT red) or denatured alcohol so I never bothered to try to get my stoves to work with rubbing alcohol.
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: staehpj1 on December 29, 2010, 11:02:51 am
Alcohol stoves are much cheaper and lighter and the fuel is fairly obtainable, but it takes 2X to boil water and you need to carry 2X+ more fuel weight .  It's my story and I'm sticking to it.
I don't disagree, but I will add that those two issues may not be that much of a problem depending on the specifics of the tour and how big of a rush you are in.

If using alcohol on a bike tour, fuel weight per BTU is typically not much of an issue because you can usually buy fuel frequently and in smallish quantities (12 ounce bottles of Yellow Heet).  If camping where you have to carry multiple weeks worth of fuel without chances to restock, then it does become a bigger deal.  In practice I wind up carrying more fuel weight when using a cartridge stove because restock points seem to be much fewer and father between.

On the boil time issue...  Yes it takes longer, but waiting 5 minutes for two cups of boiling water isn't a real hardship.  Even when there were two of us the output seemed adequate.  The boil time for a liter is more like 12 minutes, but even when boiling that much it isn't that long to wait.  While it is heating I am usually attending to some other aspect of the meal any way.
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: knolltop on December 29, 2010, 11:04:20 am
Yes, alcohol stoves do take longer than the other type stoves to bring water to boil.  But I'm usually busy doing sumpin else during this time, so it really doesn't matter.

Between convenience stores and the ubiquitous Wal-Mart, I've not found fuel for alcohol stove to be issue.  At least half of convenience stores seem to have the YELLOW bottles of Heet ... even in summer.  And Wal-Marts have the SLX denatured alcohol in Paint Dept.
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: staehpj1 on December 29, 2010, 11:35:04 am
And Wal-Marts have the SLX denatured alcohol in Paint Dept.
I have typically just used Yellow Heet, but am curious about the size containers you typically find the SLX denatured alcohol in.  I think I have mostly seen it in quarts and gallons which are about three and twelve times as much as I typically want.  Do you usually find pints or other small sizes available?
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: knolltop on December 29, 2010, 12:26:53 pm
And Wal-Marts have the SLX denatured alcohol in Paint Dept.
.... am curious about the size containers you typically find the SLX denatured alcohol in.
In my experience you're correct re denatured alcohol container size.  I have carried 2 bottled water containers for fuel.  So can get most of a quart can stored onboard.

In past had preference for denatured alcohol cause thought it burned hotter than the HEET stuff.  Recently saw post on one of the backpacking sites where did test and result was no significant diff in boil time.

So now may start tours w/ 2 bottles HEET and, when bottle1 is emptied will start looking to buy another.
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: paddleboy17 on January 03, 2011, 01:52:12 pm
So now may start tours w/ 2 bottles HEET and, when bottle1 is emptied will start looking to buy another.

I do something similar, but different enough to merit telling you about it.

I feel that gear for bike touring has to be durable enough to take a good whack.  You never know when you will take a fall or hit something.  So I use a conventional fuel bottle for my opened alcohol bottle.  I feel pretty confident that foil on the top of the HEET bottle provides thet needed seal.  I am less confident about the HEET bottle once you peel the foil off.

As for fuel bottles, alcohol is supposed to be corrosive to aluminum.  Trangia makes a nice plastic fuel bottle.  Others make an epoxy lined aluminum fuel bottle.  MSR fuel bottles are not lined. I have an 11 ounce MSR fuel bottle that I sometimes use.  I no longer use it for white gas, and I check the bottle for corrosion.  You will have to decide what standard you want to follow.  I wrap my windscreen around the fuel bottle.
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: staehpj1 on January 05, 2011, 06:58:30 am
I feel that gear for bike touring has to be durable enough to take a good whack.  You never know when you will take a fall or hit something.  So I use a conventional fuel bottle for my opened alcohol bottle.  I feel pretty confident that foil on the top of the HEET bottle provides thet needed seal.  I am less confident about the HEET bottle once you peel the foil off.

As for fuel bottles, alcohol is supposed to be corrosive to aluminum.  Trangia makes a nice plastic fuel bottle.  Others make an epoxy lined aluminum fuel bottle.  MSR fuel bottles are not lined. I have an 11 ounce MSR fuel bottle that I sometimes use.  I no longer use it for white gas, and I check the bottle for corrosion.  You will have to decide what standard you want to follow.  I wrap my windscreen around the fuel bottle.
The Heet bottle is actually my first choice as a fuel bottle.  It is light, the right size, has a long thin neck for easy pouring, and I have never had a problem with leaking.  I own a few different "real" fuel bottles and actually prefer the Heet bottles over any of them.

BTW one nice thing about alcohol is that even if it did leak it wouldn't be too big of a deal as compared to other some fuels.
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: knolltop on January 06, 2011, 06:56:15 am
The Heet bottle is actually my first choice as a fuel bottle.  It is light, the right size, has a long thin neck for easy pouring, and I have never had a problem with leaking.  I own a few different "real" fuel bottles and actually prefer the Heet bottles over any of them.
Yep, what he said.
Title: Re: How accessible is propane on the TA Trail/good stove?
Post by: cara2u on January 24, 2011, 09:43:38 am
Since our original TA trip in 2005 and our most recent TA in 2010 we've noticed a notable increase in propane availability. Preferring the quick cooking of propane we carried along a backup Whisperlite in case we ran out of propane but we never had to use it. With a little planning and back up the small propane canisters on the TA are doable.
James